The classic problem of heat flow in multilayer film structures has been revisited from the perspective of engineering applications for fields such as optical storage media design, laser annealing of semiconductor materials, electron beam lithography, and ion implantation. A compact recursive structure N‐layer Green’s function is developed from the coupled partial differential equations of thermal conduction. Temperature profiles are calculated for the absorption of normally incident continuous and pulsed‐Gaussian‐beam irradiation, on both static and moving media, with variable absorption across the source layer. General beam, amplitude‐time dependencies can be calculated with this formalism; however, only simple rectangular pulses are treated in the text. General N‐layer solutions are developed, and compact, recursive‐integral formulas, whose evaluation is enhanced with modern computer languages such as c and apl, are derived. In addition, we offer a clear physical interpretation of the results expressed by the mathematics, which is a key element that aids successful application of the results to engineering design problems. The physics illuminated by the mathematics suggests a path toward optimal design of the media for enhanced performance, irrespective of the specific application.