Maths in the Movies — Our Top 10

13 December 2016
Maths in the Movies — Our Top 10

As Christmas is fast approaching, we decided to compile a list of cinematic gems with a Mathematical theme to keep you entertained over the holiday period. Did we miss your favourite? Let us know on twitter @createatest

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In a nutshell, this is a film about the struggles of a young, autistic mathematical genius (Nathan) in the aftermath of his father’s death. Not one we’d recommend screening as an end-of-term treat for your class, unless you want to leave them all in tears. It is however well worth a place on the movie night watch list of anyone with a heart and/or an interest in maths and is available on Netflix UK.


Good Will Hunting

The film’s protagonist Will Hunting is not a Mathematician per se, but there is enough Maths content in this film to merit its place here. An exceptional film starring Robin Williams at his brilliant best. If you haven’t already seen it then forget the rest of the list—just go and watch it now. Also on Netflix UK.


A Beautiful Mind

A great drama, loosely based on the life of John Nash; mathematical genius and Nobel Laureate in Economics. Criticised by many for taking artistic licence with the truth, this film still won four Academy Awards. Taken as a work of fiction rather than a biography, it’s a fascinating depiction of a man’s struggle with success and schizophrenia.


Imitation Game

An excellent example for any teacher wishing to demonstrate the importance of Mathematics, or the indefensibility of homophobia. This extraordinary film manages to be uplifting and inspiring whilst at the same time sickening and saddening. An excellent warts-and-all portrayal of an important chapter in British history.



Statisticians rejoice! A stark departure from the “troubled genius struggles with his own brilliance” formula of most of the films on this list, this film shows that Maths can be employed to make loads of money. And that you can look like Brad Pitt whilst doing it. Stats have never been so cool.


Rain Man

Returning to the “troubled genius struggles with his own brilliance” formula once more, here is arguably the original and best film of its kind. This is one of those classic films that people look at you with distain for having not watched, so it’s perhaps best if you do. Available on Netflix UK.


Die Hard III

Our guess is that you’d probably never think to look to the Die Hard series for an opening activity for your class. The third instalment of the series offered up a great one though in the form of it’s water jug riddle. The film doesn't really explain the solution, but you can use the clip to set the task and the link below explains two possible solutions in detail. This one’s sure to get their brains whirring—don’t be surprised by shouts of “Yippee Ki Yay" when they crack it.



Starring Gwyneth Paltrow and based on David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, Proof is the story of a young Mathematician who struggles with living in the shadow of her father—an acclaimed Mathematician himself—whilst caring for him at the same time.



This film was the directorial debut of Darren Aronofsky and is a surrealist psychological thriller about a mathematician and his obsession with mathematical regularity. Shot entirely in black and white and likely to leave you with more questions than answers, this isn’t one to snooze through on Sunday afternoon. If you’re looking for a challenging watch though and like your films more on the weird side, this is the one for you.



A Jason Statham film about Maths? This must be some sort of mistake, surely? In all honesty, the maths content in this one is minimal. But it does have numbers in it which is good enough for me. Time to remove your brain, recline your chair and enjoy the absurdity.



And finally…

Ok, so the following aren’t films, but these two clips from US TV brilliantly answer the age old student question which all teachers dread: “When will I ever need to know this in the real world?”


Person of Interest



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