Five movies about numbers

As Nicolas Cage sits atop the US box office talking about the numbers, here's a few more films where it's the figures that count. Literally...


For this quick run down, we’ll end with Knowing, and start with a film that most of us who sat through will be keen to forget…

The Number 23

Not the finest place to start, sadly. Joel Schumacher’s thriller didn’t manage to thrill at all, and it sent Jim Carrey scuttling back to the comedy genre at speed. Its focus was the number 23 – although you might have got that yourself from the title – and how it’s at the core of everything, or something like that. Sadly, the film is drivel: the loose tying of lots of events to the number 23 is covered with some serious speeches that are more laughable than anything else, and unsurprisingly it attracted attention from the Golden Raspberry Awards.


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This is much more like it. Darren Aronofsky’s breakthrough movie follows a mathematical genius, Maximillian Cohen, who believes that everything in life can be determined by numbers, and he thus tries to find the pattern that underpins the stock market. This, however, turns into an unnerving and very effective thriller which, in more than one way, could make the brain hurt.

Good Will Hunting

Matt Damon is a genius. We know this because he scribbles lots of numbers on a blackboard, even though he’s only supposed to be mopping the floors of MIT. More to the point, he solves problems in seconds that have taken people years to crack. As with many geniuses though, he carries a burden for his intellect, and the film then veers to concentrate on his relationship with psychologist Robin Williams. We’d still want him on our team come the conundrum in an episode of Countdown, though.

A Beautiful Mind

Is this the worst movie to take home the Best Picture Oscar statuette in the last 20 years? It’s certainly got to be up there, as the firmly three-star flick also gave Ron Howard a directing gong, beating the brilliant In The Bedroom, along with the second Lord Of The Rings movie and Gosford Park.

It’s the biopic of John Forbes Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. Nash, we learn, has an idea to revolutionise the world of mathematics, and he’s teaching too at MIT. He doesn’t meet Matt Damon, though. It’s not a bad movie, and again, it sees someone who pays a price for their intelligence. There are debates about just how accurate it is, but the superb performance from Russell Crowe is surely less open to argument.

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Gawd bless Nicolas Cage. He’s stormed though the world of archaeology, he’s sat on a plane with a bunch of convicts, and he’s had his face quite literally sliced off. And now? He’s looking for patterns in the numbers to try and prevent disasters. Easily the most outright entertaining of the films on the list (although Pi is the best), the film’s enhanced both by the fact that Cage is, well, Nicolas Cage, and Alex Proyas displays some ambition behind the camera too. They should have set that pair on The Da Vinci Code. They’d have sorted that out…

Knowing is in cinemas now. The others are available on DVD. We’d have added Proof to the list, but none of us have seen it…

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