The Formula (1980) with George C. Scott and Marlon Brando is one of the first major oil films released after the 1970s oil shocks. Rather than presenting the very positive side of oil the way most pre-1970s films did, this film clearly responds to the crisis. It features many negative oil clichés. The villainous and greedy CEO of a Big Oil company is willing to hold the world hostage to make a profit. National security risks loom from the Middle East. Mysterious intrigue and murder surround the high stakes global oil game.
The film’s first energy element is a method to turn coal into gasoline, the titular formula. However, the McGuffin is hardly mysterious or hidden; it’s the Fisher-Tropsch process. And, the movie is correct in reporting that the formula was employed by Nazi Germany during the Second World War as a way to overcome oil shortages. Beyond that, the plot requires complete suspension of disbelief as it makes a swift departure from plausible reality.