DAVID BRIN's recommended movies that help teach science

David Brin's best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed in 1997) plus explorations of our near-future in Earth and Existence. His award-winning novels and short stories explore vividly speculative ideas through a hard-science lens. His nonfiction book, The Transparent Society, won the American Library Association's Freedom of Speech Award for exploring 21st Century concerns about security, secrecy, accountability and privacy.

Movies can captivate kids' attention, and llustrate basic science concepts in the real world. These film recommendations pique student's interest — and entertain the whole family.

movies that get the science

science fiction

possibilities of science

Films that explore the scientific ideas or scientists that spring from our imagination.

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) This Stanley Kubrick film deals with issues of artificial intelligence and human evolution. No film ever paid closer heed to the plausible look and feel of the technologies of interplanetary flight. It begins with the discovery of an ancient monolith on the moon, which has apparently guided human development. A spaceship, piloted by the computer HAL, sets off to investigate a signal coming from Jupiter. There, astronaut Dave Bowman detects HAL's errors, disconnects the computer, then goes on to achieve the next step in human destiny, the Star Child.
  • The Andromeda Strain (1971) Based on a novel by Michael Crichton, the film follows scientists who investigate a microbe of extraterrestrial origin that arrives when a military satellite crashes on earth. Humans begin dying when this microorganism causes blood to rapidly coagulate.
  • Contact (1997) Based on a novel by Carl Sagan, Jodie Foster plays a scientist who receives a radio message from another world. She decodes the message to reveal plans for building a spaceship, which she uses to make contact with alien species.
  • The Day After Tomorrow (2004) A series of global catastrophes unfold as Earth enters a new ice age. Populations move south to warmer climates; meanwhile, a climatologist (played by Dennis Quaid) heads north to New York to rescue his son.
  • Mathmagic Land (An Adventure in Color) (1959) Nominated for an Academy Award, this cartoon features Donald Duck entering a fantasy land, where he explores the connections between music, art and math, then journeys to ancient Greece, where Donald meets Pythagoras. The film ends with Galileo's quote: "Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the universe".
  • Extraordinary Measures (2010) Parents struggle to develop a drug to save the lives of their two children suffering from Pompe disease. Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford star.
  • Fantastic Voyage (1966) Despite some silliness and tight-spandex pulchritude, it does take you on a tour of the human circulatory, lymphatic, pulmonary and phlegm systems aboard a cool submarine.
  • Gattaca (1997) This science fictional film explores whether genes are destiny. It depicts a society where genetic engineering is used to select the best possible hereditary traits, resulting in a tiered society, where 'normal' humans are given only menial jobs. Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman star.
  • Life After People, Season 1 (2008) and Season 2 (2010) How will all of Man's works deteriorate, once we're gone?
  • Medicine Man (1992) Sean Connery plays a doctor seeking a cure for cancer in the Amazon rain forest, fighting against a logging company razing the forest.
  • Mindwalk (1990) A conversation between a scientist, a politician and a poet, with insights into philosophy, quantum mechanics and particle physics.
  • Moon (2009) For three long years, Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) is stationed at a lunar manufacturing base, with only a computer, GERTY, for company. Isolated, he begins to hallucinate. Just before his return to earth, Sam has an accident....
  • No Highway In The Sky (1951) James Stewart stars as an aircraft engineer investigating an airline crash, which he attributes to metal fatigue. He begins testing his theory in the laboratory. Meanwhile, he finds himself aboard one of these planes, and he intervenes to stop the flight, warning the crew and passengers of the danger.
  • fictionalized science

    real science

    Films based on real scientists or real people turning to science for solutions.

