50 Movies Every Scientist and Engineer Should Watch

These 50 movies are absolute must-sees for scientists and engineers.
Christopher McFadden
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Sci-fi and tech movies have been around for a surprisingly long time. They frequently tackle similar themes of exploring consciousness or over-dependence on technology which almost every time leads to disastrous results.

But, which movies are the essential ones to watch?

But, "what is your selection criteria?" we hear you ask. Well, on the whole, we have looked at the movies that show the telltale signs of cinematic excellence.

We wanted to try and cover all genres across the ages and represent as many different types of movies as possible and to include movies with original concepts or the ones that are the first of their kind in one way or the other. This list also includes some of our personal favorites too. 


It goes without saying that this list is far from definitive and we apologize if your favorite movie has been omitted. There is a slight bias to more modern movies (mainly post 1970's), as they are fresher in our minds.

Anyway, let's stop messing around and get stuck in. Here is our list of 50 movies every scientist and engineer should watch. We've tried to keep them in chronological order for you.

1. Metropolis, 1927 is definitely a must-watch film for scientists

films for scientists metropolis
Source: Archives New Zealand/Wikimedia Commons

Practically a work of art and a formative piece of Sci-Fi, its imagery remains potent almost 90 years later. An incredible must-watch. 

2. Frankenstein, 1931 is one of those cult sci-fi movies

must-watch sci-fi frankenstein
Source: Movieclips/YouTube

Not the first adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel but certainly the most iconic. A must watch for anyone really.

3. Then there's The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951

sci-fi films day the earth stood still
Source: RetroAlexander/YouTube

The 1950s was an era of sensational movies. Although it's been remade recently, the original one is still the best version. Klaatu’s visit and the warning he delivers still resonates today.

4. Godzilla, 1954 is the epitome of the modern science fiction era

sci-fi films godzilla
Source: Filmstruck/YouTube

This movie goes to show you don’t need sophisticated modern special effects to make a compelling movie. A massive monster wreaking havoc, what more do you need?

5. Make sure you check out Forbidden Planet, 1956

50 Movies Every Scientist and Engineer Should Watch
Source: Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

Said to be the first movie set on another planet in deep space, it’s often said it's inspired by The Tempest. The movie explores our tendency for self-destruction.

6. You have got to watch Doctor Strangelove, 1964

sci-fi films doctor strangelove
Source: scarface584/YouTube

Created during the Cold War, this classic movie gives insight into the hysteria and paranoia of the age.

7. We're pretty sure you'll love Planet Of The Apes, 1968

sci-fi films planet of the apes
Source: Fox Home Entertainment/YouTube

As well as introducing a whole new genre, this movie flips our perception of what "separates" us from our primate cousins.

8. A Kubrick masterpiece: 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968

sci-fi films space odessey
Source: Warner Bros. Pictures/YouTube

When you mix Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, the result is awesome. If you’ve been living in a cave and haven't seen this movie yet, we suggest you watch it as soon as possible! We refuse to give any more spoilers.

You’re welcome.

9. Explore a new dystopia with Silent Running, 1972

sci-fi films silent running

After all botanical life ends on Earth, ecologist Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) maintains a greenhouse on a space station to preserve various plants for future generations. This movie allows you to have an absolutely magnificent and emotion-driven watching experience. Also, we defy you not to fall in love with his robot companions.

10. Westworld, 1973 will surely keep you on your toes

50 Movies Every Scientist and Engineer Should Watch
Source: RetroBiografen/YouTube

Now rebooted as a highly regarded series on HBO, this classic sci-fi movie tells the story of advanced robots run amok. A gripping and terrifying visual experience that comes highly recommended.

11. Don't miss out on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977

sci fi movies close encounters
Source: Illustrated Fiction/YouTube

This movie captures the mystery and wonder of encountering an advanced race. For years, this movie shaped how people imagined meeting more advanced extraterrestrial beings would be like.

12. We dare you to watch Alien/Aliens 1979/1986

sci-fi films alien
Source: HitmonTom/YouTube

We couldn’t decide between them, so we included both. Merging space opera, Westerns, and horror, these movies are an absolute must-watch. They launched a whole genre of movies that terrify and inspire in equal measure.

13. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980 is an absolute classic

50 Movies Every Scientist and Engineer Should Watch
Source: Illustrated Fiction/YouTube

Empire is, hands down, the best of the Star Wars movies -- no arguments! Picking up the mantle from A New Hope, Empire takes the series to a new level and sets up all that follows.

14. You really need to watch Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, 1981

sci fi movies mad max
Source: Cyber Chaos Crew/YouTube

Although Mad Max is awesome too, Mad Max 2 resonates the most with its post-apocalyptic setting.

15. Blade Runner, 1982 is another great sci-fi classic

sci-fi films blade runner
Source: BallardMedia LLC/YouTube

Another Ridley Scott classic, this movie explores what it means to be human. A truly epic and enjoyable journey.

16. Another classic sci-fi film is E.T., 1982

sci-fi films ET
Source: Retrocade Podcast/YouTube

Flipping the narrative from Spielberg’s Close Encounters completely, E.T. (love it or hate it), is a really compelling and thought-provoking tale.

