My opinion is that it was real, and there are some very good reasons that I say this.
First, almost everyone knows that at one time or another, every nation has intentionally deceived as many of their own people as possible. However, the more people involved, the more difficult it is to keep a secret. With literally tens of thousands of people involved, it is nearly unthinkable that the US, or any other country, could perpetrate such an elaborate hoax. Remember that this was a time when there was true journalism, and where journalists would dig until they found the truth, no matter what it was. If it was a hoax, it would have been exposed long ago, and sure wouldn’t have remained a hoax for 40+ years.
Second, the biggest incentive that the US had in the first place was provided by the cold war with the USSR. Part of that is that the USSR knew everything the US did in this regard, just as the US knew everything the USSR did. It is naive to think that a country that was looking for anything that could undermine another that they were in basic disagreement, wouldn’t do so if given the chance. Yet the USSR, using their own science and tracking equipment, acknowledged the moon landing, as reluctantly as they did.
Third, the “moon rocks” that were brought back by Apollo are very distinctly “not of this Earth”. They may be similar in some ways, but they are substantially different in others. This evidence cannot be faked.
Fourth, any large telescope, such as the one at Palomar Observatory, can resolve the “trash” we left behind, including equipment and so forth. It seems pretty crazy that millions of dollars would have been spent to place this equipment on the moon, for no other reason that to perpetrate a hoax.
Fifth, there are many, many inventions that came directly from the Apollo and Gemini projects. Among them, the microwave oven, thermal sheeting, revolutionary eye surgery, and freeze dried food, all came directly from these projects. These are all pretty different from each other…why would someone purposely invent these things as a goal, rather than doing what they were supposed to do and simply come up with these as a consequence?
The bottom line is that I believe that if any hoax was made, it would have been the other direction. How much of what they discovered has actually been disclosed? After all, a relatively small number of people actually made the trip, and it wouldn’t be hard to hide some information. Interesting thought, isn’t it?