STEM Movie List

You would think that in these days of desperate pleading for students to get involved in STEM fields that there would be more movies about them.  They’re not common, though.  Here are some that I’ve found that have major characters in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics, both real and fictional.

Let me know of others!    Given that some 140,000 movies have been made, there ought to be more in these categories.

Let me define the fields this way:

  • Science – the study of nature
  • Technology – stories involving machinery
  • Engineering – the actual design of machinery
  • Mathematics – the study of number, and of abstraction more generally.

I’ve avoided science fiction here, unless it portrays STEM activities in a particularly realistic way.  I’ve also avoided documentaries, although many here are biographical.

Titles in bold link to my reviews, while others link to Wikipedia.  Ones that I’ve seen are in normal text, and others are in italics.

62 are listed: 10 S, 17 T, 19 E, 16 M (last updated 5/3/2018)

The Founder 2017 T Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, who took the invention of fast food by the McDonald brothers, expanded it to where McDonalds now feeds 1% of humanity, and cheated and betrayed them
Sully 2016 T The miraculous landing on the Hudson of US 1540, with Tom Hanks as Chesley Sullenberger, whose lifetime of training came down to 10 seconds of decision time, and saved 155 people
The Odyssey 2016 S Jacques Cousteau bio
Hidden Figures 2016 M The inspiring true story of how three black women technicals broke the color bar at NASA and helped get the first American into space
The Man Who Knew Infinity 2016 M Bio of the self-taught Indian genius Ramanujan, who gains fame with the help of G. H. Hardy at Cambridge, but is done in by English weather
Joy 2015 E Jennifer Lawrence as the inventor and pitchwoman Joy Mangano
Steve Jobs 2015 E The Aaron Sorkin version of the inescapable Jobs, whose flaws and brilliance are displayed around three crucial product introductions
Spare Parts 2015 E A team from a poor Latino high school in Arizona beats an MIT team in a competition involving underwater robots. Based on a true story.
The Martian 2015 T Matt Damon is marooned on Mars, and must survive with just the junk left behind. It’s the very first novel, Robinson Crusoe, updated for the 21st century
Copenhagen 2002 S Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg actually did meet secretly during the War, but never spoke again, and this speculates on what kind of Bomb secrets they discussed
Theory of Everything 2014 S The romantic trials of Stephen Hawking, who was gawky and charming before he became crippled and brilliant
The Imitation Game 2014 M Alan Turing is inaccurately portrayed as an arrogrant prick pretending to be human
Gravity 2013 T Sandra Bullock must somehow get back to humanity’s true home, Earth, when an ablation cascade destroys everything in orbit
The Wind Rises 2013 E Hayao Miyazaki’s animated bio of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Zero fighter plane, the first Japanese product that clearly beat the West
Travelling Salesman 2012 M Four mathematicians  prove that P = NP and then struggle with their DoD sponsors
The Social Network 2010 E Aaron Sorkin’s version of the founding of Facebook, with a particularly ruthless Mark Zuckerberg
Creation 2009 S Charles Darwin delays publishing On the Origin of Species for fear of distressing his devout wife, until the death of a beloved daughter makes him stop caring what God thinks
Agora 2009 M Hypatia of Alexandria was the world’s leading mathematician when a Christian mob killed her in 415 CE
Farewell 2009 T The story of Vladimir Vetrov, who was a Soviet agent in charge of stealing all the West’s technological secrets, but then revealed his agent list to the French and then the CIA
Flash of Genius 2008 E The inventor of intermittent windshield wipers, Robert Kearns, wastes the rest of his career in suing the Ford Motor Company for patent infringement, but does make a lot of money
21 2008 M MIT math students initially make a fortune in Vegas with a new blackjack scheme.
The Oxford Murders 2008 M A math professor and student attempt to solve a series of murders based on math-based clues
Pretty Bird 2008 E Fictionalized version of the creation of the RB2000, a 1990s attempt to re-create the Bell Rocket Belt, the first real jetpack
Fermat’s Room 2007 M Four mathematicians are trapped in a room and forced to solve puzzles as the walls close in
The World’s Fastest Indian 2005 T Anthony Hopkins as a taciturn and elderly mechanic from New Zealand, who tunes up an Indian motorcycle to go over 200 mph
Proof 2005 M A complex relationship between father and daughter mathematicians, with each hoping that an important proof will save them
