Hollywood loves to portray scientists as either the insane Frankenstein type or the absent-minded, time-traveling Doc Brown. Interestingly enough, both of these characters tropes were inspired by real-life researchers, some of whom were so amused by what they saw on the big screen that they actually became involved in the movie-making process.

Sure, scientists may be leagues smarter than your average person, but at the end of the day, much like our Presidents and dictators, they love movies just as much as we do. So just in case you ever need to buy a last-minute DVD for a Nobel Prize winner, check out which movies were beloved by some of the world's most famous scientists.

Hollywood loves to portray scientists as either the insane Frankenstein type or the absent-minded, time-traveling Doc Brown. Interestingly enough, both of these characters tropes were inspired by real-life researchers, some of whom were so amused by what they saw on the big screen that they actually became involved in the movie-making process.

Sure, scientists may be leagues smarter than your average person, but at the end of the day, much like our Presidents and dictators, they love movies just as much as we do. So just in case you ever need to buy a last-minute DVD for a Nobel Prize winner, check out which movies were beloved by some of the world's most famous scientists.


1. Nicola Tesla

Pop culture loves Nicola Tesla, and to be honest, it's pretty hard not to. The man was an incredible genius who experimented with dangerous concepts like electricity and weather control, and he often presented his inventions as if they were some type of magic act. Tesla's life is essentially the source material for every borderline insane, mysterious scientist ever created by Hollywood.

Hollywood's interest in Tesla's life began while he was still alive. He even got to see some of the movies that were inspired by his experiments, including his favorite movie, 'Frankenstein.' The movie was released in 1931, when Telsa was more or less retired from public life, too old to conduct the experiments he had become known for. Still, he agreed to construct a Tesla coil when approached by the film's electrician. The director wound up using the coil, which shot live electricity, in the film's most famous scene, in which the monster is brought to life. Since then, every mad scientist's laboratory had to have one.


2. Albert Einstein
Another pop culture icon, Einstein has been depicted in dozens of movies and even appeared in scenes of the 'Red Alert' strategy series, which were left on the cutting room floor.

Of course, when he wasn't busy sticking his tongue out in photos, or, you know, revolutionizing the world of science, Einstein enjoyed a good laugh. He is said to have been a great fan of the puppet show 'Time for Beany' -- so much, in fact, that he even interrupted meetings by saying, "Pardon me, gentlemen, but it's 'Time for Beany!'".

As for movies, Einstein's favorite was 'City Lights,' from legendary comedian Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin, who was close to Einstein, invited him and his wife to be the guests of honor at the film's opening. He later said he knew his movie was a success when he saw Einstein's positive reaction.


3. Stephen Hawking

Following in the footsteps of Einstein, Stephen Hawking has conducted groundbreaking work in astrophysics, especially in the area of black holes. He's a member of a number of prominent academic societies, and has won more awards and honorary PhD's than just about anyone else alive. And he did it all despite suffering from a neuro-muscular dystrophy, which has rendered him almost fully paralyzed and unable to speak without the help of a computerized chair.

To top it off, Hawking is also a writer and somewhat of an actor. He's been featured on numerous television shows about science, and his books on the universe are bestsellers. Overall, he's the kind of guy who makes you feel bad for sleeping in on a Sunday.

So what does Stephen Hawking like to do in his spare time? On the TV side, Hawking enjoys 'The Simpsons' and 'Futurama,' two shows he appeared on as a guest. And speaking of guest appearances, Hawking is the only person to have played himself in the TV series 'Star Trek.' However, 'Star Trek' isn't his favorite sci-fi series. That elusive title is reserved for two shows: 'Doctor Who' and 'Red Dwarf.'

As far as movies go, Hawking is supposedly a fan of Marlon Brando. He is known to have said at one point, "Marlon Brando is maybe the greatest actor of the last two centuries. But his mind is much more important than the acting thing. The way that he looks at things, doesn't judge things, the way that he assesses things. He's as important as, uh ... who's important today? Jesus, not many people ..."


