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Movies about tech geniuses aren’t hard to come by—but they always seem to feature some version of a tech bro in a hoodie (hello, Social Network!). While Zuckerberg and company are undeniably wizards of STEM, we’re more than ready for movies that show the brainpower of girls and women in tech—since it’s not like we’re going anywhere.
I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite films about tech, from sci-fi to biopics to ’80s classics, and broken them down into family-friendly and those better left for after the kids are in bed. While we want to see more women on the list next year (looking at you, Hollywood) this list deviates from the tech bro that simply isn’t the only story in tech. Grab some popcorn and enjoy!
Movies to Watch with Your Whole Family
Watching tech-centric films with your kids is an easy way to start conversations about the role tech plays in our lives and how to create healthy relationships with that technology. These films are perfect for watching with family members of all ages.
1. Hidden Figures (PG)
Before there were computer algorithms doing all the calculations for NASA missions, there were human “computers” who did all that math by hand. Unfortunately, what many people didn’t know until Hidden Figures came out was that a number of those early “computers” were Black women who were nothing short of mathematical geniuses. (And by all means, go back to your high school history teachers and ask why you weren’t taught this key fact). Without their contributions, the early space flights might never have happened—or could have gone catastrophically wrong. And with Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monàe starring, you can’t go wrong.
2. Wall-E (G)
The lone robot left on Earth, Wall-E stole the hearts of millions of viewers when the film debuted in 2008. When Wall-E (an acronym for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) spots a probe named EVE who has returned to Earth to scope things out, he falls in love and follows her back across the galaxy on an epic adventure—and one that showcases EVE’s ability to save the day.
3. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (G)
You might recognize Jimmy Neutron from the TV show: The boy genius lives in a town called Retroville, where he’s always inventing new things to make life more interesting while fantasizing about being on his own. When the parents of Retroville are all kidnapped by aliens, it’s up to Jimmy to rescue them using his smarts and ingenuity.
4. Flight of the Navigator (PG)
Flight of the Navigator was one of my favorite films when I was growing up as a child of the ’80s. In the movie, 12-year-old David gets knocked out in the forest one night and wakes up eight years later, perplexingly unaged. When a NASA scientist discovers a UFO nearby, it helps David start to unravel the mystery of his disappearance. Paul Reubens (of Pee Wee Herman fame) voices the UFO.
5. Short Circuit (PG)
Short Circuit is another great ’80s staple, where an artificially intelligent military robot, Number 5, is struck by lightning and given a sense of free will. He’s then found by Stephanie Speck, who gives him open access to TV, books, and other information. Number 5 develops a childlike curiosity and wonder at the world.
6. WarGames (PG)
In WarGames, a high school student played by Matthew Broderick accidentally hacks into a military computer that controls nuclear arms while looking for new video games online. . .and almost sets off World War III. It’s up to him to convince the government that he was the one who simulated a Soviet attack and that retaliation isn’t necessary. (Easier said than done.)
7. Back to the Future (PG)
Okay, we know we keep hitting this ’80s drum, but Back to the Future is a classic for a reason—and an ’80s movie marathon isn’t complete without it. Everything about this film: the time-travel back to the 1950s, the DeLorean modified into a time machine with its Flux Capacitor, the crazy-haired Doc Brown. . .it all comes together to create one of the best sci-fi comedies ever produced.
8. Contact (PG)
This 90s throwback stars Jodie Foster as Dr. Eleanor Arroway—a fiercely dedicated scientist who is selected to meet up with extraterrestrials IRL. Not only is the movie completely gripping and the character of Dr. Arroway a total hero, but a real-life female scientist played a critical role in the making of the movie: Ann Druyan—who specializes in communicating about STEM to wider audiences and co-wrote both husband Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series and the current version hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson—helped to outline the movie.
Movies for After the Younger Kids go to Bed
After the little ones are in bed, you can dig deeper into how tech intersects with the human experience—or just laugh at especially crude jokes.
9. Jurassic Park (the original!), PG-13
Jurassic Park is so much more than an adventure movie about dinosaurs. Paleontologist Ellie Sattler is easily the most compelling character in the movie—full of quotes you’ll be repeating to yourself over and over again. (When a character says “Man creates dinosaurs,” Ellie says the incredible, “Dinosaurs eat man. . .woman inherits the earth.”) She’s ostensibly someone’s girlfriend, but her intelligence, skills, and general unwillingness to let sexist men off the hook make her a bona fide main character.
