Maths Films to Watch in the Summer Holidays 

 The summer holidays are finally nearly here. Is it five weeks or six weeks this year, you ask yourself? Has the head made you go in for a standalone Monday when everyone else has long finished? You will undoubtedly know detailed holiday plans for every member of your maths department – which people are the campers, the glampers or the Skegness diehards.

After two summers of Covid disruption, many people who usually go abroad may not be able to, and your head of maths who normally treks the Himalayas will once again be staying closer to home.   This may well mean a few damp days spent indoors watching the Great British Summer unfold outside your window.  What better to do than to watch a Maths Film? 

Five reasons to watch a maths film

  • You like maths - so a maths film is a no brainer!
  • Quite a few are actually good films.
  • They will give you something to talk about with your Sixth formers, and potentially provide some good ideas for the classroom.
  • You can find out about the lives of some of the greatest mathematicians from history.
  • Watching cringeworthy maths scenes will make you feel highly superior - as you would never have allowed such mistakes to occur!

Top rated maths films

Using a mixture of word of mouth, and IMDb, here are five films to consider watching this holiday...

Hidden Figures (2016)

We certainly know from our Scholarship interviews that this is one of your favourite Maths Films.  It tells the true story of three inspirational African American Women (including the now well-known Katherine G. Johnson) who worked at NASA in the 1960s.  Not only were they living at a time of racial segregation they were also working in a male dominated environment and doing most of their advanced calculations by hand.  This incredible story has been turned into feel good film which will appeal to everyone – not just maths enthusiasts (Read a longer review here).

The Man who Knew Infinity (2015)

This tells the true story of one of the greatest mathematical friendships in history – that of Srinivasa Ramanujan and G.H. Hardy.  If you believe in Genius – then Ramanujan certainly was one.  Starting his work in isolation in India, Ramanujan began a postal correspondence with G.H. Hardy in Cambridge who recognized his extraordinary work for what it was.  This film follows what happened next and Ramanujan’s traumatic time in Cambridge.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

A Beautiful Mind won four Oscars for its portrayal of brilliant Nobel Prize winning mathematician John Nash.  Based on Nash’s real-life battle with paranoid schizophrenia, the film charts Nash’s tumultuous life.  Nash is played by Russell Crowe.

The Imitation Game (2014)

With Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing and Keira Knightly playing codebreaker Joan Clarke, this is a star-studded retelling of how the Enigma code was cracked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.  It may leave you with a few mathematical niggles, but it is an entertaining film which has been well rated on IMDb, and it certainly is telling an incredible tale which deserves to be told.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

This is IMDb’s highest rated film about mathematics and unlike the others is a pure work of fiction starring Robin Williams and Matt Damon.  The incredible tale of a troubled Janitor who has a secret genius for mathematics is an old school classic.  

Other film ideas

Once you start digging you will find scores of films about maths, many of them made in the last 20 years. Check out articles like this to get ideas.  Not all of them are well known, so if you find a good one let us know!

 

By Hazel Lewis