Best Engineering Movies on Netflix

December 29, 2012

So you didn’t plan to be spending the weekend inside. Or maybe you did, but post-Holiday television is even more terrible than you had initially anticipated.

No worries! Netflix to the rescue!

For cabin-feverish engineers and engineering students out there, here’s a quick run-down of the best engineering movies on Netflix.

(If you already have a Netflix account, just click the titles below to begin streaming immediately.)


Engineering Television Shows & Documentaries

Extreme Engineering Stream on Netflix

Extreme Engineering (2003-2006)

Host Danny Forster explores the world’s most magnificent feats of engineering on this Discovery Channel series. Watch structures seemingly impossible to build rise, crews regularly defying nature and other awe-inspiring creations of extreme engineering.

The episodes available to stream on Netflix include:

  • Season 1: “Widening the Panama Canal,” “Boston’s Big Dig,” “Building Hong Kong’s Airport,” “Tunneling Under the Alps,” “Iceland Tunnels,” “Container Ships,” “Oakland Bay Bridge,” and “Venice Flood Gates.”
  • Season 2: “Turning Torso,” “Millau Viaduct,” “Tokyo’s Sky City,” “Transatlantic Tunnel,” “Subways in America,” “Bridging the Bering Strait.”
  • Season 3: “Cooper River Bridge,” “Excavators,” “Offshore Oil,” “City in a Pyramid,” “Holland’s Barriers.”
  • Season 4: “Woodrow Wilson Bridge,” “Gotthard Tunnel,” “Dubai Ski Resort,” “Operation Snohvit,” “The El Cajon Dam,” “Hong Kong Cable Car.”

Length: 45 minutes per episode
Netflix Average User Rating:  3.8 stars


Stream MythBusters Online

MythBusters (2003-2011)

If you haven’t heard of this show you may have been living under a rock for the last ten years. Hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman take their viewers on an eye-opening — and often explosive — journey as they examine some of the most commonly held beliefs in popular science and culture.

The appeal to engineers? They regularly blow things up and perform fun experiments like testing the tensile strength of duct tape. With a car.

Now that’s entertainment.

Length: 45 minutes per episode
Netflix Average User Rating:  4.1 stars


TopGear UK (2003-2011)

How this applies to engineering? Watch the clip above and marvel at the tremendous engineering feat that was the Toyota Hilux! If you are remotely interested in the engineering and craftsmanship that goes into automobiles, you’ll appreciate this show.

Yes, they have a US version. No, it doesn’t compare. Go with the original UK-based series.

Length: 45 minutes per episode
Netflix Average User Rating:  4.2 stars


Egypt: Engineering an Empire

Egypt: Engineering an Empire (2006)

Despite being 5,000 years old The Great Pyramids of Giza remain one of the greatest engineering marvels in the world. In this documentary Peter Weller examines how the pyramids came to be – from the pharaohs who commanded their construction to the architects who built the greatest structures of all time.

Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Netflix Rating: 3.8 stars


 e2 Green Documentary

e2 (2006-2008)

Narrated by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, this PBS documentary series explores the innovators who strive to advance technological progress while raising awareness about “green” issues and reducing damage to the environment. Among the subjects profiled are architects who use sustainable materials, cities that welcome alternative energies and worldwide efforts to reduce traffic and pollution.

Length: 108 minutes
Netflix Rating: 3.9 stars


Stream Objectified Movie Online

Objectified (2009)

A documentary on industrial design – you’ll learn how manufactured objects in our daily lives like cars, phones and chairs are created. This documentary features top industrial designers discussing their creative processes and professional objectives; from Apple to 3M and more.

Length: 76 minutes
Netflix Rating: 3.7 stars


The Manhattan Project

Modern Marvels (1994-2011)

This series on the History Channel and PBS has been going on for nearly twenty years. The short format documentaries explore facts and theories around the development of the topic, how the topic was used, and what the implications of the topic are for people today. Put another way: Engineers created and continue to innovate the world we live in. These are their stories.

These episodes are streamable:

Length: 45 minutes per episode
Netflix Average User Rating:  3.4 stars


Full Length Engineering Movies (You can Stream!)

Dam Busters Stream on Netflix

The Dam Busters (1955)

This 50’s era Michael Redgrave flick centers on the invention and development of the breakthrough World War II-era “bouncing bomb,” an explosive designed to drop into reservoirs and cause massive flooding to Germany’s industrial hub. History, nostalgia, and engineer problem solving all in one!

Length: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Rated: NR
Netflix Average User Rating:  3.7 stars


Stream the Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain (1971)

This one has a biomedical engineering bent. The premise, if you haven’t seen it, is that a satellite crashes in New Mexico and unleashes a deadly alien virus that kills all but two residents of a small town. Scientists descend on the area to try to stop the microbe from spreading, but in doing so – they must fight for their own lives.

Length: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Rated: G
Netflix Average User Rating:  3.6 stars


5 Best Engineering Movies on Netflix (you can’t stream yet)


Flash of Genius (2008)

A jilted engineer takes on the auto industry when they fail to give him credit for inventing intermittent windshield wipers. This biographical drama is based on a real life professor and doctor of engineering Robert Kearns. Patent law and mechanical engineering all wrapped up in a David v Goliath story.

Length: 120 minutes
Rated: PG-13
Netflix Average User Rating:  3.4 stars



October Sky (1999)

This film about NASA engineer Homer Hickam focuses on his life as a bright young science student in coal-mining West Virginia. For the engineer there’s Sputnik, space, and rocket science-  but this feel-good movie will win over the non-engineers in your household as well.

Length: 108 minutes
Rated: PG
Netflix Average User Rating:  3.9 stars


Sneakers (1992)

When U.S. intelligence agents blackmail a reformed computer hacker and his offbeat team of security experts into stealing a code-breaking “black box” from a Soviet-funded genius, they uncover a deadly conspiracy. What’s in it for engineers? The movie talks about the “number field sieve,” (the fastest factoring algorithm currently known) and embedded anagrams. Can you get more techno-geeky?

Length: 126 minutes
Rated: PG-13
Netflix Average User Rating: 3.7 stars


Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this fact-based movie is an account of a auto entrepreneur Preston Tucker. From Netflix:

Unimpressed with the cars being built following World War II, Tucker dreams of building a more stylish (yet still economical and safe) car. But even with financing and assistance from his business-savvy wife (Joan Allen) and mechanic son (Christian Slater), Tucker faces roadblocks — mainly from the auto industry itself.

Length: 110 minutes
Rated: PG
Netflix Average User Rating: 3.4 stars


From the Earth to the Moon (1998)

This is a 5-disc 12-hour miniseries that aired on HBO. Narrated by Tom Hanks, the series follows the space program from Kennedy’s 1961 call to reach the moon to within a decade being there. Watch and learn more about the successes and heartbreaking failures of the race for space.

Length: 12 hours
Netflix Average User Rating:  4.1 stars

What movies are we missing?

If you have a favorite engineering movie we haven’t mentioned, whether or not you can stream it on Netflix, drop a comment below!

Featured photo by: icedsoul photography .:teymur madjderey