Sorry about being late to the party. My favorite Engineering Movie would be "From the Earth to the Moon" which was an HBO mini-series about the Apollo program. Several of the episodes demonstrate the trade-offs involved in engineering especially the ones on the Lunar Lander and the choice of the near earth rendezvous approach. It has some more "dramatic" episodes but, as a whole I found it very entertaining and educational.
I agree, The Right Stuff was virtually poetic in it's cinematography. But for engineering appeal, I like it more down to earth and personal, the little guy doing more with less. "World's Fastest Indian" was great in that respect and a great story to boot.
I usually don't classify movies about flying or aerospace in the engineering bucket, cause they're a genre unto themselves. (Plus, once you hit space, you start to get heavily into sci-fi.) That said, if we're talking aerospace, far and away my favority is "The Right Stuff." That's not because of the story -- the whole Chuck Yaeger breaking the sound barrier is well known -- or the acting (good though it is, particularly Ed Harris and Sam Shepard. Rather, it's the cinematography. The way it's shot is beautiful. All that blue sky; it has a very wide open feel and you get that whole flying/space vibe the whole movie because of that. Cinematographer was Caleb Deschanel.
jmiller: Armageddon is another of my guilty pleasures. I think it's hilarious that the NASA scientists could land a spaceship on a speeding asteroid but couldn't figure out how to put a drill together.
Apollo 13 is a good one I agree but I have to throw in Armageddon. I know it's a little far fetched and not really plausible but who really wants to put the fate of the world in a man who got a C- in Astrophysics.
Thanks for the Flight of the Phoenix reference, Alex. I'd forgotten about that as an engineering movie, but I agree, the character is a good example of the engineer mentality. I've seen both versions, and the argument at the end is archetypal. I don't know how Hollywood managed to do such a relatively decent job on an engineering-reated subject, when so often their depictions of scientists and engineers are cartoonish.
As long as we're discussing Jimmy Stewart engineering movies, it's worth it to recall, "No Highway in the Sky." The character and plotline might be a bit over the top, but as a portrayal of corporate hierarchy and its effect on engineers, it's worth seeing.
I recently became aware that there are two versions of Flight of the Phoenix. Apparently, when it's referred to, most people are talking about the 2004 remake starring Dennis Quaid. I only learned of that one when talking to someone about the version I'd seen, which is the 1965 B&W original with Jimmy Stewart. He's a little bit not right for the character he plays, because he doesn't come across as an aviator type. Yet he gives a strong performance, which rests of the intensity of his character's drive to find a solution to the situation. And of course that's at the core of an engineering problem. My favorite is near the end, the argument between the Stewart chjaracter and the (model) airplane designer character played by Hardy Kruger, where the latter tries to stop the former from testing whether the plane will start by using up the one starter charge they have. So of course in an engineering sense, the Stewart character is completely in the wrong here and the (model) airplane designer is correct. And the hanging onto the wing stuff wouldn't really work in real life, I don't think. (In WWII movies, there are scenes which make a point of showing wing-hangers falling to the ground as the plane takes off.)
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