Science on the silver screen: 5 movies for the scientist in you

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Science on the silver screen: 5 movies for the scientist in you

Movies are often a way for us to escape into a place of hyperrealism, whether it’s a team of superheroes defending our planet against a purple alien or a boy wizard saving a magical realm. And sci-fi is, especially, a popular genre. While many of these stories on the celluloid seem inconceivable, they are often inspired by true events or concepts. The premise of some sci-fi movies may be inspired by real-life science, but filmmakers do use their creative license to make them more entertaining. Here are five movies that portray applications of real-world science, allowing us to explore and marvel at the possibilities that science can offer.


1. Interstellar

There would be something amiss if Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar didn’t make it to the top of this list. In a scenario when the Earth becomes increasingly inhabitable, a team of astronauts undertakes a mission to explore the possibility for the human race to inhabit a different planet. Did you know that scientists were consulted for the making of the movie? Kip Thorne, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, and the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus at Caltech was an executive producer and served as a scientific consultant. Thorne served as a technical adviser and played a crucial role in ensuring that the concepts showcased in the movie come as close as possible to real-world physics as we know it.1 A movie with a usually heavy emphasis on science, Nolan’s Interstellar was praised for its overall scientific accuracy, even lauded by internet’s favorite astrophysicist, Niel Degrasse Tyson. The visuals along with Hans Zimmer’s background score make Interstellar a visual and auditory treat. You can watch this movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.



2. The Andromeda Strain

An oldie but a goodie, this 1971 movie is an adaptation of “The Andromeda Strain,” a novel by Michael Crichton. A team of scientists works to uncover the reason behind the death of citizens in a small town in New Mexico and stop the lethal contagion. The Institute of Educational Sciences states The Andromeda Strain portrays science in a real-life context, combining the disciplines of chemistry, biology, physics, and earth sciences.2 The movie received rave reviews and is revered for its scientific accuracy for its time. The movie is available on multiple OTT platforms; check here to see if it’s available in your region.


3. Gattaca

Gattaca is a 1997 sci-fi movie which explores the subject of eugenics, following the consequences of using extensive genetic technologies to support human reproduction. The movie is set in a future society in which people are classified into “valids,” who are artificially conceived in a laboratory and considered to be genetically superior and “invalids,” who are conceived naturally and considered to be genetically inferior. The field of human genetics has come a long way since 1997 and many of the science depicted in Gattaca is still futuristic. Delving into a complex premise, Gattaca offers a glimpse into the legal, ethical, and social implications of bioengineering not just for scientists but also for the general public and policymakers.3 Catch this movie on Roku or Amazon Prime Video.


4. Her

Her is 2013 film starring Joaquin Phoenix. It follows the story of Theodore, who develops a friendship and eventually falls in love with an AI operating system named Samantha, which turns into an intuitive and unique entity. While Samantha can be compared to the existing technology like Apple’s Siri, the program depicted in the movie is more advanced. A highly intelligent and conscious technology in Her may not exist today, but it with current advances in the field of AI technology could make this a reality in the future.4 This Oscar-nominated movie is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.


5. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Even 50 years after its release, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is widely regarded as a classic sci-fi movie. It is based on the book of the same name, written by Arthur C. Clarke. The story follows a group of astronauts who set out to investigate alien artifacts found on the moon. The technologiesshown in the movie are believed to be ahead of its time, with flat-screen monitors, touchscreen tablets, AI, and use of robotics in space.5 The movie also had aerospace engineers and ex-NASA employees consulting on the technical aspects and design related to space technology. To quote Alec D. Gallimore, Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering at the University of Michigan, “The film predicted with eerie accuracy the future of technology.”6 You can catch this movie on Apple TV.


Although all the movies in this list have a lot of fictional aspects, some of the aspects show some degree of scientific accuracy. We hope some of these movies make it to your watch list.



  1. Interstellar’s Scientific Fact-Checker. Smithsonian Magazine.
  2. Kaczmarek, N. (1991). "The Andromeda Strain" as Science and Literature. Institution of Education Sciences.
  3. Greenbaum, D. & Gerstein, M. GATTACA is still pertinent 25 years later. Nature Genetics 54, 1758–1760 (2022)
  4. Alexander, D. (2019). Fact or Science Fiction: How Accurate Are Some of Hollywood’s Most Iconic Sci-Fi Films? Interesting Engineering.
  5. Fuge, L. (2018). Fifty years later, scientists reflect on the influence of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Cosmos.
  6. Moore, N.C. (2018). ‘2001: A Space Odyssey:’ From science fiction to science fact. University of Michigan: Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department.

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Published on: Jan 25, 2023


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