Napoleon Dynamite

20 Epic Movie Nerds: The Geeks Who Won Our Hearts!

By: Matt

The nerd character archetype has existed since the dawn of cinema. While the media often portrays nerds as socially inept and annoyingly intelligent, there are plenty of film and TV show characters who go beyond the stereotypes. Who doesn’t love a well-written and multi-dimensional geek?

The best nerds portrayed on the silver screen are more than just the butt of jokes or the source of comedic relief. They have incredible depth and often play a bigger part in the larger narrative. Let’s look at some of the movie nerds that won the hearts of audiences everywhere.

1. Hermione Granger – “Harry Potter” Series

Hermione Granger - Harry Potter

Hermione Granger is the quintessential female nerd. As part of the “Golden Trio” of Hogwarts, Hermione plays a crucial role in all eight Harry Potter films. Known for her witter one-liners and penchant for learning, you can’t help but love this witch! Hermione’s geekiness was on full display in the earlier films, but her intelligence and skills continued well into the sage as we watched her grow before our own eyes. Even today, Hermione continues to be a fan favorite among Potterheads.

2. Peter Parker – “Spiderman” Series

tobey maguire spider man

There are many iterations of Peter Parker, but one of the geekiest depicted on the big screen is Tobey Maguire in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy. In those films, Peter Parker is a total nerd. He’s self-conscious, too scared to talk to his crush and spends most of his time watching the world through a camera lens. But, of course, his newfound superpowers give him a whole new lease on life.

3. Andy Stitzer – “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”

Andy Stitzer 40 year old virgin

Andy Stitzer plays an archetype we all know and love. He’s an awkward nerd who loves comic books and action figures, and his social interactions are cringe-worthy. But those quirky traits make audiences root for Andy in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” and we can’t help but cheer the man on in his quest to lose his V card.

4. Ted – “Sixteen Candles”

Ted sixteen candles

Films from the 80s cemented nerdy stereotypes, and there’s no better example of that than Ted from “Sixteen Candles.” Ted has an unstoppable drive to accomplish his goals, for better or worse. Plus, he’s donning headgear and is often seen as a loser outside his friend group. While his antics in the film are questionable, we can’t help but love this underdog!

5. Evie Carnahan – “The Mummy” Series

Evie Carnahan the mummy

Here’s another famous female nerd who came long before Hermione Granger graced cinemas. Evie is a clumsy and intelligent woman living in the 1920s. She’s adorably nerdy, donning glasses and excitedly reading through Egyptian texts. In the first film, her expertise in Egyptian lore gets her into trouble, but she later uses her nerdy quirks to become a heroine in her own right, all while retaining her “adorkable” appeal.

6. Egon Spengler – “The Ghostbuster” Series)

Egon Spengler The Ghostbuster

Without Egon, the entire “Ghostbusters” series couldn’t exist! He’s a founding member of the ghost-fighting crew and the creator of the proton packs. His expertise in science made the troupe’s entire existence possible. He’s known for his matter-of-fact style of speech and often calculates the chances of survival whenever the group faces great challenges. He’s a nice counterbalance to other characters and continually introduces new gadgets and technology to help with ghost-busting endeavors.

7. Napoleon Dynamite – “Napoleon Dynamite”

Napoleon Dynamite

When “Napoleon Dynamite” came out in 2004, it was one of those films people either loved or hated! Its dry humor is impeccable, and the titular character is one of the most iconic in the comedy genre. With his tucked-in shirt, quotable one-liners and overall lack of tact, no other character like him exists. You couldn’t tell Napoleon that he’s a nerd. He’s notoriously confident and has a unique approach to social interactions. But from the outside looking in, he’s the personification of a lovable geek!

8. Velma Dinkley – “Scooby-Doo” Series

velma dinkley scooby doo

Here’s a geek who’s been capturing the hearts of everyone since the 1970s. Velma is the resident “brains” of Mystery Incorporated, and she’s always been a lovable nerd in every depiction. In the Scooby-Doo live-action films from the early 2000s, she’s a beauty played by the incomparable Linda Cardellini. Cardellini captures Velma’s quirky essence while breathing new life into the iconic character.

9. McLovin – “Superbad”

mclovin superbad

2007’s “Superbad” is full of cringe-inducing characters, but McLovin, AKA Fogell, is the nerdiest of them all! In a film about “losers,” it takes a lot to stand out as the geekiest, yet McLovin does it well. The character is stereotypically inept in everything outside his nerdy bubble, but the film’s plot pushes him outside his comfort zone to create some truly hilarious moments.

10. Mikey – “The Goonies”

mikey the goonies

“The Goonies” is another film full of nerdy characters. Most of the main characters are outcasts, but there’s something special about Mikey. The inhaler-carrying, brace-faced hero goes on a truly courageous journey. Throughout his quest, he challenges what we know about “nerds.” He’s more than just a geek. He’s a brave kid full of determination who wants nothing more than to save the people he cares about most. 

