1. Good Will Hunting (1997)
This Oscar-winning movie brought its stars and writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to our attention, and was the first in a number of films at the turn of the century to find genius in a modest man: in this case, a Harvard janitor who spends his spare time solving obscure mathematical equations.
Its blue-collar protagonist Will Hunting is anything but simple, however. His journey crystallized the idea that genius, whereever it strikes, brings with it serious emotional problems, albeit nothing that can’t be solved by the love of a good woman and a hug from Robin Williams.
2. A Beautiful Mind (2002)
Based on a book of the same title, A Beautiful Mind tells the story of Nobel Prize-winning mathematician and economist John Forbes Nash (Russell Crowe) as he navigates his early successes coupled with frightening experiences of psychosis. Like Shine, it explores the psychological toll of having an expanded mind, and went on to win four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Ron Howard.
3. The Imitation Game (2014)
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, who decrypted German intelligence codes for the British government during World War II. Turing is unquestionably a genius, but so is Joan Clarke, played by Keira Knightley, the film’s only representative of the hundreds of women who worked in secret on German codebreaking at Bletchley Park during the war.
Turing’s genius was in mathematics, but his personal relationships and the political atmosphere of the time hold him back. The “imitation game” of the title refers to a test he devised to find out whether machines might one day be said to think, but his efforts to mimic “normal” human behavior—and, in particular, to get his colleagues to like him—that make up most of the movie.
4.The Theory Of Everything (2014)
Two genius movies did battle at the 2015 Academy Awards: The Imitation Game, and this one, starring Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne. Despite being heralded as one of the foremost geniuses of our time, it’s not personal relationships that hold back Eddie’s character, the real-life theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, but his health, as motor neurone disease threatens to put an early stop to his work and his marriage.
5. The man who knew Infinity (2016)
Starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons, The Man Who Knew Infinity tells the story of the great Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, whose remarkable skill with numbers is the least of his worries.
Mathematics is not the movie’s only focus, however. It depicts how he fell in love with his wife, the homesickness he feels when he travels from Madras to study at Cambridge, the racism he suffers in England, and, most stirringly, the narrative arc from lowly clerk to globally recognized mathematician. Not only that, but his tragically early death at 32 was not the result of any complications arising from his genius, but rather tuberculosis.