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The Antagonists of A BEAUTIFUL MIND: An Analysis

If you know anything about writing a script, then you know about the importance of having constant conflict throughout it. Keep in mind, conflict doesn’t mean a physical fight, but more or less a barrier that prevents the main character from achieving their goal. As you can assume, that can mean a lot of things.

As a result, it’s especially important for screenwriters to analyze critically acclaimed films for what makes the antagonists of the film so special. That is an aspect of screenwriting that’s been around for as long as films have been around. People have always looked at other films for inspiration and notes on how to make their story potentially better.

A Beautiful Mind is amongst that category of films that so many people look at for having a unique perspective on what the antagonist is. Directed by Ron Howard, written by Akiva Goldsman, and starring Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, and Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind tells the story of John Nash, a brilliant but asocial mathematician who accepts secret work in cryptography, causing his life to take a turn for the worst. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at what makes the script and antagonists of A Beautiful Mind so special.

Still from 'A Beautiful Mind'. Photo credit: Plugged In

Understanding What An Antagonist Is

Upon reading A Beautiful Mind’s script, it might seem confusing to pinpoint who the actual antagonist is. Initially, you might think Parcher (played by Ed Harris) and the FBI are the antagonists since they appear to mess with the main character, but the script does an excellent job at demonstrating a deeper level than that.

A mathematician who is being spied on can be a very predictable story for most people. Whereas, a story about a Mathematician who is going through a serious mental illness with schizophrenia is a story that presents a more profound meaning with what the antagonist is.

The script does an excellent job at opening with its more mysterious messaging by the lines of The way the world looks to God. The odd puzzle geometry of sea and land pieced together as if by unseen design. Opening with metaphorical language allows the director Ron Howard to piece the film together in such a way that represents the language in the script.

Character Antagonists And Their Purpose

What A Beautiful Mind’s script does so beautifully is to declare that a script doesn’t need to have the singular focus of having an actual character Antagonist. Although there are certainly characters who present conflict in the script with John Nash, those characters are very minor compared to Nash himself, especially when we discover that many of the antagonists were imaginary.

The entire point of a story like this is to show that the antagonist of it is the protagonist as well. Generally speaking, that tends to be a big no-no in the world of scriptwriting, but since this script does an excellent job at propping up character antagonists along the way, it still works beautifully. Once we realize why Nash is the way he is, then it becomes entirely clear who the antagonist is.

Personal Conflict

As touched upon earlier, conflict is what drives any great script, and without it, a script would feel entirely flat. Personal conflict is especially vital to a script like A Beautiful Mind, since it focuses on the notion that the main character happens to be the antagonist in some sense. Meaning that Nash’s mind is what he’s up against.

It’s not in a traditional role like Batman vs Joker, but strictly internally with Nash trying to deal with the negative mental thoughts he has going on. We especially see this on page 84 of the script when Alicia details Nash’s battle with schizophrenia: Schizophrenia has no cure. But with

medication and a low stress environment the patient can hope to approximate a normal life.

Overcoming Conflict

As soon as Nash is diagnosed with schizophrenia, there comes the primary point of Nash trying to overcome the conflict that’s associated with having such an awful mental illness. Even before he’s diagnosed, the script leads us to believe that he’s being messed with by Soviet Agents, led by Charles, Marcee, and Parcher.

Once we found out the three of them are all made-up, it gives us an understanding of what the story is actually about. It’s no longer a story of a paranoid mathematician being hunted down by Soviet Agents, but a man who is struggling with a mental illness. Hence why the name of the film is A Beautiful Mind.


The last point to highlight with A Beautiful Mind, besides having a good resolution is the use of a relapse in a story like this. Once Nash finds out he has schizophrenia, we’re led to believe that his medication is what’ll keep him going in the right direction.

However, once Nash stops taking the medication, he begins to see Parcher and Charles again. It is here where Nash’s relapse ends up being a happy ending since he chooses to ignore the hallucinations for the most part, causing him to win the Nobel Prize years later.


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