Jul 07 2016

Kubrick and the Moon Landing Hoax Conspiracy

One of the silliest grand conspiracy theories is that the US faked the Apollo moon landings. Moon landing hoaxers engage in a combination of anomaly hunting and the argument from personal incredulity or ignorance. They engage in an elaborate exercise in JAQing off (just asking questions), like, “why are there no stars in the background of pictures,” and “why does the flag wave if there is no air?”

They have no positive evidence for a conspiracy, just a wild theory and completely unimpressive anomalies that have all been easily and adequately explained. They also ignore gaping holes in their theory. How could NASA maintain this 50-year cover up when scientists around the world, including in competitor nations, could easily reveal it?

Some moon hoaxers engage in a related theory, that filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was the one who filmed the fake moon landing footage for NASA. It is not uncommon for such theories to aggregate around famous people. Otherwise it is not clear why they would chose Kubrick and not a struggling director desperate for cash who could be conveniently eliminated when the task was done.

Recently, Kubrick’s daughter, Vivian Kubrick, lashed out at moon hoaxers, who have been apparently harassing her with their theories about her father. She wrote an open letter in which she states:

My father’s artistic works are his unimpeachable defence!

Finally, my love for my father notwithstanding, I actually knew him! I lived and worked with him, so forgive my harshness when I state categorically: the so called ‘truth’ these malicious cranks persist in forwarding – that my father conspired with the US Government to ‘fake the moon landings’ – is manifestly A GROTESQUE LIE.”

She essentially has two points. The first is that her father was not the kind of person who would engage in a massive cover up for the government, and as evidence that this is the case she refers to his body of work.

Second she argues that she personally knew him. This has at least two implications. The first is that she knew him well enough to know he would not do such a thing. The second is that she would probably have noticed if he was squirreled away for months working on a secret project in the middle of his career. In fact I think a lot of people would have noticed.

Kubrick was a busy filmmaker. He was also high profile. An entire industry would likely have noticed if he were working in secret, and the speculation would have been rampant.

In other words, if you want to make a super secret film to help with a massive conspiracy and cover up, a very high profile director is probably the last person you want to use.

As evidence for Kubrick’s involvement, moon hoaxers often point to the film The Shining, which they say contains many clues deliberately placed in the film by Kubrick to reveal the truth. This is just a rationalization that conveniently gives them an excuse to anomaly hunt a complex Kubrick film looking for patterns. Kubrick’s films are full of cinematic imagery, so they are fertile ground for the imagination.

I actually took a film class on Kubrick in college and we studied The Shining, so I have some idea what was really going on in the film. The Overlook hotel was essentially a representation of civilization itself. It was therefore full of icons of government and authority, including the Apollo images on Danny’s sweater.

The movie Room 237 (which I did see) lays out all of the imagery that hoaxers believe betrays Kubrick’s involvement in the moon landing hoax. It is worth a view for any skeptic – it is a classic example of ad hoc rationalization and the ability to see patterns where they don’t exist.

18 responses so far

18 thoughts on “Kubrick and the Moon Landing Hoax Conspiracy”

  1. Jim Shaver says:


    I think any summary of the moon landing hoax is incomplete without a reference to fellow skeptic Phil Plait’s thorough take-down of the grand conspiracy theory and his book Bad Astronomy.


  2. Teaser says:

    A simple google search reveals that Vivian is a completely discredited Scientology loon.

    Vivian reportedly showed up at her father’s funeral with a Scientology handler. Her separation from the family only deepened after that, and when her sister Anya died of cancer in 2009, Vivian didn’t show up at the funeral, even though she and her sister had been inseparable as children.

    Vivian’s disconnection was keenly felt by her famous father, who had been treating her like a protege. She filmed a documentary about the making of her father’s horror classic, The Shining, while she was only 17, and composed the score for Full Metal Jacket at 24. But she turned down his offer to help with Eyes Wide Shut as she dedicated herself to Scientology.



  3. Noir D'Sable says:

    @Teaser – It’s entirely possible to be crank-y in one aspect while being non-crank-y in others. Take Answers In Genesis for example. For all its many, many faults, they do put up articles with debunks of other conspiracy theories (that affect their worldview), like Flat Earth, the Da Vinci Code, the Aquatic Ape hypothesis, and, well, the Lunar Landing conspiracy.

    In a bit of an ironic twist, they even cite Steven in their article discussing the Starchild skull:

    Prominent among [Starchild skull owner Lloyd] Pye’s detractors is Dr. Steven Novella, a Yale neurology professor well-known as a skeptic of pseudoscience and alternative medicine. Novella published an online letter in 2006, and Pye has of course published his counterclaims. Novella asserts that the child probably had untreated hydrocephalus.

  4. jsterritt says:


    Are you seriously claiming that Vivian Kubrick’s open letter re the moon hoaxers is invalid because she is “a completely discredited Scientology loon?” Or are you making some kind of joke by citing Sandy Hook conspiracy monster Jay Weidner for authority? Either seems pretty messed up and cruel (so I hope I’m just missing the point of your comment entirely). It really reads like defense for the moon hoax theory!

    Cursory reading of the French Vanity Fair article suggest a Vivian Kubrick who was much given to conspiracy thinking herself. Perhaps a scolding to moon hoaxers from her should count double.

  5. Teaser says:

    Skeptics find common cause with Scientologists. Sweet!

