Help decide the World's Greatest Engineering Movie

What is the best engineering movie ever made? Help us find out, or at least point the way. We will be having a Movie Madness “playoff” elections in which 32 movies compete head-to-head in a several  brackets until there’s only one left.

We will need some help, however, to fill up those 32 slots. So please nominate a movie or two by emailing me ( Put Movie in the subject line, or leave a nomination at the end of this blog entry). Please include two or three lines as to why this movie deserves the engineering accolades.

Within a few weeks, we’ll start having “elections” pitting one movie against another, letting you and other engineering enthusiasts winnow down the field until only one remains, the World’s Greatest Engineering Movie.

Note: Please don’t confuse sci-fi movies with engineering movies. Not all sci-fi involves engineering. In general, a good engineering movie includes engineers as major characters, or talks intelligently about engineering issues or the profession. But these are just rough guidelines. Now send in those nominations.  

And watch this space for further details.

Discuss this Blog Entry 79

on Mar 5, 2014


Why is Apollo 13 such a great engineering movie. (Just looking for solid reasons/opinions)

on Mar 20, 2014

Excellent analysis of Apollo 13--one of the most exciting and compelling parts of that movie was when they walked in the room with the big pile of garbage on the table, and were challenged to fit the square peg into the round hole with just that pile of garbage for raw material. It was beautiful, a work for art!

on Mar 7, 2014

Do you have any reasons for nominating The World's Fastest Indian?

on Mar 10, 2014

Andromeda Strain... Maybe more scientific than Engineering oriented. I saw the movie when I was a child and I vividly remembered Scanning Electron Microscope they used in the film. When I was enrolled as a Materials Engineer, I was excited about taking a course in SEM partly due to the movie.

on Mar 11, 2014

Thanks, but we're looking for movies that appeal to engineers, so they should probably have engineers as major characters, concern events and situations engineer are familiar with, and/or deal somewhat seriously with engineering principals.

on Mar 11, 2014

The Aviator The astonishing life of Mr Howard Hughes, envy of every engineer, genius and adventure

on Mar 11, 2014

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Captains Nemo achievements in technology were outstanding

on Mar 13, 2014

LIKE "Flight of the Phoenix" suggestion

on Mar 26, 2014

Agreed on October as the best. Hands down it shows the effort required to accomplish a real engineering task.

on Mar 13, 2014

The Bridge on the River Kwai....structural engineering in a prisoner of war stress setting. Engineer rising above all and accomplishing it with surrounding materials and ingenuity. In addition [from wikipedia]: The film achieved near-universal critical acclaim, winning seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture) at the 30th Academy Awards, and in 1997 this film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time.

on Mar 13, 2014

Fate is the Hunter. This movie about an airline disaster and the crash investigation is the best examination of the chain of failure and the potentially awful consequences of apparently small design details that I have ever seen.

on Mar 13, 2014

My vote is for Apollo 13 but I also like October Sky, Dam Busters and Bridge on the River Kwai. What is surprising is how few real engineering oriented movies there are. Films like Iron Man are fun, have engineers in them but they are doing things that are impossible. It leads to people saying things about films such as Apollo 13 like "That could never happen." In that case and most of the other movies they in this list they did or very close given the fact that the movies are usually not documentaries.

on Mar 13, 2014

Serious crowd here - - OK, to add a little levity, how about "Ferris Buehler's Day Off" - it's still a classic.

on Mar 13, 2014

I realize I didn't include WHY - from an Engineering perspective - Ferris Buehler's Day Off should be considered tops. Honestly, at first I didn't read that it needed to have some Engineering aspect to it. So here goes:

1) Ferris (aka Matthew Broderick) frequently breaks the "Fourth Wall" - Speaking directly to or otherwise acknowledging the audience through a camera in a film or television program, or through this imaginary wall in a play, is referred to as "breaking the fourth wall".

2) John Hughes wrote this in less than a week and shot it on a low budget of $5.8 mil - time to market with efficient use of $$ - what every engineering team hopes for (!)

3) Doorbell/Intercom rigged to be a voice recording that Rooney hears as he comes to Ferris' home

4) and of course, the Ferrari and all of its engineering technology

Probably doesn't beat any of the suggestions already made - but might give you a good laugh. Cheers!

on Mar 20, 2014

No Highway in the Sky is an excellent choice--the struggles of a fatigue engineer who is doing engineering nobody else quite seems to understand. The movie was based on the 1948 "No Highway" by Nevil Shute. Nevil Shute here was practically Nostradamus--no not the noted soothsayer whose quatrains were written so vaguely you could attribute almost any atrocity to them--this guy was a real life soothsayer, though I doubt that was his intention. Six years after the book was released, de Havilland Comets started falling out of the sky--what was the cause? Cracking caused by fatigue. A whole branch of engineering science came out of those failures--fracture mechanics.

on Mar 13, 2014

Weird Science & Real Genius - the ones that launched many nerds on the way towards an engineering career.

on Mar 15, 2014

A player on this list needs to be "The Wind Rises", an biographical picture based on the life of Dr. Hayao Miyazaki who designed the Mitsubishi Zero. The movie shows ihe work that goes into the design and how designers visualize how parts interact with each other.

on Mar 18, 2014

Rocky IV, I enjoyed the movie but the robot scene stuck out to me at an early age. I became fascinated with robots which led me into my profession.

The music is classic too :)

on Mar 21, 2014

The Gravity and Apollo 13 are the best engineering movies as per my opinion. Engineering is at discussion from start to end of these movies.

on Mar 31, 2014

Tron earned 36% of the vote to Andromeda Strain's 64%. I thought it was the correct result; and it wouldn't have mattered which version of Tron it was going up against. Andromeda Strain was Chriton's first book, a mega-best seller, and the movie recreates the suspense of the book. I never heard of classifying movies by Level 2 or Level 3.

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What's A Skeptical Engineer?

A questioning, sometimes humorous look at technologies, engineering, and the world.


Stephen Mraz

Steve serves as Senior Editor of Machine Design.  He has 23 years of service and has a B.S. Biomedical Engineering from CWRU. Steve was a E-2C Hawkeye Naval Flight Officer in the U.S. Navy. He...
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