It’s summer, you finally have some time to relax! Here is a list of some great TV series and films for you to put your feet up in front of and enjoy watching.
The weather has been a bit mixed this summer, so while you may be outside enjoying the sun, we wanted to make sure you have some viewing recommendations to watch for the evenings, or for rainy days.
The number of films and TV series relating to science and biotech is endless, so I’ve updated our 2018 list and added a few new options that will hopefully keep you entertained. However, if we missed anything good, feel free to let us know.
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 citizen. He is prevented from his dream of having a career travelling in 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.
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 in the book that would change the basis of biology forever, Darwin struggles with the implications of his theory, which conflicts with the religious beliefs of his wife and puts their relationship at risk. For the fans of Sherlock, the movie casts Benedict Cumberbatch as botanist Joseph Hooker, Darwin’s best friend, who encouraged the publication of On the Origin of Species.
The German 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’s both her daughter and genetic twin.
The Andromeda strain (1971)
Old but gold, The Andromeda strain is a sci-fi thriller in which scientists work under the clock to identify an alien form of life that arrives on Earth. Watch the scientists 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 the world divided by access to scientific developments. Matt Damon saves the world again.
Based on the real story of the development of levodopa treatments for neurological diseases, Awakenings stars Robin Williams as a doctor that tests a new treatment in catatonic patients that cannot move at all but, as he discovers, are still conscious inside their frozen bodies. Although the name is changed in the movie, the character is based on the real-life experience of famous neuroscientist Oliver Sacks.
In Contagion, the world faces a deadly viral infection that’s rapidly spreading. With no treatment available, the 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. This time, instead of being the hero, Matt Damon plays a citizen without much power to stop the massive outbreak decimating Earth.
The Amazing Spider Man (2012)
There have been many Spider Man films, but the 2012 revamp of the original starring Andrew Garfield in the lead role got the votes of the Labiotech team for inclusion into this list. It 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, falls for the girl (in this case Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy) and fights the bad guys, but has some original twists. For example, there is a cool subplot focusing on limb regeneration and lizard DNA. You will have to watch it to find out more!
Altered Carbon (2018)
Based on a novel by Richard K Morgan, the series is set over 360 years into the future. A person’s memories and identity can be stored on a ‘cortical stack’, which can then be inserted into a new body or ‘sleeve’ after death. However, only the wealthiest in society have the means to do this. The story starts with a rebel mercenary being given a new shot a life in return for solving a murder. This series gives an interesting look into how science could change our futures and how we need to be wary about the potential elitist nature of high-cost inventions. If you enjoy it, watch out for Season 2, as it has already been renewed and should be on our screen next year.
Orphan Black (2013–2017)
If you haven’t already watched Orphan Black then it’s definitely one to try out. Be warned, there are 5 series available on Netflix so if you get hooked you might be watching for a while! Without wanting to give away too much, this series looks at cloning and the multiple impacts it can have. The lead character is Sarah Manning, a con artist. She is thrown into a whirlwind of conspiracy, secret research and danger after stealing the bag of her apparent doppelgänger who has just stepped in front of a train. Orphan Black has won multiple awards and gets excellent review ratings on sites like rotten tomatoes. It has also been recommended to me by multiple scientists, which must be a good sign!
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
With two Oscars and two Baftas under its belt, for cinematography and visual effects, the new Blade Runner film definitely deserves a mention. In a 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 liked 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 definitely worth a watch.
Based on an excellent book of the same name, Annihilation came out on Netflix earlier this year. Based in the US at some point in the future, there has been an unspecified disaster that has led to a large area in the Southern US being cordoned off by a mysterious border. This film focuses on an all-female expeditionary force that goes into this area to investigate what has happened to earlier expeditions and to try and collect data on what has happened to the area. Natalie Portman is convincing in the lead role as ‘the biologist’, although I can’t help but feel that the film could have been even better with more funding and a cinema release. It has had mixed reviews with some people loving it and some less sure. But it’s definitely one to spark debate.
This is the only documentary on the list, but is definitely worth a watch. 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 US. In what has to be one of the greatest pieces of investigative journalism with a scientific twist over the last year, this one is not to be missed!
A young biotech founder in the US, whose company is struggling with cash flow (a familiar biotech story!), strikes up an unorthodox deal with a well-known, but secretive female VC. In return for one night with the founder’s husband, the investor agrees to provide all the money the company needs and more. While it got mixed reviews, I think this Netflix series is an interesting take on where our moral boundaries lie and how far we would all go to succeed.
This article was originally written by Clara Rodriguez Fernandez and published on 26/07/2017. It has since been updated to include new recommendations for biotechnology-related movies and TV series.
Images via Stock-Asso / Shutterstock; IMDB; Kino.de