Spencer Armacost (Johnny Depp) is a NASA astronaut and his wife Jillian (Charlize Theron) is a teacher. While he and Alex Streck (Nick Cassavetes) are walking in space on a mission there is an explosion that knocks out their communication with the command center.
They land but when their spouses arrive to see them they are in the hospital; both asleep until they recover. Armacost eventually wakes up without problems, but Streck has a medical emergency requiring him to have electrical cardioversion. Neither speak about the in-flight emergency. Armacost accepts a position with a New York-based company, McClaren. At a farewell party, Streck's aggressive behavior catches Jillian's attention before he suddenly dies from what NASA attributes to a stroke. At the Streck home following the funeral Natalie Streck (Donna Murphy) electrocutes herself in the bath with a radio.
In New York at a party, Jillian asks Spencer to tell her about the space walk incident. He answers while he starts to make love to her. At home he makes aggressive love to her. In the background is a crackling radio noise. She finds out she is pregnant, and at an ultrasound discovers she is having twins. She tells the doctor that earlier in her life, after her parents died, she sought psychiatric care because she started to see her loved ones dead, including herself.
Sherman Reese (Joe Morton) has been terminated from NASA because he continued to insist that something was wrong with Spencer, though all tests came back normal. Reese confronts Jillian to warn her, and she leaves in fear, wanting to believe he is crazy but knowing he is right about Spencer being different. Jillian calls Reese and he tells her that Natalie was pregnant with twins at the time of her suicide. Jillian asks what the autopsy showed about the twins and Reese tells Jillian that he needs to meet her in person to show her. Spencer intercepts him, and he goes missing. As a backup plan, he has sent her a key to a self storage locker that has a VHS video cassette that explains that there was a signal in space near Spencer and Streck when they lost contact with NASA. He believes the signal was an alien that wanted to get to Earth, and traveled as a sound wave through space and took over Spencer's body. He believes it will use her twins to pilot the McClaren plane that it is designing that disables warfare machinery. Jillian attempts a medical abortion but is thwarted by Spencer who slaps her. She throws herself down a flight of stairs and wakes up in the hospital. Spencer tells her the twins survived the fall and intimidates her to keep her mouth shut about what happened.
In a dream, Jillian sees her sister, Nan (Clea DuVall), killed by Spencer when she questions why he has Reese's briefcase. Jillian leaves the hospital on her own but Spencer follows her because of his connection with the twins inside her. At home, Jillian barricades the door and goes into the room where she dreamed her sister was killed. She sees her body on the floor, but then it is gone, presumably a vision. When Spencer breaks his way into the apartment, she has flooded the kitchen floor with water, with a radio in the sink and an extension cord plugged into the wall. She holds the ends of the cords in each hand and tells Spencer to stay away from her. She notices bloody nail marks on Spencer's hand and she knows that her sister really is dead, as she dreamed. She tells Spencer she doesn't know who he is, that he killed her sister and her husband. He tells her he did, and that he lived inside of her now. Water begins pouring down from the ceiling, as Jillian turned on all of the water in the bathroom upstairs. Spencer is engulfed in the water, Jillian lifts her feet off the wet floor, connects the cords and electrocutes the alien. The alien leaves Spencer's body and transmits into Jillian.
Jillian has remarried and her twin sons are off on their first day of school. Her sons look back before boarding the bus with a look on their face before they smile and are on their way. Jillian assures the stepfather that he is now their father.Johnny Depp as Commander Spencer ArmacostCharlize Theron as Jillian ArmacostJoe Morton as Sherman Reese, NASA RepresentativeClea DuVall as NanDonna Murphy as Natalie StreckNick Cassavetes as Capt. Alex StreckSamantha Eggar as Dr. PatrabaGary Grubbs as NASA DirectorBlair Brown as Shelly McLarenTom Noonan as Jackson McLarenTom O'Brien as Allen DodgeLucy Lin as Shelly CarterMichael Crider as Pat ElliottEdward Kerr as Pilot
The movie was a box office bomb. In its opening weekend the movie grossed $4,027,003 and domestically the movie grossed $10,672,566. The film made $8,926,022 in foreign markets, bringing its total box office gross to $19,598,588.
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 16% based on 58 reviews; the average rating is 4.3/10. The site's consensus reads: "Despite the best efforts of its talented leads, The Astronaut's Wife moves at a snail's pace and fails to generate enough intrigue to keep viewers engaged." Metacritic rated it 37/100 based on 17 reviews. Joe Leydon of Variety wrote, "Rosemary's Baby gets an extraterrestrial twist in The Astronaut's Wife, an aggressively stylish but dramatically flaccid drama that plays like an upscale reprise of a '50s sci-fi potboiler." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly rated it C+ and wrote, "The movie is far from incompetent; it simply has too few surprises to justify its indulgent atmosphere of malignant revelation." Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the direction is better than expected but the writing is "ridiculously derivative". Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "The movie might not be perfect, but it deserved better than to be dumped into theaters. I rather enjoyed it." Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times described it as "a moderately diverting thriller that builds suspense and entertains effectively".
The Astronaut's Wife was nominated for Best Film at the Sitges - Catalan International Film Festival in 1999.