The lingering conspiracy theory that Stanley Kubrick helped fake the Apollo 11 moon landing has been around for decades, and here's why. That's right: some people argue Kubrick helped fake the moon landing. The theory is built around evidence (which has since been disproven) meant to reveal that Kubrick filmed fake moon landing footage for NASA's use, cobbling together a mostly-false broadcast of the monumental spaceflight.
There's has long been speculation over whether the U.S. actually landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. Plenty of failed attempts had preceded the successful launching of three astronauts - Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins - into orbit, making them the first three American men embarking on a cosmic journey no American had been on before. The pressure to stay in the space race was high before the successful Apollo 11 launch. There was a deep-seated need at NASA and within the U.S. government to outdo the USSR, who were also cultivating a space program at the time. This has led to numerous conspiracy theories developing in the years since as to whether the moon landing was real, and if it wasn't real, how it was faked. The general feeling behind the Kubrick theory is this: Why not pull in a Hollywood heavy like the director of Dr. Strangelove and Spartacus to direct fake footage of a moon landing and pretend NASA had not only gone to space but had also touched down on the astronomical body?
Of course, Kubrick did not - we repeat: did not - fake the 1969 moon landing. Even though it's unclear exactly who put this conspiracy theory into circulation, there's a lot to unpack within it about how some have come to believe Kubrick helped NASA pull off what sounds like a very risky stunt. Let's break it down.
The Stanley Kubrick Moon Landing Conspiracy Theory
There was a bit of interesting timing happening in regards to where Kubrick was in his career and when the Apollo 11 launch would take place. In 1968, Kubrick was working on 2001: A Space Odyssey. At this same time, NASA was in the final stages of preparation for the Apollo 11 launch. Recent years of exploded capsules, technical failures, and technological setbacks would have supported the idea NASA was trying to find another way to pull off this launch without having to lose any more lives. So, the decision was made to pretend as if the Apollo 11 spaceflight and subsequent moon landing had happened. The theory goes that Kubrick was considered a person of interest to help NASA out because it looked like, according to the theory, the Apollo 11 launch wouldn't happen.
The theory then claims that Kubrick was approached by NASA in secret while he was in post-production on 2001: A Space Odyssey. NASA wanted Kubrick's assistance because he had just shot this epic film on space. In NASA's mind, Kubrick would be an asset in creating this faked moon landing footage because he'd spent so much time re-creating the environment of outer space - and he was a great director, full stop. The plan, according to this conspiracy theory, was that the Apollo 11 ship would really launch and the capsule of the ship would splash down into the ocean, but all footage shot while Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were allegedly in space would be footage shot by Kubrick and woven into a cohesive live broadcast.
The "Evidence" Of A Faked Moon Landing (& Why It's Bogus)
Yes, there was a Kubrick-NASA connection back in the late '60s but it was not as secretive or sinister as this conspiracy theory alleges. In reality, Kubrick had approached two aerospace contractors, as well as NASA employees, Frederick Ordway and Harry Lange, to consult on 2001: A Space Odyssey. The men were called in for their expertise to help make the scenes depicting humans landing on the moon in the film look real.
There's also the fact that 2001: A Space Odyssey was released before the Apollo 11 spaceflight. This matters because the footage Kubrick shot for 2001: A Space Odyssey differs greatly from the footage of Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon's surface. The footage from each respective event varies significantly. It all boils down to this: If Kubrick did shoot the moon landing footage, why wouldn't he have replicated what he shot in 2001? In 2001, when the astronauts touch down for the first time, dust flies up and reacts to the movement. This didn't happen in the moon landing footage because the Moon is in the vacuum of space and nothing would move. Additionally, the movements of the characters in 2001 differ greatly from the movements of Armstrong and Aldrin. The 2001 characters move a little easier and quicker, unlike the astronauts during the actual moon landing, who are moving slower since the Moon has 1/6 the gravity Earth has.
Bonus: Is The Shining Stanley Kubrick's Moon Landing Apology?
The devil has always been in the details with Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining. Some believe there are details within The Shining, placed there specifically by Kubrick, to tease his involvement in helping to fake the moon landing. To be clear, Kubrick has never explained the reasons behind the following Apollo 11-specific choices he made for set design, costume design, or storytelling. These are simply connections made by the average moviegoer which have attached themselves to the conspiracy theory over the years and helped it grow in its infamy.
Among the details picked out by viewers over time they believe connect Kubrick to the moon landing are: Danny's Apollo 11 sweater is believed to be Kubrick directly linking himself to the actual event; the room number was allegedly changed from "217" to "237" to reference the Moon being 237,000 miles away from Earth (it's actually 238,900 miles); the powdered drink Tang, which happens to be the astronaut's drink of choice, is displayed prominently in the Overlook Hotel's pantry; and finally, the word "All" in Jack's typed out "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" allegedly resembles "A11" or, "Apollo 11." Some of these details are apocryphal and some are based on speculation; none prove Kubrick was ever involved in the Apollo 11 moon landing.