The film has been criticized for its inaccurate portrayal of Nash's life and his ordeal with schizophrenia as well as for the over-simplified representation of the Nash equilibrium
. The filmmakers later stated that the film was not meant to be a literal representation. The difficulty was in portraying stress and mental illness within one person's mind.
Sylvia Nasar stated that the filmmakers "invented a narrative that, while far from a literal telling, is true to the spirit of Nash's story".
It made his hallucinations visual and auditory when, in fact, they were exclusively auditory. It is true that his handlers, both from faculty and administration, had to introduce him to assistants and strangers.
documentary A Brilliant Madness
attempts to portray his life more accurately.
The film had other major departures from Nash's life. No mention is made of Nash's supposed homosexual experiences at RAND
Nash later denounced these accusations.
Nash also fathered a son, John David Stier (born 19 June 1953), by Eleanor Agnes Stier (1921–2005), a nurse whom he abandoned when informed of her pregnancy.
In 1962, Alicia filed for divorce. It was not until Nash won the Nobel Memorial Prize that they renewed their relationship.
Nash is shown to join Wheeler Laboratory at MIT, but there is no such lab. He was appointed as C.L.E. Moore Instructor at MIT.
The pen ceremony tradition at Princeton shown in the film is completely fictitious.
The film has Nash saying around the time of his Nobel prize in 1994: "I take the newer medications", when in fact Nash did not take any medication from 1970 onwards, something Nash's biography highlights. Howard later stated that they added the line of dialogue because it was felt as though the film was encouraging the notion that all schizophrenics can overcome their illness without medication.
Nash also never gave an acceptance speech for his Nobel prize.
Around the time of the Oscar nominations, Nash was accused of being anti-semitic
. Nash denied this and it was speculated that the accusation was designed to affect the votes inside the Academy Awards.