18 of the Best Nerd Characters in Film (2023)

18 of the Best Nerd Characters in Film (1)

We saw your enthusiasm around Aldys, the self-assured, studious, forward-thinking secret nerd hero ofNever Been Kissed, and we realized there were many more nerds out there on film that weren't getting their proper love. Now that nerds have properly inherited the Earth with their domination of pop culture, here is a look at beloved past and present nerds on film. While nerds were once relegated to being sidekicks and minor characters, more recently they've been the protagonists of their own films. About time, too.

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Kevin Gnapoor, 'Mean Girls'

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Listen, I know Cady Heron is supposed to be a nerd in Mean Girls, but she definitely has a problem figuring out her nerd identity. I'd much rather talk about Kevin Gnapoor (Rajiv Surendra), who is super happy to be a nerd but also not boxed in by it. Sure, he is super pumped to pick up a Mathletes jacket (with leather sleeves!). But Kevin's more than that:He's as unafraid to go all out at the school talent show as he is to ask out a pretty girl. We should all aspire to be so brave.

Hermione Granger, the 'Harry Potter' series

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Speaking of brave, who doesn't love the smartest Gryffindor since Godric himself? Hermione (Emma Watson)isHarry Potter's Elizabeth Bennet,Jo March,andMatilda—basically, the canniest and pluckiestperson in the room. But unlike those three characters, Hermione hasRon and Harry, who know she is the smartest person they'llever meet. Seeing her in all her bushy-haired glory onscreen is a triumph for any girl who knows she can save the world (and her best friends from themselves), as long as she's got a library nearby.

Susan Cooper, 'Spy'

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Unlike Hermione, Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) just doesn'tget any respect. While some nerds earn a ton of credit for their ideas (like, say, most Nobel Prize winners), Susan Cooper is left to languish in the CIA basement, pining after her co-worker Agent Fine and doing allthe hard work for him while he got all the glory. (NOBODY ELSE DO THIS, PLEASE.) So it isincredibly satisfying to see her use all those nerd skills to best all her fellow agents and actually get the job done, in record time.

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(Video) Scooby-Doo being not so much for kids

Evie Carnahan, 'The Mummy'

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Meanwhile, The Mummy'sEvie (Rachel Weisz) is so clumsy she might have been excluded fromarcheological projectson purpose,simply to avoid any terrible accidents. However, when she does get out there,she'sthe one who makes a plan to defeat the Mummy and remains brave in the face of kidnapping and potential demon possession.

Dr. Ellie Sattler, 'Jurassic Park'

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Another brainy woman who is cool under pressure.Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern) hasno time for Dr. Ian Malcolm's inappropriately flirty antics,or Dr. Hammond's hubris and sexism, or, you know, sudden influxes of velociraptors.

Harold Lee, 'Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle'

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Unlike the suave and carefree Kumar, our beloved nerd Harold (John Cho)is hardworking, fastidious, and sweet to a fault, even in a world that's determined to crush him into a little box. While he starts the movie trying to toe the line and stay under the radar, by the end of the movie he's had it, and it is so satisfying to watch. After you calm a cheetah, survive a raccoon attack, and experience the usual microaggressions that come with being a person of color to finally get those goddamned White Castle burgers, telling off your racist co-workers and telling the girl of your dreams you're into her is a total cakewalk.

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Malcolm Adekanbi, 'Dope'

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Malcolm (Shameik Moore) technically calls himself and his friends "geeks," but we think being bullied forgetting good grades and applying to college definitely qualifies him as a nerd. Luckily, Malcolm's nerdiness actually gets him out of more than one difficult and dangerous situation—who knew bitcoins could be used for so much good?—and while he doesn't get the girl, at least he helps her get her GED.


Rich Purnell, 'The Martian'

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Speaking of Childish Gambino, can we agree that Donald Glover's Rich Purnell is one of the best examples of a nerd on film? First, like an actual scientist, he cares more about correct calculations than appearances or authority figures. Second, he figures out how to save the main character with thequickest, sharpestplan—without needing to brag about it. Who needs to brag when your intelligence speaks for itself? Also, he makes rocket noises.

