The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

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The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

In most movie plots, someone has to be the brains of the operation, and often just a run of the mill smarty pants just won’t do. Whether it be an eccentric genius hero, a brilliant yet confused anti-hero or an all out villain with a dangerously high IQ, it is never enough to just use these select few real life characters in movies–often we just have to make some up while inventing that stellar story. Yes, Geniuses are different than you and me and rather rare on the ground (unless you hold a membership in MENSA–then please excuse my presumptions) so as they are unique they must be portrayed as so in movies.

Here are 20 extraordinary characters in films who are geniuses.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Will Hunting (Good Will Hunting, 1997)

Who pays attention to the school janitor? No one at all so you never know what’s going on in his or her head as they buff the floor for the proper students to tread upon. Will is able to easily solve a seemingly “unsolvable” math problem, but his extraordinary genius didn’t jibe with his working class background and troubled past. This wonderful film teaches us that genius can be found in the most unlikely places and that the whole person who possesses that brain (played beautifully by Matt Damon) must be nurtured–hopefully by a therapist half as cool as Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) so they can reach their potential.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

James Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes films, TV)

Another genius mathematician who didn’t get the therapy he needed is Professor James Moriarty, dubbed by Mr. Holmes as The Napoleon of Crime.This genius is subverted in The Seven Percent Solution, making him only a genius in Sherlock’s drug addled head, but in most of the canon and on film he is a match toe to toe with both the Holmes Brothers. What is really uncanny about Moriarty is that he enjoys doing evil for the fun of it. Unlike other genius villains, he just loves to torment and is fixated on Sherlock. Many fanfics have taken this obsession to a romantic level to explain why one genius who has the world at his feet fixates on a private detective.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Tony Stark (Ironman)

He’s handsome, he’s a billionaire, and he’s a genius. What can’t he do? He could rest on his wealth on an island but no, he has to invent stuff to save the world. This makes him altruistic as well. He’s also a non-conformist and had a few jarring bumps in the road before embracing his destiny. It’s no wonder that Pepper Potts, who is quite brilliant herself, sticks around.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Dr. Stephen Strange (Dr. Strange)

Another Marvel hero, his accident took away his use of genus power as a surgeon so he had to dig deep and go on a quest into the metaphysical world where he becomes even more powerful than he ever thought possible. Those who went into the theater enticed by the chance to see Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role may have left with a new appreciation for comic books.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Andre Delambre/Seth Brundle (The Fly 1958 and 1986)

In these films a genius scientist wants to tackle the quest for teleportation by separating genetic material and reassembling it. Even when he walking around with a fly’s head on his shoulders he keeps on trying to fix his mistake. The far creepier version is the 1958 film. Particularly the ending. He dared to use his out of this world IQ to mess with nature and it didn’t go well.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock films, TV)

He’s runs the country and much of the world from the comfort of his armchair. Yeah, he is the smarter brother, and as a genus has trouble connecting with the outside world so impressed by his own thoughts that everyone else is too boring to contemplate, except his brother on occasion. Whether portrayed on film or on TV he is the Deus ex machina behind the scenes.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991)

He can get into people’s heads like a demon, can anticipate other’s every move, and is a mastermind of evil. This doctor is our worst nightmare. He is also an expert criminal profiler. He seems to either have ESP or more than likely he has an intricate web of criminals whom he controls from inside his cell. To really understand the criminal mind the way Dr. Leter does one must be able to think like a murdering psychopath while being able to synthesize this information into usable tips to help trap the monster, in this case, Buffalo Bill.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom (Con Air, 1997)

This wild ride of a film brings us a guy who not only became highly educated within prison walls, he is a genius master of escape. Who else could play him but John Malkovich, who looks brilliant even when he’s thinking about what’s for lunch? He is the big bad to beat in this film but no because he has brawn but he has the extraordinary brain. Grissom’s role as antagonist also deflected the viewers from ruminating on Nicholas Cage’s overacting in this 90s action film.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, 2011)

This woman with a goth look and short fuse is an expert hacker. She has such mad skills that she makes enemies as she works to uncover a mystery that has baffled police for decades. character, created for the Millenium Series by Stieg Larsson, is layered and complex. She is highly relatable. Lizbeth, despite her genius, has insecurities and challenges like the rest of us.

