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When we think of genius, many of us think of “nerds” or “people with glasses and awkward social skills”… but genius comes in many forms. A high IQ is one sign of genius, but some people who have deficiencies in the mental arena show extraordinary genius in one area of their lives.
These people are called savants and intelligence can be in an academic subject, skill at an art such as music, or simply the ability to never forget a word that has been read. Genuis often can’t be measured and is something to just take in and enjoy.
This list of movies includes a variety of people and types of genius. They show us that those people we think have it easy because they are smart may suffer in ways we don't understand, or they suffer in the same ways we are familiar with.
We also see that even those who are considered extraordinary sometimes simply want to be what we think of as normal.
15 Movies About Smart People
1. Real Genius
Mitch Taylor is one of the youngest students ever accepted into an elite university that caters to geniuses. As he struggles to find his place among the less serious students, he and his roommate set out to create a laser.
They and their small group of friends are only looking for fun but things change when they discover their professor is trying to steal the laser to produce a military weapon. Suddenly, the students begin to question what being a genius really means.
This movie will show you how it is often necessary to challenge the beliefs we have about ourselves and others.
2. Little Man Tate
Seven-year-old Fred is being raised by his single mother. His mother wants her son to have the life of a normal child as long as he can. When she realizes he is an outcast among the children in his regular school, she allows him to go away to a camp for gifted children and later to university. It is in these places that Fred gets a glimpse of what it means to concentrate on more than his intelligence.
This movie is great for realizing that we are human first and our gifts are only a small part of who we are. It highlights the strain of being thought of as different and the pain of isolation.
3. Searching For Bobby Fisher
At the young age of seven, Josh shows promise as a chess champion. He loves the game and his mother allows him to practice with some park players. His dad decides to ban him from playing there and pushes him into competing professionally.
Over time, a rift develops between young Josh and his demanding father and Josh strikes back by losing on purpose. Eventually, Josh's dad realizes his error and eases up on his son. The relationship begins to heal.
This movie is a great example of how delicate family relationships can be and that sometimes pressure creates so much stress that a person gives up rather than excels.
4. The Man Who Knew Infinity
Srinivasa Ramanujan, one of India's foremost mathematicians, travels to Cambridge to be mentored by another great mathematician. While there, he struggles with racism and finding adequate housing. His health suffers, as he develops TB, and his letters to the wife he misses greatly go unanswered.
As time passes, he is finally recognized for the great genius he is. He eventually returns to India and is reunited with his wife, but he dies soon after from the TB,
Many themes run through this movie. They include fighting for recognition, feeling alone, struggling with racism, and betrayal.
5. The Theory of Everything
We meet a young Steven Hawkins in Cambridge, just before he is diagnosed with motor neuron disease. He meets the love of his life, Jane Wilde. As his disease progresses, the two share a bond that grows even stronger. He fights to leave his mark in the world, which he has been told he won't live in long.
Yet, he and Jane continue without hesitation to beat the odds and make some of the biggest scientific discoveries to date.
This movie is a great lesson in never giving in to adversity and never giving up on your dreams. A failing body doesn't create a failing mind. And love and support can help conquer all.
6. A Beautiful Mind
This movie portrays John Nash, the Nobel-prize-winning mathematician who created Game Theory. As we follow Nash from college throughout his life, the focus of this movie is on his struggle with schizophrenia. It is a great example of how the mind of even a genius can become their worst enemy.
This movie teaches us that we can overcome something as strong as a mental illness to achieve great accomplishments. It also shows how a great support system can make a huge difference.
7. At Eternity's Gate
This movie tells us of a small portion of the life of Vincent van Gogh. It highlights his self-imposed exile in Aries and highlights his struggles with religion, mental illness, and relationships. All of this is done while he develops the artistic style he has become known for. The movie covers his final years of life.
This movie highlights the search for spirituality that many seek and focuses on van Gogh's struggle to capture the fleeting quality of life as he struggles to find meaning in his gift as a painter.
