50 Great Movies Every Science Geek Needs to See

Posted December 14, 2009

Those with a passion for the scientific–whether getting a college degree in the subject or just counting it as a personal interest–will find no shortage of films that touch upon everything from space exploration to genetics. The fifty films listed below, whether documentaries or pure flights of fancy, delve into the often complex issues surrounding scientific discovery, exploration and alteration, educating as they entertain. The next time you’re in the mood to whet your appetite for science while having a good time doing so, check out one of these science-based movies.

Genetics and Cloning

These films deal with issues of genetic modification, often focusing on how it could go wrong or be abused.

  1. Gattaca: In this movie, people are classed based on their genetic makeup, but one such "inferior" man decides to take matters into his own hands to pursue his dreams of space travel.
  2. Jurassic Park: This classic film demonstrates the unpredictability of nature and some of the potentially serious consequences of bringing species back from extinction.
  3. Island of Lost Souls: On the island on this film, one crazed scientist’s experiments with evolution and genetics have made him the leader of a race of mutant, half-human creatures.
  4. Life Story: Where would genetics be without the discovery of DNA? This film documents Watson and Crick’s journey to unraveling the double helix.

Disease

With swine flu taking its toll on global populations, these films about diseases, even the older titles, still have a lot of relevance to modern science.

  1. Outbreak: This 1995 film details some pretty extreme measures used to contain the deadly virus being spread.
  2. Andromeda Strain: In this adaptation of a Michael Crichton book, a group of scientists work hard to identify and cure an alien virus before it can spread.
  3. Fantastic Voyage: Check out this classic film to see scientists and doctors shrunk to the microscopic level so they can go inside and treat an injured man.
  4. And the Band Played On: This film documents some of the infighting and disagreements that happened between scientists in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.
  5. A Beautiful Mind: Watch this film to see how real-life mathematician John Nash, from West Virginia, worked through his mental illness to make great discoveries in his field.
  6. Awakenings: A new treatment promises a chance for victims of an encephalitis epidemic that have been in a coma for years in this film.

Space Exploration

Delve into deep space or jet around our own galaxy in these film about space.

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey: This Kubrick classic delves into a lot of serious scientific issues from human evolution to artificial intelligence.
  2. Apollo 13: Watch this film to see how the amazing work of these astronauts and their ground crew helped them get home safely despite mechanical malfunctions.
  3. Sunshine: When the sun threatens to go out, the space explorers on this mission have to try to restart it with a nuclear device.
  4. The Right Stuff: See a fictionalized account of the Mercury 7 astronauts in this film.
  5. Stargate: In this movie, a mysterious gate is opened allowing people to travel great distances to another planet. What they find when they arrive may have been more than the team bargained for as they fight to return home.
  6. Solaris: Few space exploration movies ask viewers to delve so deeply into their own psyches as this film that takes a new approach to how we imagine intelligent life on other planets.
  7. Forbidden Planet: Explorers on a mission in this movie find a nearly abandoned colony and discover a secret that could threaten their very lives.
  8. Moon: As he nears the end of his stint working in dislocation on the moon, the astronaut in this film makes some discoveries that could change how he see himself and even his own sanity.
  9. October Sky: Space exploration wouldn’t have gone too far with good rockets, and this movie is about one young man who followed his dreams of playing a role in the space race despite his family and community’s opposition.

Alien Life

Humans have theorized what it would be like to make contact with other intelligent species for years, and these films offer their own takes on that event.

  1. Contact: After searching for years, this film finds one scientist finally making radio contact with alien life with consequences that could change humanity forever.
  2. The Thing: While definitely more for those who like horror films, this movie details the experiences of a team of scientists in Antarctica trying to escape a deadly alien monster.
  3. The Abyss: While searching for a lost nuclear submarine, the diving team in this movie encounter a potentially dangerous aquatic alien.
  4. Alien: The first movie in this trilogy sees a mining ship investigating an SOS on a distant planet and encountering some rather unpleasant residents.
  5. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: In this movie, a loveable alien becomes stranded on Earth and befriends a young boy who must help him escape the clutches of government scientists so he can return home.
  6. District 9: This film offers more than just cool special effects as it details the story of a group of refugee aliens who are confined and exploited in squalid conditions and the government official who chooses to take their side.