    I even graciously left out that Vivian appeared with Alex Jones at a JFK Assassination conference. Obviously not a lone gunman proponent.

    Is there a skeptic reference guide to loony credibility I can refer to for future posts?

    Vivian Kubrick = credible, Jay Weidner = loon

  6. I cite her as a daughter’s account of her father. Not as a credible source, authority, or anything else. Context is important.

    I would add what you are doing is classic poisoning the well.

  7. Sylak says:

    I’ve seen room 237, not really good, the multiple people with their own analysis of the shinning are mostly crazy or going too deep into artistic over-analysis ( David Lynch’s movies often suffer from the same, when actually some of the weird stuff it’s just there for random reason like It look nice or weird etc). One of the analysis actually made sens, like you said, metaphors of society, how white people treated the native, the crashed red car being a middle finger at Stephen king book etc. But the moon hoaxer part is painful to watch and ridiculous.

    Also the last part where they superimpose the movie forward and backward and think it was MADE for it to be like this is also crazy. As if it was not hard enough to make a movies forward. This is not conspiracy, but over sensitive pattern recognition.

    Have you seen the William Karel french mockumentary Opération Lune? Originally aired on Arte channel, it is available on Youtube. I don’t know if it’s subtitled in English or dubbed for you English speaking skeptic somewhere, but you should check that out. It’s really good. At you point they ask question to politician, like Bush Senior, and they use editing to look like they know something. Very funny. I think some conspiracy loons took it seriously. It really show how you can make anything look credible with editing and music.
    here’s the link I found on youtube.


  8. tmac57 says:

    The moon landing was clearly real, but it wasn’t a science mission as we understand it. It was really done to cover up the death of Paul McCartney in 1966 when he was replaced by a double. The news was starting to leak out, and the US knew that people would freak out, and rioting would ensue, and our society would collapse. So the public’s attention had to be distracted by something really big. The moon landing was the obvious choice, and it worked!
    The truth of Paul’s death did eventually come out in the fall of 1969, but by then the sheeple were all turned in to ‘moonies’ and it only made a small splash which quickly faded as so-called skeptics ‘debunked’ the truth.
    The fake ‘Paul’s’ song of “Monkberry Moon Delight” released in 1971 cryptically lays out the whole story:


    Catch up (catch up)
    Super fury
    Don’t get left behind (get left behind)
    Catch up (catch up)
    Super fury (super fury)
    Don’t get left behind (get left behind, get left behind, get left behind)


  9. fudiostudio says:

    XKCD debunked the moon hoax conspiracy perfectly: “If Nasa were willing to fake great accomplishments they’d have a second one by now.”


  10. ScubaSharky says:

    I think Mitchell and Webb make the best counter-argument to the moon hoaxers here:


  11. prebys says:

    Kooks often do a great job of debunking each other.

    There’s also some excellent anti-moon hoax material put out by a group who claim it’s “distracting people from the real coverup” – the face on Mars.

    Another example is the Cold Fusion community, which has now split into two factions, based on whether they believe the process produces Helium or not. There are people in each camp who do a first rate job of debunking all the results of the other side.

  12. prebys says:

    The Moon landing conspiracy is just one of several theories about The Shining in Room 237. It’s a good example of what counts as “evidence” to conspiracy theorists. For example, one of their smoking guns is the fact that 237 is the distance to the Moon in millions of miles – or, like, you know, within 2 of that number.

    That’s the only truly crazy theory in the movie. The others (that it’s all about Indians, Nazis, etc) are plausible but certainly wrong. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of them are taught in film classes.

    It’s a great documentary that you really should see. The only thung missing is that they never put all the people into one room to let them argue about the wildly different theories that each so certain of.

  13. BillyJoe7 says:


    Sounds like practitioners of alternative medicine – they hold beleifs that are mutually exclusive but they all support each other oblivious of their mutual exclusivity.

  14. tmac57 says:

    BillyJoe7- “Sounds like practitioners of alternative medicine – they hold beleifs that are mutually exclusive but they all support each other oblivious of their mutual exclusivity.

    Also sounds like the various flavors of Christianity, at least when it comes to arguing against non-believers.

  15. mumadadd says:

    “Also sounds like the various flavors of Christianity, at least when it comes to arguing against non-believers.”

    What it doesn’t sound like is the various fields of scientific study — I wonder why.

  16. Damlowet says:

    @ tmac

    (Also sounds like the various flavors of Christianity, at least when it comes to arguing against non-believers.)

    So true, I quiz my “born again” sister about her stance against gay marriage, saying that her ‘God’s’ representative on Earth has no issue with it, so what is the problem? She just points out that her church doesn’t agree with the Pope’s personal belief, and don’t need to.

    That seems like a massive contradiction if I have ever heard one.


  17. tmac57 says:

    Not to beat a dead horse, but even people who claim to be deists and ‘spiritual’, get a pass within the believer crowd for the most part, as long as they are willing to denounce those who aren’t willing to accept the claims of a creator without some evidence for it.
    Of course they also don’t accept the claims of each other’s sects and beliefs, but find common cause against rational skepticism about their myths.

  18. Newcoaster says:

    Mythbusters also did an entire episode on the moon landing hoax, which was fairly entertaining and pointed out some of the technical issues with making credible fakes, though I haven’t watched it in a while.

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