I have a soft spot for 1993's Falling Down, starring Michael Douglas and Barbara Hershey. Its going-postal theme notwithstanding, I think it really captured something about the engineering mindset and/or engineer as a cog in the SoCal defense-contractor machine. Or maybe it was just the good acting; Robert Duvall is in it too.
I'd like to mention Brainstorm with Christopher Walken. It takes a device capable of recording the mind from prototype to production. It also looks at one of the great mysteries of life when a death is recorded so it can be experienced by the living. Even though technically it's pushing it a little this movie makes you really want this technology to be real.
Like PureGenius I also recommend Brainstorm. The prototype "hat" is HUGE with nitrogen pumped cooling. Then they have a breakthru in size when they perfect an ASIC and can shrink it down to the size of a headband. A revolutionary concept for a 1983 movie.
Absolutely! After seeing Brainstorm I said to myself "I would move anywhere to work on a project like that." Obviously, I didn't get the chance because this comment wasn't posted directly from my brain to the Net.
I also want to second "Real Genius" - Smart People On Ice!! It put me on the road to having a palm-sized battery-powered 2W CW 445nm laser just for coolness sake.
Yup I agree completely, "Dark Star" is one of the best unknown movies around, and even better it predates Star Wars by 3 years. Dark Star had demolition on a planetary scale, whereas Star Wars had construction on a planetary scale. I still kind of think I should go on a road trip to Benson, Arizona...
Forbidden planet is another classic, my favorite was Robbie the robot.
Favorite mad scientist is Dr. Brown from Back to the Future. The Delorean is so much more exciting than the Tardis!
But these are really all sci fi rather than engineering.
I have a big vote for "man in the white suit" starring Obi Wan from long before he became Obi Wan.
My choice is Apollo 13. Two liquid oxygen tanks in the Service Module malfunctioned, aborting a moon landing, and forcing a sudden effort to get home. Getting breathable air was a major issue.
An engineering team at the flight center developed a solution on the fly. Square air cleaners from the Command Module are used in the Lunar Module. Manual course corrections are made with the module's igniter. Failure was not an option, as the flight director told them.
I'll vote with DOuglas on this one. Growing up in Huntsville, Alabama (the rocket city) and celebrating my 16th birthday the night Armstrong landed on the moon make it close to home. Second choice would be A Night To Remember, the 1953 version of the sinking of the Titanic.
Beautiful Mind has to be up there among the best since the story line was so compelling, and Russell Crowe did such a great job showing where the combination of genious and paranoia can land you. On the totally stupid, but resourceful side--what about all those TV episodes of MacGyver and the Saturday Night crew's absolutely hysterical (granted, stupid) interpretation called MacGruber?
Here's yet another vote for Apollo 13. The whole movie is the team process of solving an engineering problem. On the caveman level, how about the engineering in Castaway? I saw it over the weekend for the 5th or 6th time. Again, probelm solving -- this time with very limited resources. I love how many uses he got out of the ice skates.
One of my favorite engineering movies is October Sky. The "Rocket Boys" found a way to make their dream a reality. It reaffirms my belief that engineers are born as engineers and schooling just gives them additional respect. Worst engineering movie has to be Speed just for the ridiculous bus "jump" across the missing section of the interstate. A 12 ton bus does not stand a chance of jumping that far.
I agree. "We got to make this square peg, go into that round hole, using only this." I often thought of how similar this is to all of those high school or engineering 101 projects where the object is to drop an egg from the roof and protect it using only rubber bands and straws. It's movies and goofy little tasks like this that inspire young engineers to start down that path towards the engineering profession.
I'll have to go along with the realism in Apollo 13 for best Sci Fi. I'll say the ORIGINAL classics and none of the remakes are good,from TDTESS and Forbidden Planet....Yes, we have finally created some of the devices and explored the unconcious ( NEVER CALL IT THE SUBCONCIOUS ) mind and it's powers...
For some backhanded realism, SPACE COWBOYS takes a look at the predjudices and mentality of many STUPIDVISORS and Government Lackey types that have infested the space programs...( who DID sell that computer design to those " peaceful " Russians )...
For the Eco-Freaks, " Silent Running " was the ultimate film for the ultimate greenie, the forest was saved and the ship was blown up...
And for the purely bad Sci Fi flick to blow your mind...
I nominate DARK STAR...
Where else do you get to see a parody of science fiction and social topics every few minutes? And you get to see someone psychoanalyzing a smart fusion bomb? ( they lose, BTW )...
I'll also give a special mention to all the Star Trek TNG fans who liked DATA...
The QUESTOR TAPES was a pilot movie to explore AI before it became a science and engineering study...and it was the close idea behind the creation of the DATA character.
That is the best robot based film made, IMNSHO (sorry, RUR and Metropolis ).
But my best film of all time is Dr. STRANGELOVE.....and we still deal with those same issues today.
Yes, I have all these movies in my ~2.5 Terabyte collection on the media servers...
I like Independance Day, where an engineer creates a virus to defeat an alien army, then learns how to fly one of their ships, travels to the mother ship, connects and logs in to their newtork installs the virus and brings the whole alien army down.
"Bridge over the River Kwai" is a great movie, made even better by the very good protrayal of the British approach to civil engineering under adverse conditions. Schedule constraints play a big role, just as they do in most real life engineering projects. Perhaps most importantly the single-mindedness of the Colonel in getting the bridge built on time while ignoring the bigger picture of winning the war is typical of the short sighted vision of many engineering managers.
