Hollywood stars are usually known for their good looks and talent rather than their intelligence. Based on their career choices, actors, models and recording artists are often dismissed as shallow and unintellectual. In the entertainment business it helps to start young, so many opt to drop out of college or not to attend at all, contributing to the idea that celebrities are uneducated. Personalities like Justin Bieber, who thought the North Pole was a continent and said he hoped Anne Frank “would have been a Belieber” do little to help the cause.
However, a surprising number of stars are not only gorgeous and wealthy, but also incredibly clever. Many possess a flair for academia and have earned degrees from prestigious universities – actress Maggie Gyllenhaal has a BA in literature and Eastern religions from Columbia, talk show host Conan O’Brien is a Harvard graduate while supermodel Cindy Crawford won a scholarship to study chemical engineering at Northwestern University. Other celebrities have enviable linguistic skills – Kate Beckinsale is fluent in four languages, while Tom Hiddleston speaks five. Yet more impress with their business acumen – even Paris Hilton, though far from scholarly, has some serious entrepreneurial skills.
The average IQ in the U.S. is around 98, but the stars on the following list are so intelligent they put the general public to shame, boasting genius or near-genius IQs. Some even qualify for membership to Mensa; if they took up membership, it would certainly bring a touch of glitz and glamour to the world’s best-known high IQ society. It seems some people really do have it all…
10. Arnold Schwarzenegger: 135
Arnold Schwarzenegger has a frankly astounding IQ of 135. The Terminator star and former Governor of California is famed for his baffling public statements, including “I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman” and “Don’t be economic girlie men!” Indeed, he’s often parodied for his substandard acting and burly physique. The muscular actor turned politician keeps his genius well-hidden, though it is unclear whether or not this is on purpose.
9. Natalie Portman: 140
Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman is one smart cookie, and has always had a keen interest in academia. As a teenager, she skipped the premiere of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace to prepare for her high school final exams. Now, the Academy Award-winner has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard, and has also pursued graduate courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has twice been published in scientific journals, and is fluent in five languages. In an interview with the New York post, Portman declared: “I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” But why choose when you can be both?
8. Shakira: 140
Colombian songstress Shakira ranks among the most powerful women in the world (according to Forbes magazine), and is one of the most successful artists in the music industry today. The belly-dancing vocalist writes all her own songs, and speaks fluent Spanish, English, and Portuguese as well as some French, Italian, Catalan and Arabic. She has a passion for history and world cultures, and in 2007 she pursued a course in the History of Western Civilisation at UCLA Extensions. Shakira appreciates the value of education, and has set up two schools in her home country.
7. Madonna: 140
In high school, Madonna was a straight-A student, known for her impressive grade-point average as much as for her talent as a performer. She won a scholarship to study at the University of Michigan, but eventually dropped out to build a career as a dancer/singer. She quickly made a name for herself, and is now the best-selling female recording artist of all time. The Queen of Pop is widely admired for her shrewd business sense, and her ability to constantly reinvent herself has enabled her to sit at the top of the music industry for decades.
6. Geena Davis: 140
Geena Davis is far more than just a pretty face. The six foot tall actress and former model is a member of Mensa and holds a bachelor’s degree in drama from Boston University. She is fluent in Swedish and is a gifted musician, playing piano, flute, drums and organ. Davis spends much of her time promoting gender equality, and has set up her own institute dedicated to combatting the stereotyping and underrepresentation of women in the media. For her work in this area, she was awarded with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Bates College in 2009.
5. Steve Martin: 142
Acclaimed actor/comedian Steve Martin is not just funny, he’s also seriously intelligent. The Father of the Bride star attended California State University, where he majored in philosophy. He was fascinated by his lectures, which he claimed changed his life, and even considered becoming a professor. This passion was somewhat short-lived, however, and after changing his major to theatre, he eventually left college to work in entertainment.
4. Nolan Gould: 150
Actor Nolan Gould is best known for his role as Luke Dunphy in the hit ABC comedy, Modern Family. At fifteen years old, he is by far the youngest on this list, but his IQ is one of the highest. A member of Mensa, Nolan graduated from high school aged thirteen, and has said he plans to take online college courses. The star is also a proficient musician, and plays the double bass and banjo.
3. Sharon Stone: 154
Actress and former model Sharon Stone first made it big as the alleged serial killer and bisexual temptress Catherine Tramell in the 1992 film Basic Instinct. Stone was a precocious child and entered second grade at the tender age of five. At fifteen, she accepted a scholarship to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, but quit two years later to become a model. For many years, the beauty claimed to be a member of Mensa, but in 2002 she finally admitted that this was a lie. However, Stone is generally reported to have an IQ of 154, and a Mensa representative has stated that she would probably be accepted to the society if she applied.
2. Quentin Tarantino: 160
Director and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino has penned the scripts of some of Hollywood’s most critically and commercially successful films, including Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained and Reservoir Dogs. His intelligence is clear from his work but his artistic genius and staggeringly high IQ belie Tarantino’s limited formal education. After dropping out of high school at the age of fifteen, he got a job at a video rental store, where he and his fellow employees would spend hours analysing films. Tarantino has commented that his experience in the store was what inspired him to become a director, and is quoted as saying “When people ask me if I went to film school, I tell them, ‘no, I went to films’”.
1. James Woods: 184
James Woods is perhaps best known for his voice acting; his work has been heard in Family Guy, The Simpsons, Grand Theft Auto, and Disney’s Hercules. As a teenager, Woods aced his SATs, receiving a perfect 800 in the verbal section and 779 in maths. He won a scholarship to MIT, where he majored in political science. However, he quit before graduation to pursue acting. In an interview on the programme “Inside the Actor’s Studio”, Woods admitted to having an IQ of 184 – well over the requirements for “genius” status.