How are geologists portrayed in films on the big screen? The investigation

A survey conducted by Swedish film enthusiasts and published on Earth Magazine analyzed various cinematic databases globally in the period 1920-2020 to understand how much the figure of the geologist is present on the small and big screen, and to understand how this presence has evolved over the decades. The analysis takes into consideration only those films in which the cast includes a geologist, regardless of her role (protagonist or not), thus excluding films in which geology is the protagonist but Not there are geologists on the screen (for example the saga of Jurassic Park or Pompeii of 2014).

They have been identified 83 films released in the period 1920-2020, for a total of 131 geologists or female geologists. The 1990s and 2000s were the ones with the most geology scholars in films (up to 5 films per year). Most of the films were produced and shot in the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

The list starts with the movie Roaring Ranch from 1930, a western featuring a geologist with the desire to buy a farm where he is sure he will find deep oil.

With the advancement of technologies and the consequent increasingly widespread use of special effects, towards the 1990s it led directors to want to reproduce natural phenomena such as landslides on stage (Landslides of 1992) and volcanoes (Volcano of 1997). In general, different types of disasters are represented, from purely geological ones such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, up to including alien invasions (Ultimatum to Earth of 2008) and the impact with an asteroid (Armageddon of 1988). Again according to the work of Swedish scholars, in the vast majority of cases (83%) the geologist is on the good side, even if he tends to die in about a third of the films.

Most films feature only one geologist, almost always male (89% of cases) and with a secondary role. One exception remains Dante's Peakreleased in 1997 and featuring 7 geologists, the highest number still today, including the protagonist, a volcanologist personified by Pierce Brosnan.


However, as fascinating as they are, films about geology have never been successful, especially among industry insiders and when compared to other film categories such as drama. Alone The Oil tankers in 2007 it can be considered an exception thanks to the two Oscars it took home. In this case our geologist is represented by Daniel Day-Lewis, a reckless oilman who is willing to do anything to get rich.

The film with the most success in terms of box office receipts is Transformers 4 – Age of Extinctionwhich grossed over $1 billion against a budget of $210 million.

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