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Civil Engineers on Film

Civil Engineers on Film

One of the things I’m most likely to be found complaining about is the profession’s lack of media attention. Where are the highly dramatized TV shows about the day-to-day lives of Civil Engineers, and when was the last time a Civil Engineer saved the world from a prime-time intergalactic threat?

This weeks blog post pays tribute to five (possibly the only five) film and television characters who were civil engineers…

William “Bill” Davis

Family Affair, US Television Series (1966 – 1971)

Anissa Jones, Sebastian Cabot and Johnny Whitaker (from left)

Bil Davis: Engineering Playboy (worryingly)

You know it’s going to be a desperate list when you have to go almost fifty years back… Still ‘Bill’ Davis is an inspiration to Civil Engineers: developing major projects across the world while still maintaining his Playboy lifestyle. At this juncture I should point out: I’ve yet to meet a Civil Engineer who has time for a lifestyle, let alone a Playboy one…


2012, Hollywood Movie (2009; confusingly)


2012 – Home of Fake Science

A true hero of the profession. Both unnamed and uncredited, and apparently unlocatable on the internet; nevertheless this five-second incidental character makes his mark. When asked by the protagonist “are you a scientist”, this luminary bastion responds: “No, I’m a Civil Engineer”.

Captian Reeves and Major Hughes

The Bridge on the River Kwai, British/American Film (1957)

Bridge over the River Kwai

The Actual Bridge Over The River Kwai

Credited as being one of the best films of all time, The Bridge on the River Kwai is ultimately about building a bridge (and some other drama stuff). Although the installation is military, and therefore the men were not, in the strictest sense of the word, Civil Engineers; such pedantry cannot be afforded of these baron pickings…

Michael Scofield

Prison Break, US Television Series (2005 – 2009)

Michael Scofield

Michael The Broody Engineer

I bet this was the first character most of the people reading thought of. Michael is a structural engineer; albeit one who works for a prison-building architectural firm as an easy explanation as to why he can just pickup the plans for the jail holding his brother. Still, a win’s a win.

Richard Hannay

The Thirty-Nine Steps, British Film (1935, remade: 1959, 1978, 2008)

TedDeasy Richard Hannay

Hannay- What All Engineers Wear To Work

Perhaps one of the most remade films in the world (unjustified fact), The Thirty-Nine Steps is the first of five novels featuring mining engineer and action-hero Richard Hannay. (Civil Engineering is a wide umbrella, and mining works easily fit within it).

So that’s it, the only five Civil Engineering “stars” of the silver screens. I’m more than interested if anyone can dig-up anymore!

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  1. John Chard, another military engineer, ended up in command at Rorke’s Drift and is thus one of the main characters of the film Zulu.

  2. Andrew

    problem with civil engineers: You only think of them if something goes wrong.

    • Yes, the mantra: “Replacement Bus Service Due To Engineering Work” gives me power :).

  3. Jim

    I’ve always thought you could make an interesting show about a forensic engineer, and call it “Quincy, P.E.”

    I just gave away my age, didn’t I?

    • I’d watch it- although a town with structures collapsing everywhere would make Midsummer look almost safe by compassion!

  4. David Oster

    Don’t forget Hank Reardon in Atlas Shrugged. Among his other achievements, he designed the signature bridge on the John Galt rail line.

    • Amazing, I hadn’t heard of Atlas Shrugged, but it sounds really interesting; I’ll add that to me reading list!

      Thanks- Looks like I’ll have to do a Part 2 of this one.

  5. Here’s one about a structural engineer and 20th century superstructures playing on PBS in USA and PBS America in the UK/Ireland: Bridging Urban America- The Story of Ralph Modjeski (Documentary)


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