Movies about Mathematics

I asked my department head if we had a budget for DVDs, so that we could start creating a small DVD library for us to use (in class, in mathclub). She said yes, and put me in charge of finding DVDs. I’ve ordered a bunch, but tonight, I came across 0ne more that I want so dearly that I wrote an email pleading to case get the $35 to purchase it!


Julia Robinson and Hilbert’s Tenth Problem


Other DVDs that we’ve ordered and that I’m excited about include:


Hard Problems (two youtube clips from the movie: clip 1, clip 2)


Chaos (a series of  24 lectures, 30 minutes each, from the Teaching Company)


N is a Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdos (on youtube: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6)


The Elegant Universe (on String Theory)


I also got the old classics: Stand and Deliver, Good Will Hunting, and A Beautiful Mind.

And I will also soon be downloading this movie on various Dimensions.

I wish that NOVA’s The Proof (about Andrew Wiles solving Fermat’s Last Theorem) was out on DVD, but alas, no such luck. It is on VHS and on youtube (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5).

I haven’t watched Dangerous Knowledge — a documentary on Cantor, Boltzmann, Godel, and Turing — yet (I don’t like the trope of mathematician as crazed genius), but it’s on youtube here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, and part 9 and on Google Video here.

And finally, I wanted to show my Algebra II class something about fractals tomorrow, since we introduced complex numbers today. I didn’t do much searching, but I did find Arthur C. Clark’s movie on Fractals, which — sans the annoyingly trippy music — doesn’t seem too bad: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4. It isn’t very up-to-date, but it does have a lot of famous people talking about fractals.

Any more recommendations? Throw ’em in the comments below.


  1. You probably couldn’t (shouldn’t?) show the movie Pi in its entirety, but you could certainly find some snippets in there… worth having in The Library, certainly!

  2. Hi — there have been two recent attempts to produce a movie about Abbott’s Flatland, and one of them was actually good. It’s the one without Martin Sheen doing voice-overs.

    It’s really faithful to the book and to the extent that the book contains some grounds for rigorous discussion the movie does as well. The flipside of this is that there are religious and gender-discrimination overtones carried over from the book, but the general class commentary holds up quite well if you can get them prepped for that.

    I was surprised at how not lame this movie was, and both my 10th grade geometry and 12th grade calculus got quite a bit out of it. Did run a bit long, but you could probably cut pieces.

  3. @John: a classic!
    @Matt: I stared at the sun too long.
    @Henry: I’ll have to give the new Flatland a second chance. I was so bored with it – and when I saw the smiley sphere, and it whisked our main character away, I turned it off. Maybe I was in a bad mood.
    @amarkos: Ohh, I want to read that article! I would love to do a unit based on a work of fiction. This book is pretty good and could be parlayed into that:
    @Sylvia: Thanks! I haven’t heard of these before
    @Kate: I tried to get it, but for some reason I couldn’t. It might not be out until February. (

    Thanks all!

  4. @Steven: Good news! I got the math department to buy your Teaching Company DVDs! I can’t wait to watch them.

    Thanks for the link.I actually came across that site when looking for something to explain curvature in 3D (since we were doing curvature in 2D) to them, so they had a general sense of what was going on, and came to Mathematics Illuminated (

    Pretty fantastic stuff. And since the videos are only 1/2 hr, they would be perfect to show someday.

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