The film industry continuously introduces its viewers to plenty of different types of characters. From the rebellious punk to the prom queen, cinema has distinctively represented the stereotypes countless times now, and in inumerable scenarios. What often makes typical nerdy characters great (besides their enviable brightness) is their extreme dedication to activities others would consider boring, which usually helps them develop their already existing skills.
Stranger Things’ beloved character Dustin Henderson (brilliantly played by Gaten Matarazzo) is a great example of a geek who is always there to save the day, having pretty much gone from sidekick to leader in the first volume of the latest season. Starting off with The Goonies down to the Indiana Jones franchise, check out some of our favorite nerds in fiction who ultimately end up being the hero – sometimes literally, at other times figuratively.
The Goonies (1985)
This iconic group of young misfits from the Astoria neighborhood “Goon Docks” (hence the name “Goonies”) are forced to put their knowledge into action when set out on an adventure to find a legendary pirate’s long-lost treasure. Filled with exciting scenes, the Richard Donner film remains relevant to this day and is frequently referenced in pop culture.
The unforgettable tale of childhood quests paints the nerd-ish characters as the heroes of the story after they attempt to save their homes from foreclosure, and it does so in an incredibly joyous and brilliant way. Between a thoroughly entertaining plot and several talented child actors, there are many reasons why The Goonies remains a flawless movie to this day. What makes it even more special is the message it sends out of people being just people in the end of the day, regardless of the stereotype they fit under.
Real Genius (1985)
Another film that premiered in 1985 and explored the never-ending delight of being a nerd is Martha Coolidge‘s Real Genius. After entering a top engineering college, Gabriel Jarret’s character Mitch Taylor partners up with his roommate (Val Kilmer) – who happens to be a science club genius – on a project to develop a high-powered laser.
The movie that some consider one of the best ’80s college comedies has won a lot of people over with its realistic portrayal of youth and intelligence. While the main characters are all about studying, they also enjoy a good party. Real Genius breaks down the stereotyping of geeks being socially awkward and showcases that smart people, though sometimes isolated by their activities, can actually be socially developed.
Starring Matthew Broderick as David, this American science fiction techno-thriller film follows the journey of a young man who accidentally finds a door into a military central computer that has complete control over the US nuclear arsenal. That’s where the fun begins – the machine challenges him to what seems like a game of America vs. Russia, possibly starting World War 3.
While John Badham’s WarGames is not a classic, there is no denying that it is a very innovative film considering its release date. While computer hacking is no surprise to anyone nowadays, it definitely wasn’t one of the most discussed topics back in the 1980s and people genuinely did not know how powerful these machines would become. Needless to say, David is the nerdy teen who ends up saving the day.
The Spider-Man Movies
It is no news to anyone that everybody’s favorite friendly neighborhood superhero is a science enthusiast, and one of the coolest characters to date all the same. Whichever depiction of the character we’re talking about – be it Tobey Maguire‘s, Andrew Garfield‘s or Tom Holland‘s – it is an undeniable fact that Peter Parker is one of the most treasured Marvel personalities.
What is so great about these three portrayals is just how human and flawed they feel. Although Peter is this big heroic character in all the movies he appears in, his brains play a huge role in what ultimately makes him Spider-Man. He is also extremely kind and caring, though he can bit a bit awkward.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
This brilliant movie tells the touching story of Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a student gifted with mathematical skills and a mind-blowing IQ; however, he needs help to find direction in his life. That’s when the talented Robin Williams comes on the scene and wonderfully brings the therapist Sean to life in one of his best dramatic roles.
Possibly the finest Gus Van Sant film, Good Will Hunting is a slow burner with a genius script. While it is a beautifully made movie, it is also thought-provoking. It’s a film about growing up and finding a purpose that makes viewers wonder what defines a person, all this while displaying a beautiful connection between two people.
The Indiana Jones Movies
While Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) may not seem like the quintessential nerd at first, the character has always been fascinated by history and keen on lifelong learning, especially when it comes to ancient civilizations and languages. The iconic venturer is smart and crafty, and such traits often stand out, making him the ultimate coolest adventure hero.
It is also relatively easy to relate to Indy because, much like the previously mentioned Marvel character, he unapologetically himself, never once throughout his fearless episodes trying to be the hero but simply being.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
The Theory of Everything is a biographical movie that tells the story of legendary physicist Stephen Hawkingand his wife Jane Hawking, highlighting their beautiful and caring relationship throughout the years. There’s a magical dynamic between Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmaynewho is simply phenomenal in the role, and deservingly won an Oscar for his performance.
Although this movie did not feature a lot of science and often relied on the romantic side of things more, it does effectively convey the magnitude of Hawking’s genius. The message behind the drama is truly inspiring, making the audience realize that there’s always something to succeed at: “While there is life, there is hope.”
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Another movie about genius that was carried out extremely well is Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind. Also thanks to Russel Crowe’s mind-blowing acting, this deeply emotional, enriching film manages to perfectly capture the nerdy scientist protagonist’s struggles with mental health while shinning a light on how too much intellectual power is often close to madness.
Powerful and raw, ABeautiful Mind’s screenplay was loosely based on Sylvia Nasar’s 1997 biography of the mathematician John Nash. It makes you look at the world with different eyes and a fresh perspective.
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