Arnau, 'Safety Not Guaranteed'

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Arnau (Karan Soni) is protagonistDarius's fellow intern at Seattle Magazine. He may be aside character, buthe's also shy and sweet, and a biology major who only took the internship to diversify his resumé. He seems perfectly content to let everyone be themselves, even as they push and pull him to be something better.

Lilly, 'The Princess Diaries'

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While the Lilly of the movies is written to be a lot less gung-ho than the book version, Heather Matarazzo brings a certain ruthless sass to her role as a princess's best friend. While Mia is certainly very nerdy, Lilly has a certain pride and alacrity to her nerdiness, with her strong opinions, argumentative spirit, and cable access show, Shut Up and Listen! She also encourages Mia to have the same spirit when it comes to her princesshood—to see her newfound power and privilege as a means to do good.

Layla, 'Sky High'

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Between Lilly and Hermione Granger, you'll notice a lot of nerds tend to beimpassioned and involved in activism that targetsunfair power structures. Layla(Danielle Panabaker)joins the sidekick section of her superhero school because she protests the unfair two-track system of "sidekick" and "superhero." (Which, really, what a terrible way to organize education.)

(Video) "Das ist next level" - Wer nix werd, werd Nerd | Wer stiehlt mir die Show? | ProSieben

The whole 'Pitch Perfect' crew

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One of the major precepts of nerdiness is caring too much about something most people know nothing about. So of course this ragtag groupof aca-nerds definitelycount.

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The kids (and their mentor, Lyle) in 'The Internship'

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Don't think I don't know this movie isn'tbasicallyan advertisement for Google—that it's theWedding CrashersofAlphabet Inc. But listen, of course the kids who want to work at Google are total nerds. They can't talk to pretty girls (or boys),theyget bullied by jerks with British-y accents and great hair, and theyunderstand the newest technologies, but mostly, they work their butts off. And, okay, I can't NOT love a movie that stars a brown girl who reads fanfiction. Love you, Neha.

Data, 'The Goonies'

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Data!!!!! All those Goonies would still be drowning in that mysterious body of water if it weren't for Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) and his amazing inventions. Data would definitely be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company who explores random ocean trenches in his spare time by now.

Gabriella Montez, 'High School Musical'

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Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens)is the nerd to Troy's jock in this Disney gem, but they both attempt to break out of their predetermined roles to be part of the school musical. Gabriella's nerd-dom is mostly telegraphed byher writing a ton of equations on a giant chalkboard and her fellow math nerds looking on in amazement. Classic movie nerd.


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Brian Ralph Johnson, 'The Breakfast Club'

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While most nerds are hardworking and dedicated, it's rare to seethe kind of pressure they put on themselves (and receive from others)depicted. So often nerds are just shown with a stack of books and that's enough—but Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) talks about the actual pain he suffers under the intense scrutiny from his parents, his teachers, and himself. Tough as it might be, nerds everywhere sighed with relief to see this problem recognized.

Tibby and Lena, 'The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants'

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Why just Tibby and Lena, and why not Carmen and Bree? Well, Carmen might actually be too cool to be anerd. (Sorry, I don't make the nerd rules.) And Bree is clearly a jock. But Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), while dark-spirited, is committed to her documentary work, and Lena (Alexis Bledel) is most interested in getting closer to her grandparents and learning Greek. Both of them are introverted, self-contained worlds unto themselves,who only break out from them when people force them to.

Elle Woods, 'Legally Blonde'

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Elle (Reese Witherspoon)is one of those secret nerds—kind of likea cross-cultural diplomat. In her story, some nerds can be just as mean and judgmentalas the next person. But while being a nerd doesn't mean you're a good person, it does mean that you can get your client out of a murder charge AND set up a good friend with a cute guy AND show up your ex-boyfriend all at the same time.

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Sulagna Misra

(Video) Doktorspiele?! 😱 Chiara (8) und Paul (8) wurden erwischt | Die Familienhelfer | SAT.1

Sulagna Misra writes about the weird things that pop into her head when she's not paying attention. She's on Twitter (@sulagnamisra) so she can not pay attention more effectively.


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