If you think Vidya Balan starrer Shakuntala Devi is the first film to introduce you to the life and work of a mathematician, you are mistaken. The lives of maths geniuses have enticed filmmakers over the years, and there are some films that you can stream online.
A Beautiful Mind: Netflix
Directed by Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind is inspired by the life of genius mathematician and Nobel prize winner, John Nash. Nash accepts secret work in cryptography (code-breaking), but in doing so, his personal life and mental well-being take a nightmarish turn. His work on game theory in mathematics proved to be a game-changer, but his genius was overshadowed by schizophrenia. A Beautiful Mind went on to win four Academy Awards including Best Picture.
The Man Who Knew Infinity: YouTube
The 2015 film The Man Who Knew Infinity is based on the life of Indian mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar. Growing up in a poor Brahmin family in Madras, Ramanujan, played by Dev Patel, gets admission in Cambridge University during World War I. His lack of formal education and training makes everyone doubt his skills and he is also reluctant in proving his theories. But, his professor G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons) recognises his talent, and it leads to several mathematical breakthroughs.
The Imitation Game: Netflix
Morten Tyldum directorial The Imitation Game is a celebration of mathematician, computer scientist, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist Alan Turing’s extraordinary achievements. The biographical drama focuses on Turing’s heroics in World War II, when he worked for the British intelligence service and played a key role in breaking the German Enigma code. Benedict Cumberbatch portrayal of Turing won him several accolades, and he was nominated for an Oscar as well. The film also starred Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode and Charles Dance.
Hidden Figures: Disney Plus Hotstar
The 2016 film Hidden Figures is based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly. The film revolves around three renowned African-American women mathematicians, Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) who were the brains behind a special US space programme. The film has a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Apart from being nominated for Oscars, it garnered a BAFTA nomination, and two Golden Globe nominations.
Good Will Hunting: Netflix
The best mind at one of the most prestigious colleges in the world, MIT, isn’t one that occupies the seat in front of the blackboard but the one who is cleaning the floors. Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon) is a typical working-class lad from Boston. What the brightest minds can’t figure in a maths class, Will does behind everyone’s back. Having had multiple run-ins with the law and authorities, the maths professor (Stellan Skarsgard) takes it upon himself to help Will. He takes help from his former colleague and a psychology professor Sean McGuire (Robin Williams). Watch for brilliant performances by Damon, Williams and Minnie Driver.
The Theory of Everything: YouTube
The Theory of Everything shifts the focus away from theoretical physics and concentrates on Stephen Hawking’s marriage. Directed by James Marsh, the film was adapted from the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking.
Set in an ancient Egypt, Alejandro Amenábar’s 2009 film Agora is a biopic of Hypatia, a pioneer of mathematics, philosophy and astronomy. Hypatia, who lived in Alexandria during the Roman Empire, is among the first few mathematicians of the world whose life has been well recorded. Rachel Weisz plays Hypatia in Agora. The film also starred Oscar Isaac and Max Minghella in crucial roles.
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