I love the films about featuring a character who is a genius, as well films that feature a similar expression of genius—such as highly innovative thinking or even cleverness. Good Will Hunting has the classic “genius-from-the-common-man” storyline (which I really like), and it’s the first example I thought of. Perhaps, Sherlock Holmes might be another example (especially in his recent BBC incarnation). While I love this archetype, I’m often disappointed, which is understandable. I mean, wouldn’t creating a satisfying genius require that the filmmakers were geniuses themselves? Films with geniuses in them usually avoid showing what makes the person a genius (unless the character was an actual person)—but that’s the most interesting and appealing part for me. What are some of the most satisfying and interesting onscreen geniuses? What are some of the worst and why?
William H Macy in Magnolia was very interesting
but the one that takes the cake and is probably unseen by those on here
is Randy Quaid in Next Door.
Check out Charly (1968). But first read the novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes – it’s a great piece of writing.
Being There (1979)
Oh no my mistake..
Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network sprung to mind immediately. One of the more satisfying/interesting examples I think of.
i confess i haven’t seen this since i was a kid but here’s an article about it in AV Club
Thank you Ruby. I love that movie.
lol! maybe i should watch it again but i remember it as pretty funny
It’s one of my favorites from when I was younger. That and along with Just One of the Guys are two films that I’ve seen probably more than anyone really should have.
Was Macy’s character a genius in Magnolia? (I don’t even remember him in the movie, so my memory probably isn’t very reliable. :)
I’m assuming you’ve selected Johnny for his verbal dexterity? (I never really considered him a genius.)
Johnny is a great because he can effortlessly destroy someone.
And the current quiz kid in Magnolia takes it for me.
Verbal dexterity is a symptom of genius. Maybe it’s contentious, but that’s how I’ve always viewed him. And those Magnolia fans will recall the apropos Samuel Johnson quote, more than certainly applicable to Johnny: “A man of genius has been seldom ruined but by himself.”
Johnny’s verbal dexterity was very good, but I don’t know if it’s on a genius level. You probably would like the Irish(?) character in In the Loop. What about Robin Williams? I’d expect he would qualify, too.
Little Man Tate
I know The Thick of It and In the Loop intimately, love em, but wouldn’t consider any character ‘genius.’ Iannucci’s/Capaldi’s verbal colonics are lots of fun.
Johnny’s brilliance is demonstrated more subtly than merely through his erudition. It’s the way he views civilization and life, his scope of perception, and the way he interacts with others. I’m not saying that genius means a person will be self-destructive, fatalistic, wildly negative, antagonistic or endgame-obsessed… traits Johnny has in abundance (Johnny is sort of a grown-up, interesting version of Holden Caulfield) but hey, they don’t hurt my argument.
What about the genius chess player? Movies with these characters always attract me, but I don’t think they turn out so well, for the reasons I mentioned earlier. Anyone know any good films about genius chess players? (Searching for Bobby Fisher was entertaining, but I don’t know if it really helped us see and understand the genius of the boy.)
It’s the way he views civilization and life, his scope of perception, and the way he interacts with others.
He’s very intelligent individual, but genius seems to be pushing it, at least for me.
In LIke Flint and Our Man Flint
3 Days of the Condor
32 Short Films About Glenn Gould
The Royal Tennenbaums
A whole family of them.
(Little Man Tate is a good little movie)
A Beautiful Mind
pretty obvious ^^
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures???
“wouldn’t creating a satisfying genius require that the filmmakers were geniuses themselves? Films with geniuses in them usually avoid showing what makes the person a genius (unless the character was an actual person)—but that’s the most interesting and appealing part for me”
If someone creates a fictional character, and actually shows what makes that character a genius, then, yes, that filmmaker would have to be a genius, or even if not a “genius”, at least as intelligent as the person they are trying to portray, because the filmmaker is actually the one creating what they are claiming that their character has created. But when does that ever happen? An example I think of, though not a film, is from Friday Night Lights (slight spoilers I guess). In season 4, Matt is interning for an artist who is supposed to be a genius. Most of that story is just about Matt’s relationship with this guy, but when we finally see the work which, I suppose, is supposed to let us know that the guy really is a genius, despite his personality, and that just didn’t really work for me.
But it seems like most of these movies about geniuses (especially fictional geniuses) really aren’t much about what makes them a genius, but more about how this quality sets them apart from other people, or at least defines their relationships with other people, and how they deal with that. Good Will Hunting for instance, really doesn’t show Will doing much but “regurgitating” other people’s work. That is a big part of what it is about, is him not living vicariously through others and going out into the world and creating his own thing.
Not sure what exactly qualifies as a genius, but another one (another Van Sant one as well) might be Finding Forrester. And there are a ton of films that feature historical figures that could be considered geniuses, but I feel compelled to mention Amadeus.
About time someone mentioned Shine! Little Man Tate is a really good little film too. My Left Foot could also qualify.
I believe they come right out and say the man is a genius.