Cincinnati astronomer reviews Netflix’s ‘Don’t Look Up’ disaster movie

Dean Regas is the astronomer at the Cincinnati Observatory and author of the books “Facts From Space!” and “100 Things to See in the Night Sky.” He can be reached at [email protected].

I watched Netflix’s “Don’t Look Up” movie twice: once as a movie patron and again as an astronomer. I’m always interested in how movies portray astronomers and, after two viewings, I’m happy to say we came out looking like the normal ones (maybe the only normal ones). 

Note: This review is for people who have already seen the movie, so I won’t rehash the plot. But that also means spoilers are definitely ahead.

Does studying the universe give you a unique worldview? In “Don’t Look Up,” that was definitely a theme. In a world filled with the social media-obsessed, the fame-driven, the politically ambitious, the bellicose and everyone in between, the astronomers were the only voices of reason.

Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from "Don't Look Up." The film was nominated for three Academy Awards Tuesday morning, Feb. 8, 2022.

Astronomers behaving well

I will say that the astronomers depicted in the movie do not fully represent my colleagues or the field as a whole. But these were the scenes where I thought the movie nailed it.

In the opening scene, Kate Dibiaski (Jennifer Lawrence) displays the true wonder and emotion when she first sees her comet. This is what astronomy is all about: searching and, if you’re lucky and good, finding. It was perhaps one of the best movie scenes to depict the sheer joy of discovery.