To celebrate Pi Day, we’ve pulled some of the darkest, weirdest, most fascinating movies about math — which, let’s be honest, is a pretty limited genre. No one liked math in school and no one likes thinking about school when they’re an adult. Unless, of course, that math can be used for evil — like time travel or making lots and lots of money. Here’s our rundown of some of the best movies that make impossible numbers into entertainment. Don’t worry: we aren’t bringing up Life of Pi just for giggles. This is serious busiπess.
Based on the book Bringing Down The House, this film tells the true story of some MIT students who took on Vegas and won — then lost. Pretty middle of the road, but hey, there’s an original LCD Soundsystem song on the soundtrack — that gets it an extra half-star in my book, and what is today about, if not rounding up?
We’d be criminals to leave Darren Aronofsky’s debut film off the list, considering how bleak and beautiful it is. Maybe don’t watch this last one right before bed. Especially if you have a thing about drills. (I think we all have a thing about drills).
A Beautiful Mind
John Forbes Nash Jr. went from math rockstar to social pariah when mental illness claimed him. It’s a little late to spoil that his friends are mostly imaginary — but this also becomes a pretty great spy film, even if by accident.
What The Bleep Do We Know?
Not just math, but all quantum fields and molecular systems are broken apart and explained. There are a couple of sequels out that further dive down the rabbit hole.
This is our most horror-filled entry, but a pretty delightful one. There’s less “hard science” here so enter at your own risk, but this science fiction Saw within a maze becomes a math problem with dire consequences. Avoid the sequels and prequels.
The Imitation Game
While it rewrites part of the protagonist’s actual life to portray him a spy who betrays his country, this Alan Turing biopic hits a lot of the science behind breaking the unbreakable Enigma code exactly right. A must see to understand the origins of the spycraft.
Much more drama than high science, this excellent adaptation from the award-winning play brings together a cast that loves to use fractals as stand-ins for human emotions.
The Number 23
There is no reason this movie should have ever been made. None. But Jim Carrey shouting about a number that’s trying to murder him is always great for a hate-watch. If you’re going to celebrate a number today, just don’t make it 23.
N Is A Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdos
This 1993 documentary on mathematician Paul Erdős is dry and a bit heart-breaking, but has more straight math-stuff than anything else on our list — including a deep dive into imaginary numbers. This is a must watch if you’re doing Pi Day right.