10 Documentaries on Netflix every engineering student should watch

Even if you love everything tech and follow the latest news, there is always something to learn in this ever-changing field. With so many devices appearing on the market almost every day, new technologies in development and start-ups appearing in Silicon Valley, there is always something cool within this area to be found.

There are plenty of amazing documentaries that are available online, but Netflix has gathered some of the best ones. For example, there are titles that give you the insight to the biggest companies, such as Cisco, Intel and Google. So, be ready to watch these documentaries that engineers love.

Engineering documentaries

1. Jobs

Even though some people don’t like the fact that Steve Jobs: The Man in Machine was made without any feedback or help of Job’s family members or Apple, there is a lot to learn from a documentary that gives us insight to this man. The film features interviews from his longtime girlfriend and mom of his two children, Chrisann Brennan, and his former colleagues. Besides, filmmakers present their own view on the famous Apple CEO.

While it is not the only documentary available on Netflix that features interviews with his colleagues (and his own interviews too), this film starring Aston Kutcher allows us to follow Jobs on his journey from a college dropout to become a CEO of one of the biggest tech companies of the 20th century. You will learn about his personal and professional ups and downs and his rocky relationships with Apple co-founder and his good friend Steve Wozniak, as well as Apple investor Mike Markkula.

2. Freakonomics

The film adaptation of the book by Stephen Duber and Steven Levitt, Freakonomics is a series of vignettes that analyze and discuss the economic concept behind human behavior. The documentary explores the motivation and incentive-based thinking of customers, colleagues and employees using real-life examples and case studies.

The film is directed by Seth Gordon, Heidi Ewing, Alex Gidney and Rachel Grady and first debuted on iTunes and pay-per-view. Then it had theatre release and it quickly climbed the iTunes charts in the documentary category. This film presents unique findings that are must-see for everyone interested in business, economy and behavior sciences.

3. Something Ventured

If you ever thought about those big venture capitalists who supported the biggest tech companies in the world, such as Google, Apple or Intel, you should definitely watch this documentary. This tech film explains everything about venture capitalists, with big names that are working with powerful investors to support big companies and let them up and running.

These venture capitalists know everything about Silicon Valley and they use luck and timing, taking huge risks to find small companies they believed in when no-one else did. The film also discusses the history of rising technology, starting with times when people didn’t know much about computers, and how these technologies have changed our lives.

4. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

This film, released in May 2005 by Alex Gibney, is a documentary about the corporate crimes. The film discusses the story about the corrupt business practices of one corporation; you will see how gray things were over the Wall Street and how corruption led to the fall of a huge company.

The film showcases huge flaws of the employees over at the energy company such as greed, pride and arrogance; you will see how employees used every possibility they could to ensure they make more money. However, as you will see it took 10 years for the company to gain its assets and only one day to get bankrupt. Watch this documentary to learn more about the well-known cases of financial corruption and fraud.

5. Tesla: Master of Lightning

Even though Tesla is often overlooked in documentaries, this one tells you about personal life and professional career of an electrical guru Nikola Tesla. The film is directed by Robert Uth who wanted to talk about the man who made possible to transmit electricity in the US and patented the life-changing technology for wireless communications. Now his ideas are used in radio and TV broadcasting.

Among other inventions, Tesla developed many technologies used to this day, for example X-rays, remote control and electric motors. Before his death, he was working on a death ray that allowed the military to develop Strategic Defense Initiative. The film discussed his business strategies and why he was described as an arrogant man. The film also examines how this genius person died poor.

6. Genius on Hold

If you like the film about Tesla, you will like this one as well. Genius on Hold is a story of an inventor and telecommunication engineer Walter L. Shaw, and how his life-changing inventions were stolen by a huge corporation.

Directed by Frank Langella, the film follows Walter’s life who invented conference calling, speakerphone and the answering machine and how he got involved in a big government scandal. The film has real-life data and footage. Shaw was described as a family-man, and then he was found with Mafia that he supplied with special boxes so they could make unnoticeable calls.

Years after Shaw’s death, Steve Jobs built boxes that worked similar to Shaw’s boxes, saying that if Walter didn’t invent and sell these boxes, there may never have been an Apple.

7. Egypt: Engineering an Empire

It’s not a secret that Egyptian engineers could build structures bigger than ever before even though they didn’t have technologies available today. Yes, sometimes their structures would fail but this fact makes it even more amazing that some of them are still standing, after almost 5,000 years.

In the series, you will examine the great Egypt Empire through their engineering. You will see hidden paths inside pyramids that aren’t open for tourists, learn why ceilings have a tendency to cave in and how such as early culture could build them.

The Egyptians were not only professionals of pyramid building but of water management as well, as we can judge by their impressive dams and irrigation. And they even used cargo ships to move huge blocks necessary to construct all their wonders. All in all, it is a good documentary to catch.

8. Downloaded

After the evolution of computers and the explosion of the Internet, users can quickly connect to everyone. When in the 90s someone wanted to get or share music, there was one convenient way – downloading via Napster. This documentary, directed by Alex Winter, examines the events that led up to the huge popularity of Napster.

Napster was originally just a dorm room project and then quickly became the most controversial and popular way to share music. In this documentary, you will see how Napster became much bigger than its founders Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning could’ve imagined. The documentary examines how Napster started the era of music piracy worldwide.

Through swapping music from one device to another, Napster was really popular among college kids who could download music for free instead of paying for tracks. Of course, many artists protested against it. You will also see the real-life footage of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich as it explores the time when Internet led to music piracy.

9. SlingShot

This film examines the unique life of American inventor Dean Kamen, who is famous for his inventions of the Segway and many other medical devices. In the documentary, you will see how this man tries to clean up the world’s water supply with one of his inventions, the Water Purification System.

In this film, you will see the highlights of Dean’s intention to solve the water crisis through his invention and follow him as he develops new products and concepts to trial in African countries. You will also learn about his struggles and difficulties of mass production, as well as his unique lifestyle, motivations and musings that have made him up and running.

10. American Genius

This is an 8-part miniseries directed by the National Geographic Channel, in which you will learn about the colossal impact of bitter rivalries of famous scientists, inventors and businessmen. It’s a great watch for tech enthusiasts and everyone interested in history.

The episodes include Edison VS Tesla which is about the rivalry between two genius men: Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla on their war of currents. You will also learn about the Space Race, which is dedicated to the USSR and the US’s race to the moon and innovations developed to get there; Sarnoff VS Farnsworth which studied the legal ownership of the television patent; and the famous Gates VS Jobs, which is about a rivalry between Apple and Microsoft and the battle for computer domination.

And here you have it: 10 amazing documentaries for engineering professionals who are looking for something to watch during a leisure weekend. Netflix has a great lineup to choose from, and we hope you enjoy our top 10 recommendations.

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