A good movie... about math!
January 7, 2019 1:39 PM   Subscribe

My wife wants to show her high school geometry class a movie to start the semester. What can she show her kids? Specifics inside.

Something that is math-adjacent or has math in it, on Hulu/Prime/Netflix, pg-13 or less, not a documentary, run time within 100 minutes. She was thinking Proof, but it isn't streaming.
posted by wellifyouinsist to Education (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

It looks like Hidden Figures is on Amazon streaming but not available for free on Prime. It's a little long (126 minutes), but I know of no better math movie, ever.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:45 PM on January 7, 2019 [27 favorites]

Pi is probably a little rough, I'm guessing.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 1:50 PM on January 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm sad to discover Stand and Deliver is not on Amazon or Netflix. That's an inspiring math movie.
posted by pangolin party at 1:54 PM on January 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

A Beautiful Mind is on Prime, though it's 135 minutes.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:55 PM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

At least in my math education, there were only two films that we ever watched (but boy did we watch them): October Sky and Donald in Mathmagic Land.
posted by matrixclown at 1:57 PM on January 7, 2019 [12 favorites]

Seconding Donald in Mathmagic Land-- it's more a fun docu-excursion than a tightly-plotted mainstream film, but it is super entertaining and intelligently covers lots of topics of direct relevance to high-school geometry.
posted by Bardolph at 1:58 PM on January 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


I loved it so much in 8th grade, we demanded the teacher show it to us again and still remember that movie fondly. I can mention that to any friend I had back then, and they'll flip out. Plus, I still use it's lesson on how to play pool.

Donald Duck is a Mathamagician. (I am now 35 and this movie is from 1959 if this shows how well the movie has held up.)
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:59 PM on January 7, 2019 [7 favorites]

Perhaps she'd have time for several episodes of NUMB3RS?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 1:59 PM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Aranofsky's Pi is a trip. More seriously, I'd second Hidden Figures.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 2:04 PM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I was in a (7th grade) geometry class we watched Stand and Deliver
posted by sandmanwv at 2:21 PM on January 7, 2019

Perhaps she'd have time for several episodes of NUMB3RS?

Have you watched that show? There's no math involved. Every episode goes:

"Wow, how'd you do that?"

"Well numb3rs, of course. And I applied an algorithm and threw a coefficient in for good measure."

"Wow, you're really smart. And, good with numb3ers."

I find it only slightly more infuriating than "The Big Bang Theory".
posted by humboldt32 at 2:25 PM on January 7, 2019 [15 favorites]

If she has institutional access to past episodes of Nova, they did a documentary on the amazing Srinivasa Ramanujan. There are also a couple of English-language movies about him of late, one on Netflix and one not.
posted by rhizome at 2:30 PM on January 7, 2019

Whoops, no documentaries.
posted by rhizome at 2:31 PM on January 7, 2019

Red Planet is PG-13, runs 108 minutes, and contains the fantastic line, "This is it. That moment they told us in high school where one day, algebra would save our lives. "
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:41 PM on January 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Pi is rated R and that scene with a drill is not exactly school appropriate for ninth or tenth graders.

October Sky was the standby when I was in school. We did watch Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land, but I have zero memory of it, perhaps because I didn't see Donald Duck anything before high school. I seem to remember thinking it was dumb. It was traditional to watch Stand and Deliver at the end of AP calculus. My math teacher refused to show Good Will Hunting (is that the movie I'm thinking of) on the grounds the "hard" math is not hard. It's probably rated R too.

Apollo 13 might work, at a stretch. It's at least as relevant as October Sky, anyway.

In addition to Numbers having little to no math content, it has the professor-in-a-relationship-with-grad-student thing going on and that squicks me out to the degree that I wouldn't show it to kids.
posted by hoyland at 3:24 PM on January 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Someone made a movie of Flatland.

I've seen it and it's pretty cute. At the end they start borrowing concepts from Rudy Rucker's unofficial sequel "Spaceland" and it gets a bit trippy.

There's also this adaptation which I haven't seen.
posted by neckro23 at 3:33 PM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

OMG MATHNET. (Many episodes available on YouTube)
posted by whimsicalnymph at 4:09 PM on January 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

Absolutely Donald Duck.
posted by jeather at 4:21 PM on January 7, 2019

My fella suggests Moneyball.
posted by prewar lemonade at 4:52 PM on January 7, 2019

The Phantom Tollbooth is available as a rental, although if your local library has DVDs, they might have it. One of the lands Milo visits is Digitopolis, the kingdom of numbers.
posted by fiercekitten at 4:59 PM on January 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

The Martian. (Problems, worksheet at Math Thrills)
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:35 PM on January 7, 2019

posted by a strong female character at 6:46 PM on January 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hidden Figures, for sure - I mean, basically a large part of it is SPECIFICALLY about Geometry.
posted by anastasiav at 9:44 PM on January 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

We liked X+Y, which apparently was released in the US as A Brilliant Young Mind, which appears to be streaming on Amazon. A little longer than you requested at 111 mins.
posted by sagwalla at 5:39 AM on January 8, 2019

thanks for all the suggestions! I don't know what she's picking but the class is this afternoon and the answers are much appreciated.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 8:01 AM on January 8, 2019

Ooh. I would say Tron. The whole movie is made of geometry and would be a great comparison between computer graphics then and now and how they are fundamentally the same, just with more polygons nowadays. She could then assign reports on the many SIGGRAPH videos on YouTube and have the students try to figure out how the math they're doing makes them possible. (SIGGRAPH is the society for comp. graphics...their videos are all from papers on specific techniques)
posted by sexyrobot at 11:53 AM on January 8, 2019

My Hoopla account through my library is currently streaming Proof. If you have a local library account, you can sign up for an account to see if it is on there. https://www.hoopladigital.com/
posted by gloturtle at 1:39 PM on January 8, 2019

I recommend Blechley Circle. It's a series, but is compelling and very math-forward in their sleuthing to catch killers
posted by cross_impact at 2:02 PM on January 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

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