11. George McFly – “Back to the Future” Series

george mcfly back to the future

The “Back to the Future” series has its fair share of nerdy characters. However, George McFly is one with tons of depth. We first meet George as the awkward parent of Marty. However, we later meet him as a teenager. That’s when we learn of his true geeky tendencies. A target of bullying, we can’t help but root for George. Thankfully, Marty’s travels back in time give George the courage to stand up to his bullies and refuse to give up his nerdy hobbies.

12. Brian Johnson – “The Breakfast Club”

Brian Johnson Brakfast Club

Many consider Brian the mold of archetypal nerd characters. In “Sixteen Candles,” Brian is an awkward and quiet character who doesn’t quite fit in. It’s something many of us can relate to, and seeing him find his stride within the film is always a joy. His intelligent remarks and signature stutter make him a nerd everyone cheers for.

13. Ichabod Crane – “Sleepy Hollow”

Ichabod Crane Sleepy hollow

The legend of Sleepy Hollow and Ichabod Crane dates back hundreds of years, but Tim Burton’s adaptation of the story gave us the nerdy hero. Ichabod is a fish out of water in the town of Sleepy Hollow. He’s unlike any other character, unabashedly putting his intelligence, love of problem-solving and interest in gadgets on display. He’s an unlikely hero to go up against the Headless Horseman, making “Sleepy Hollow” a cult classic.

14. Mia Thermopolis – “The Princess Diaries”

mia thermopolis the princess diaries

When most people think of Anne Hathaway, they hardly think of “geek.” But back in the early 2000s, she was the most recognizable nerd around! Mia Thermopolis is a socially awkward teen who just wants to fit in and blend in with the crowd. However, Julie Andrews’ character enters the mix to transform Mia Thermopolis into Mia Thermopolis Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, princess of Genovia!

15. Wayne Szalinski – “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”

Wayne Szalinski honey i shruk the kids

Wacky inventions and nerddom go hand-in-hand. There’s no better example than the character portrayed by Rick Moranis in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” Wayne is an inventor who’s often a target for peer bullying. However, his passion for science pushes him to create amazing, albeit dangerous, inventions. As you can imagine, his creations go awry, but audiences can’t help but love him regardless.

16. Michelle Flaherty – “American Pie” Series

Michelle Flaherty american pie

If you were a teen in the early 2000s, “One time, at band camp” likely draws up some crazy memories! The American Pie series is raunchy comedy at its finest, but one of its most memorable characters is a huge nerd! Michelle is a proud band geek who can sometimes be a bit awkward. But compared to other characters, she’s incredibly confident and never afraid to take some saucy adventures.

17. Laney Boggs – “She’s All That”

laney boggs she's all that

Laney Boggs is an art geek who spends most of her time painting. She’s socially awkward and an outcast. While beauty standards have changed a lot since “She’s All That,” her signature overalls, ponytails and glasses made her the “ugly duckling.” The film covers Laney’s journey from a loner nerd to a drop-dead gorgeous and popular girl.

18. Dr. Ellie Sattler – “Jurassic Park” Series

dr ellie sattler jurassic park

Dr. Sattler captures hearts in “Jurassic Park.” While other nerd characters have nothing more than stereotypical geeky traits, Dr. Sattler is a multi-dimensional character. She has a passion for archeology and science, is unafraid to be herself and steps up to the plate to help everyone survive the rampage of a fierce dinosaur! She’s a strong character and a fantastic role model for young archeology buffs everywhere.

19. Kevin Gnapoor – “Mean Girls”

Kevin Gnapnoor mean girls

It’s not very often that a side character becomes as memorable as Kevin Gapnoor. In “Mean Girls,” Kevin is a member of the Mathletes. He’s intelligent and surprisingly confident. Not only does he have pride in being a Mathlete, but he’s not afraid to take his shots. He does a memorable rap at the talent show and makes his moves with Janis. Kevin is a nerd with confidence, which everyone can aspire to be!

20. Mark Zuckerberg – “The Social Network”

mark zuckerberg the social network

Everyone has strong feelings about Facebook and the notoriously private real-world Mark Zuckerberg. But in “The Social Network,” he’s a nerd many root for throughout the film. This fictionalized retelling of the founding of Facebook depicts Zuckerberg as a confident, aggressive and bold man who will stop at nothing to meet his goals. This character is unique because he’s both a geek and sometimes a bully. That multi-dimensionality and his undying passion for tech makes him one to root for.

Give One Up to the Nerds

There are plenty of great geeks in film, but these 20 are some of the most beloved and memorable. These characters are more than just simple stereotypes or one-dimensional caricatures. They have great depth and challenge everything we know about what it means to be a geek. Whether you were a nerd yourself or not, you can’t help but love watching these socially awkward and witty characters on the big screen.