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I would like to watch a movie about mathematics/mathematicians (english/french language is OK, italian would be the best! Both real and invented stories are OK, maybe I would prefer something based on a real story). Well, I know maybe just the most famous ones:

  1. A beatiful mind (who doesn't know it?!)

  2. The proof (by the way, do you know whether or not it is based on a real story?)

  3. Will Hunting

  4. "Morte di un matematico napoletano" (I am sorry, I don't know the english name. It's the story of the Italian mathematician Renato Caccioppoli)

  5. "Pi"

Are there any other? Any suggestion?

Thanks in advance

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closed as off topic by Igor Rivin, Qiaochu Yuan, Tom Church, Andrés E. Caicedo, Dan Petersen Oct 6 '11 at 7:29

Questions on MathOverflow are expected to relate to research level mathematics within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

The original title of 5 is Pi This question definitely should be community wiki; edit and check the box. – user9072 Oct 5 '11 at 19:31
This should be community wiki (if it should be open at all). I am voting to close until it is. – Igor Rivin Oct 5 '11 at 19:31
ok I am changing the title right away and making community wiki – Valerio Capraro Oct 5 '11 at 19:33
Just one more calrification: are you also interested in documentary films. Like N is a Number: A portrait of Paul Erdos – user9072 Oct 5 '11 at 19:38
Schemes, Variety, Intersection, Multiplicity, Blowup, Krull, Mumford... – Allen Knutson Oct 6 '11 at 7:53

14 Answers 14

Oliver Knill at Harvard seems to have compiled a nice list here:

Not all the links are solely about math though. Some of them are just clips that have to do with math. However, one of the films listed, Fermat's Room,, has got to have the weirdest premise ever:

Four mathematicians who do not know each other are invited by a mysterious host on the pretext of resolving a great enigma. The room in which they find themselves turns out to be a shrinking room that will crush them if they do not discover in time what connects them all and why someone might wish to murder them.

Let's just say that I couldn't stop laughing for about a minute after I read this.

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For all that, it's not a bad movie. – Gerry Myerson Oct 5 '11 at 23:03
Yeah, I was just joking about it with some of my students and apparently one of them had seen it! – Christopher A. Wong Oct 5 '11 at 23:32
Sounds like Cube, but where the whole cast is mathematicians. – Ryan Reich Oct 6 '11 at 2:49
Fermat's Room is the source of one of my favourite maths riddles: A mother is 21 years older than her son. In six years, the son will be one-fifth the age of the mother. Question: What is the boy's father currently doing? – Simon Lyons Oct 6 '11 at 13:03
that's a really nice riddle! In fact, at the end I watched Fermat's room yesterday night. – Valerio Capraro Oct 6 '11 at 14:21

Alex Kasman has a section of math-themed movies in his excellent "Mathematical Fiction" website,

One of my favorites is the Tina Fey movie "Mean Girls," which culminates in Lindsay Lohan taking part in a high school math competition.

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Thanks for mentioning "Mean Girls", where Lindsay Lohan has to choose between hanging out with the cool girls and preparing for the prom or practicing with the math team. My favorite line is the reaction Lohan gets every time she mentions the math team, "The math team? But that's social suicide!" – Deane Yang Oct 6 '11 at 1:52

It's not a movie, but the creator of the show Futurama is a computer scientist and one of the writers is a mathematician. It has quite a bit of mathematics in it, and a new combinatorics result was even proven to resolve the plot of the episode "The Prisoner of Benda"!

Here is a website devoted to the mathematics of Futurama:

In case you can't tell, I like Futurama.

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Now that it's CW: there is the famous "It's my turn", where Jill Clayburgh proves the snake lemma.

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thank you very much. (sorry if I didn't put CW at the beginning.. I was thinking about that, but I didn't know the rule and so I have preferred to wait for someone's suggestion) – Valerio Capraro Oct 5 '11 at 19:46
Unfortunately, one can't seem to un-vote to close. I have done the next best thing and voted to reopen. – Igor Rivin Oct 6 '11 at 9:52
thank you! It's anyway quite strange that they closed the topic. Sometimes I don't understand the logic behind the closure of a topic. – Valerio Capraro Oct 6 '11 at 10:03

N Is a Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdös

This is a documentary film.