4. Thomas Edison

Edison worked on countless inventions during his heydey, from the telephone and radio to movies and electricity distribution. He's also one of the few scientists who turned out to be a great businessman as well, founding companies that built him a significant fortune.

Maybe it's because of his capitalistic outlook on life, or maybe because he often "borrowed" inventions from those who worked for him, including Tesla, but Edison is definitely a controversial character. Let us give you an example of what we mean by controversial: At one point, Edison had his men bribe cinema workers in Europe so that they could steal the movie 'A Trip to the Moon' and show it in the States without paying any royalties. (Ironically enough, Einstein was also the person who established the Motion Picture Patents Company in an attempt to prevent others from stealing the movies he produced.)

This kind of paradox surrounded Edison throughout his life. He claimed to be a pacifist and hated any kind of violence, yet he invented the first electric chair. He created the world's first phonograph, but he hated movies with sound. In fact, he declared that sound ruined acting, making everyone focus on the words instead of the action.

So it should come as little surprise that his favorite movie, the controversial 'Birth of a Nation,' was from the silent film era. Despite its positive depiction of the Ku Klux Klan, the film, released in 1915, was screened at the White House and became the highest-grossing film of its time. The movie has been often described as an innovator in cinematography, with its use of camera angles and special effects. Unfortunately, the movie's reputation is tarnished by its overtly racist content.


5. Jane Goodall
Goodall is known around the world as the chimpanzee lady, probably because she spent 45 years living among them, studying their behavior more thoroughly than anyone before her. She's the world's top expert when it comes to primates, and has been featured in many documentaries and comics. Even 'The Simpsons' based a character on her. (Sure, she's also won a bunch of medals for promoting peace and advancing scientific understanding, but who cares about all of that when you've been featured on 'The Simpsons'?)

Predictably enough, her favorite series growing up was 'Tarzan.' She loved the books and enjoyed watching the films, at one point declaring, "I fell in love with Tarzan and I was very jealous of that wretched, wimpy Jane of his." In fact, it was her passion for the ape-man that convinced Goodall to dedicate her life to studying primates -- and now has us afraid of what the girls who grew up watching 'Twilight' will do when they're adults.


6. Neil deGrasse Tyson
Like Sagan and Hawking, deGrasee Tyson has hosted science shows and appeared numerous times on television, during which he spoke about complex subjects in an easy-to-understand manner. For his efforts, he has received about 10 honorary PhD's, NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal and has earned enough high-ranking positions to make any scientist feel humble.

As for his taste in movies, well, it's a little strange, to say the least. When asked what his favorite science fiction movie was, he chose 'Deep Impact' as one of them, arguing that the movie depicted the science of asteroids pretty accurately. (While that might be correct, it's hard call a movie that has the tag-line "When heavens and earth collide" your favorite film.)

Tyson also said that he loved 'The Matrix' and would like to be in there, in bullet time, which we can totally understand and support. (For the record: He also mentioned that the second and third 'Matrix' movies didn't make the cut. Talk about a smart guy.)


7. Philip Zimbardo

Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo became well-known in the world of psychology for their studies on the darker side of humanity, showing how easy it is to convince someone to hurt another person. You might know them better from the shock study conducted by Milgram and the Stanford prison experiment, in which a handful of college students replicated conditions inside a prison. Within just a few days, the students turned from average undergraduates to hardened guards who inflicted psychological abuse on the prisoners.

What makes the study even more interesting is the fact that Zimbardo, who oversaw the whole experiment, is passionate about the classic Paul Newman prison movie 'Cool Hand Luke,' the one with the famous tagline "What we've got here is failure to communicate." Zimbardo even said that he wanted the study to turn out more or less like the movie, with the prisoners resisting the guards until they eventually had to give up.

Ironically enough, that didn't happen. If anything, the Stanford prison experiment proved that a solitary resistance, as seen in 'Cool Hand Luke,' can only be found in the movies. We guess that's science for you -- even when the researcher loves something, they will still dissect it until its dead.
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