19+ of the Best Engineering Documentaries You Should Watch
Engineering documentaries, like all documentaries, are generally aimed at a broad audience. For this reason, in-depth technical detail content can be somewhat limited but that usually doesn't detract from their watchability.
It is impossible to be exhaustive when deciding on what to watch. To make it a little easier for you, here are our picks for the best engineering-related documentaries including single episodes and whole series:
1. "To Engineer is Human" is definitely worth a watch
Produced by Horizon, this five-part documentary series explores some of the greatest civil engineering failures in history. It's not all doom and gloom, however, it goes on to explain how there is a multitude of ways in which engineering can fail.
2. "Engineering an Empire" is another must watch
Made by the History channel, "Engineering an Empire" explores the characteristics of engineering and architectural feats of the greatest civilizations throughout time.
3. Another great engineering documentary is "Impossible Engineering"
"Impossible Engineering" takes the viewer through the extraordinary feats of modern-day engineering. It introduces pioneers whose techniques have changed the world.
Each episode goes behind the scenes of today's most technically advanced structures, from record-breaking buildings to mega-ships. The mechanics and designs are explained using 3-D graphics, archived sources, and specially shot footage.
The show celebrates engineers throughout history for their technical breakthroughs that made it possible to create the constructions that exist today.
4. "Engineering the Impossible - The Freedom Ship"
If realized, "The Freedom Ship" will be the largest ocean-going vessel in history. It will become a floating luxury city that will traverse the world. This video addresses whether "The Freedom Ship" is possible and if so how would it be constructed.
5. "Megafactories" is a brilliant series
"Megafactories" let the viewers enter into some of the most extraordinary factories in the world and make them insiders on what it takes to produce brand name wonders such as Ferrari, BMW, Harley-Davidson, John Deere, and the M1 tank.
6. "MythBusters" is a classic
It's difficult to not mention this series which ran for almost ten years. Hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman attempt to examine commonly held beliefs about science and technology by often using copious amounts of explosives. It's not only enlightening but also incredibly fun to watch.
7. "TopGear" is yet another classic series (but the original hosts)
This series was great at showcasing the latest cars, that is, if you can handle fairly aggressive British humor. We would recommend the original cast of Clarkson, May, and Hammond rather than the newer lineup.
8. "Mega Engineering" really is
"Mega Engineering" takes you on a journey into the monumental future of mega-builds for high stakes look at tomorrow's extreme engineering.
9. "Objectified" is an interesting watch
This engineering documentary explores how top industrial designers manufacture everyday objects such as cars, phones, and chairs. It discusses the creative processes and professional objectives of some major manufacturers from Apple to 3M.
10. "Modern Marvels" is also worth watching
Another History Channel (and PBS) production, "Modern Marvels" has run for over twenty years. The short format engineering documentaries explore facts theories and impacts around the development of the subject topic. This series explains how engineers continue to create and impact the world we live in.
11. "Industrial Revelations"
Mark Williams—whom you might know from "The Fast Show"—delves into engineering history, particularly the Industrial Revolution, in this ten-part series. Williams guides the viewer through the inventive advances, engineering, and technological leaps made during this formative period in world history.
As an aside, if you want some comedy-relief we would thoroughly recommend watching "The Fast Show" in its entirety.
12. BBC Four's "Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams" is great
Presented by Simon Schaffer, this engineering documentary charts the amazing and "untold" story of automata. There were amazing clockwork machines designed hundreds of years ago to mimic life.
Simon travels around Europe to find and examine spectacular examples of these machines and shows their technical sophistication.
13. "Tesla: Master of Lightning" is very illuminating
This engineering documentary examines the life and times of Nikola Tesla. It travels through Tesla's life, vision, innovations, and character flaws.
14. "Genius on Hold"
This documentary examines the life and times of telecommunication engineer Walter L. Shaw. It explores how AT&T ultimately stole his big ideas.
Through Frank Langella's narration, the film follows the inventor who is credited with inventing the speakerphone, conference calling, and the answering machine. With real-life footage, Genius on Hold tells the story of how Walter L. Shaw got caught up in a political scandal.
15. "How It's Made" is great
This engineering documentary series does exactly what it says on the tin, no pun intended. Ever wanted to know how they make paint? Or tennis balls? Then you have found the right show.
16. "Megastructures" is another classic
This series focuses on the more extreme construction projects from the biggest, tallest to the deepest in the world. It also highlights the incredible machinery employed to complete these breathtaking feats of engineering.
17. "Scrapheap Challenge" is great fun to watch
An oldy but excellent engineering "documentary" series. Teams compete for dominance by building fantastic contraptions using only the scrap they can find.
18. "Extreme Engineering" is all about the extreme
Hosted by Danny Forster, this Discovery Channel series explores the most magnificent feats of engineering. Watch structures seemingly impossible to build rise, crews regularly defying nature and other awe-inspiring creations of extreme engineering.
19. "Engineering Guy" on YouTube is great too
"Engineering Guy" is a YouTube channel presented and created by Bill Hammack. Bill walks you through how different pieces of tech work. Episodes include him taking apart an LCD monitor, demonstrating how fiber optic cables work, ripping up a hard drive, explaining the wonder of a quartz wristwatch, and solving the mystery of black boxes.
Other examples include Bill blowing up a light bulb filament, revealing how amazing a pop can tab truly is, showing why a cell phone looks the way it looks, and explains why you always seem to be in the slowest line.
20. "Seven Wonders of the Industrial World" is also worth a watch
This is a seven-part British documentary/docudrama series that examines seven engineering feats since the industrial revolution. There is also an accompanying book by Deborah Cadbury.
And that's all folks.
Have any of these documentary suggestions intrigued you? Perhaps you could add some of these to your watch list today.