I recently saw Flight of the Phoenix again, a 1965 movie which I hadn't seen in many years. The film, which stars James Stewart, celebrates and elevates engineering innovation and ingenuity as a key part of the plot, in addition to the usual character issues and conflicts. (Please do not confuse this version with the unnecessary and inferior 2004 remake.)
[SPOILER ALERT: a key plot element in the movie is that the passengers of the downed, badly damaged plane must rely on an airplane designer who was on-board to figure out how to transform their two-engine plane into a flyable one-engine craft (plus, it has to take off with just the one engine)—except he is a designer of model airplanes, which have the same underlying principles, of course, but also some very big differences.]
Several month ago, when I brought up the topic of science-fiction movies that I liked and which made a strong impression on me, the response and comments from readers—that's you—was great.
So now, I'll ask a corresponding question: what films would you cite which put engineers and engineering in a strong, if not necessarily positive, light?
The first one that come to mind, of course, is Apollo 13 (1995), where the engineers on the ground must quickly improvise and test a CO2 filter that the astronauts on the crippled space vehicle can build, using just the items and tools they have on board. Do I need to remind you of the "failure is not an option" line?
Another movie I like is No Highway in the Sky (1951), (also with James Stewart), where the hero discovers that the true reason for the inexplicable airplane crashes of a new family of passenger airplanes is premature metal fatigue and subsequent crack growth at the extremely low temperatures of flight—a factor which aircraft engineers had not understood or accounted for. Imagine that: a film (based on a true story, BTW) in which the understanding of metal fatigue is a key plot element, and which has the star in a "boring" materials lab running tests and taking real data! Or how about The Great Escape (1963), where Allied prisoners of war dig a lengthy escape tunnel under hostile conditions?
Which engineering-centric movies do you recall with fondness? Note: I don’t mean "science" films here, where a dogged and determined lab researcher sacrifices "everything" to find a cure for some terrible disease, nor do I mean science-fiction films with a lots of speculative engineering content. What I do mean are movies where impressive, practical, realizable engineering is a major part of the story line, whether it is in design, improvisation, construction, or troubleshooting. (Of course, there are also movies in which such engineering prowess is used for less-than-noble purposes by the "bad guys", and those are OK to cite, too.) I can't think of too many such movies, but I am sure you can come up with some.
And your entries are. . . .?