Films on Science

Films on Science

Earth: Power of the Planet

Documentary 2007 NR 1 Season Five episodes, each 59 min.  Hosted by geologist Iain Stewart, this documentary series explores how volcanoes, the ocean, the atmosphere and ice have shaped Earth.  Geologist Iain Stewart travels around the world to examine the dramatic forces that shape Earth, from raging volcanoes to spectacular storms.  A global picture of why our earth will survive in spite of us.  We cannot destroy this planet, but if we do not care for it better, we may destroy ourselves.  This is a spectacular series – beautiful, informative, and entertaining.  Very instructive with awesome images. Terrific not-to-be-missed series!  Should be obligatory subject-matter of teaching on the curriculum of secondary schools and colleges.  I’d say it’s well worth viewing – and viewing again.  I will be watching all the episodes over and over in order to be able to grasp the wealth of information and to continue admiring the beauty of this unique planet of which we have the privilege to be a part of. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!   I rate it 5+.  Why doesn’t Netflix offer a 12 star rating?  Loved this.  I have loved every single Iain Stewart documentary I’ve managed to find, and this series is one of my favorites. (His Scottish accent could be difficult to understand, but there are subtitles.)
1.  Volcano
2.  Atmosphere.  Iain Stewart rides in a Cold War fighter, gets his eyebrows singed in Siberia and discovers why Argentina is one of the stormiest places on Earth.
3.  Ice
4.  Oceans
5.  Rare Earth, meaning our earth may be rare in the universe.

How to Grow a Planet

Documentary 2012 TV-G, 3 episodes.  This documentary series reveals how plants, and not humans, are the most crucial living thing on Earth, with the power to both sustain and destroy us.  Professor Iain Stewart guides viewers on a journey that details how plants played a crucial role in creating and sustaining animal life on Earth.  See Full Review

What Plants Talk About

Documentary Nature Series 2013 TV-PG 53m.  Scientist J.C. Cahill hosts this lighthearted look at the world of plants and how they live, grow and behave, with some surprises along the way.   Great documentary, scientific and artfully filmed in time-lapse detail, that allowed me to watch how plants actually choose the direction of their own growth depending on their immediate environment, communicate with each other via chemical instant messaging, develop nurturing relationships with their siblings and offspring, combat enemy invasions and change their structure while emitting chemical signals to attract or repel different pollinators (to list a few talking points). This is fascinating stuff I didn’t know before, and the film was made with cutting edge technology and a great deal of personality. This documentary is a must-watch for you if you love plants. Highly recommend.

Particle Fever

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr39m.  The creation of the Higgs boson particle, an elusive key to unlocking secrets of the universe, unfolds on camera in this landmark documentary.  A fascinating look at a few of the legion of physicists working to verify the existence of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. The film shows clearly how dedicated all of them are and how difficult research into the basic nature of the universe actually is. There is something very moving about seeing the time, energy and passion we humans will put into understanding a little more about ourselves. In this case, it’s thousands of crazy-bright physicists from all over the world coming together in search of the Higgs boson. This exceptionally well-done documentary is filled with suspense and with concepts that will set your head spinning. But to me, its greatest strength was in transmitting the emotion behind the quest — such as when a couple of old physicists speak aloud their fears that the collider will prove that their lives’ work was all for nothing. A great film to watch. Everyone needs to see this film. One of the only documentaries that has made me cry. Awesome effects, brilliant bunch of physicists. Wow. Imagine finding gripping drama, nail-biting suspense, despair, glory and even humor in a documentary about quantum physics. NY Times calls it “mind blowing.” Daily News says, “the most exciting depiction of science on film since Apollo 13.  The Internet Movie Database (abbreviated IMDb) voters give it 8.5 of 10, and Rotten Tomatoes gives it 95%. Enough said.

[The acronym CERN originally represented the French words for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research), which was a provisional council for building the laboratory, established by 12 European governments in 1952.
The laboratory was originally devoted to study of atomic nuclei, but was soon applied to higher-energy physics, concerned mainly with the study of interactions between subatomic particles. Therefore the laboratory operated by CERN is commonly referred to as the European laboratory for particle physics (Laboratoire européen pour la physique des particules), which better describes the research being performed there.  Additionally, the World Wide Web began as a CERN project, initiated by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989.  Based on the concept of hypertext, the project was intended to facilitate sharing of information among researchers around the world. The first website was activated in 1991. On 30 April 1993, CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free to anyone.]