It is a while since I last saw it if I rememeber right many interviews with well-known mathematicians (cf. Cast on the linked site), some video snippets from lectures and so on. If one is interested in information on and around Paul Erdős I definitely recommend it, if not, maybe rather not.

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I am surprised no-one has mentioned the sexy movie by Ed Frenkel, "Rites of Love and Math"

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As far as I understood, I did not really follow this nor did I see it, some people found it more sexist than sexy. A review: – user9072 Oct 5 '11 at 20:46
I didn't have a chance to see it either. I would love to. – mrw Oct 5 '11 at 20:48
Some people did find it more sexist than sexy. But some people like to complain unnecessarily. Especially in Berkeley. Especially those who didn't actually see the movie. – Amit Kumar Gupta Oct 5 '11 at 20:56
It's formatted like a silent film of a Noh play, and based on an obscure film by Yukio Mishima. These facts alone make it challenging for a modern Western viewer to issue sensible criticism. Interesting to note that Mishima's wife didn't want the original film released—likely not because of how it treated women, but because of how it treated harakiri. – Andrew Dudzik Oct 6 '11 at 16:51

In connection with the Knill list, certainly "Straw Dogs" is as much about mathematicians as 5/6th of the movies on his list.

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Actually, he is an astrophysicist in the movie (on the blackboard in his office there is $F=MA,$ which is, of course, what astrophysicists must remind themselves of continuously. And no, the film is about what happens to nice people when you really tick them off (there is no real dark side to Hoffman's character). – Igor Rivin Oct 5 '11 at 20:19
From Wikipedia: ... David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman), a timid American mathematician. ... Hoffman agreed to do the film because he was intrigued by the character, a pacifist unaware of his feelings and potential for violence that were the very same feelings he abhorred in society. ... that David is the story's true villain — deliberately, yet subconsciously, provoking the violence, his concluding homicidal rampage is his true self. – Countably Infinite Oct 5 '11 at 20:28
Well, the wikipedia and I disagree (not the first time :)) – Igor Rivin Oct 5 '11 at 20:30
@Igor: You know you can change wikipedia, right? – Felipe Voloch Oct 6 '11 at 0:38
You know that there are two versions of Straw Dogs, right? – Christopher A. Wong Oct 6 '11 at 2:34

Two of the Roberto Rosselini bio-pics have mathematician as subject ...
Blaise Pascal

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Not exactly "about mathematics", but a romance with a mathematician hero (working on the twin prime conjecture, if I recall):

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This answer is only 50% correct: the movie is a remake of a French one (Le miroir à deux faces), in which there is no mathematician. – Denis Serre Oct 6 '11 at 6:59
I did not recommend the French version... – Margaret Friedland Oct 6 '11 at 14:22

Not exactly "about mathematics" either, but it features a discussion of Lagrange multipliers:

The Constant Factor (Polish: Constans) is a 1980 Polish film directed by Krzysztof Zanussi.(At least the last name of the director is Italian...) Since it won some prizes, there may be an Italian or English version around, but I do not know where to find it.

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BBC's documentary 'Dangerous Knowledge'

Documentary about four of the most brilliant mathematicians of all time, Georg Cantor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing, their genius, their tragic madness and their ultimate suicides.

EDIT: It is free to watch actually:

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Boltzmann was a mathematician?!? That's like saying Einstein was a mathematician. Weird. – KConrad Oct 5 '11 at 23:40

'The Oxford murders'??

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Agora (2009) starring Rachel Weisz as Hypatia.

Directed by Alejandro Amenabar, this film contains the best depiction of what it is like to do mathematics that I have seen in a movie. It's also beautifully filmed.

Spoiler alert! Stop reading now if you plan to see the movie.


The writers chose to (very likely!) bend facts by suggesting that Hypatia deduced that planets orbit in ellipses just before she was stoned to death. Her struggle, however, to solve this problem is given in vignettes stretching over a significant period of time culminating in a great Aha! moment.

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