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I'm interested in movies about or related with mathematics or physics, I mean not documentaries which I also consider movies, but artistic or mainstream films about math. Now I have the following in mind:

  1. Aronofsky Pi
  2. Madden Proof
  3. Van Sant Good Will Hunting
  4. Mervyn LeRoy Madame Curie

I think those kinds of movies are inspirational stuff; I mean for kids to get interested in the power of modern mathematics. For example, I think a realistic-fiction movie about Perelman or Feynman would be very interesting and inspirational for everyone.

What stories you remind and what scientific stories would you like to see in a film?

Personally, I would like to see Grothendieck, Perelman, Claude Shannon, Janos von Neumann or Gödel. I totally think the question belongs here, is a question about math trough inspirational stuff that can rely on math education.

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    $\begingroup$ Moneyball is about statistics, very roughly. "Sneakers" is a silly movie, but it features number theory and encryption.its the only Hollywood movie I've seen which has mentioned cyclotomic integers. :) $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 3:13
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    $\begingroup$ It's odd to have accepted an answer as the best answer just one hour into a question that clearly invites lots of different answers. Also, I hate to be a party pooper, but the part about "what scientific stories would you like to see in a film" is pretty much off-topic for this site, as the FAQ says: "If your motivation for asking the question is I would like to participate in a discussion about ______, then you should not be asking here." I think you should remove that part of your question. $\endgroup$
    – user856
    Nov 22, 2012 at 4:26
  • $\begingroup$ That's totally unfair, a good answer is that one that gives to the question an answer, come on, i am not asking for the best proof of FLT, this question as it category suggest is soft and not require a wide knowledge on films or math, just asking for inspirational material, or how you would evaluate the best answer of a soft-question, relax and take it like fun, and give us your answer men, thanks $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 4:55
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    $\begingroup$ I believe that this question is a strict subset of math.stackexchange.com/questions/18843/… $\endgroup$
    – user17762
    Nov 22, 2012 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Marvis I believe that Rahul pointed out on the meta page requesting that the question be reopened that the two posts differ, that this post is not, at all, "a strict subset" of the post to which you link (unless of course, you operate in a universe in which "A is strict subset of B" does not require that for all $a \in A, \;a\in B\; \land \; A\neq B)\quad$ 8-) $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Nov 23, 2012 at 14:25

7 Answers 7

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Fermat's Room (La habitación de Fermat) is a Spanish thiller with a sequence of mathematical puzzles which need to be solved so the characters are not squashed.

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    $\begingroup$ It's possible that this movie would be of interest to a non-mathematician. As I recall, however, the puzzles were all very easy and would be known/easily solved by many mathematicians. For example, one of the puzzles was the three light bulb problem where you touch bulbs for warmness. I wish they had commissioned someone competent to come up with all new puzzles specifically for the film; watching the room occupants marvel at the novelty of these known puzzles ruined it for me. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 9:26
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In addition to the favorites Will Hunting mentions, I also love Little Man Tate. I could so relate, and it touches on the humanity behind genius.

One site maintained by A.G. Reinhold is Math in the Movies. See also his linked page Mathematicians in the Movies, a webpage dedicated to films about mathematicians, including Feymenn, (also Einstein)! Included, e.g., is a film about Alan Turing: "Breaking the Code."

Reinhold's site also provides a link to a page listing feedback and suggestions he has received from others, Letters to Math in the Movies. For example, see Stand and Deliver. This is an inspiring movie! And it is based on a true story, directly relevant to math education (as it is about a high school mathematics class in urban LA, and the teacher that inspired them).

  • Consider, also Fermat, BBC's documentary on Prof. Wiles' proof of Fermat's last therorem.

  • Also N is a Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdős.


In terms of what/who I'd like to see a motion picture devoted to: I'd like to see a motion picture and/or documentary about Georg Cantor, whose work was not not well received by many of his time, but nonetheless, revolutionized mathematics.

Also, consider the work of Ian Stewart: Symmetry, The Mathematics of Life, and others could make for wonderful films, and Stewart has written a lot of fiction as well. Perhaps he might be encouraged to work with a screenwriter to develop a screenplay based on one or more of his books.


