Your favorite maker scenes/MacGyver moments

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Your favorite maker scenes/MacGyver moments


Back in January, when we were kicking around ideas for monthly themes, and the movie making theme, Statff Editor Arwen O’Reilly Griffith sent out the following email about a great “maker scene” in a film. This got me thinking. There are probably a lot of such moments in films, some in movies otherwise best forgotten, of characters showing cool hacks, making-something-from-nothing MacGyver moments, and the like. When I was a kid, movies like The Great Escape, Swiss Family Robinson, and wacky TV fare like Hogan’s Heroes, Gilligan’s Island, and Wild, Wild, West fed my maker fantasies. In honor of tomorrow night’s Academy Awards, what are some of your favorite “maker scenes” in films? Post ’em in the comments. — Gareth

Arwen writes:

The film Sahara (it was lousy) has some awesome scene in it. The main character and his sidekick have managed to escape their shackles in the back of a pickup truck and have trekked across the desert. Just as they’re about to give up hope, they crest a sand dune and discover the ruins of a crashed plane. The hero says: “I bet you $100 there’s a toolkit somewhere in there…” His sidekick says, “I hate to burst your insane bubble, but I don’t think we’re going to get this thing to work.”

Then there’s a glorious scene of the two of them racing across the desert in the jerry-rigged plane. They use the one remaining wing as a sail and balance in on one working wheel. It’s awesome!!! Makers at their best, and ALMOST worth the rest of the film :-)



20 thoughts on “Your favorite maker scenes/MacGyver moments

  1. Bob A. says:

    I don’t remember details, but “F/X” impressed me as a film where the hero (a special effects engineer – Mythbusters, anyone?) saves himself by building things.

    “Flight of the Phoenix” is a great maker movie (the original – I haven’t seen the remake and can’t vouch for it).

    The recent “Iron Man” movie really seemed to glorify engineering. I loved it.

    “The Prestige” was about makers, but I’m sorry to say it got too ridiculous for me to sit through it. “How” you may ask “can you praise Iron Man while criticizing The Prestige for ridiculousness?” Well, “Iron Man” was fantasy from the beginning. But I went into “The Prestige” expecting something plausible.

  2. Bob A. says:

    Oh, and how about “The Swiss Family Robinson” for a little treepunk?

  3. Dave says:

    How about “Real Genius” or “Manhattan Project?” Full of Val Kilmer and John Lithgow Maker goodness, respectively.

  4. Simon says:

    I wonder if the A Team movie will have any of the original series, locked in a shed, maker goodness?

    I used to think that was so fake till I stopped and looked around my own garage once. Old vehicle – check. Random metal lying about – check. Oxy-Acytelene welding gear – Check.

    It’s a film I fear for. Kind of like when they remade The Avengers and failed miserably. But will wait to see before judging!

    Would Conderman count as a maker film? Does anyone even remember that!

  5. Kaspar Bumke says:

    that’s nothing against two 13 year old boys building a desert sailing vehicle when they are stranded in the film karakum:

    some screenshots:

    Overall this is quite a good children’s film as well.

  6. Gareth Branwyn says:

    When I was a kid and first saw The Great Escape, it sent me off on a quest to find out the real historical basis of famous prison breaks (during WWII and beyond). I was so blown away by the ingenuity of prisoners, creating documents using shoelace tips as pens and bootblack as ink, carving fake guns out of soap, tunneling, etc. It’s amazing what the human imagination can dream up when survival is at stake.

    BTW: The Wikipedia entry on Stalag Luft III (site of “the Great Escape”) is worth reading.

    Here’s an excerpt about what camp officials discovered after the break out:

    Following the escape, the Germans took an inventory of the camp and found out just how extensive the operation had been. 4,000 bed boards had gone missing, as well as the complete disappearance of 90 double bunk beds, 635 mattresses, 192 bed covers, 161 pillow cases, 52 20-man tables, 10 single tables, 34 chairs, 76 benches, 1,212 bed bolsters, 1,370 beading battens, 1219 knives, 478 spoons, 582 forks, 69 lamps, 246 water cans, 30 shovels, 1,000 feet (300 m) of electric wire, 600 feet (180 m) of rope, and 3424 towels. 1,700 blankets had been used, along with more than 1,400 Klim tins.[19] The electric cable had been stolen after being left unattended by German workers; as they had not reported the theft, they were executed by the Gestapo.[citation needed] From then on each bed was supplied with only nine bed boards which were counted regularly by the guards.

    1. Simon says:

      OK, a little off topic but my favourite WW2 escape story, which is also a great maker story, is the one about the Colditz Cock.

      Basically they constructed a secret room at the top of Colditz castle and build a glider from scavenged materials designed to fly from the roof to safety. The whole thing sounds wonderful right down to the Wile E. Coyote style launching mechanism of a bathtub filled with concrete pulling a rope over a pulley!

      Years later they built a replica and proved it would fly.

  7. Randofo says:

    In terms of Maker movies, I cast a vote for one of my favorite Japanese post-apocalyptic avant-noise-rock movies, Eli Eli Lema Sabachthani. There are some great scenes of DIY instrument making (not to mention its beautifully shot).

    And also, can’t forget WarGames… which makes me think of Hackers… which makes me think I should have stopped while I was ahead.

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      Yeah, it’s hard to imagine to degree of impact that WarGames had on hacker culture.

      And hey, Hackers gave us Angelina Jolie.

      And there was Sneakers…

  8. says:

    I’m showing up way late to this party, I know, but I can’t believe no one mentioned this one:

    (Making a Carbon Filter Scene from Apollo 13)

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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