  • Apollo 13 (1995) "Houston, we have a problem." Ron Howard directed this stirring story of NASA's real-life crisis. En route to the moon, an oxygen fuel-cell tank exploded, cutting electrical power and the astronaut's air supply. The film shows the crew interacting with mission specialists back on earth to rig solutions as they retreat to the lunar module for a desperate return voyage to earth. Tom Hanks is Commander Jim Lovell.
  • Awakenings (1990) Based on a true account from neurologist Oliver Sacks, a doctor (Robin Williams) uses a new drug to revive a catatonic patient (Robert De Niro), who awakens to life for a brief interval.
  • The Dam Busters (1955) Based on a true story, the film follows the RAF's development of a bomb to attack dams in the Ruhr Valley, hindering Germany's industrial development during World War II.
  • The Dish (2000) A fictionalized account of the true story. Austrialian scientists based at Parkes radio telescope, work to relay the televsion footage of man's first steps on the moon. Sam Neill stars.
  • Edison the Man (1940) A fictionalized account of Thomas Alva Edison (played by Spencer Tracy), following his inventions of the phonograph and light bulb.
  • Gorillas in the Mist (1988) The true-life story of Dian Fossey (played by Sigourney Weaver) and her work in the jungles of Rwanda, studying the rare Mountain Gorillas, as she fights to save them from poachers and habitat loss.
  • Hidden Figures (2016) The untold story of the "human computers," black female mathematicians who helped launch John Glenn into orbit at the start of the U.S. space program.
  • Infinity (1996) A biographical film about Caltech physicist Richard Feynman (played by Matthew Broderick), based on his book "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" It shows Feynman's early years, then follows his work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and on through his wife's death from tuberculosis.
  • Inherit The Wind (1960) A fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. Two lawyers argue for and against the teaching of evolution in schools. Spencer Tracy and Frederic March star.
  • Lorenzo's Oil (1992) Based on a true story of two parents, the Odones (Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte), research and challenge doctors to develop a cure for their son, who suffers from the rare degenerative disease, adrenoleukodystrophy.
  • Madame Curie (1943) A biographical film of Nobel-prize winning physicist Marie Curie (played by Greer Garson), and her husband Pierre Curie, as they undergo hardship to isolate radium from pitchblende rock, learning about radioactivity.
  • March of the Penguins (2005) A documentary film that shows Emperor Penguins' rituals of courtship and breeding, as they travel across Antarctic ice to reach the ocean.
  • Microcosmos (1996) A documentary of insect life.
  • October Sky (1999) Based on the book "Rocket Boys," the movie tells the story of a coal miner's son who was inspired by the Sputnik launch to build and test model rockets while in high school, eventually becoming a NASA scientist.
  • Planet Earth: The Complete Collection (2006) A documentary consisting of eleven episodes, shot in high definition showing Earth's topography and diversity in all its glory. Narrated by David Attenborough.
  • The Films of Charles & Ray Eames, Vol. 1: The Powers of 10 (1977) A short film directed by Ray and Charles Eames, depicting the vastness of the universe, as it steps in magnitude from the galactic to subatomic scale.
  • The Right Stuff (1983) The story of the early days of NASA's space program, focusing on the selection and training of original Mercury astronauts: John Glenn, Gus Grissom, and Alan Shepard, as well as the story of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. One of my personal favorites.
  • Something the Lord Made (2004) A dramatized portrayal of the partnership between two doctors (played by Alan Rickman and Mos Def) who pioneered early advances in heart surgery. The film also deals with issues of racism in the times of Jim Crow.
  • The Story Of Louis Pasteur (1935) Considered one of the best bio-pictures, follows the great biologist's discovery of vaccines for anthrax and rabies and his campaign for cleanliness vs. infection. Played by Paul Muni.
  • Temple Grandin (2010) Based on books by Dr. Temple Grandin (played by Clare Danes), an autistic woman who became a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University.
  • Winged Migration (2001) A documentary film showing gorgeous aerial footage of birds struggle against the elements in their migratory journeys.

  • a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

    To learn more, visit his books page, or see his "about me" page or detailed biography.

    DAVID BRIN author


    David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More

    shorter fiction

    Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More

    Contrary Brin blog

    Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More

    social media influencer

    Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More

    DAVID BRIN scientist


    David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More

    transparency expert

    Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More

    speaker & consultant

    Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 200 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings.Learn More

    future/tech advisor

    Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More

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    All the Ways in the World to Reach David Brin

    an ornery, contrary BLOG, and other insightful wormholes!

    Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's incendiary posts on science, sci-fi and politics and its engaged, opinionated community poke at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate — and infuriate. See for yourself, and if you like — subscribe for more.

    Questions? Concerns? Email DAVID BRIN at mail@davidbrin.com


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