Thankfully, Hollywood is here to help. The film industry keeps cranking out stories that both entertain and inspire our inner Isaac Newton.
They don’t always do it in the most direct way possible, but the point is always well taken.
Here’s a list of science-fiction films that either blatantly, or inadvertently, inspire that scientific spirit and wide-eyed wonder in us.
- “The Martian” (2015): Matt Damon: “I’m gonna have to science the s*** out of this.” ‘Nuff said.
- “Big Hero 6” (2014): A young scientist’s medical marvel proves a heroic – and with a big funny bone to boot.
- “Gravity” (2013): In space, no one can hear you rifling through the instruction manual to save your skin.
- The “Avengers” Franchise (2012-): We’ll forgive Tony Stark for creating Ultron, especially since he’s so good at capturing what it means to invent a better tomorrow.
- “Captain America” Franchise (2011-) We can all thank the scientists who cooked up that Super Soldier Serum.
- “Thor” Franchise (2011): Natalie Portman’s scientist heroine is no damsel in distress, with a little help from fellow scientist played by Stellan Skarsgard.
- “Avatar” (2009): The film’s entire theme, using hybrid avatars to interact with another species, smacks of scientific wonder.
- “Iron Man” Franchise (2008-) Weapons of war … or weapons of choice? The man in the red and yellow metal suit makes them all. Oh, and he invented that suit that saves his skin.
- “Fantastic Four” Franchise (2005-) These four scientists risk everything to add to what we know about the world around us … and beyond.
- “Spider-Man” Franchise (2002-) Peter Parker doesn’t just snap pictures for a living. He’s a budding scientist who can make his super powers pop because of it.
- “X-Men” Franchise (2000-) Professor Xavier saves the day with his mutant team. It helps that he’s willing to push his scientific mind to the limit.
- “The Matrix” Franchise (1999-2003): Yes, the series shows how science can turn against us. It’s still a staggering display of ingenuity when properly contained.
- “The Fifth Element” (1997) It took a team of scientists to create the wondrous Leeloo, the character who helps destroy the ultimate evil.
- “Gattaca” (1997): This cautionary tale teems with science, both for good and evil purposes.
- “Contact” (1997) Every astronomer’s dream: Finding and using plans sent by extraterrestrials to build a machine to pay them a visit.
- “Independence Day” Franchise (1996-2016): The films’ heroes don’t just fly planes and lead nations. They tinker in the lab long enough to turn the tides of war.
- “Jurassic Park” (1993): Yes, the science here goes very, very wrong. It’s still remarkable to consider what can be achieved given modern technology. A little humility would have gone a long way.
- “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” Franchise (1989-1997): Rick Moranis’ character may be a nebbish, but just look at what he can do with his fertile mind.
- “Weird Science” (1985): How bad could science be if it creates Kelly LeBrock out of thin air?
- “Real Genius” (1985): This cult fave treats socially awkward geeks as three-dimensional souls who smite the bad guys … with popcorn.
- “Back to the Future” Franchise (1985-1990): If wild-haired Doc Brown can manipulate time, then anything is possible.
- “Ghostbusters” Franchise (1984-2016): Who needs brawn when you’ve got a Proton Pack and the science to back it up?
- “Tron” Franchise (1982-2010) Computer science engineers often “live” in their computers, figuratively. How much do they enjoy ending up inside their computer, literally?
- The “Indiana Jones” Franchise (1981-): Will we ever get enough of our favorite archeology professor running from students, angry jungle natives and giant rolling stones?
- “Star Trek” Franchise (1979-): A love for science is in the saga’s very DNA.
- “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977): The fact that our hero willingly leaves with the aliens captures scientific curiosity in one bravura stroke.
- “The Time Machine” Franchise (1960-2002): No DeLorean, no problem. Science doesn’t need one particular tool or gadget to work.
“Despicable Me” (2010)
“Van Helsing” (2004)
“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (2003)
“The Wild Wild West” (1999)
“The Saint” (1997)
“Ghost in the Shell” (1995)
“The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” (1984)
“Star Wars Franchise” (1977-)
“Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)
“Young Frankenstein” (1974)
James Bond Franchise (1962-)
“20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” (1954)
(Please note that many of the above films were first books, before becoming movies, with all due respect)
Steve Oatney works, plays and makes art just a stone’s throw from the Rocky Mountains, occasionally writing about his passions including film, science-fiction and comic books.