Robotics

Embrace your technical side with these films on robotics.

  1. Short Circuit: Watch this film, which takes place in Washington and Oregon to see how a freak accident allows one experimental robot to go from humdrum to independently intelligent, evading capture by the military establishment that created him.
  2. Artificial Intelligence: AI: This film will ask you to think about the moral implications of artificial intelligence and the great responsibility that must go along with it.
  3. WALL-E: In WALL-E, one small, waste-collecting robot will change the fate of the planet and the human race and maybe even find love in the process.
  4. The Matrix: In this film, robots have taken over the earth and have enslaved humans as an energy source. It will take a group of rebels and the elusive One to fight back.

Technology

For good or bad, these films document potential outcomes of technological advancement.

  1. Blade Runner: In this 1982 film a "blade runner" has to track down and eliminate four rogue clones who have stolen a ship and are trying to find their maker.
  2. The Truman Show: With technology watching our every move, many people today aren’t too far off from this man living in a constantly observed and filmed state.
  3. Metropolis: If you don’t mind silent films, you can see this cinematic classic and its depiction of a dystopic futuristic world and a mad scientist who creates a debased robot of his lost love.
  4. Brazil: Reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984, this film follows a man through a future muddled by bureaucracy and whimsical, though impractical, machines.
  5. TRON: Check out this soon to be remade cult classic where a programmer is kidnapped and forced to participate in virtual gladiator-lie games.

Time Travel

These films touch upon issues related to time travel, though other topics are included as well.

  1. Twelve Monkeys: In this movie a man is sent back in time to attempt to prevent a deadly virus from devastating humanity.
  2. The Time Machine: In the 1960 version of this film, an Englishman travels to the future only to find that humans have divided into two species, one living above and one below ground.
  3. Back to the Future: Set in California, this fun film takes Marty McFly back in time where he meets his parents and must help them fall in love while trying to find his way back home.
  4. Donnie Darko: In this film, the mentally unstable main character becomes consumed with ideas of time travel after narrowly escaping a random but violent event.
  5. Primer: While you might not be able to understand everything the first time through, this film offers an excellent look at a pair of scientists who accidentally discover time travel.

Environment and Nature

Learn more about the science and history behind environmental studies in these movies.

  1. An Inconvenient Truth: Learn more about the potential impact on global warming from this film.
  2. Gorillas in the Mist: Check out this film to learn more about the work of Dian Fossey in preserving and protecting mountain gorillas.
  3. Cane Toads: An Unnatural History: This documentary will show the impact the introduced species of cane toads has had on the native wildlife of Australia.

Science Gone Awry

Scientific advancements aren’t always used for the good of humanity, as these films show.

  1. The Invisible Man: When a scientist discovers a way to make himself invisible, he takes advantage of the situation terrorizing and hurting those around him.
  2. Soylent Green: In this movie, that the government produced soylent green seems like a godsend to people who don’t have enough to eat due to overpopulation. During an investigation of the murder of a wealthy businessman, things are unearthed that may make the substance seem a lot less desirable.
  3. Minority Report: Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, this movie depicts a future where crimes are seen by psychics ahead of time and stopped by officers of the law. The system sounds great, but the movie shows that it has some major flaws that keep it from being foolproof.
  4. I, Robot: Ever wonder what would happen if robots decided to rebel? This movie, set in Illinois follows a futuristic cop as he investigates a murder that may have been perpetrated by a robot.

     

Miscellaneous

From following a group of bright students to fighting to teach evolution, these films cover a wide range of issues.

  1. Real Genius: Join the rowdy but intelligent young men in this film who fight back against a corrupt and unjust professor.
  2. The Man from Earth: In this film, you’ll meet up with a man as he is preparing to leave his job and friend behind as he reveals some unexpected truths about himself in the process.
  3. Inherit the Wind: This classic film documents the Scopes "Monkey" Trial in which the right to teach evolution in schools was tested.
  4. Children of Men: The apocalyptic future depicted in this movie finds humanity no longer able to procreate, but when a child is miraculously conceived, one man helps fight to keep the child safe.

 

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