Disclaimer: Documentarty!

See The Story of Maths, a four-part documentary presented by Oxford professor Marcus du Sautoy.

A synopsis of the fourth episode, e.g.:

The fourth episode, To Infinity and Beyond, concludes the series. After exploring Georg Cantor’s work on infinity and Henri Poincaré’s work on chaos theory, he looks at how mathematics was itself thrown into chaos by the discoveries of Kurt Gödel, who showed that the unknowable is an integral part of maths, and Paul Cohen, who established that there were several different sorts of mathematics in which conflicting answers to the same question were possible. He concludes his journey by considering the great unsolved problems of mathematics today, including the Riemann Hypothesis, a conjecture about the distribution of prime numbers. A million dollar prize and a place in the history books await anyone who can prove Riemann’s theorem.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ohh, i dont know it, i would check it, nice idea you explore about that movie $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 3:17
  • $\begingroup$ Georg Cantor story is indeed amazing, and a film on that would be amazing if is done by a good filmmaker $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 4:14
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My three favourite math movies are Proof, Good Will Hunting and A Beautiful Mind. I have watched each over 9000 times!

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    $\begingroup$ Ohhh, absolutely i totally forgot Nash film story, Thanks $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ Primer is an amazing physics film. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 3:13
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    $\begingroup$ @dineshdileep, honestly . . . Primer confused me more than anything else. $\endgroup$
    – 000
    Nov 22, 2012 at 3:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Limitless: Don't worry, the scenes near the end were supposed to be confusing, in order to convey the fact that time travel would inevitably lead to situations for which it is impossible to feasibly retrace the causal explanations and arcs behind events, even from the birds-eye-view of a film audience. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Nov 22, 2012 at 3:27
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    $\begingroup$ @anon, are you serious? That's mindblowing. You learn something new every day . . . $\endgroup$
    – 000
    Nov 22, 2012 at 3:29
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If you are into Musical comedy, there is Fermat's Last Tango which I found pretty funny.

The lyrics "And your proof contains a big fat hole" stays long enough in your head once you've heard it ;)

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  • $\begingroup$ And what story would you like to watch on a film? $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe we should make the real "Life of Pi" movie. More seriously Perhaps de early developpment of probability, something along the lines of the correspondance between Fermat and Pascal, how it came to life. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 11:20
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Maybe this site will help as it has a bunch of movies that had anything math related: http://www.math.harvard.edu/~knill/mathmovies/

Also, http://www.imdb.com/list/0sB16SJc2u4/

Others: http://www.math.unl.edu/~bharbourne1/MathInTheMovies.html

http://world.std.com/~reinhold/mathmovies.html

http://www.qedcat.com/moviemath/index.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_about_mathematicians

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  • $\begingroup$ Woww thanks, but now tell me, what story would you like to see? $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ I would love to see a movie that shows one of the main areas that we mathematicians are interested in, namely, the study of symmetry. This movie would show the absolute beauty that nature herself uses and how we use mathematics to search and describe this symmetry. There is much that can be explored and discussed from flowers, art, architecture, music, human body, dna, crystals, microscopic organisms, universe, multiverse and many others. Conclusion, mathematics is beautiful! $\endgroup$
    – Amzoti
    Nov 22, 2012 at 4:06
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that would be amazing $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 4:07
  • $\begingroup$ Math movies!! Stand and Deliver is one of my faves. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    May 18, 2013 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ I completely agree. I think students' struggle with math is by far less a matter of aptitude than it is about acquired "attitude" and acquired (erroneous) beliefs about what math is, and misperceptions about their aptitudes. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    May 18, 2013 at 1:05
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A film which was well received and might interest you is "The death of a neapolitan mathematician" (Morte di un matematico napoletano, an italian film---details easily recoverable on IMDB). This is a feature film (not a documentary) on the tragic last days of the mathematician Renato Cacciopoli---apart from his mathematical achievements, his was a life story which makes that of most fictional characters seem boringly banal.

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A short film called Rites of love and math by Edward Frenkel

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