Many movies available for teens these days show off technology, particularly in a science-fiction context. These movies can frequently be great, but sometimes show the technology as nearly magical or futuristic. Real-world technology, and technology through history, is also cool, and frequently even more amazing since it actually happened! The movies below are some of my personal favorites and ones that I have watched with my daughter. Two depict historical events in technology, and one is a futuristic view that still shows how math and science, applied daily and diligently, can solve even the hardest problems.
So, let's get started!
The Martian, set in the future, shows the efforts of a single astronaut to survive on Mars and the human-wide effort on earth to bring him home. I love this film because it shows scientific reality - that every problem in space can be hard but step by step approach can lead to solutions. It is also engaging, funny, and filled with useful information that kids can learn from and be inspired by.
The Imitation Game
An adaptation of the life of Alan Turing, this movie chronicles the creation of one of the first computers, even before it was called a computer. I have paired this movie with a discussion on how computers work, how the real-world problem of needing to crack codes to win a war motivated the creation of new machines, and also what a Turing machine is. It is also a sad but poignant story. Given the subject matter around Turing's life and death - I would recommend this for kids over the age of 13.
This great movie shows the accomplishments of three African-American female mathematicians and their role in helping NASA send astronauts to the moon. In addition to being an empowering story for girls of every generation, the movie provides a glimpse into the science and math that occurs behind the scenes to accomplish an engineering feat such as sending a human into space.
Taken together, all three of these movies share something in common
They show what STEM looks like in real life, and how STEM can be used to solve problems to benefit all of humanity
They are positive and empowering stories of STEM heroes that any teen can look up to.