11 Great Math Movies

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By J. Sánchez

Ir a la versión en EspañolAbout the Autor

We are looking for movies starring math people, which is, people whom understanding of the abstraction of nature determine their life path. Here we will find movies about inspiring stories (like the one with the high school math teacher), or violent thrillers (like Straw Dogs), or entertaining experiences (like the boy who participates in the International Mathematics Olympiad), and even biopics (like the history of the Greek mathematician Hypatia). But above all, these movies will make you think beyond the merely show of mathematical symbols on the screen.


1. A Beautiful Mind (2001) directed by Ron Howard. The movie tells the life of the American mathematician John Nash, who has to deal, among other problems, with his schizophrenia episodes.

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2. X+Y (2014), directed by Morgan Matthews. A brilliant boy is chosen to represent Great Britain in the International Mathematical Olympiad.

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3. Straw Dogs (1971), directed by Sam Peckinpah. This film is part of the ultra-violence trilogy, along with A Clockwork Orange. Here, a mathematician who lives in a small town has to fight against the attack of angry workmen.

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4. Agora (2009), directed by Alejandro Amenábar and screened at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. It is a biopic about the Greek mathematician and philosopher Hypatia.

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5. Good Will Hunting (1997), directed by Gus Van Sant. The movie make us think about the question: Do we have to develop a talent just because we have it?

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6. Stand and Deliver (1988), directed by Ramón Menéndez. Based on the true story of high school math teacher Jaime Escalante, when he starts to work with problematic teenagers in Los Angeles.

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7. Contact (1997) directed by Robert Zemeckis. It is a film adaptation of the homonym novel of the astrophysicist Carl SaganThe brilliant scientist Ellie Arroway, after years of fighting to maintain the budget for her laboratory, discovers what could be an evidence of extraterrestrial life.

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8. Jurassic Park (1993), directed by Steven Spielberg. The concepts of Chaos Theory and Cool are put together by the mathematician Ian Malcolm, who can anticipates inestabilities in complex systems. But, the best thing about this movie is that the plot happens in Costa Rica!

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9. Little Man Take (1991), first movie in the director career of Jodie Foster. How to raise a prodigy child? Is there a balance between a normal childhood and the developing of high cognitive skills?

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10. Pi (1998) directed and written by the director of Requiem for a Dream, Darren Aronofsky. Surrealist and eccentric, in this story everything is in the decimal’s irrationality.

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11. Proof (2005) directed by John Madden and starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins and Jake Gyllenhaal. In the middle of her research, the young mathematician Catherine has to control the mental ill of his father.

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Most of these movies are film adaptations of novels and plays. So, if you liked the movie… why don’t read the book as well? In general, the book contains more interesting information about the story, for example, a great explanation of Chaos Theory appears in Jurassic Park novel version. Also in this book, one of the chapters is titled Puntarenas, my hometown.

After make this list, we have found a little problem: the lack of female mathematician characters in movies. But we hope there will be more movies about women in maths.

Finally, note that we don’t talk about documentaries, only biopics. And don’t forget that even they are based on true stories they have added fictional parts. So, they can easily exaggerate. But don’t worry, this do not affect the fact that they are still worth watching. 

Have a nice movie!

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