Inspiring us: The stories that brought us forward.

Inspiration comes from everywhere but it isn’t often talked about in the context of STEM. In my personal quest of finding science based media brought to you by watching Oppenheimer and immediately wanting to binge watch films just like that (is this even a thing outside TV shows? Asking for a friend) I started compiling a list of things from the media that have ever made me feel like that which brought on a larger project. 

This non-exhaustive list is for every person who has ever been inspired by a movie, TV show, book, magazine, game or anything media related, and would like to spiral down the rabbit hole just like when binge watching a series but make it science.

Based In Science members have submitted their picks of inspiring media for this post and ranging from childhood memories to recent blockbusters here it is. 

  1. Oppenheimer (2023)

The story of American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his role in the development of the atomic bomb.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt15398776/plotsummary?item=po6201773

2. Chernobyl (2019)

In April 1986, the city of Chernobyl in the Soviet Union suffered one of the worst nuclear disasters in the history of mankind. Consequently, many heroes put their lives on the line in the following days, weeks and months.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7366338/plotsummary?item=po3795405

3. I Origins (2014)

A molecular biologist and his laboratory partner uncover evidence that may fundamentally change society as we know it.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2884206/plotsummary?item=po1723584

4. The Imitation Game (2014)

During World War II, the English mathematical genius Alan Turing tries to crack the German Enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians while attempting to come to terms with his troubled private life.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2084970/plotsummary?item=po2197428

5. Interstellar (2014)

When Earth becomes uninhabitable in the future, a farmer and ex-NASA pilot, Joseph Cooper, is tasked to pilot a spacecraft, along with a team of researchers, to find a new planet for humans.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816692/plotsummary?item=po1982572

6. Arrival (2016)

A linguist works with the military to communicate with alien lifeforms after twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2543164/plotsummary?item=po3018179

7. The Martian (2015)

An astronaut becomes stranded on Mars after his team assumes him dead, and must rely on his ingenuity to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive and can survive until a potential rescue.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3659388/plotsummary?item=po2766304

8. The Tomorrow War (2021)

A family man is drafted to fight in a future war where the fate of humanity relies on his ability to confront the past.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9777666/plotsummary?item=po4366556

9. IO (2019)

As a young scientist searches for a way to save a dying Earth, she finds a connection with a man who’s racing to catch the last shuttle off the planet.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3256226/plotsummary?item=po4315272

10. Annihilation (2018)

A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2798920/plotsummary?item=po1713544

11. The X Files (1993)

Two F.B.I. Agents, Fox Mulder the believer and Dana Scully the sceptic, investigate the strange and unexplained, while hidden forces work to impede their efforts.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106179/plotsummary?item=po0948395

12. Transformers (2007)

An ancient struggle between two Cybertronian races, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, comes to Earth, with a clue to the ultimate power held by a teenager.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0418279/plotsummary?item=po1157184

13: Star Trek (1966)

In the 23rd Century, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise explores the galaxy and defend the United Federation of Planets.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060028/plotsummary?item=po0942014

14: Stargate SG-1 (1997)

A secret military team, SG-1, is formed to explore other planets through the recently discovered Stargates.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118480/plotsummary?item=po0949762

15: MythBusters (2003)

A weekly documentary in which two Hollywood special effects experts attempt to debunk urban legends by directly testing them.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0383126/plotsummary?item=po1004151

16. The Good Doctor (2017)

Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and Savant syndrome, is recruited into the surgical unit of a prestigious hospital.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6470478/plotsummary?item=po3096841

17. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25899336-when-breath-becomes-air

18. The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/27276428

19. My Sister’s Keeper (2009)

Anna Fitzgerald looks to earn medical emancipation from her parents who until now have relied on their youngest child to help their leukaemia-stricken daughter Kate remain alive.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1078588/plotsummary?item=po1281808

20. Tenet (2020)

Armed with only the word “Tenet,” and fighting for the survival of the entire world, CIA operative, The Protagonist, journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a global mission that unfolds beyond real time.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6723592/plotsummary?item=po4337920

21. Biohackers (2020)

A fast-paced thriller following medical student Mia Akerlund who discovers the use of highly advanced biohacking technology in her university town.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9849210/plotsummary?item=po5126851

22. The Dropout (2022)

TV series that chronicles Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes’ attempt to revolutionise the healthcare industry after dropping out of college and starting a technology company.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10166622/plotsummary?item=po4482857

23. Sid the Science Kid (2008)

A young and curious boy constantly wonders about the fields of science.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1236429/plotsummary?item=po2134979

24. Emily’s Wonder Lab (2020)

Acclaimed science communicator Emily Calandrelli takes kids through lively experiments and entertaining activities in this new live-action series .

