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Best Math Movies to Watch on Pi Day March 14

Choose from among this list of math movies to celebrate Pi Day this March 14.

Choose from among this list of math movies to celebrate Pi Day this March 14.

Celebrate Pi Day with a Movie

On March 14 every year, scholars, students, and people everywhere celebrate Pi Day by eating apple pie, walking in circles, playing games and watching movies.

The key to choosing a great movie to watch on Pi Day is to find something that can bring out your inner mathematics genius by watching a movie about math, particularly one that doesn't really expect you to know any math, with shy, socially awkward characters. They will make you feel better about your social skills.

Sure, you can watch the movie Pi, but you want to show some creativity, don't you? Besides, if you are going to have a real Pi Day celebration, you don't want to keep offering the same movie over and over again. You can watch Pirates of the Caribbean, but that really doesn't count, since the movie isn't about math, and the only real connection are the first two letters of the movie. Wouldn't it be great if you could break out a different movie about math? One that wouldn't be disputed as an authentic Pi movie?

Here's a list of great movies that are associated with math. They are fun to watch, and you don't have to do any mathematical calculations to watch them, although you might learn a thing or two from watching them.

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21

This movie is based on a true story. An MIT math whiz joins a group of card counters and goes gambling at the blackjack tables in Los Vegas. They study during the week, and gamble during the weekends. Kevin Spacey plays the vindictive professor who organizes the team and Jim Sturgess plays the financially struggling math whiz that has been accepted to Harvard Medical School.

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A Beautiful Mind

Based on a true story about John Nash, Russell Crowe plays a brilliant but asocial mathematician and his lifelong struggles with mental health. He is enrolled as a graduate student at Princeton and attempts to come up with a unique mathematical theorem. He becomes a professor at MIT where he meets and marries Alicia. He loses his grip on reality and becomes diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He withdraws from society, but he eventually makes his way back to teaching and researching, even winning a Nobel Prize.

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An Invisible Sign

This movie is my favorite pick for Pi Day. Mona Gray (played by Jessica Alba) is a quirky girl who hides in a world of numbers and is offered a job as a math teacher. She has a shy romance with the science teacher. All the characters have odd little habits and many are eccentric loners. Don't try to psychoanalyze or diagnose any of them though. The editorial review on Amazon says it is "second chances, emotional equations and calculating the power of love." It is a quirky movie, not always realistic, which makes it even more perfect for Pi Day.

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Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi

Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi is an Israeli drama comedy, so you will likely need to read the subtitles. It is about a boy named Shlomi who takes care of everyone in the dysfunctional family and tries to keep the peace and make everyone happy by cooking for them. He is failing his classes at school because of the lack of time and concentration. One day, a routine math test arouses the suspicions of Shlomi`s math teacher and school principal.

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Flatland

Flatland is a short half-hour animated film based on a novella. This one has voices from actors Martin Sheen, Kristen Bell and Tony Hale, but there is another Flatland movie as well. The characters live in a two-dimensional world, under the rule of the evil Circles who are determined to keep the third dimension a secret, at any cost. "Combining action, drama, geometry, and sociopolitical commentary, this moving story challenges audiences to grasp the limitations of their assumptions about reality and to think about the possibility of higher and previously inconceivable dimensions (both literal and metaphorical)."

This movie is suitable for children, but adults will also enjoy it and find it thought provoking.

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Fractals

Fractals is a documentary by NOVA about fractals, the irregular repeating shapes that are found in everything, including cloud formations, flowers, tree limbs, stalks of broccoli, craggy mountain ranges, and even in the rhythm of the human heart. You learn about a group of mathematicians who decipher the rules that govern fractal geometry. This is math being used in real life in ways you may not have imagined.

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Good Will Hunting

Ben Afleck and Matt Damon star in this movie about a math genius who works as a janitor at MIT. He was an orphan raised by a series of abusive foster parents. He gets the help of a psychiatrist, played by Robin Williams. It is a touching, inspirational story about one man's struggle to overcome his troublesome past while reaching out to grasp life, love and happiness.

If you are not sure how well other people will take to finding out about your inner geek, then Good Will Hunting is a great movie to watch with them, as it is a very popular movie that has stood the test of time.

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Hard Problems

If you enjoy watching spelling bees, particularly documentaries about spelling bees, then this documentary is for you. There are no actors, only real people who are participating in the world's toughest math contest, The International Mathematical Olympiad. You follow six gifted American high school students as they make their way through the contest, competing against 500 students from 90 countries.

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In the Hive

In this 2013 movie, a troubled sixteen year old boy, Xtra Keys, is sent to a special school called The Hive. He lives with his son, girlfriend, sister, brother, and a boozy mother. His father is in jail and Xtra and his father are both members of a gang. At the special alternative school, which is based on an actual school in North Carolina, he shows his excellence in math and computers. It is rated R.

