If you’re looking to boost your intelligence you can always read a book, surround yourself with educated people, learn a new skill and take care of your health by exercising, getting enough sleep and eating “brain foods.” You can even increase your intelligence by watching TV and movies from time-to-time.
Of course, you have to be discriminating in which shows and movies to view. Educational content like documentaries and current affairs programs are your best options since they may improve your general knowledge and conversational repertoire. Sometimes this type of content can even help you discover a new interest that you may wish to turn into a hobby.
Besides documentaries and programs like the news, you can watch the occasional movie like the following eight films. I’ve found that these movies have not only peaked my interest in new subject matters, they’ve also provided some valuable life and business lessons.
8. “Inside Out” (2015)
Yes. This is a Pixar film. But, as Charlie Jane Adams, one of the founders of i09 and author of the bestselling All The Birds in the Sky, explains, this story about a young girl named Riley struggling to adjust to moving to a new city “ is an extended metaphor for the changes that happen in your heart and mind as you grow up -- the dueling emotions show the emotional states of a child, being supplanted and rearranged as you learn maturity.” The film also explores “the complexity of the ways that different emotions interact with each other.”
During the course of the film Riley’s emotions, Joy, Fear, Sadness, Disgust, and Anger, discover “how to manage more difficult situations, and to abandon their old assumptions about what kind of emotional state is best.” Additionally, “Inside Out” also explores “the ways that memories are stored in the brain, and how memories can change over time as you revisit them.”
Even though this is a kid’s film, those are all priceless lessons that entrepreneurs should learn during the course of their entrepreneurial journey.
7. “Limitless” (2011)
This thriller starring Bradley Cooper follows Edward Morra, a struggling writer, who is introduced to a nootropic drug called NZT-48. This mysterious pill grants him the ability to fully utilize his brain, which in turn, drastically improves his life.
While there isn’t such a drug, at least not legally or at this level, “Limitless” will prime you to think smarter. Priming, according to Psychology Today, “is a nonconscious form of human memory concerned with the perceptual identification of words and objects. It refers to activating particular representations or associations in memory just before carrying out an action or task.” For instance, if you see the word "yellow," it might be slightly faster for you to recognize the word "banana." This is “because yellow and banana are closely associated in memory.”
6. “The Imitation Game” (2014)
This film tells the story of mathematician Alan Turing, a.k.a. the father of modern computing, as he assisted in a British code-breaking operation that helped shorten the Second World War.
Besides learning the history of Turning and how he laid the groundwork for computers and artificial intelligence by inventing a “universal machine,” “The Imitation Game” also celebrates human ingenuity, encourages you to think big, and inspires you to learn more about Turing and the machine and test that bear his name -- which would come in handy if you’re involved in the tech industry.
5. "Memento" (2000)
Christopher Nolan’s fascinating detective story follows Leonard (Guy Pierce), a man who is incapable of forming new memories, as he attempts to find his wife’s killer. The film starts in the middle and works it’s way back to the beginning in order to make the viewer go through the same emotions as Leonard.
Juggling between these non-linear narratives can improve your attention and imagine since it forces you to draw your own conclusion. But, more importantly, “Memento” illustrates the importance of memory techniques.
4. “Good Will Hunting” (1997)
This Academy Award-winning film follows a janitor with genius-level intellect working at MIT with a troubled past. Good Will Hunting actually brought in an MIT professor for the complex mathematical equations, and there are also plenty of excellent literary and philosophical discussions between Will and Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), the most valuable lessons from “Good Will Hunting” are understanding that education can come from anywhere, there’s no such thing as “perfect,” and the importance of emotions and relationships.
3. “Primer” (2004)
Written, directed, and starring Shane Carruth, who has a college degree in mathematics and previously worked as an engineer, “Primer” is a science fiction drama about two engineers who accidentally discover how to time travel. The film, like Memento, has a non-linear structure, explores the philosophical implications time travel, and discusses complex physics and science theories the Meissner effect and Feynman diagrams.
This film can also be compared to a Rubix cube in that it requires multiple viewings in order to rearrange the plot until you figure this complicated puzzle out.
2. “A Beautiful Mind” (2001)
Inspired by the bestselling biography of Nobel Prize-winning economist and mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., this Academy Award winning film focuses on the discovery of the Nash Equilibrium, which as Investopedia explains, “is a concept of game theory where the optimal outcome of a game is one where no player has an incentive to deviate from his chosen strategy after considering an opponent's choice.”
That may sound confusing, but economists have used this theory to “work out how competing companies set their prices, how governments should design auctions to squeeze the most from bidders and how to explain the sometimes self-defeating decisions that groups make.” Furthermore, the “Nash equilibrium helps economists understand how decisions that are good for the individual can be terrible for the group.”
1. “Pi” (1998)
This surrealist psychological thriller film, which was written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, follows an unemployed number theorist named Max who suffers from cluster headaches, paranoia, hallucinations, and social anxiety disorder. The film is notable for covering themes ranging from religion, mysticism, and the relationship of the universe to mathematics. Max becomes obsessed with these themes in order to find the key to the chaos that surrounds us everywhere, which he can use predict anything, such as the stock market.
An introduction to these themes is extremely interesting, but I’ve found that the real takeaway from this movie is the dangers of constantly looking for something that may not be there. No matter how educated and informed you are, you can’t always predict what’s going to come next.
What movies do you believe have give your IQ a boost? And, don’t worry if they’re not critically acclaimed or complex. Even “trashy” movies may make you smarter.