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Top 10 math movies

Math has never made for a major subject for the movies. Maybe there’s an assumption that as many people don’t enjoy math as a school subject, they won’t seek for quality homework assignment help or enjoy movies about it either. But it’s unlikely to be the truth because there is hardly a person who doesn’t enjoy the play of Russell Crowe as a brilliant mathematician in “A beautiful mind” or one that doesn’t ponder over “It is only in the mysterious equation of love that any logical reasons can be found.” When it comes to movies about math, there’s quite a mixed bag. You may not enjoy math at school, you may find it difficult or even daunting, but after watching top math movies, such as “The number 23”, you will always wonder if “A number is just a number”.


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1 – Good Will Hunting

Will Hunting is a humble janitor plucked from obscurity when it is realized he is a math genius. As the tag line hints at “Some people can never believe in themselves, until someone believes in them”. Robin Williams plays mentor to this troubled man with psychological issues. He helps him find peace with his troubles and gives him direction in life

  • This movie won two Oscars from nine nominations: one for Robin Williams as Best Actor in a Supporting role and the other for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for Screenplay.
  • Damon and Affleck dedicate the film to Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs in the end credits.
  • The film contains some great unscripted and as lib lines – Robin William’s final line for example. The whole farting scene was unscripted.
  • The painting on the wall of Sean the psychiatrist’s office was in fact, painted by the film’s director Gus Van Sant.
  • The movie earned back its $10 million budget on its opening weekend.

2 – Sphere

Calling Dr. Halperine… Dr. Beth Halperine… Please return to reality.” In Sphere, a 300 year old alien device is found at the bottom of the ocean that allows a person’s thoughts and dreams to become a reality. The device is a mathematically perfect sphere (or at least the movie intimates that it is).

  • As the tag line stated – “Terror can fill any space”
  • With luminaries Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L Jackson as the headliners, this movie is simply exciting
  • Sphere is based on a novel by Michael Crichton (of Jurassic Park fame)
  • Joseph Hahn, the DJ who works with rock band Linkin Park, designed the sea snake in the movie
  • Samuel L Jackson worked on the movie Jackie Brown at the weekends and Sphere on week days.

3 – A Beautiful Mind

Man is capable of as much atrocity as he has imagination.” This movie is based very loosely on the autobiographical story of real life Nobel Prize Winner John Nash.

  • The film focuses on his schizophrenia and mathematical genius although he was most well known for his game theory, differential geometry and partial differential equations.
  • A Beautiful Mind won four Oscars including Best Picture.
  • Many believe Russell Crowe should have won the 2002 Oscar for Best Actor for this performance but he lost out to Denzel Washington – the year Black American actors scored a double coup as Halle Berry took home the golden statue for Best Actress.
  • Rumor has it that Tom Cruise was originally offered the part of John Nash
  • They used the wrong American flag in the movie. At the time of the setting, there were 48 states – the flag used had 50 stars.

4 – The Number 23

A number is just a number. Or is it?” In a marked departure from his scatty roles, in this movie, Jim Carrey plays a man that is haunted by the number 23, spurred on by a novel named The Number 23.

  • The final title card delivers a quote from the Bible, from Numbers 32:23 “Be sure your sin will find you out.”
  • Fun fact – the soundtrack was composed by David Sylvian, the former front man of ‘80s band Japan.
  • There are dozens of references and connections to “23”in the movie including NED the dog. N is the 14th letter of the alphabet; E is the fifth; and D is the fourth. 14 + 5 + 4 = 23.
  • One of the quotes is worthy of William S Burroughs himself (he partly inspired it) “There’s no such thing as destiny. There are only different choices. Some choices are easy, some aren’t. Those are the really important ones, the ones that define us as people.”
  • The unrated version of The Number 23 is 3 minutes longer than the R-rated version.

5- Rain Man

Raymond Babbitt is a semi-functioning, autistic savant man able to count things very quickly and memorize numbers. This is “a journey through understanding and fellowship” and among his adventures with his brother Charlie, he is taken to Las Vegas to count cards on the Blackjack tables.