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Numb3rs

Numb3ers is a television show that played on CBS for six seasons. Pick a season for a marathon of TV watching. Starring Rob Morrow and David Krumholtz, two brothers solve crimes. Don Eppes is an FBI agent who gets help from his mathematical genius brother Charlie to solve a wide range of criminal cases in Los Angeles. Through this show, we learn about the wide range of ways numbers and mathematics can be used in fields that we would not expect.

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Proof

Proof is an American drama film starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Hope Davis. It is based on David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same title. Gwyneth plays a daughter of a brilliant mathematician who has recently died who cared for him during his waning years. She is afraid she may have inherited her father's mental illness. Jake plays a student who is looking through the piles of her father's notebooks.

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Stand and Deliver

Edward James Olmos received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for this film. Stand and Deliver is based on a true story about a high school math teacher, Jaime Escalante, from the barrios of Los Angeles. He successfully motivated the disadvantaged kids to pass an Advanced Placement Calculus Test. This movie is the one that comes to mind for most people when they are searching for a math movie.

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The Story of 1

The Story of 1 is a BBC documentary about the history of numbers. It is not a drama, like most of the others, but it would be great to watch with the kids and learn a thing or two about the history of math. Why not use Pi Day as an excuse to learn something new? Using humor and computer graphics, ex-Monty Python member Terry Jones shows the history and importance of numbers, including the discovery of zero.

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The Story of Math

This is not a drama, but a documentary about the history of math. It is taught by Marcus Du Sautoy, a mathematician who has a knack for storytelling. It isn't just about the numbers - it focuses on the characters and the historical places, and the drama created by people trying to get credit for new discoveries. Who knew math could be interesting?

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Choose A Movie to Celebrate Pi Day

There you have it, some math movies to properly celebrate Pi Day. These movies can be broken down into three categories.

1. These movies are great for keeping your geekiness down to a minimum and maintain a social standing:

  • Good Will Hunting
  • Beautiful Mind
  • 21
  • Proof
  • Numb3rs
  • Stand and Deliver

2. These movies have a great balance of bringing out your geekiness without risking your social standing too much:

  • An Invisible Sign
  • Flatland
  • Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi

3. Finally, these movies will allow you to let the inner math genius out with abandon, without a care for your social standing. They are also great to watch with your children, especially if you are home schooling them.

  • The Story of 1
  • The Story of Math
  • Fractals
  • Hard Problems

Whichever movie or movies you choose to watch, it will be a great part of your Pi Day celebration. If you know of any other good math movies, please be sure to list them in the comments.

I hope you have a very Happy Pi Day!

© 2012 Shasta Matova

Comments: "Best Movies to Watch on Pi Day"

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on February 13, 2016:

Thanks Tamara. I will have to look for those.

Tamara Wilhite from Fort Worth, Texas on February 06, 2016:

Great movies for Pi Day I'd like to add to this list: "the Imitation Game", where math geniuses developed computers to break unbreakable codes, and the less exciting but more educational "Breaking The Codes" on how they broke many Japanese and German codes based on math ciphers.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on March 15, 2015:

Thank you Linda! It was pretty special this year!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on March 14, 2015:

Happy Pi Day, MT!

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on April 14, 2013:

Thank you for your input jellohello. Pi is an unusual movie. I agree that Life of Pi is better.

jellohello on April 07, 2013:

Whatever you do, don't watch "Pi" worst movie ever! I highly recommend "The Life of Pi" however.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on March 30, 2013:

Thank you Tamara, it certainly is a great movie to watch on Pi Day and any day.

Thanks Ishwaryaa. I am glad you have watched and enjoyed most of these films.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on March 22, 2013:

A wonderful list of films! Your choices are excellent. I have heard of most of these mentioned films and would like to view them after reading your engaging hub. Well-done!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up, pinned & shared

Tamara Wilhite from Fort Worth, Texas on March 21, 2013:

Stand and Deliver is an excellent pick.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on March 11, 2013:

Eating pie is a great way to celebrate Pi Day, drpennypincher. Watching an episode of Big Bang Theory is a great suggestion. If you have a little bit more time, you can also watch an episode of Numbers.

Dr Penny Pincher from Iowa, USA on March 09, 2013:

I'm not sure which movie I'll watch, but I will be eating pie in March 14 for Pi Day. If you don't have time for a movie, an episode of Big Bang Theory may be suitable.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on March 05, 2013:

Thanks Kathy! I hope you enjoy the new ones. I think Life of Pi would probably be a great next choice.

Kathy Sima from Ontario, Canada on March 04, 2013:

Great list! I've only seen a couple of the movies on your list - Good Will Hunting and A Beautiful Mind - both of which I loved. I might have to watch a couple of the other ones for Pi Day.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on August 28, 2012:

Thank you stillwaters707. I had Stand and Deliver on my list, but I didn't include it here. Thanks for the reminder!

