Hollywood's fascination with exceptional individuals has led to an assemblage of films about genius—the gifted and talented—that ranges from the time of the film industry's own birthing in the age of invention with “Great man” biopics (The Story of Louis Pasteur, 1935; Edison, The Man, 1940), to contemporary depictions of troubled and mentally unbalanced geniuses (A Beautiful Mind, 2001; Shine, 1996). This entry discusses images of the gifted in films since the beginning of the 20th century.

Throughout, whether based on historical figures (Young Mr. Lincoln, 1939; The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, 1939) or fictional characters (The Fountainhead, 1949; Good Will Hunting, 1997), the filmic drive for narrative conflict and resolution has often led to the overdramatization and even pathologizing of exceptional individuals. Historical portrayals ...

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