Real Genius Movie

Chris Knight (Real Genius, 1985 )

Chris is the leader of a quirky band of geniuses who have to save their laser project from being co-opted into a war weapon. Val Kilmer with his formidable head of hair and adorable antics made being a genius super cool again. After the intellectually vacant disco 1970s, movie fans embraced the teen genius characters in films like 1985s Weird Science, starring the geek of the brat pack, Anthony Michael Hall.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Dr. Susan Tyler (Mimic 1997)

Another case of genetic engineering gone wrong is when Dr. Tyler (Mia Sorvino) creates a new type of “Judas Breed” cockroach. Her science was seemingly flawless until three years go by and the world experiences how great this new breed of roaches can “mimic”. She is the only one who can solve the problem she created, with the help of her future husband Dr. Mann (played by Jeremy Northman) and a street kid. In movies where the human race tampers with nature, there has to be a scientist at the helm of the action. Luckily, the movie discarded the man as scientist unwritten law and gave us Mira Sorvino who seemed serious enough as you can be while impaling large bugs to study them closely.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter Movies)

If you think this little witch’s talents just come from book learning, think again. The muggle-born Hermione has no genetic magical gifts she uses her education; however, she also has an uncanny way to fix just about any problem and can go full on MacGyver when required. Yes, Sirius is right. She really is the “brightest witch of her age”. Yes, Harry was smart, but without Hermoine, he may not have survived the first installment of the series.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Victor Frankenstein (Frankenstein films, notably Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein)

This torn genius wanted to defeat death at any cost. Just because he ended up being able to do so with the creation of his monster doesn’t mean it was a good idea, but he did it. He had no patience for his medical peers who were busy healing folks with leeches., you have to doubt the intelligence of a village who go all vigilante and hand women on flimsy evidence. In the book, Justine gets something like a trial but in the1994 film they just grab her and string her up. The chasm between Victor and the people in his world separate him before he actually goes grave robbing for spare parts. Unfortunately, with genius often comes hubris, and Victor pays the price.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Lex Luthor (Superman 1978)

This brilliant guy co-opted prime real estate under Grand Central Station to carry out his maniacal plans against mankind. Gene Hackman played the villainous braggart with such energy and wit that we loved him although we knew we really shouldn’t. Gene Hackman seemed to be having so much fun playing this super villain that it’s impossible to totally separate the character from the actor in our minds for those who saw the original movie. There have been many other incarnations of Lex Luthor due to the plethora of Superman movies made thereafter, but whoever you pick as your favorite, this genius archrival is an astounding character. Was Superman a genius? Well on his home planet perhaps not–it’s all relative.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock films, TV)

Although his IQ is not specifically mentioned, no one can doubt his genius. Unfortunately, like many who are extraordinarily brilliant, he like his brother has trouble relating to people. What he can relate to is the criminal mind, and his powers of deduction leave even the most seasoned cops scratching their heads as to how he can come up with these theories based on practically zero evidence (that they can see at least). He is also insufferable, egotistical and just plain weird. That’s why he needs John Watson around–few other people can stand his company although he is useful to the police force as their for hire brain trust.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Stan Uris (It 2017 Movie and 1990 TV Miniseries)

Stan was a genius kid who only saw things in the context of whether or not they were “empirically possible” That was unfortunate for him as his gang is plunged into an evil mystery that defies the bounds of science, which Stan looks for as comfort. When threatened he names off species of birds and recites phrases from the scouting handbook. Sometimes being the genius is not an advantage. Fans of Stephen King cannot wait to see the new film as Wyatt Oleff with his expressive serious face will be playing Stan.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Emmett L. “Doc” Brown: (Back to the Future 1985)

Who else but Christopher Lloyd could bring us this wacky inventor? Popping in and out of time with him and his pal Marty McFly. Plus he made the time travel vehicle a Delorean sports car. He is made up to be the epitome of the mad scientist stereotype with his wild white hair, and lab coat, yet his engaging personality transcends the popular trope.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Adrian Alexander Veidt a.k.a. Ozymandias (Watchmen 2009)

One of the most interesting yet underrated characters in the DC Comic universe. Adrian Veidt was a bona fide genius who graduated college before age 18 and had to dumb himself down for fear of false accusations. Yes, there are so many watchable characters in this film, but Veidt is such a genius he is accused of destroying New York City.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Mary Adler (Gifted 2017)

How do you handle a 7-year-old math prodigy? That is the basis of this heartwarming film about the decision to push a gifted child or let her have a somewhat normal childhood. What does an uncle do as he weighs the pros and cons of helping this already traumatized little girl go on with her life? For once, the story of a child prodigy is played with sensitivity and authenticity. Being a “different” child is difficult for whatever reason and Mary wins our hearts as well as our admiration for her unique gift.  We’d also add Fred Tate to this when it comes to child geniuses in film.

The Top 20 Fictional Geniuses in Movies

Dr. Egon Spengler, PhD (Ghostbusters 1984) 

As an expert on paranormal studies and quantum science, Dr. Egon Spangler gets points for just having a cool name, but no, he is the brain power behind the Ghostbuster team and some fans of the movie maintain that the parade at the end should have been mostly for him. Played by Harold Ramis, Spangler has weird hobbies, eats lots of sweets and only sleeps 14 minutes per day.

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