8. The Imitation Game
Alan Turing was a genius mathematician that was asked to help break Nazi codes during WWII. He and a partner created a machine that broke many of the codes, including Enigma. In spite of the accolades he received, several years later it was discovered that he was gay and he was jailed. His fame was soon overshadowed by the hatred of those around him.
This movie shows how genius can be found in the most unlikely people, as Turing was a quiet, unassuming man. It also shows how society so often allows hatred and prejudice to destroy all the good that a person does.
This is a story about Mozart, as told through the eyes of his greatest competitor, the composer. Antonio Salieri. This jealous man believed that he was God's chosen musician because he was religious. He was jealous that the brash, Mozart was gaining more favor and he became angry at both Mozart and God. He claimed to have murdered Mozart.
This movie highlights jealousy, the harm of religious fanaticism, and the overall strife that can be caused when others recognize the genius in others.
10. A Brilliant Young Mind
This story of an autistic math wizard is a poignant example of how we all have the ability to excel when someone believes in us. The world confuses Nathan has recently lost his father, the only person he was ever able to connect with.
He finds solace in numbers and patterns, they are all that makes sense to him. When he wins a place in the International Mathematical Olympiad, he starts making connections with others.
This movie is a great portrayal of what it is like to be autistic and how there is such a struggle to understand things that we all take for granted, such as friendships and love. It also shows that a diagnosis such as this doesn't have to be caused to quit.
This movie highlights young Tesla as he struggles to get the world to realize his genius in the area of electricity. It shows his struggle with Edison when Tesla worked with him and demonstrates how sometimes the tried and true is often preferred over the innovative minds of the up-and-coming.
This movie demonstrates how it takes perseverance and dedication, especially when your ideas are outside the box. It also shows that not giving up does win out in the end.
12. Temple Grandin
Never speaking until she was four years old, Temple Grandin had to overcome a lot of stigmas to show the world both her intelligence and her compassion. The support of her mother and a few teachers kept her going and she has developed things that help autistic children. Her greatest work is in animal husbandry and her speeches often involve animal behavior as well as autism.
This is a movie that highlights our limitations don't have to prevent our brilliance from showing through. It also shows that a great support system can help us overcome many weaknesses.
This film highlights Steve Jobs's journey from being a college dropout to adventures with LSD and a spiritual journey to India and finally to developing the beginnings of what would be Apple in his parent's garage.
The biggest takeaway from this movie is that sometimes the path to success involves many detours and sometimes the correct path is the one you least expect.
14. Young Einstein
This movie is a comedy and a fictionalized, altered reality, of the life of Einstein. It shows the genius as a young man who solves problems such as putting bubbles back in beer and inventing the electric guitar. It also shows how he is unaware of his genius and completely oblivious to those who would take advantage of him.
Although a comedy, this movie highlights the very real mindset of many who others consider a genius–their own lack of self-awareness and the constant struggle to avoid being taken advantage of.
15. The Hours
This movie narrates the stories of three women, all of different generations, who are touched by the novel, Mrs. Dalloway. Each woman struggles with the concept that they have always existed for someone else and don't know who they are. One of the women depicted is Virginia Woolfe, herself, as she is writing the novel and struggling with mental illness.
This movie highlights the common experiences we feel as humans regardless of time and place. It also illustrates the struggle we have in finding ourselves, setting boundaries, and giving ourselves permission to love ourselves.
Final Thoughts on Movies About Smart People
The human brain is a wonderful thing, but it can also be a terrifying thing. Geniuses often find that their minds turn on them without notice.
Often there is a fine line between genius and madness. Smart people are human. They experience the full range of emotions… including self-doubt, emotional pain, love, the wish to be included, and so much more.
Art so often mimics real life, which is why so many geniuses find comfort within in.
If you are looking for other movies that can deliver powerful messages, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 25 Best Movies to Watch About Overcoming Adversity
- 26 Best Movies That Teach Important Life Lessons
- 23 Best Movies About the Meaning of Life