It’s the holiday season, and what’s better to do than cuddle up in bed and watch a movie? We want to make sure you’re not missing out on some binge-worthy biotech movies this December.
So, we have created a watchlist just for you. Here are some biotech movie recommendations to keep you entertained during the holidays!
Table of contents
Set in a future society in which most children are conceived in vitro and disease is predetermined using genetic selection techniques, Gattaca tells the story of one of the last naturally conceived children. Born with a heart defect, he is considered a second-class citizen and is unable to pursue his dream of traveling to space. That is, until one such ‘perfect’ example of the elite decides he wants out of the program. Then all he has to do is fool the rigorous biometric police tests to take their place.
While the film is a gripping science fiction tale, 26 years later, its themes are evermore pertinent, as it cautions against what a world led by eugenics would be like.
Creation takes us back to 19th-century England, where, after his famous voyage on the Beagle, Charles Darwin is putting together the theory of evolution. As he works on the book that would change the basis of biology forever, Darwin struggles with the implications of his theory, which conflicts with his wife’s religious beliefs, and strains their relationship. For the fans of Sherlock, the biotech movie stars Benedict Cumberbatch as botanist Joseph Hooker, Darwin’s best friend, who encouraged the publication of On the Origin of Species.
The German biotech movie Blueprint imagines the life of the first cloned human being. A famous musician learns that she has an incurable illness. To preserve her art, she clones herself. The movie explores the relationship between the musician and her clone, who is both her daughter and genetic twin.
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
Old but gold, The Andromeda Strain is a sci-fi thriller that tells the story of scientists who work under the clock to identify an alien form of life that arrives on Earth. Watch them perform a series of experiments to characterize the strain and find a treatment, while the sample keeps evolving and challenging their work. The scientific method as you’ve never experienced it before.
In Splice, two scientists decide to ignore the ban on research using human embryos and try to illegally create a hybrid creature with the ultimate goal of achieving fame. Somehow, the scientists manage to make experiments with human embryos without any funding, and while still being required to do the research they’re paid to do. And, obviously, things do not go particularly well.
Elysium imagines life in the year 2154. Biotechnology allows society to cure every disease, but only the wealthy, who live on a space station, have access to it. Meanwhile, people on an overpopulated Earth suffer poverty and famine. An American embarks on an epic mission to bring equality to a world that is divided by access to scientific developments. Matt Damon saves the world again.
A true story on the development of levodopa treatments for neurological diseases, Awakenings stars Robin Williams as a doctor who tests a new treatment in catatonic patients who cannot move at all, but, as he discovers, are still conscious inside their frozen bodies. The movie is based on the 1973 memoir of the same name written by the neuroscientist Oliver Sacks, and also stars Robert de Niro.
In Contagion, the world faces a deadly viral infection that’s rapidly spreading. With no treatment available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gathers a team of doctors to identify ways of avoiding contagion while looking for a cure. Meanwhile, chaos rules the world as death claims the lives of millions. With a notable star cast that includes Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon and Jude Law, this medical disaster thriller is worth the watch.
The Amazing Spider Man (2012)
The Amazing Spider Man follows the well-known spider man story, that is: boy (Peter Parker) gets bitten by a genetically engineered spider and develops unexpected spider-like abilities, and fights the bad guys; but this time around, the story has some original twists. For example, there is a cool subplot focusing on limb regeneration and lizard DNA. You will have to watch this biotech movie to find out more!
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
With two Oscars and two Baftas under its belt, for cinematography and visual effects, the latest Blade Runner film definitely deserves a mention. In an homage to the original films from the 1980’s, Blade Runner 2049 is set 30 years after the first film with both Harrison Ford and Edward James Olmos reprising their original roles. As in the original, bioengineered humans known as ‘replicants’ are slaves. The lead character in the film, played by Ryan Gosling, is a ‘Blade Runner’ whose job is to track down and kill ‘rogue’ replicants. If you enjoyed the original films, this is a visually spectacular must. If you have yet to watch the original films, you might want to start there, but either way this is worth a watch.
Based on the book of the same name, Annihilation was released by Netflix in 2018. Based in the U.S. at some point in the future, there has been an unspecified disaster that has led to a large area in the Southern U.S. being cordoned off by a mysterious border. This film focuses on a women-led expeditionary force that goes into this area to investigate what happened during previous expeditions, and tries to collect data on what has happened to the area. Natalie Portman is convincing in the lead role as ‘the biologist,’ although the film had mixed reviews with some people loving it and some, not as much. But it’s definitely one to spark debate.
The only documentary on the list, Icarus is worth your time. It won an Oscar for best documentary earlier this year. It follows film director and writer Brian Fogel and his growing friendship with Russian scientist Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory. The film tracks Fogel’s investigation into doping in sport that famously led to the uncovering of a state-sponsored Olympic doping program in Russia, and Rodchenkov’s escape to the U.S.. In what has to be one of the greatest pieces of investigative journalism with a scientific, this one is not to be missed.
Crimes of the Future (2022)
If you cannot watch graphic violence and gore, then Crimes of the Future is probably not for you. The movie is set in a time where advances in biotech have made machines capable of controlling bodily functions. It follows the lives of two performance artists, played by Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux, who take advantage of Mortensen’s character’s “accelerated evolution syndrome,” a disorder that forces the body to develop new organs. Through the film, the king of body horror, director David Cronenberg who doesn’t stinge on depictions of surgical gore, and explores themes of death, desire and the limitations of the human body.
Beyond movies: exploring diverse biotech entertainment
Here are some links to more articles on biotech entertainment:
- The top biotech books of all time every science lover should read
- Five bioartists you should know about
- 10 biotech podcasts to tune into this year
- 5 DIY Biology Experiments You Can Easily Do at Home
This article was originally written by Clara Rodriguez Fernandez and published on 26/07/2017. It has since been updated by Roohi Mariam Peter to include new recommendations for biotechnology-related movies.