The film was premiered on September 11, 2015 at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was released in the United Kingdom on September 30, 2015, followed by the United States release on October 2, 2015. It stars Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, with Sebastian Stan, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, and Jeff Daniels in supporting roles.
In 2035, the crew of the Ares III mission to Mars is exploring Acidalia Planitia on Martian solar day (sol) 18 of their 31-sol expedition. A strong dust storm threatens to topple their Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), forcing them to abort their mission. During the evacuation, astronaut Mark Watney is struck by debris and lost in the storm; the last telemetry from his suit indicates no signs of life. With Watney believed dead, and the storm worsening by the second, mission commander Melissa Lewis orders the crew to take off and return to their orbiting vessel, Hermes.
Watney awakens after the storm to a low oxygen warning and makes his way to the Hab (short for "habitat"), the crew's base of operations. He removes the piece of antenna which destroyed his suit's bio-monitor and lodged in his torso by performing self-surgery. He begins a video log and realizes that his only chance of rescue is to rendezvous with the Ares IV crew at the Schiaparelli crater, 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi) away in four years. His immediate concern is there will not be enough food to survive that long. Watney, being a botanist, improvises a farm inside the Hab, utilizing Martian soil fertilized with human waste, water produced by extracting hydrogen from leftover rocket fuel, and potatoes intended for Thanksgiving dinner. He also begins to modify the only functional rover for longer journeys in preparation for the long distance travel.
Back on Earth, NASA holds a funeral for him. While reviewing satellite photos of Mars, satellite planner Mindy Park sees evidence of Watney's activities and realises he has survived. NASA administrator Teddy Sanders has public relations director Annie Montrose and mission director Vincent Kapoor release the news. Despite the objections of Hermes flight director Mitch Henderson, Sanders decides not to inform the Ares III crew, believing it would distract them.
Watney takes the rover to retrieve the Pathfinder probe, which fell silent in 1997. Using the lander's camera, he establishes rudimentary communication with Earth. NASA instructs Watney to modify the rover to link with Pathfinder so they can communicate via text. Watney becomes angry when he learns that the crew has not been told of his survival, and Sanders authorizes Henderson to inform them.
Henderson and JPL director Bruce Ng prepare a space probe to deliver enough food to last Watney until Ares IV's arrival. When the Hab's airlock malfunctions and explosively decompresses, destroying Watney's crops, Sanders orders the team to speed up the supply mission by skipping the safety inspections. However, an oversight causes the destabilization and subsequent explosion of the rocket shortly after liftoff.
The China National Space Administration offers NASA the Taiyang Shen, a classified booster rocket that can carry a payload to Mars. Meanwhile, JPL astrodynamicist Rich Purnell devises a trajectory to divert Hermes back to Mars for a rescue more than two years earlier, using the Chinese booster to resupply Hermes for an additional eighteen months. Sanders rejects the plan, refusing to risk the crew, but Henderson surreptitiously sends the details to Hermes. The crew unanimously vote for the plan, and NASA — powerless to stop them — resupplies Hermes as it uses Earth's gravity to slingshot back to Mars.
Watney begins the 90-sol journey to Schiaparelli and the pre-positioned Ares IV MAV. To rendezvous with Hermes, Watney removes many components from the MAV, including the nose cone, to lighten it. The MAV, however, does not reach the needed speed and altitude, so Lewis is forced to use maneuvering thrusters to change course and explosive decompression of Hermes's internal atmosphere to reduce speed. When even that is not enough, Commander Lewis uses a Manned Maneuvering Unit, but still cannot reach Watney. Watney pierces the glove of his pressure suit and uses the escaping air to propel himself towards Lewis, effectively rescuing him after being alone for 543 Sols on Mars.
After returning to Earth, Watney becomes a survival instructor for astronaut candidates. Five years later, on the occasion of the Ares V mission launch, those involved in Watney's rescue have begun new lives.
- Matt Damon as Mark Watney
- Jessica Chastain as Melissa Lewis
- Michael Peña as Major Rick Martinez
- Aksel Hennie as Alex Vogel
- Sebastian Stan as Dr. Chris Beck
- Kate Mara as Beth Johanssen
- Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders
- Chiwetel Ejiofor as Venkat/Vincent Kapoor
- Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson
- Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose
- Donald Glover as Rich Purnell
- Mackenzie Davis as Mindy Park
- Nick Mohammed as Tim Grimes
- Naomi Scott as Ryoko
- Jonathan Aris as Brendan Hatch
- Lili Bordán as Blair Gordan