Primer 2004 E Startup bros discover backwards time travel, and have to deal with future versions of themselves
A Beautiful Mind 2001 M Bio of John Nash, who pioneered game theory as a student, but then fell victim to paranoid schizophrenia
Enigma 2001 M Drama set among the code-breakers of Bletchley Park
The Dish 2000 T How casual Aussies helped uptight Americans broadcast the Apollo 11 moon landing from one of their radio telescopes
October Sky 1999 E West Virigina boys escape a life in the coal mines by becoming rocket engineers after Sputnik. The title is an anagram of the original memoir by one of them, “Rocket Boys”
Pi 1998 M A mathematician is driven mad by a number that God may have inserted into the Torah
Good Will Hunting 1997 M A young Matt Damon plays a super-genius who effortlessly one-ups all the snooty students who are proud of what they know
Infinity 1996 M The story of Richard Feynmann at Los Alamos and the tragic death of his wife
Moebius 1996 M The Buenos Aires subway becomes complex enough to get dimensionally unstuck. Based on a short story originally set in Boston
Apollo 13 1995 T How NASA got three astronauts back from the moon in a broken spaceship. A film entirely without mean people in it.
Lorenzo’s oil 1992 S A crippled boy’s parents discover a partial cure for his disease through immense research and effort
Sneakers 1992 T Robert Redford leads a group of honest but poor hackers as they come up against a kingpin of this new kind of crime
Fat Man and Little Boy 1989 S Paul Newman is miscast as General Leslie Groves, the military leader of the Manhattan Project
Animal Behavior 1989 S Romance with a biologist teaching chimpanzees to sign but not communicating with a handsome cellist
Tucker: the Man and his Dream 1988 E The entrepreneur Preston Tucker attempts to start a new car company after WW II, and manages to build all of 50 cars, but is stymied by the big boys
Real Genius 1985 E Grad students at a thinly disguised Caltech carouse as they build lasers. Val Kilmer’s best role
The Right Stuff 1983 T Account of the steely-nerved test pilots of the first US manned space program, Project Mercury
A Hill on the Dark Side of the Moon 1983 M Heartbreak for the great mathematician Sonya Kovalesvsky, the first female math professor
The China Syndrome 1979 T Cover-up of a near meltdown at a US nuclear reactor, that had the good luck (for the movie makers) of premiering just before Three Mile Island
An Enemy of the People 1978 S Steve McQueen makes an unlikely scientist who finds that a popular hot spring is actually polluted. Based on the Ibsen play
The Conversation 1974 T Gene Hackman as a surveillance expert who comes upon evidence of a murder. A movie whose plot turns not on a phrase, not on a word, but on the inflection on two words
Towering Inferno 1974 T Various ingenious schemes to escape from a burning skyscraper. Probably impossible to watch after 9/11
The Andromeda Strain 1971 S Biologists scramble to contain a lethal virus brought back from space. The only countdown in movie history that did not end at 1.
Hellfighters 1968 T John Wayne fighting oil well fires ala Red Adair
Flight of the Phoenix 1965 E The crew of a plane crashed in the Sahara rebuild it in order to escape, with Jimmy Stewart as yet another pilot, which in fact he was.
Fate is the Hunter 1964 T A pilot is the lone survivor of a crash and attempts to rehabilitate himself by re-creating it
The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957 T A British officer attempts to keep up morale among his troops after being captured by the Japanese by correctly building a bridge, yet somehow this is wrong
The Spirit of St Louis 1957 T Account of the first solo transatlantic flight with Jimmy Stewart as Lindbergh
Desk Set 1957 E Spencer Tracy as a computer engineer who attempts to make reference librarian Katherine Hepburn obsolete, and unsurprisingly fails
The Dam-Busters 1955 E Account of the difficult and dangerous, and probably pointless, British attacks on Norwegian dams in WW II
Carbine Williams 1952 E Jimmy Stewart in bio of title figure, who invented the key principle of the M1 rifle while in prison
No Highway in the Sky 1951 E Jimmy Stewart knows why British passenger airliners are crashing, but has trouble proving that it’s metal fatigue. Was prescient about the reason for the later crashes of the de Haviland Comet
The Man in the White Suit 1951 E Alec Guiness invents the perfect fabric, only to be stymied by all those who want clothes to wear out so people buy more
Edison, the Man 1940 E Spencer Tracy as the greatest of all inventors. See An Incandescence of Invention
The Story of Alexander Graham Bell 1939 E The guy with one of the Best Demos Ever
The Story of Louis Pasteur 1936 S Bio of the great chemist