Nominations for Best Engineering Film

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Movies have the ability to inspire. From the beginning of time, stories have taught life lessons and encouraged dreaming. As storytelling has developed, it has taken the form of plays, art, and film. With a winning combination of story, visuals, and music, movies can deliver powerful themes that aren’t otherwise easily expressed or understood. 

With the award season upon us, we wanted to share our nominations for best engineering films. Engineering is a varied field that isn’t always easy to understand. Books can explain science and math, but movies can show the exciting side of engineering that textbooks can’t cover.  Movies about engineering incorporate the best of narrative storytelling with the science, math, and engineering that may be critical to those stories.

The criteria for selecting the films listed below involved multiple polls, online research, and the requirement that the film focused on some aspect of engineering. The most notable themes in the three movies below are problem solving, value engineering, and the ability to inspire.

The Bridge on the River Kwai

Released in 1957 and the winner of seven Academy Awards, The Bridge on the River Kwai is regarded as one of the best films of all time. The story takes place during World War II in a Japanese prison camp where the prisoners are ordered to build a bridge across the River Kwai. The film discusses themes such as pride in work and the madness of war. Building the bridge involves analysis of soil conditions, bridge design, as well as a mind shift that produces a quality product by instilling pride in the team’s work.  From the famous tune whistled throughout to the final heart racing 20 minutes, this film is a must see. 

Apollo 13

Released in 1995 and the winner of two Academy Awards, Apollo 13 tells the true story of the 1970 Apollo 13 mission to space. This film makes the cut because of the ingenious and tireless problem-solving that was required by all members of the Apollo 13 team, both those in space and by the team at Mission Control. It depicts how a terrible mission is salvaged by incredible teamwork under dire conditions and against challenging odds. The film stands as a reminder of this heroic event – the safe return of the crew stands as a testament and a highlight of the space program to this day. 

October Sky

Released in 1999, October Sky is a biographical film about students in Coalwood, WV who hope their interest in rockets will help them escape the coal mining town. It only takes one idea and the support of others to change the trajectory of your life. Friendship, a love for learning, and a refusal to give up are central themes that leave little choice but to be inspired. 

These three films are in no way meant to cover all the stories that feature engineering themes, but they resonated with ECS employees. Have a favorite engineering film that isn’t listed? Send your suggestion to Madison Layman.