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10687464/plotsummary?item=po4620439

25. The Discovery (2017)

Two years after the afterlife is scientifically proven, a man attempts to help a young woman break away from her dark past.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5155780/plotsummary?item=po33006637

26: Dune: Part One (2021)

A noble family becomes embroiled in a war for control over the galaxy’s most valuable asset while its heir becomes troubled by visions of a dark future.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1160419/plotsummary?item=po2966472

27. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

After uncovering a mysterious artefact buried beneath the Lunar surface, a spacecraft is sent to Jupiter to find its origins: a spacecraft manned by two men and the supercomputer HAL 9000.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062622/plotsummary?item=po6301680

28. X-Men ’97 (2024)

A band of mutants use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them; they’re challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt16026746/plotsummary?item=po7795094

29.High Life (2018)

Takes place beyond the solar system in a future that seems like the present. About a group of criminals who accept a mission in space to become the subjects of a human reproduction experiment. They find themselves in the most unimaginable situation after a storm of cosmic rays hit the ship.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4827558/plotsummary?item=ps2998445

30. Solaris (2002)

A troubled psychologist is sent to investigate the crew of an isolated research station orbiting a bizarre planet.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0307479/plotsummary?item=po0966922

31. Constellation (2024)

Jo returns to earth after a disaster in space and discovers that there are missing pieces in her life, so she sets out to expose the truth about the hidden secrets of space travel and recover what she has lost.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt19395018/plotsummary?item=po6518342

32. Bones (2005)

F.B.I. Special Agent Seeley Booth teams up with the Jeffersonian’s top anthropologist, Dr. Temperance Brennan, to investigate cases where all that’s left of the victims are their bones.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0460627/plotsummary?item=po1055497

33. The Hot Zone (2019)

In 1989, the Ebola virus appeared in chimpanzees in a research lab in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and there is no known cure; a U.S. Army scientist puts her life on the line to head off an outbreak before it spreads to the human population.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4131818/plotsummary?item=ps4551923

34. Travellers (2016)

Hundreds of years from now, surviving humans discover how to send consciousness back through time, into people of the 21st century, while attempting to change the path of humanity.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5651844/plotsummary?item=po2835448

35. Unrest (2017)

When Harvard Ph.D. student Jennifer Brea is struck down by a fever that leaves her bedridden, she sets out on a virtual journey to document her story as she fights a disease that medicine forgot.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3268850/plotsummary?item=po3311101

36. Picture a Scientist (2020)

Despite the minimal news coverage, sexual harassment and gender inequality against women are no less prevalent in science than they are in pop culture and corporate America.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11906032/plotsummary?item=po5014824

37. Unnatural Selection (2019)

DNA, the very essence of life, can now be altered. Not only by Harvard geneticists and multi-billion dollar corporations, but also by renegade biohackers working out of their garages.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11063952/plotsummary?item=po4788200

38. Return to Space (2022)

Offering rare inside access to NASA and SpaceX, this is the thrilling story of the nearly 20 year journey to send American astronauts back to space aboard U.S. rockets, from filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt18555320/plotsummary?item=po6476533

39. Geostorm (2017)

When the network of satellites designed to control the global climate starts to attack Earth, it’s a race against the clock for its creator to uncover the real threat before a worldwide Geostorm wipes out everything and everyone.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1981128/plotsummary?item=po3152896

40. Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space (2021)

Follow the four civilians as they launch into space on a three-day trip orbiting Earth and reaching an altitude higher than that of the International Space Station (ISS). The SpaceX Dragon mission, dubbed Inspiration4, is the most ambitious step to date in the rapidly-developing age of civilian space exploration, making history as the first all-civilian mission to orbit.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt15166116/plotsummary?item=ps6148054

41. A Beautiful Planet (2016)

An exploration of Earth and beyond as seen from the International Space Station. Narrated by Jennifer Lawrence.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2800050/plotsummary?item=po1713141

42. “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35167685-surely-you-re-joking-mr-feynman

43. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6493208-the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks

44. Cosmos by Carl Sagan

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55030.Cosmos

45. Back to Earth: What Life in Space Taught Me About Our Home Planet―And Our Mission to Protect It by Nicole Stott

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/57007982

Honourable mention of my personal favourite and one of the things that inspired me.

46. I Changed Astronomy Forever. He Won the Nobel Prize for It. | ‘Almost Famous’ by Op-Docs 

https://youtu.be/NDW9zKqvPJI?si=PN520NfJVUIux0t4 

It is not easily identifiable what it is that inspires us, our list is just a small fraction of why each of us is a scientist. All of us have personal stories that have most likely inspired us to be where we are too. Even if movies don’t always get it right (normalise hiring professional consultants for scientific accuracy), we are continuously consuming media – why not make use of it?

Thank you to all Based in Science members who contributed their picks for the creation of this list.

Item descriptions sourced online, links available.

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