It's political primary season and you know what that means, right? Right, it's time to rent movies and think about something else.
But you wouldn't be here if you could watch just any movies, you'd be a Huffington Post reader or Glenn Beck listener or whatever it is those people do that gets so much more attention than actual quality writing, like this site. You have more sense than that so you like movies with scientists; and especially scientists who could be hottie supermodels, mostly because they don't know anything about science.
In compiling a list like this, I am torn and maybe you will be also. Great science movies and attractive women don't always go together. Number of hot women in Pi for example? Well, okay, Lauren Fox, but she wasn't a scientist.
You get my point. We have to make a choice in a lot of cases; great women or great science. Sometimes we get both but that's rare. Actually, female scientists, great or not, in movies apparently aren't all that common. Eva Flicker of the University of Vienna wrote in Between Brains and Breasts—Women Scientists in Fiction Film: On the Marginalization and Sexualization of Scientific Competence that only 18% of movies containing scientists had the female kind. That means there must have been almost no female scientists in the early days of film because it is easy to find modern films with female scientists - a lot more than the 25% of the science work force in the real world. Scientists are in and female scientists even more so. If you're going to have a female scientist you might as well make her a hot one.
So finding science(ish) movies is easy, finding science movies with women is easy, but making a top 10 list is hard work. You'll have to let me know how I did:
10. Josie Foster in Contact. Is she hot? Well, not in the classic Science and Supermodels sense, but she is not only the most convincing female scientist ever in this movie, she is maybe the most convincing scientist ever. That gets hotness bonus points and slips her into the top 10, even though she would never date us no matter how smart we are.
9. Rosalind Franklin in Rosalind Franklin: DNA's Dark Lady because she actually was a great scientist, and that's pretty sexy in its own right. BONUS: She was completely willing to let Watson and Crick get all the credit for DNA so she doesn't mind subordinating herself for men.
8. Representing the arrogant side of science, there's no better choice than Saffron Burrows as Dr. Susan McCallister in Deep Blue Sea. Any woman who genetically engineers giant shark brains to fight Alzheimer's is okay in my book. Plus, it's rare that someone can be so smart and so stupid and kinda hot at the same time so she makes the list.
7. Here we have a tie so technically this is a top 11 list of scientists even though it's only 10 movies. Yet it's necessary because I can't choose between Shannon Tweed as Dr. Margo Hunt and Adrienne Barbeau as Dr. Kurtz in Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. And I shouldn't have to choose. The world needs movies with both Shannon Tweed and Adrienne Barbeau more than it needs a cure for cancer.
6. Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross in Hulk. It doesn't matter if the movie was good (it wasn't) or if her performance was all that believable (it wasn't), sometimes you just have to go with your gut.
5. Katherine Victor in too many great movies to count but for our purposes as Dr. Myra in Teenage Zombies. I can't say enough good things about this movie and a tagline like "See Teenage Girls Thrust Into the Weird Pulsating Cage of Horror!" says all you need to hear.
4. Famke Janssen as Dr. Jean Grey in those X-Men movies. Did she do any science? Only circumstantially and, if we're being honest, she makes the top 5 mostly for also being Xenia Zirgavna Onatopp in GoldenEye. I still giggle when I say that name and she was brilliant in it.
3. Alison Doody as Dr. Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. She's a Nazi ... that looks like Alison Doody. That caused no end to confusion in the penises of many a young man, I can assure you.
2. Raquel Welch as Cora in Fantastic Voyage. There's nothing I can say about Raquel Welch that hasn't been said a hundred times before by people much more gifted than me so I will simply say that Raquel Welch is what this list is all about.
But Raquel Welch is not number one because, let's be honest, we have never seen a scientist that looks like Raquel Welch and Raquel Welch did not act like a scientist.
Number one must go to a great actress in a believable role who looks good and is the kind of scientist we could hang out with day or night. There is only one worthy recipient and she is number one on this list:
1. Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park. Did I really like this movie? No, not really. I generally think Steven Spielberg movies are phoned in, directorially, which is an odd thing to read from a guy with no film directing experience who is discussing the career of a gazillionaire.
Still, he had the wisdom to get the right cast. A bad director can make a great cast look awful but a great cast can make a competent director look good. She's a big part of what made him look good in the eyes of viewers. Who would ever have thought a creepy villain character actor like Bruce Dern could create a daughter this believable as a scientist? Not me, though I suppose Diane Ladd had something to do with it.
The nice thing about this movie is that it's so forgettable I can watch it tomorrow and it will seem all new to me again but our respect for Dern will never wane.
BONUS: She was also terrific in Daddy & Them, which may be the funniest movie you watch this decade.
DOUBLE BONUS: She was also in A Perfect World, which should be among the best movies you watched last decade and which I watched while writing this article, though that's just a coincidence. In the Clint Eastwood canon, I predict it will one day rightfully take its place.
Did I leave anyone out? Sure, I left out plenty. As I mentioned above in my comment on Eva Flicker's study, movies for the last decade are chock full of female scientists.
So I had to draw the line. Elisabeth Shue as Emma Russell in 1997's The Saint didn't make the cut - and not because I should have been Simon Templar instead of Val Kilmer but simply because you have to be exceptionally hot or a great actress to knock someone off this list.
Lack of believability also knocked off Kelly McGillis as Charlotte 'Charlie' Blackwood in Top Gun, though Tom Cruise having sex with someone named Charlie was believable.
If the list were longer, Faith Domergue as Prof. Lesley Joyce in It Came from Beneath the Sea would have been on it, but mostly because all of us would have wanted to hang out with Howard Hughes.
Plus, if we're being honest, it would be hard not to want to spend a Friday evening watching Ruby LaRocca as, not surprisingly, Dr. Ruby in Bikini Girls on Dinosaur Planet.
Now that was some great science.