My Math Movie Picks

Actually, these Math Movie Picks aren't really picks, just movies I've come across that in some form involve math, math teachers, mathematicians, etc. Let me know if there are any I've missed! I haven't had a chance to preview the ones marked with an asterisk, so I make no guarantees about their offensiveness (of course, I make no guarantees about any of them except that there is some sort of math connection). Moreover, in some instances I excluded a movie with a math connection, if the connection was sufficiently weak, but some of those listed below still may have pretty tenuous connections to mathematics.

In each case I give a blurb highlighting the connection to mathematics (such as it may be) and a link to a database entry for the film. Of the two databases linked to, TV Guide has better movie descriptions but E Online has more movies/videos in its database. Yet another movie database can be found here. Also, here is another math-movies site that may be of interest.

The Movies

Cube (1997)

A movie in which factoring numbers and Cartesian coordinates figure. (This movie was pointed out to me by Chris Kabes and Alina Harbourne.)

*Little Man Tate (1991)

Jodie Foster movie concerning her character's son, who proves to be a math genius. (This movie was pointed out to me by Chris Kabes.)

*The Bank (2001)

It┤s about a mathematician who works at a big and powerful bank. He develops software which uses Chaos Theory to predict stock market behaviour. Beautiful digital plots of predictions, with complex integrals involved (most of them well used...). (This was contributed by Niels Hernandez. Here is a link to the movie web site: www.cinemaguild.com/thebank/)

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Biographical movie about John Nash, who did some wide ranging work in mathematics, and battled schizophrenia but won a Nobel prize in economics. The mathematical consultant, Dave Bayer, appears in the movie in the penning scene. He was also the one who wrote down much of the math seen in the movie, and was the hand double in some of the scenes where you see Nash writing. The DVD includes an interview with Nash himself, and shows part of the ceremony awarding him the Noble prize.

*Infinity (1996)

Stars Matthew Broderick, Patricia Arquette. A biopic on Richard Feynman, Nobel prize winning physicist and inventor of certain path integrals well studied in mathematics but not well defined.

*A Hill on the Dark Side of the Moon (1983)

About mathematician Sonia Kovalevskaya (for whom the Russians named a mountain on the far side of the moon).

*Morte di un Matematico Napoletano (Italian, 1992)

Director Mario Martone. The story (as best as I can tell) of an important Italian mathematician (Renato Caccioppoli) reminiscing in the last week of his life, before committing suicide.

*N Is a Number (1993)

Diector George Paul 'Duke' Csicsery. A 57 minute documentary about Paul Erdos, a peripatetic mathematician with innumerable publications, after whom Erdos numbers are named.

*Evariste Galois (1965)

Director Alexandre Astruc. A movie about math phenom Evariste Galois, who died young in a duel.

*Non ho tempo (1973: No More Time)

An Italian film, directed by Ansano Giannarelli, released in 1973; it's a biopic of Evariste Galois, focusing especially on his political engagement. It's shot both in black/white and color and it's made in a quite experimental directorial style. You may find basic datas about it on IMDb.com or www.cinematografo.it (in Italian). Contributed by Antonio Napoleone.

In the Navy (1941)

Abbott and Costello. Near the end of the movie, Costello, a cook in the ship's galley, tells Abbott he can't have any of the 28 doughnuts he's made, because he needs all 28 to give 13 officers 7 doughnuts each. Abbott is doubtful, so Costello gives several proofs (at a blackboard) that 7x13=28. An amusing lesson in the importance of place value.

*Insignificance

Marilyn Monroe on her hands and knees explains the theory of relativity to Albert Einstein. 1985. Directed by Nicholas Roeg. Cast: Michael Emil, Theresa Russell, Tony Curtis, Gary Busey, Will Sampson,... (*OK, relativity is physics, maybe shouldn't be counted with math.... *) [Contributed by David Fowler.]

*Una Pura formalitÓ. (1994)

with Roman Polanski, and GÚrard Depardieu. Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. Depardieu is a murder suspect being interrogated by the village police. After they bash his face against a desk a few times, they show him a picture of his high school geometry teacher. Depardieu gives a lovely reminiscence of the professor's description of two parallel lines stretching out to meet at an ideal infinite point. [Contributed by David Fowler.]

Good Will Hunting

Fields medalist fights therapist for young man's soul. TV Guide

*Straw Dogs

Mathematician fights for life and wife. TV Guide E Online

Presumed Innocent

Math grad student fights for love. TV Guide E Online

It's my turn

Group theorist fights attraction for ball-player. TV Guide

Stand and Deliver

Math teacher fights social conditioning in barrio. TV Guide

Jurassic Park

Mathematician fights dinosaurs. TV Guide

Lost World

Mathematician fights for dinosaurs. TV Guide

Sneakers

Number theorist fights for his chip. E Online

The Phantom Tollbooth

Numbers fight letters in cartoon universe. E Online

Antonia's Line

Not much fighting but some algebraic topology. TV Guide

Matilda

Children's movie; a plot point involves Matilda multiplying large numbers in her head. E Online

*The Shy and The Naked

A student film about a mathematician who is attracted to an artist.

*Late Bloomers

High school geometry and women's basketball. TV Guide

*The Constant Factor

Amateur mathematician fights communist system. TV Guide

*The Devil's Wanton

Former math teacher gets out of asylum. TV Guide

*She Wrote the Book

Conservative midwestern university mathematician and her zany amnesiac New York City adventure. TV Guide

*The Mirror Has Two Faces

Jeff Bridges teaches math and "longs for a sexless union that will not distract him from his work"; Barbra Streisand is the "ugly duckling". TV Guide

Breaking the Code

An exploration of Alan Turing. (Contributed by R. Rebarber.) E Online

*Pi

A movie whose main character is a deranged mathematician. (Contributed by R. Rebarber.)

Donald [Duck that is] in Mathmagic Land

Mathemagical cartoon duckumentary. (Contributed by J. Walker.) E Online

*Sphere

Samuel L. Jackson's character is a mathematician.E Online

*Homage

A film about a mathematics Ph.D. (Frank Whaley) who, rather unbelievably, turns down an offer from Princeton to be a handyman on Blythe Danner's farm and ends up murdering her daughter (Sheryl Lee), a TV star. His lawyer is played by Bruce Davison--the best actor in the film. It's worth seeing--far better than, say, "It's My Turn". (Contributed by W. E. Lang.) TV Guide E Online

*Anything by Paul Verhoeven

The connection here (which is pretty tenuous) is Verhoeven's phd in mathematics (thanks to W. E. Lang for this information).
E Online Biography
Filmzone Biography
Mr. ShowBiz Bio
Facts in French

STARSHIP TROOPERS, 1997
SHOWGIRLS, 1995
BASIC INSTINCT, 1992
TOTAL RECALL, 1990
ROBOCOP, 1987
FLESH + BLOOD, 1985
SPETTERS, 1980
FOURTH MAN, THE, 1979
SOLDIER OF ORANGE, 1977


Various Videos

Other items

It might be of interest to track other occurrences of math or mathematicians in popular culture (books, TV, etc.). For example, on some episode of Star Trek TNG, Picard discusses Fermat's Last Theorem, but I no longer remember which episode. I've also just learned from a visitor to this site that the TV series "La Femme Nikitta" has an episode titled "Fuzzy Logic" where a young and rebel mathematician is drafted into the organization.

Feedback

Mail Comments to: bharbour@math.unl.edu