The “Hollywood Moon” Revisited: Two Examples

The “Hollywood Moon” Revisited: Two Examples

Years ago I wrote an article about how the Moon frequently appears far too large in movies and television, and provided my own examples to prove the point. For simplicity we can call this the “Hollywood Moon” as the exaggerations are purely for artistic effect.

Whenever I watch an “Earth-based” movie or television series, I always, passively, am on the lookout for how the Moon may be injected on-screen. Recently I came across two diametrically opposed examples while watching two separate shows on MGM+.

The first example is almost the worst kind, from Season 2 Episode 4 of Billy the Kid. In this transition sequence, Billy is shown riding a horse at night with a prominent near-Full Moon as a picture-perfect background to frame the rider’s silhouette.

From MGM+

I seriously thought about doing the calculations to figure out how far away one needs to be to get this vantage. If I had to very roughly guess, it must be at least a half a mile away, probably further. Truth be told, photographers take this sort of image, but of course they need to carefully plan where the Moon will be and find a spot just right, using a long focal length lens, to legitimately capture silhouette’s against a proportioned Moon.

Billy the Kid Authentic Moon Grade: D – The poor score is because a human could never see this Moon framing without careful planning and the right photography equipment, which I am sure was not available in The Old West. The scene escapes an outright F because the Moon otherwise looks correct for what would be captured either through a long-lens camera or telescope.

Our second example is from MGM+’s War of the Worlds*. From Season 1 Episode 6, this may be the best Moon framing I can recall in either movies or television.

From MGM+

War of the Worlds Authentic Moon Grade: A – What makes this particular transition sequence so good? First, the Moon appears to be correctly proportioned for what a human would see with the naked eye. Second, there is no need for an image composite, where the landscape and Moon are photographed at different exposures and then merged. This image in the real world, shortly after Dusk, could be taken as a single image with unified ISO and exposure settings. Third, the Moon phase and position are correct for a Crescent after Sunset in the Northern Hemisphere (this location is supposed to be France). Finally, this is simply great photography, television or not. It could well have been a photographer’s published work.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article.

* As a lifelong H.G. Wells fan, I cannot leave this article without a brief commentary on the countless tragic ways his most well-known novels have been shredded by film and television adaptations, frequently having nothing to do with the underlying meaning of his stories. “Based on the novel by H.G. Wells” is an excuse tagline to cash in on his notoriety. The European MGM+ series bares almost no resemblance to Wells’s original intent for a Martian invasion of Earth.

Wells used his science fiction to promote his viewpoint on socialism, which is not as we know the term today. The old testament socialism Wells advocated for is ancient history by 21st century standards, perhaps only appreciated by a few academics if they are still alive.

For a few examples, here are the real points of several novels:

  • The War of the Worlds – The Martians were trying to reshape Earth into the Wellsian view of socialism.
  • The Invisible Man – The protagonist is a political terrorist, attempting to force his socialism by such means and methods associated with the occupation.
  • The Time Machine – Wells was showing what he believed society would become if his ideas were not implemented.


I write frequently about astrophotography, technology advice, and my other interests like science fiction. I have over 30 years of experience in computer programming, information technology, and project management.

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