I also liked "The Rocketeer" as it was not too much a stretch of reality, after all, rocket packs are real, and it did show the problems in development and using a prototype before it is ready for prime time. The inclusion of a Zepplin and the Griffith Observatory are science/engineering bonuses.
A great movie about smart college kids having fun with science/engineering. It presented science/engineering as cool and fun. Which, of course, it is! It was largely responsible for motivating me to go back to school to get my Bachelors degree...
I don't know about the movies, but if you only ever see one play, make sure it is "Copenhagen" by Michael Frayn. It is a brilliant investigation of the meeting between Bohr and Heisenberg during WWII as seen through the lens of the uncertainty principle. (Not directly engineering but something all engineers will have covered during their education.)
Lots of choices, but "The Great Escape" is one of my favorite movies of all time, and the ingenuity used to overcome adversity in a POW camp helps make it great. "The Right Stuff" about the Mercury program is also powerful, and the book is much more insightful about the conflict between the test pilots like Yeager and Crossfield and the more highly publicized astronauts. "Apollo 13" - the geeks win! "Castaway" "Swiss Family Robinson" and "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" have a similar theme of using ingenuity in a shipwreck situation. "Bridge on the River Kwai" and "October Sky" are both excellent, as well, portraying perseverance in the face of defeat. Having worked in automotive industry, "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" is a great film, although bittersweet on many levels, familiar to most engineers.
On a humorous note, "Real Genius", "Best Defense", and "Short Circuit" top my list for engineering comedies.
Colossus: The Forbin Projusct: I originally saw this on a double bill with the film version of Michael Crichton's first book, The Andromeda Strain - great book, stinker film. Colossus was a sleeper - little press or advertising, but a fascinating movie about a cold war program to bring up a "defensive" supercomputer to protect the US. (Its first demand - a communication link to the "other" - it figured out the Ruskies were bringing one on line as well...)
2001: A Space Odyssey: I loved the understated way it treated the space-faring technology as something that would just be mundane and matter-of-fact to those who used it. (e.g. boosting up to the orbiting station via a commercial PanAm flight; any technical bits passed on with the same sort of zeal as our usual instructions on how to use a seat belt or the location of flotation devices...)
I was surprised that this wasn't listed. Maybe its importance had more to do with my age at viewing rather than the content. This started it all for me, important work done by solving problems with engineering tools. The passion portrayed in the film inspired me and I never really looked back.
And I did love Dark Star, though I hope I never think of it as an Engineering film! Even if I do find myself sometimes trying to reason with these AI wannabees.
You know, Ripley aka Sigourney Weaver, saves the day again by driving a future armored vehicle, wielding state of the art Marine rifles, flame throwers, and, of course, the climatic final fight scene where she climbs into the powerful electro-hydraulic exoskeleton to defeat the Alien Queen. Maybe not a purists engineering movie but it has a gritty, mechanical sensibility throughout the movie from the planet atmospheric processor to the wasp-looking troop transport to the deep space travel while in stasis. This is one of my all time favorites. I still want to build my own exoskeleton power suit for all those chores around the house!
"The Dish" is a quirky little Australlian movie that centres around the role played by the Parkes radio telescope in relaying the live video of the first moon landing. Patrick Warburton plays the American engineer flown in to make sure the locals don't stuff it up, Sam Niell is the pipe-smokng manager of the telescope and Tom Long plays a nerdy engineer who makes a change to the formula used to track the signal. When Patrick Warburton asks him why he made this unauthorised change, he replies that the original formula only works in the Northern hemisphere. I am one of a very few people to appreciate this exhange, as I had to change a plus sign to a minus in a similar program, to stop an antenna I was working on from trying to point to the centre of the Earth (you can guess I am writing from the Southern hemisphere).
Sputnik50, are you referring to the Discovery Channel? Or its it on a different channel? I've been kind of half-looking on Discovery for the past few months but haven't seen the Engineering Disasters series.
I'm willing to bet that there are other engineer/designers out there who, like me, was inspired by "Picture Picture" on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. For those of you too young to know what I'm referring to, it was basically the 1970's-1980's version of "How its Made." I loved that show!
I have to admit, Jim, I watched the manufacturing segments on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood with my son when he was growing up. I liked them as an adult and actually learned new things. I suspect I wasn't alone in this.
I agree with the person who mentioned "Brainstorm." Having been in many types of labs over the years, that movie most closely depicted a real scientific lab, the strange manner in which projects are created and gain approval. Yes, the capture and storage of human sensations on tape and the ability to transfer these emotions / feeling to another may be a bit in the future, but the science seemed so real. Natalie Wood died during the filming of this classic, but it is my all time favorite movie due to the accuracy and theme.
Charles, you've got to see this movie, and so do the rest of you who are reading these comments.
The posts were to describe the best Engineering movies, not the best movie that had technical things in it. There are a lot of technical movies, both SciFy and fairly factual, but few show the engineering process as well as did "Brainstorm." I am quite amazed that the producers and director were able to piece the already-filmed parts together, as Natalie Wood died during the filming and the completed movie showed her in the movie all the way to the end. Christopher Walken portrayed a perfect nerdy, driven scientist / engineer. I write about robots and have seen many amazing robots in my days, but nothing that even comes close to what is portrayed in this film. Even the non-technical parts showing the beautiful scenery of North Carolina was among the best for a SciFy film.
Conventional wisdom holds that MIT, Cal Tech, and Stanford are three of the country’s best undergraduate engineering schools. Unfortunately, when conventional wisdom visits the topic of best engineering schools, it too often leaves out some of the most distinguished programs that don’t happen to offer PhD-level degrees.
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