  • Rain Man won 4 Oscars, including best actor for Dustin Hoffman in the title role
  • Babbitt will not fly and claims Qantas is the safest airline. All airlines other than Qantas cut this line from the film for it to be shown as the in-flight movie. Qantas is STILL the world’s safest airline in 2014.
  • Rain Man was Hans Zimmer’s first Hollywood score. Zimmer has since achieved 92 credits for music in movies, including an Oscar win for The Lion King.
  • It is estimated that the sales of Ray-bans increased by 15% thanks to Tom Cruise’s character wearing them in the movie.
  • I’m an excellent driver” remains one of the memorable film quotes repeated around the world.

6 – Enigma

Although this is essentially a love story, the backdrop is Bletchley Park, the World War II home of the Allied code breakers. The task of breaking the code of the Enigma machine and a mysterious beauty are interlinked. We get a good few hints about the work that mathematician Alan Turing and others did to break the codes.

  • One line from Tom Jericho in the movie sounds exactly like something Turing would have said – “I like numbers, because with numbers, truth and beauty are the same thing.”
  • The code used by the German Enigma machine had 10,000,000,000,000,000+ combinations
  • Gossip is that Brits backed this movie in indignation for the movie U-571 which showed that the American had captured the first Enigma machine when it was in fact the British.
  • Enigma’s producer was Mick Jagger of Rolling Stones fame and he plays a soldier in a bar in the movie.
  • Enigma was shown in 267 cinemas on its opening weekend in the UK, but only in 25 cinemas on the US opening weekend.

7 – Pi

There will be no order, only chaos.” Loosely on the chaos theory premise, a man is paranoid and uses math in order to try to figure out the mysteries of the universe and nature. He builds a supercomputer at home but of course, that doesn’t go unnoticed and various groups try to muscle in.

  • Pi is an early offering from Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Noah) who wrote, produced and directed.
  • Pi refers to the mathematical term
  • Special thanks to Leonardo Da Vinci” appears in the end credits.
  • Pi is a low budget movie which cost $60,000 but it made more than $3 million at the box office
  • Characters in the movie play “Go” which has long been a favorite for students of math.

8 – Moneyball

It’s a question that sports agents must put to their stars every day “how much are you worth?” Moneyball is part sports movie, part movie about how to apply math to any problem – in this case how to use statistics to assemble a winning baseball team.

  • The movie is based on the book Moneyball about the true life General Manager of the Oakland Rangers, Billy Beane.
  • Moneyball was nominated for 6 Oscars but lost out to The Artist and Hugo.
  • The statistics used in the movie are referencing Sabermetrics – a system of advanced baseball statistics used by the Society for American Baseball Research.
  • Oscar winner and director Spike Jonze (Her) has a cameo role in the movie
  • One quote that sums up how many people in the US love baseball is – “How can you not get romantic about baseball?”

9 – Fermat’s Room

In this movie, it is mathematicians that are the stars, and they are invited by a mysterious person to solve an enigma. Each of them is given a mathematical riddle to solve. Failure will result in death.

  • One of the first lines in the movie is “Do you know what prime numbers are? Because if you don’t, you should just leave now.”
  • The movie is named for French Mathematician Pierre de Fermat, widely regarded as a major force in forming calculus theories.
  • One of the riddles the group needs to solve is recognized by Oliva as being seen in the movie Labyrinth.
  • Math geeks and experts believe the puzzles are too simple for true math lovers to enjoy the movie
  • Fermat’s Room is a Spanish movie filmed in Barcelona

10 – 21

Las Vegas casinos are hit upon by a math professor and group of students from MIT who’ve devised a successful scheme of counting cards for Blackjack

  • Based on a true story as told in the book “Bringing Down the House” by Ben Mezrich.
  • The movie was criticized for casting white Americans as the students. The real students were mostly Asian-Americans.
  • One of the defining quotes in the movie is “You are only ever as good to me as the money you make!”
  • The DVD of “21” includes a full description of the Hi-Lo system used by the students
  • The gross takings of the movie are in excess of $175 million – against a production budget of $35 million.
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