Thank you Deborah. Now you can watch a movie while you eat the pie next Pi Day! I'm glad you liked 21, and get a chance to see the others.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on August 27, 2012:

And I thought Pi day was for eating pie! : ) Great list of movies. I've seen some, but not all. 21 is a really great movie, by the way. I read the book first (which is called "Bringing Down the House") but this is one of those rare cases where the movie is just as good.

stillwaters707 from Texas on August 27, 2012:

Thanks for the suggestions. I never could name more that Stand and Deliver. I'm glad there are more math choices. Good hub.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on August 27, 2012:

Thank you ThoughtSandwiches, don't be afraid of your inner geek and be sure to watch some of the others. They are quite interesting, and a lot more fun than sticking a stick in your eye!

Thank you Jools99 - Pi Day isn't all that popular around here either, but it is just too fun of a day no to celebrate it. Anyday is a good day to celebrate, and who can beat a day where you watch movies, walk around in circles and eat apple pie!

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on August 27, 2012:

Thank you CloudExplorer - you are so sweet and generous with your praise. I think we math nerds do need to stick together, although I am sure that many of the other people commenting here are secretly checking out the more nerdy movies.

Thank you Janine Huldie - these are great movies that show that math really can be fun and interesting. I hope your students enjoy them.

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on August 27, 2012:

Interesting hub! I have never heard of Pi day, not something we celebrate in the UK but any excuse to watch Good Will Hunting gets my vote :o)

ThoughtSandwiches from Reno, Nevada on August 27, 2012:

Millionairetips,

I love how you sub-categorized them into "geekiness" and social factors! I've only seen three of them; Good Will Hunting, A Beautiful Mind, and 21...all I'm happy to say...hides any geeky tendencies!

Not being a math person...I will probably be taking a pass on: The Story of Math, Fractals, and Hard Problems in favor of sticking a stick in my eye.

I AM marking Pi day on my calender though!

Thomas

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on August 27, 2012:

I am a certified math teacher and have pinned your movie suggestions to use hopefully in the future. Some really great suggestions by the way!!

Mike Pugh from New York City on August 27, 2012:

Wow this is an awesome hub Millionaire Tips, we missed you so much, and I am so glad that you are back and ready to rock and roll here with us all on hubpages. I seen many of them cool mathematical movies, because I'm a nerd myself, and my favorite subject in school was Math.

This one definitely deserves to become a hub of the day if I do say so myself, and I especially like the categorical break down towards the end, now that was something of a classic move and I have never ever seen such a thing done on the web before, or on hubpages period.

You my friend are in a class by yourself entirely.

I bow to your digital presence, and am so very humbled by your amazing showmanship here as a powerful hub writer. Wow!

Bravo! all thumbs up and out!

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on August 25, 2012:

Thanks teaches12345. I mentioned home-schoolers, but in the reviews for these movies, some teachers did mention watching some of these at school as well. Some of them were only watched for a few minutes a day. I hope it helps you find a great movie to watch on Pi Day.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on August 25, 2012:

Thanks for your comment Vellur. These are great movies to watch anytime, and especially on Pi Day, March 14.

Dianna Mendez on August 24, 2012:

Voted way up for the value in this hub for teachers and students. I seen a Beautiful Mind and it is a really good choice to list here.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on August 24, 2012:

Never knew about these will check them out. Thanks for sharing.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on August 24, 2012:

Thanks for visiting and commenting Aurelio. Good Will Hunting is a great movie, and although there aren't a lot of math movies out there, I was able to get a good number on my list.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on August 23, 2012:

The only one I've seen here is Good Will Hunting, but then that gives me a lot of choices for Pi Day. Voting this Up and Useful.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on August 23, 2012:

That is great Glimmer Twin Fan. I hope you enjoy the movies based on mathematics.

Claudia Mitchell on August 23, 2012:

I may have to go out and rent a couple of these. Great hub!

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on August 23, 2012:

Pi Day is a great way to show everyone just how much fun math can be. I've written another hub about other ways to celebrate it - this one is more specific to movies. Thanks for your input and comment hawaiianodysseus.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on August 23, 2012:

Thank you Saloca, I hope you really enjoy watching these great math movies.

Shasta Matova (author) from USA on August 23, 2012:

Thank you daisydayz. I really enjoyed watching Good Will Hunting - I have watched it at least twice already. I hope you enjoy the rest as well.

Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on August 23, 2012:

Very interesting read! I'd never heard of Pi Day before. Intriguing concept...glad to see our generation of youth rallying around academia in a fun and innovative way!

Thanks for sharing!

Sarah Campbell from Liverpool, UK on August 23, 2012:

Some great suggestions there!

Chantele Cross-Jones from Cardiff on August 23, 2012:

Oh I love good will hunting! Such an awesome movie. Will track down a few of the others too though!

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