Iceman Murder Mystery

Documentary Nova 2011. He’s been dead for more than 5,000 years — and been poked, prodded and probed by scientists for the last 20. Yet today, Otzi the Iceman, the famous mummified corpse pulled from a glacier in the Italian Alps nearly two decades ago, continues to keep many secrets. Now, through an autopsy like none other, scientists will attempt to unravel more mysteries from this ancient mummy, revealing not only the details of Otzi’s death, but an entire way of life. How did people live during Otzi’s time, the Copper Age? What did they eat? What diseases did they cope with? The answers abound miraculously in this one man’s mummified remains. Join NOVA to defrost the ultimate time capsule, the 5,000-year-old man.

Secrets of the Sun

Documentary Nova 2012. TV-G 53m. It contains 99.9 percent of all the matter in our solar system and sheds hot plasma at nearly a million miles an hour. The temperature at its core is a staggering 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. It convulses, it blazes, it sings. You know it as the sun. Scientists know it as one of the most amazing physics laboratories in the universe. Now, with the help of new spacecraft and Earth-based telescopes, scientists are seeing the sun as they never have before and even re-creating in labs what happens at the very center of the sun. Their work will helps us understand aspects of the sun that have puzzled scientists for decades. But more critically, it may help us predict and track solar storms that have the power to zap our power grid, shut down telecommunications and ground global air travel for days, weeks, even longer. Such storms have occurred before–but never in the modern era of satellite communication. “Secrets of the Sun” reveals a bright new dawn in our understanding of our nearest star–one that might help keep our planet from going dark. Great doc about the sun and how little we understand it even though we need it’s radiation for survival.  It is mostly a very engaging science doc about what have learned about how the sun functions and behaves since newer technology has allowed us to study it, film it, and photograph it in unprecedented ways in recent years. The images captured by the new technology are spectacularly beautiful. This is one of the best, if not the best, Nova episode I have seen. The information is fascinating. It’s a must-see for space science fans, but I would argue that it’s a must-see for almost anyone. I expect to watch it another couple of times at least.

Ice Age Death Trap

Documentary Nova 2012 TV-G 53m. “Ice Age Death Trap” is an entertaining and educational look at a surprising find of mammoth bones in almost perfect condition close to Snowmass Village near Aspen Colorado.  It was discovered in October, 2010, when construction workers building a reservoir dam to supply water to Snowmass Village uncovered fossil bones that turned out to belong to a young female mammoth. Official fossil excavations were organized by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science under the nickname “Snowmastodon Project,” (which began in November, 2010, then paused during the winter, and finally ended, as agreed, on July 1, 2011, so that construction work could resume). During this short period, the project unearthed 4,826 bones from 26 different Ice Age vertebrates, including mammoths, mastodons, bisons, camels, a Pleistocene horse, and the first ground sloth ever found in Colorado. The fossils recovered exhibit remarkable preservation. It is also considered the “finest mastodon site in the world” due to the large number of mastodon fossils recovered. The researchers explanation of how this could have happened is interesting as well. Worth watching! I found this program extremely interesting.

Prehistoric Disasters

Documentary Series 2009 TV-PG Season 1. The Earth’s history is rife with prehistoric disasters that have molded the planet and changed the course of evolution. But with each disaster came another leap forward on the evolutionary trail from single celled bacteria to humankind itself.

Journey to the Edge of the Universe

Documentary 2008 NR 90 minutes. This National Geographic program takes you on an epic, uninterrupted voyage through the cosmos, beginning on Earth and traveling outward through the solar system and the Milky Way, past distant galaxies and to the very limits of the universe. Images from the Hubble telescope and innovative computer graphics make possible the single, long traveling shot that comprises this journey, and unobtrusive narration explains the sights along the way.


