3:15 pm EDT, April 25, 2017

The 5 best movies celebrating science (and space!)

To aid your conversations about the importance of science, here are the best science and space movies to celebrate both the victories and the potential of scientific advancements (especially in the outside world)!

Many movies, especially in sci-fi, use science as the main plot point, but not all of them celebrate science. Many classics are explorations of what can happen when science goes wrong, such as Jurassic Park — or feed off of our fear of the unknown, like Alien.

But while these films are much-loved for a reason, they often paint science more as an antagonist than a useful tool. Rarely do we see science’s successes take center stage, and be depicted in an understandable, conceivably accurate way.

So here are the five best science and space movies that celebrate exploration and discovery. All will leave you with a great feeling of triumph, though sometimes bittersweet, and make you marvel at the amazing things humans are capable of.

Best science and space movies

science martian potatoes

The Martian (2015)

The Martian takes us on an epic journey where science is the solution to everything. The film’s fun approach to the dilemma of having to survive on Mars manages to touch our hearts and make us wish we were astronauts, too.

Andy Weir carried out extensive research while writing the original novel, which definitely shines through in the finished product. Ridley Scott blows us away with realistic space travel, and Matt Damon makes us laugh a lot as he finds a way to farm potatoes. And even NASA had a part in making the movie depict space-travel accurately — after all, the movie’s mission to Mars is something NASA plans to make happen in the distant future, and that’s worth getting audiences excited about.

science apollo 13

Apollo 13 (1995)

Apollo 13 is not a sci-fi movie, which makes watching it all the more exhilarating. This historical film is set during the Apollo 13 mission, and is basically one long celebration of successful problem-solving in one of the most hardcore moments of scientific history. When America’s third mission to the Moon suffers a terrifying accident, NASA’s ground control has to find a way to bring their astronauts home safely before the clock runs out.

This is another film that received NASA’s help to make everything as accurate as possible, and the realism of every scene is truly gripping — from the high stakes, to the normalcy of every person involved. It’s a movie that reminds us that the people who saved Apollo 13’s astronauts were normal, funny, friendly people; but people who could make miracles once they accepted that “Failure is not an option!” The ending may make you cry because you’re so proud of everyone involved.

science arrival

Arrival (2016)

While linguistics may not be what we immediately think of when we think science, there’s no doubt that Amy Adams’ character’s approach in Arrival was incredibly scientific, as she tries to peel away the layers of a language that is foreign to Earth.

The value that the characters ascribe to discovery over fear is one that characterizes all scientific endeavors, and the profoundly intimate angle that the movie takes helps us see how the finding of something completely new can drastically change our worldview, opening our eyes to things we didn’t even think were possible.

While this movie is fiction, it’s true to the nature of cross-culture communication — between planets, and between humans ourselves. It also leaves us wondering — in what ways can new discoveries bring societies, or even entire civilizations, together?

science contact

Contact (1997)

Contact explores the relationship between science and religion, institutionalized sexism in a male-dominated profession, and the difficult politics that can meddle with honest discovery.

Jodie Foster plays scientist Ellie Arroway, who comes across the first evidence of extraterrestrial life. As a female scientist, she struggles to make her voice heard even when she is the most informed person in the room — a reality that isn’t always so openly portrayed in movies.

While this movie strays from scientific fact and focuses mostly on the dilemma between science, religion and aliens, everything that happens feels completely believable, and the fast-paced yet surprisingly philosophical journey to meet with another species will leave you reeling with the magnitude of what is portrayed.

science hidden figures

Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures finally sets out to show us the characters that up to now have been hidden from the camera. A historical movie, it focuses on three female mathematicians who worked at NASA, with a realism and accuracy that comes through thanks to the careful research carried out by the author of the non-fiction book, Margot Lee Shetterly, and collaboration with NASA itself.

Not only does it explore the reality of being women of color in a male-dominated workplace with rampant racism and sexism, but it also showcases just how impressive the skills of those women were, both in their scientific achievements and in their courage.

The movie leaves us wondering, how many people brought about great victories, but were forgotten? Hidden Figures makes us examine scientific history and open our eyes to the fact that there were many more races, cultures and genders represented than we may think, and that their contributions also deserve to be celebrated.

What’s your favorite movie about science?

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