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Top Movies Engineers Will Love

Just For Fun

Engineering is all about solving problems and facing challenges, which makes it ripe fodder for big-budget films. Even if the average engineer isn't, say, developing a strategy to keep an astronaut from destroying the planet, it's still fun to watch actors tackle engineering problems Hollywood-style. Here are seven of the top picks for engineering films:

1. Jurassic Park

Eccentric John Hammond invites six guests—including his two grandchildren—to his new dinosaur theme park. It explores themes of genetic engineering, ethics, and the ultimate question for inventors and innovators: If we can, does it mean we should?

Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, and Bob Peck. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

2. Chicken Run

A great choice for engineers to watch with their families, or to intrigue young budding engineers, Chicken Run tells the story of a group of chickens plotting their escape from a Yorkshire farm. While the farmer hurries to finish building an automated machine for making chicken pot pies, the chickens rush to create a way to fly away from danger. It explores aerospace engineering, as well as industrial agriculture.

Starring Mel Gibson, Phil Daniels, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, Miranda Richardson, and Tony Hagarth. Directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park.

3. Snowpiercer

An attempt to halt global warming with climate engineering backfires catastrophically, covering the world with snow and ice. It kills every living thing, with the exception of a group of people living on a perpetual-motion train called the Snowpiercer. Society on the train is strictly stratified, and they struggle to keep everyone fed and the train running. It explores mechanical engineering and industrial food production.

Starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Song Kang-ho, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Ko Asung, Jamie Bell, and Ewan Bremner. Directed by Bong Joon-ho.

4. A Trip to the Moon

A Trip to the Moon is a fantastical space voyage featuring a small group of astronauts who travel to the moon in a cannon-propelled ship. It's known for its iconic image of the Man in the Moon, complete with a spaceship stuck in his eye. While the film explores aerospace engineering, it's equally remarkable for the feats of engineering that went into the costuming, sets, and special effects. The special effects, in particular were extremely innovative for their time—Georges Méliès is often credited for inventing the concept.

Starring Georges Méliès, François Lallement, Bleuette Bernon, and Henri Delannoy. Directed by Georges Méliès.

5. Armageddon

An asteroid hurtles toward Earth, threatening to destroy life as we know it. The government assembles a motley crew of drilling experts to fly up to, drill into its core, and try to blow it up before time runs out. While not the most scientifically rigorous film, it's a lot of fun. Armageddon explores themes of aerospace and petroleum engineering.

Starring Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi, and Liv Tyler. Directed by Michael Bay.

6. The Ghost and the Darkness

Lt. Colonel John Henry Patterson, an Anglo-Irish British military engineer, is sent to Tsavo, Kenya, to help with a failing railroad construction project. What should be a fairly straightforward endeavor runs into several complications—chief among them a pair of lions that opportunistically attack the workers. This film chiefly involves mechanical and civil engineering.

Starring Val Kilmer, Michael Douglas, Bonisile John Kani, and Henry Cele. Directed by Stephen Hopkins.

7. The Prestige

This film tells the story of two stage magicians, Robert Angier and Alfred Borden. They begin their career as partners, acting as shills for their boss. When Angier's wife dies during a water escape trick, the two become bitter enemies and desperate rivals. This leads Angier to Nikola Tesla, who he believes built a special machine for Borden's “Transported Man” trick. He creates a similar machine for Angier, but all is not as it appears. This film explores mechanical and stage engineering.

Starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, and David Bowie. Directed by Christopher Nolan.

While Hollywood films are rarely scientifically accurate, they're definitely fun and imaginative. These picks showcase some of the silver screen's most entertaining looks at a variety of engineering fields.