A Beautiful Mind

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 American film based on the life of John Forbes Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. The film was directed by Ron Howard and written by Akiva Goldsman. It was inspired by a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-nominated 1998 book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar. The film stars Russell Crowe, along with Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris and Paul Bettany.

The story begins in the early years of Nash's life at Princeton University as he develops his "original idea" that will revolutionize the world of mathematics. Early in the movie, Nash begins developing paranoid schizophrenia and endures delusional episodes and hallucinations while painfully watching the loss and burden his condition brings on his wife and friends.

The film was well-received by critics, grossed over $300 million worldwide, and went on to win four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress. It was also nominated for Best Leading Actor, Best Editing, Best Makeup, and Best Score. The film has been criticized for its inaccurate portrayal of some aspects of Nash's life. The film portrayed his hallucinations as visual and auditory, in fact they were exclusively auditory. Two: the film had Nash cured because his loving and supportive wife persuaded him to accept treatment, in fact his wife divorced him and he recovered despite or because of refusing treatment. Nasar concluded Nash's refusal to take drugs "may have been fortunate," since their side effects "would have made his gentle re-entry into the world of mathematics a near impossibility"; in the screenplay, however, just before he receives the Nobel Prize, Nash speaks of taking "newer medications."

Tropes used in A Beautiful Mind include:

John Nash: I don't exactly know what I am required to say in order for you to have intercourse with me. But could we assume that I said all that. I mean essentially we are talking about fluid exchange, right? So could we go just straight to the sex.

  • E=MC Hammer: Averted. Ron Howard hired actual mathematics professors to hand double for Crowe during the writing sequences to make sure all of his equations were mathematically accurate.
  • Eureka Moment: Nash develops his theory out of his friends' fighting over a girl.
    • And he finally determines that his hallucinations aren't real after realizing preteen Marcie hasn't aged in all the years he's known her.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: The college guys see a group of co-eds and all start talking about how they all want the blonde.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Only to those familiar with Nash. However, the script was written under the (correct) assumption that most of the audience wouldn't know who he was.
  • Foreshadowing: There are small hints about Nash's increasing schizophrenia, like when Marcee is running through the flock of pigeons, none of them fly away from her.
    • All three hallucinatory characters are first heard before they're seen, as real schizophrenic delusions tend to be auditory before they become visual. In real life, Nash only heard the hallucinations, he didn't see them.
  • Forgets to Eat: Nash. It's a bit of a trick though, and later in life he seems to have outgrown this problem without imaginary reminders.

Charles: When did you last eat? You know, food.

  • Good with Numbers
  • Hallucinations: Nash suffered from these as his schizophrenia worsened.
  • Hollywood Nerd: With Russell Crowe playing an intellectual, this is a given, especially near the end of the film as he ages and starts to wear glasses.
  • Hollywood Science: The Nash Equilibrium doesn't work out the way it's explained in the movie.
  • Imaginary Friend: Three of them.
    • John has fun with it later, when he's visited by a real friend after realizing his problem. Said friend goes to sit down, and John warns him he's about to sit on "Harvey." The real friend has a moment of awkward panic before John starts laughing, admitting to the gag, and saying there's no point in being nuts if you can't have some fun with it.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Sort of.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: One reason Nash stops taking his medication is that he can't respond to his wife.
  • Mad Mathematician: Nash provides the image for this trope.
  • Madness Montage
  • Meaningful Echo: Several.

Hansen: You scared?
Nash: Terrified. Mortified. Petrified. Stupefied ... by you.

    • And:

"Gentlemen, the great John Nash."

  • Mental Story: Nash's hallucinations.
  • No Medication for Me
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Nash asks if a note from his doctor will get him out of teaching, only to be reminded that he is a doctor, and no it won't.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: William, "Big Brother," manages to go from pointing a gun at John's head, then, when John turns towards a distraction, has William in front of him again. Of course, William had the advantage of being a hallucination.
  • Oscar Bait
  • Politically-Correct History: Nash criticized the Jewish involvement in communism. He was prone to alcoholism as a result of his schizophrenia. He also, according to unproven rumors, had numerous homosexual affairs.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: To get involved with John Nash's story it was necessary to present the hallucinations as though they were real to the audience, which would have been impossible going straight by the real story that Nash only had auditory hallucinations. Presenting fictional characters as supposed to real characters (especially his "roommate") made it a much more interesting movie.
    • Also, John and his wife divorced in the 60s, and were still apart by the time he was awarded the Nobel Prize. They did remain exceptionally close, she provided him a home after his psychiatric discharge, and in fact they remarried the same year the movie came out. Similarly, some of the more controversial aspects of both his mental illness and personal life were removed so there wouldn't seem to be a connection.
  • Race Lift: In Real Life, John Nash's wife was El Salvadoran. In the movie, she's played by Jennifer Connelly.
  • Red Scare: Nash is brought to The Pentagon to solve a Russian code that has been found.
    • Also Nash's work reading through newspapers and magazines looking for patterns that will lead to finding a suitcase nuke that the Russians will use to blow up part of America. Which of course isn't real, it is part of his paranoid schizophrenia.
  • The Reveal: John has been hoarding his pills. And he's crazy and needs them.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Several, full of newspaper / magazine clippings.
  • Rule of Perception: Until the audience sees that John isn't taking his meds, he acts like he is, right down to having ED. Less than five seconds after his pill stash is revealed, he starts cracking another code.
  • Science-Related Memetic Disorder: Nash found that his anti-schizophrenia meds drained his energy and left him unable to accomplish anything, so he ditched the pills and battled his mental illness with cold logic.
  • She's All Grown Up: Averted by one of Nash's delusions, as they never seem to age.
  • Shout-Out: When John is asking his friend if he's been introduced to Harvey he's referencing Jimmy Stewart's imaginary friend in the film Harvey.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Nash plays Go with another genius at one point. When Nash loses, he has an emotional reaction that is easily mistaken for being a Sore Loser. However, it's actually the beginning of a revelation that will eventually land him a Nobel Prize.
    • Nash really was known for his belief that Go is a flawed game, and even invented his own in which the first move and perfect play will guarantee victory, marketed as Hex.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: John Nash from this film and in Real Life.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The lonely piano theme during the car chase.
  • Take a Third Option: During a class that Nash teaches, he insists on keeping the windows shut despite the fact that it makes the room extremely hot, because a construction worker is jackhammering outside. "Your comfort takes a backseat to my being able to hear myself speak." Alicia, then one of his students, takes a third option: Opening the window, she gets the attention of the construction worker, explains the situation, and asks him very politely if he wouldn't mind continuing his work after class. Nash is suitably impressed.
  • Windmill Crusader: Nash was hired by the US government in their struggle against terrorism. What neither Nash nor his closest superiors know is that Nash is not only brilliant but also a paranoid schizophrenic who take orders from two kinds of US officials: The real and the imaginary (he's a complex guy). The later “branch of the government” takes him on a quest that only keep getting weirder as the (imaginary) terrorists get closer to their nefarious goal of planting nukes in American cities.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Acknowledged. So, they hired mathematicians to do the work.