Geeks In Vogue: Top Ten Cinematic Nerds

Its official – geek is in. Never before in modern times have geeks, nerds and boffins enjoyed such a level of popularity. With our increasing reliance on technology and the Internet, jocks and muscle men are being shoved aside in favour of an altogether different kind of leading man – the geek. So without further ado, here is my top 10 list of geeks on film (make a note, there’s no Peter Parker on this list, but he would’ve been my number 11):

#10 Milo Hoffman (Antitrust)
Peter Howitt’s 2001 computer-nerd film, Antitrust is fantastically geeky. I believe the film was unfairly criticised upon release but given its dense layers of technical jargon it’s understandable that few related to the message it tried to convey.

Regardless, Ryan Philippe’s Milo Hoffman is the first nerd to enter our list. Computer programmer, open-source pioneer and all-round geeky boy, Hoffman is the latest computer programmer to be hired by Bill Gates impersonator, Gary Winston (Tim Robbins). Of course once he’s got his feet under the table at Microsoft – sorry, NURV, he finds his new employer is entangled in a web of deceit, conspiracy and murder. So what does he do? Simple, he streams it live on the Internet – the geekiest possible way to bring down a megalomaniac. Good stuff Milo!

#9 Donnie Darko (Donnie Darko)
When he’s not seeing his shrink or hallucinating giant rabbits, Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is in fact a brilliantly gifted 16 year old teenager. However once he returns home to find a large jet engine squatting in his room, Donnie begins to develop a strange obsession with death and time travel, something which isn’t helped by the fact that Frank (that’s the giant rabbit) has told Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds.

Sadly, due to his deteriorating mental state, we rarely get to see Donnie’s brilliance in action, apart from the brilliant scene in which he completely shoots down inspirational speaker and kiddie porn addict, Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze). However the fact still remains that in a debate, Donnie will make complete mincemeat out of you, before making you question your beliefs, your life and finally, your sanity.

#8 Matt Farrell (Live Free or Die Hard)
Justin Long’s take on the geeky computer hacker holds all the hallmarks of a typical nerd, nervousness, an inability to talk to girls and an irritating tendancy to waffle about technical things that no one else understands are all on display here. However Farrell still gets his fair share of action in this fourth instalment of the Die Hard series.

Teaming with John McClaine (Bruce Willis) to take on super-evil-geek, Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), Farrell attempts to redeem himself for the part he has played in Gabriel’s nefarious plot while also getting jiggy with McClaine’s daughter, Lucy. Sweet!

#7 Stanley Jobson (Swordfish)
One of Hugh Jackman’s most underrated performances, in my eyes, is as the trailer-dwelling computer hacker, Stanley Jobson in Dominic Sena’s 2001 film, Swordfish. Having been prosecuted for hacking into (and subsequently infecting) the FBI’s Carnivore programme, Jobson spent two years in Leavenworth before getting parole, hooking up with Halle Berry and helping one Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) steal $9.5 billion. Definitely deserves a place on the list in my opinion!

#6 Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes)
Director Guy Ritchie may have attempted to give Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic character a makeover by turning him into a bare knuckle boxer, however the truth still remains that Holmes (played in the 2009 film by Robert Downey Jr.) and his assistant, Dr Watson (Jude Law) are two of the most famous geeks in literary history.

Even without his almost super-natural powers of deduction and observation, Holmes’ encyclopedic knowledge of science and crime make him a formidable foe. Oh and we like his colourful collection of bowler hats and deerstalkers too.

#5 Sam Witwicky (Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen)
In what other time would Shia LaBeouf’s awkward, nerdy character of Sam Witwicky be given the opportunity to be the leading man, an incidental action hero and get hooked up with Megan Fox?

At no other time in cinematic history has the geek held as much power and regard as he has during the first years of 21st Century. “Ladiesman 217” as he’s known on eBay, is as geeky as they get. He’s unpopular at school, regularly the butt of everyone’s jokes and constantly finds himself embarrased by over-bearing parents, yet somehow he manages to save the world alongside Optimus Prime and co. not once, but twice. Yes, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen might have been complete stool-water compared to the first instalment, but Witwicky’s kick-assery still remains undisputed.

#4 Spock (Star Trek)
If you’ve ever found yourself having a conversation with a non-geek (known also by the names meathead, mere mortal and frat-boy) then you’ll know that the first reaction given to the mention of Trek will be a piss-poor attempt at Spock’s “Live long and prosper” hand signal – the geek’s version of a V-Sign.

Spock and Star Trek as a whole represent everything the geek world stands for, enlightenment, a desire to broaden one’s horizons, equality and, oh yes, big-ass spaceships. So when Spock returned for 2009’s Star Trek (in the form of Zachary Quinto) it was refreshing to find that the Vulcan nerd had been given a slight makeover, a temper and a solid right hook. He still quotes regulation, procedure and “logical” observations like the anally-retentive nerd that he is though. Thank god.

#3 Fogell / McLovin (Superbad)
If you’ve ever wondered what an archetypal, absolute geek looks like in his rawest form, then McLovin of Superbad is a pretty good place to start. Played with absolute finesse by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, McLovin (real name Fogell) is a 28 carat, 100 percent nerd of the highest order. When it comes to purchasing a fake ID, the kid is so naive to anything remotely “cool” or “bad” that he completely screws it up and finds himself in possession of a ridiculous, Hawaiian ID card which looks about as genuine as George Bush on ecstasy. Not content with a multi-coloured forgery of the lowest standards known to man, Fogell also opts to pick what he believes to be a real cool name: McLovin, look it up, it’s now in the Urban Dictionary.

#2 Neo (The Matrix Trilogy)
This was intended to be a list post-millennium, but how could I not include this guy? Neo may be “The One”, he may be able to dodge bullets, go completely kung-fu on your ass and save the human race from total oblivion, but he still started out life as Thomas Anderson, cubicle-dwelling office worker by day and computer hacker by night.

The Matrix is one of the ultimate geek movies that most would agree, you should see before you die. The idea that our world is in fact a completely manufactured computer programme designed to keep an imprisoned human race docile and happy is brilliant – even more brilliant is that it takes a quiet, down-trodden computer hacker like Anderson (played, with all the emotional range of a wooden spoon, by Keanu Reeves) to bring an end to our war with the machines.

#1 Tony Stark (Iron Man, Iron Man 2)
He may have a passion for scotch, fast ladies and fast cars, but when all is said and done, Tony Stark (aka Robert Downey Jr.) is a Grade A geek. Let’s be honest here, the playboy millionaire could do more with a VCR and an old lawnmower engine than NASA will ever hope to achieve with a fully-funded space programme.

Not content with improving upon his father’s ARC Reactor technology, inventing a highly intelligent computer by the name of Jarvis and creating some of the most cutting edge weapons known to man, Stark goes on to create (and refine) the IRON MAN armour, becoming a superhero in his own right in the process. No radioactive spiders or genetic wizardry required here, all Stark needed was a few nuts and bolts and some metal plate. Pure genius.