I promised you a while back that I would come up with a list of my favorite science movies. Let me tell you, it was harder than I expected! There are lots of science *fiction* movies out there – some with very little science – but not too many that are just science based. I tried to make sure that I didn’t just include science fiction on my list. (That said, a few of the movies that I picked are pretty light on science ... but I have my reasons!). See what you think:
1. Star Wars. I was eight years old when the original Star Wars movie came out and it tops my list for two reasons. First, it is one of my favorite movies of all time, regardless of genre. Second, it changed the way I saw the world and my place within it. My favorite scene is where Luke Skywalker is standing on the rocks near his home, watching the two setting suns. As a child, when I saw that scene I literally got chills. It was the first time that a movie transported me out of my universe and into a totally alternate one. Star Wars made me believe that we might not be alone out there. For that, it gets my number one ranking.
2. Apollo 13. Hands down, I think this portrayal of the ill-fated Apollo 13 lunar mission is the best science-based movie out there. The entire movie depicts scientists working together to solve an impossible problem. I love the sense of camaraderie and intense focus as the ground-based crew tries to beat improbable odds to bring the team home. My only nitpick is that the female actors weren’t as strong as their male counterparts. Kudos to Ed Harris for his outstanding portrayal of Gene Kranz.
3. Jurassic Park. Now, I’ve had enough discussions with friends to know that Michael Crichton’s presentation of mathematical concepts doesn’t hold up quite as well as his take on biology. But regardless of the probability of this ever happening, I love the idea of dinosaurs roaming the earth and mingling with people. The whole concept of cloning these extinct monsters and bringing them back to life is just so darn clever … and, as one might imagine, so terribly ill-fated.
4. Back to the Future. Christopher Lloyd's fantastic performance as Doc Brown, the seemingly crazed but truly charming scientist, cements this movie in my top five. I love the scene where he builds a small-scale model of the town and demonstrates to Marty how they can return him home -- only to have the wind-up car simulating the time machine run off the table and set things on fire. Although there is very little actual science presented in this movie, the concept of time travel is a fun one and the special effects and attention to detail make this movie a charmer.
5. Twister. This isn't one of my favorite movies -- I found it a bit too overdrawn and melodramatic -- but it makes my top five science list. As an amateur weather-watcher, I enjoyed watching this movie about tornadoes and the scientists who study them. The portrayal of dedication to one's research -- to the point of breaking up your relationships -- struck a chord with me. And there's always that fun scene with the flying cow!
So ... there's my top five. Which movies did I miss? (Be sure to comment and let me know!)
Note: I haven't seen too many movies in the last ten years (graduate school, kids), so I'm sure I missed a few. I didn't want to include anything I hadn't seen, which is why I didn't include March of the Penguins. And I really wanted to include Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I just couldn't justify the science angle!