17. Tron, 1982 is another must-watch sci-fi film

sci fi films tron
Source: Jerome Labbe/YouTube

1982 was a great year it seems with the release of films like Tron that completely changed the sci-fi genre. It is arguably the best of the first CGI movies and a cinematic legend.

18. Another must-watch sci-fi film is War Games, 1983

sci-fi films wargames
Source: Techno947/YouTube

This movie tells the story of an advanced AI capable of controlling every system it interacts with which ends up risking the start of a nuclear war.

19. You really have to watch Back To The Future, 1985

sci-fi films back to the future
Source: BackToTheMirror/YouTube

Dispensing with the fear of controversy, Back to the Future jumps feet first into the tempestuous waters of time-travel. Humorous, thought-provoking, and entertaining, this movie is a must-watch for all.

20. Enemy Mine, 1985

sci-fi films enemy mine
Source: TheSciFiSpot/YouTube

Dennis Quaid is crash-landed on a planet with an alien (portrayed by Louis Gosset Jr.). Enemy Mine is a tender and beautiful tale of teamwork that tackles undertones of xenophobia.

21. Transformers: The Movie, 1986 is an absolute classic!

sci fi films transformers
Source: Gugleangelo/YouTube

An absolute must-watch if you are the 80s or 90s kid. If you haven't seen it hang your head in shame! Forget the modern reboots, watch the glory and the beauty of the original characters.

22. If you haven't already, check out RoboCop, 1987

sci-fi films robocop
Source: RED Lion Movie Shorts/YouTube

Merging man with machine, RoboCop explores how technology changes or even negates humanity. A surreal blend of cyberpunk, Frankenstein, and action movies, this movie remains the greatest statement of Verhoeven.

23. The one, and only, Predator, 1987

sci-fi films predator
Source: Looper/YouTube

Tapping into our inner fears, this movie is one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. Face and challenge your primeval brain.

24. The Running Man, 1987 is also fantastic

sci-fi films running man
Source: Carlos Apolo Moran/YouTube

In a world of reality TV, this movie is probably more relevant today than when it was originally released. The movie shows convicted criminals, mostly wrongly, sentenced to death in a "gladiator" style entertainment show.

25. They Live, 1988 will open your eyes

sci-fi films they live
Source: Stoolie33/YouTube

Fed up with that viral video on Facebook with the guy with mullet-wearing  “reality revealing” sunglasses? Don’t be, watch the full movie. We’ll not spoil the rest of it.

26. Watch Akira, 1988 now!

sci-fi films akira
Source: ほもぉ/YouTube

Set in 2019 Tokyo, this anime classic is set in the post World War 3 apocalyptic wasteland of Japan. Kaneda, the main character, attempts to prevent the devastation from happening again. We almost included Ghost in the Shell as well.

27. Another classic sci-fi film is Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991

sci-fi films terminator
Source: Flashback FM/YouTube

Do you remember the bit where John Connor switches the Terminator's head from read-only to read/write? Great, that means you were paying attention. This movie confronts us with questions about the ethics of AI. It is more relevant to us today than over 20 years ago.

28. Make sure you check out Sneakers, 1992

sci-fi films sneakers
Source: Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

Set in 1969 with two rookie computer hackers, Sneaker sees our "heroes" breaching systems and distributing funds they steal. Big ideas in this tech movie include cybersecurity and financial technology. The modern version would probably have something to do with Bitcoin.

29. Jurassic Park, 1993 is definitely a must-watch

sci-fi films Jurassic Park
Source: Flix Cine Media/YouTube

Honestly, this isn’t a Spielberg fan spam. Jurassic Park completely changed how movies used digital effects after its release. Based on Michael Crichton’s remarkable novel (We suggest you read it, it’s actually much better than the movie), JP questions our manipulation of the powers of nature.

30. You will love Twelve Monkeys, 1995

sci-fi films twelve monkeys
Source: Movieclips/YouTube

Terry Gilliam, of Monty Python fame, hits hard when it comes to sci-fi movies. We almost included Time Bandits as well but that is arguably more fantasy than sci-fi. Based on the French time-travel story Le Jetee, this is a perfect work of fatalism.

31. Gattaca, 1997 is another great sci-fi film

sci-fi films gattaca
Source: TrailersPlaygroundHD/YouTube

This dystopian movie takes a thought-provoking look at the implications of gene splicing which is even more relevant today.

32. The Fifth Element, 1997 is another classic sci-fi film

sci-fi films fifth element
Source: Jason Munoz/YouTube

This is a joyously silly and bizarre space opera that’s full of beautiful set pieces and incredible production design. A really enjoyable watching experience whichever way you look at it.

33. The Matrix, 1999 is also a must-watch sci-fi film

sci-fi films matrix
Source: TheMatrixFan314/YouTube

And only the original, we don't talk about the sequels! Set in a dystopian future where mankind is enslaved by machines this movie explores the meaning of reality. Will you take the red or the blue pill?

34. Be sure to check out Minority Report, 2002

sci-fi films minority report
Source: SevBen NEF/YouTube

Courtesy of Philip K Dick and Steven Spielberg, this movie presents a chilling vision of the future in which “Pre-Crime” detectives can find and apprehend offenders before they commit crimes.

35. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, 2004 is an interesting film

sci-fi films spotless mind
Source: Kevin Grin/YouTube

Would you erase some of your memories if you could? This movie works on many levels and is an incredibly clever science fiction movie that is also romantic. Its story is both surreal and believable at the same time.

36. Children Of Men, 2006 is great

sci-fi films children of men
Source: My Favourite Films/YouTube

This movie is set in the future where humans can no longer procreate and society collapses. It quickly turns into a metaphor for issues such as xenophobia and immigration. Children Of Men sets the standard for gritty science fiction action movies.

37. Wall-E, 2008 is superb

sci-fi films wall-e
Source: Disney Clips/YouTube

Wall-E is a stunning, charming, and emotional movie set in a post-apocalyptic future. The story revolves around a lonely garbage disposal robot left alone on Earth. The movie quickly turns into a love story for Wall-E.

38. You really need to watch the Moon, 2009

sci-fi films the moon
Source: watchCulturetainment/YouTube

This movie takes the theme of corporate evil and the nature of selfhood and makes it it's own.

39. District 9, 2009 is a modern classic sci-fi film

sci-fi films district 9
Source: Feizok/YouTube

A quasi-documentary that explores mankind living side by side with alien "immigrants". It exposes men's tribal nature while telling a story of one of them turning into something unrecognizable.

40. Make sure you check out Avatar, 2009

sci-fi films avatar
Source: Chi Po/YouTube

Written and directed by James Cameron, Avatar takes place in the near future where humankind is colonizing another planet for extraterrestrial mining.

41. Inception, 2010 is pretty good too

sci fi films inception
Source: Movies blackwards/YouTube

Inception examines the nature of consciousness in a clever way that does make sense, in the end. Its story revolves around a brilliantly inventive new technology.

42. Ender’s Game, 2013 is another must-see film

sci-fi films enders game
Source: Laetri/YouTube

A great depiction of a fantastic sci-fi book series, Ender's Game plunges our hero, Ender into a futuristic military academy. Ender and his friends undergo a simulated training program that has very real-life consequences. A truly fantastic movie.

43. Her, 2013 is an interesting sci-fi film

sci-fi movies her
Source: kaptainkristian/YouTube

This movie is about our ever-growing dependence on technology and virtual assistance. The story is disturbingly relevant to today's society.

44. Have you seen Snowpiercer, 2013?

sci-fi films snowpiercer
Source: JoBlo Movie Trailers/YouTube

In a world where civilization has collapsed, one group of survivors spend their entire existence on a train. In the movie, the class system within the confined space is overemphasized. Eventually, a violent revolt with a mind-blowing revelation takes place.

45. Gravity, 2013 is also worth a watch

sci-fi films gravity
Source: Warner Bros. Pictures/YouTube

Disaster, desperation, isolation, and survival with limited air and options. In this movie, Sandra Bullock's character faces challenges after challenges from the beginning to the end.

46. Lest we forget Elysium, 2013

sci-fi films elysium
Source: Tiger Film/YouTube

Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed “District 9″. It is a must-see if you like movies tech movies full of powered armor, hacking, orbital space stations, advanced robotics, and more.

47. Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014 is a fun watch

sci-fi films guardians of the galaxy
Source: Marvel Entertainment/YouTube

Guardians of the Galaxy is a great space movie in its own right. It revolves around a “group of misfits who have to band together to stop a cosmic threat” in a thrilling, and heartbreaking fashion.

It has a pretty neat soundtrack too. 

48. You will absolutely love Big Hero Six, 2014

sci-fi films big hero 6
Source: karimann90/YouTube

This story takes a teenage genius inventor Hiro on a journey of self-discovery, invention, and revenge. It's filled with comedy, action, and emotion and we challenge you not to cry at the end.

49. Interstellar, 2014 is another modern classic sci-fi film

sci-fi films interstellar
Source: Interstellar Movie/YouTube

This movie is set in a dystopian future where specialists try to find a habitable planet to be the new home for humanity.

50. Ex Machina, 2015 is a superb sci-fi film

sci-fi films ex machina
Source: Looper/YouTube

This movie cleverly challenges our understanding of consciousness. A must watch if you are interested in Artificial Intelligence.

Some honorary mentions

With many great films on the list, it was tough to choose them over some other fantastic films out there. With that in mind here are some honorable mentions that didn't quite make it.

  • Star Trek: Wrath of Khan

  • 3 Idiots

  • The Thirteenth Floor

  • Hugo

  • Good Will Hunting

  • Sphere

  • The Social Network

  • October Sky

  • Apollo 13

  • The Man in the White Suit

  • The Lathe of Heaven

  • Brazil

  • Ghost in the Shell

  • Galaxy Quest

  • Primer

  • The Incredibles

  • Serenity

  • Event Horizon

  • Pacific Rim

So there you go. Do you agree with our choices?

Clearly, this list isn't exhaustive and we'd love to hear your suggestions. Otherwise, if you haven't watched any or all of these films, we recommend you check them out today!

You will not be disappointed. 

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