10. Ghostbusters (PG-13)
Hello Dream Team: this reboot of the ’80s gem stars the hilarious Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones—and three of them play scientists. Following a ghost invasion in New York City, two physicists with an interest in the paranormal, an engineer, and an MTA subway worker team up to keep the city safe from the supernatural threats headed their way. Not only are these women hilarious and full of chemistry as a team, but they use their wits, intelligence, and STEM skills to save the world.
11. Gravity (PG-13)
Simply put: There aren’t enough movies that show female scientists or tech wizards actually doing their jobs—they might make a comment here and there, but it was critical for us that this list break that standard and show doctors doctoring, coders coding, and hackers hacking. Gravity’s Sandra Bullock-played lead of Dr. Ryan Carter is intelligent and respected in her field—and is set up to demonstrate intelligence and creativity. Dr. Ryan is in space because of her major tech accomplishment—she invented innovating medical technology that NASA has chosen to install in the Hubble Space Telescope. And when things go awry, it’s her skillset and intelligence that she has to rely on in order to handle extraordinary danger. She doesn’t have superpowers: She has a STEM degree.
12. 2001: A Space Odyssey (PG-13)
In 2001: A Space Odyssey, astronauts on a mysterious mission aboard Discovery One to investigate a black monolith on Jupiter that is apparently influencing human evolution. They’re accompanied by the sentient computer HAL (an acronym which is one character away from IBM), who acts in increasingly erratic and dangerous behavior as their mission progresses.
The film had mixed critical reception when it was released but has come to be considered one of the most important films ever made, exploring themes of existentialism, human evolution, artificial intelligence, and technology.
13. Hackers (PG-13)
Hackers had a huge influence on me as a teenager and was a big reason I wanted to learn about computers growing up. In the film, a group of teenage hackers (played by Angelina Jolie, Jonny Lee Miller, and Matthew Lillard, among others) band together to prove the innocence of one of their own after he discovers a worm planted in “The Gibson”—a supercomputer used by Ellingson Mineral Company—designed to embezzle millions. The film has achieved cult status since its release in 1995. Plus, it has one of the best ’90s techno soundtracks ever included in a film.
14. Minority Report (PG-13)
Minority Report centers around a crime-recognition and prevention program called PreCrime, where three precognizant humans are used along with a high-tech computer system to identify murders before they happen. The user interface displays created for the film are a thing of beauty. Steven Spielberg consulted with 15 experts prior to creating the future world for the film to create something that would be plausible and ended up with an 80-page “bible” that detailed all aspects of his universe.
15. The Net (PG-13)
In The Net, systems analyst Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) is given a disk with a backdoor to computer security systems sold by Gregg Microsystems, which puts her life in jeopardy. She’s kidnapped and attacked, and ends up injured while escaping. When she wakes up in the hospital after three days, all traces of her life and existence have been erased. She has to uncover the links between Gregg Microsystems and a cyber terrorist group in order to regain control of her life. Bonus points on this one for a kick-ass female main character!
16. The Imitation Game (PG-13)
The Imitation Game tells the remarkable story of mathematician Alan Turing’s tortured life—he was critical in the development of computers and is considered the father of artificial intelligence. Working as a cryptographer during WWII in England, Turing is part of a team trying to break the Enigma machine, a Nazi tool to pass secret messages. The movie also gives credit to Joan Clarke, his fiancé for a time, but more importantly a brilliant mathematician and decoder in her own right. The movie doesn’t shy away from the Turing’s abysmal treatment as a gay man and shines a light on the oft-ignored contributions of the LGBT+ community.
17. Her (R)
In Her, a lonely, introverted Theodore Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix) purchases a talking, artificially intelligent operating system that is designed to adapt and evolve named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Theodore and Samantha develop a romantic relationship that helps him grow and make positive changes in his life, but as Samantha and other OSes continue to evolve, their relationship is strained. It’s heartwarming, sad, and scary all at once, and is a more nuanced take on the AI-evolution trope that is so often the subject of more horrific sci-fi films.
If all these techy movies make you want to learn tech skills yourself, a great place to start is with the free Ultimate Guide to Coding for Beginners.
Cameron is a staff writer here at Skillcrush, and spends most of her time writing and editing blog posts and Ultimate Guides. She's been a freelance writer, editor, and author for going on a decade, writing for some of the world's leading web design and tech blogs. When she's not writing about design, she spends her time writing screenplays and making films (and music videos for rock and metal bands!) in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.