An Inconvenient Truth

Documentary 2006 PG 96 minutes. Director-producer Davis Guggenheim (HBO’s “Deadwood”) captures former Vice President Al Gore in the midst of waging a passionate campaign — not for the White House, but for the environment — in this Oscar-winning documentary. Laying out the facts of global warming without getting political, Gore makes a sobering impression on the audiences who hear his message, urging them to act “boldly, quickly and wisely” … before it’s too late.  See Full Review

Climate of Doubt

Documentary Frontline 2012 Oct23. Frontline explores the massive shift in public opinion on climate change. A new U.N. report says human impact on climate change is “clear,” it’s getting worse, and we’re too late to stop it. When President Obama tried to push for legislation on climate change during his first term, he encountered such fierce political opposition that it quickly became clear Congress wouldn’t be the avenue to reform. When it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006, “An Inconvenient Truth” — the blockbuster documentary about former Vice President Al Gore’s crusade to draw attention to the threat of global warming — received three standing ovations. Link to View This Frontline Story for Free (Listed by Date 2012 Oct23):

Out of Balance

Documentary 2007 NR 65 minutes. Documentarian Tom Jackson turns his lens on some inconvenient truths about energy titan Exxon Mobil and its effect on climate change. Spotlighting the company’s efforts to fund skewed media campaigns and support global-warming skeptics, Jackson builds his case in interviews with leading writers and scientists in the field of climatology. The film also explains the science behind global warming, as well as offering up some solutions to the crisis. See Full Review

Six Degrees Could Change the World

Documentary National Geographic The Age of Stupid 2007 NR 90 minutes. This sobering documentary examines the incremental effects of climate change across the globe. Each degree of temperature change means devastating new consequences, and some scientists believe mankind is just six degrees away from utter disaster. Heat waves, drought, rising ocean levels and armed conflict over resources are just some of the grim predictions. Is there anything that can be done to reverse this alarming trend?  See Full Review

Chasing Ice

2012 PG-13. This mesmerizing and beautifully shot documentary from National Geographic photographer James Balog offers a clear vision of climate change as time-lapse cameras across the Arctic reveal glaciers melting and disappearing over a period of years.

Extreme Ice

Documentary Nova 2009 TV-PG 53m. Both breathtaking and unsettling, this fascinating array of extreme images gathered by photojournalist James Balog paints a startling portrait of climate change using time-lapse photography shot over the course of two years. Thanks to cameras that recorded pictures once an hour during daylight, you’ll see glaciers rapidly melt and shrink and sea levels rise ominously higher right before your eyes.

The Island President

Documentary 2011 PG 1hr 41m. During his presidency of the Maldive Islands, Mohamed Nasheed fights to prevent rising ocean levels from inundating his low-lying archipelago nation.

Tuvalu: That Sinking Feeling
Global Warming, Rising Seas

Documentary Frontline / World 2005. There’s trouble in paradise. A small island nation in the South Pacific, Tuvalu, is threatened by rising ocean levels believed to be caused by global warming. Frontline/World reporter Elizabeth Pollock travels into the heart of Polynesia, just south of the Equator, to see if the people of Tuvalu will have to abandon the islands they have inhabited for 2,000 years.

Global Warming:
The Signs and the Science

Documentary 2005 NR 60 minutes. Despite what you may hear from political pundits, the threat of global warming is very much in evidence, and climate change is already a part of our world. By talking to a variety of people — including farmers, doctors, schoolchildren, teens, police officers, bicycle couriers and a cadre of respected researchers — this PBS program explains the signs and science behind the phenomenon. Singer Alanis Morissette narrates.

Newton’s Dark Secrets

Documentary Nova 2005 NR 56 mins.  While pursuing his theories on the universal law of gravitation, scientific genius Isaac Newton was also searching out hidden meanings in the Bible, practicing the hidden art of alchemy and pioneering calculus. Using dramatic scenes starring Scott Handy as Newton, this “Nova” documentary re-creates the unique climate of late 17th century England, where a fascination with science and mathematics coexisted with extreme views on religious doctrine.


WHAT IS SCIENCE?    The word is usually used to mean one of three things, or a mixture of them.  1.  Science means, sometimes, a special method of finding things out.  2.  Sometimes it means the body of knowledge arising from the things found out.  3.  It may also mean the new things you can do when you have found something out, or the actual doing of new things.  This last field is usually called technology.  —  Richard Feynman, The Meaning of It All.


Custom Search


Must-See Movies—For What You Need to Know