When it comes to picking the hottest nerds of cinematic and television history, there is no shortage of amazing candidates. The women below are not only all gorgeous, but they’ve all used their geeky or intelligent ways to help make them even more alluring.
We’ve got quotes from every single woman on our list, allowing them to put in their own words their thoughts about playing some of the most recognizable female characters of all-time.
While we understand that not every genius is necessarily a “nerd” or “geek”, we hope you’ll excuse us as we also open up our definition to include some of the women with the biggest…brains.
Which form of media has produced the hottest nerds of all-time? Which actress makes multiple spots on this list and which show?
All this and more when you check out the hottest nerds in cinematic and TV history.
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16. Alyson Hannigan – American Pie (Michelle)
Alyson Hannigan has made a name for herself not only with some great big screen movies but also rocking on the smaller screen. Yet we wouldn’t blame you if the first thing you think of is her role as the hilariously awesome band geek Michelle from the American Pie series.
It’s a role that Hannigan has reprised on 4 separate occasions, and in a past interview when promoting the 4th movie she opened up more about her feelings on the franchise.
“We had the luxury of getting to relive the vibe of the first film. The audience who loved it originally will love it now…When the script finally came in they really did such a great job. It was really fun to go back in time.”
Hannigan did, however, admit in the interview that the studio had to twist her arm to come back to the role and that it was the strong script that helped seal the deal.
15. Mayim Bialik – The Big Bang Theory (Amy)
Are you ready for us to drop a spoiler alert on you? Mayim Bialik is not going to be the last lady from The Big Bang Theory to make our list. Bialik was recently interviewed about how it felt to be on a show with such intelligent and nerdy women, leading her to say,
“Yeah. The Bernadette character on The Big Bang Theory is a microbiologist so I am proud that on our show we have two different kinds of women: one wears pretty dresses and gets to have pretty things in her hair and one is the Amy character who’s a lot more simple. Both are versions of scientists so, yeah, I think it is tremendous.”
14. Linda Cardellini – Scooby Doo (Velma)
Linda Cardellini was ecstatic when she got cast to play the role of Velma in the live-action Scooby-Doo franchise. After all, Velma is one of the most classic “nerdy” animated characters of all time. While her intelligence is on full display, one area that Linda said got downplayed was her character’s overt sexual attraction towards Daphne.
Cardellini opened up about this in a past interview, including talking about some scenes that were left on the cutting room floor,
“There was this whole section where I [was] drunk and I sang on a piano, and then – this never made it to any of the DVDs – I ripped off my shirt and I’ve got this, like, Rosie the Riveter-esque bra on. […] Maybe not Rosie the Riveter but this very STRONG bra. [Laughs.] Anyways, I don’t know, I just rip off my shirt and I have this bra on and I’m singing this song and I point and the whole joke of the scene was, you didn’t know who I was pointing to… if it was Daphne, or if it was Fred.”
13. Danielle Fishel – Boy Meets World (Topanga)
If you grew up in the 90s, there is a pretty high chance that you loved TGIF on ABC that included the series Boy Meets World. Danielle Fishel helped win the hearts of countless men with her geeky and quirky ways. While Fishel wasn’t quite as studious as Topanga would have been in high school, Fishel admitted in a past interview how her college experience went,
“She always counted the number of As that she got, which I always thought was funny, especially once I went to college and I started doing the same thing. In high school, I was not as much of a grade-follower. I kind of enjoyed more of the social aspect of high school. I went to college when I was 27, and somehow, between high school and college, I became obsessed with getting As. I can tell you exactly how many non-As I had, and tell you honestly that I cried every time!”
12. Emma Watson – Beauty And The Beast (Belle)
Emma Watson is working hard to try and distinguish herself as an actress from her role as Hermione and she’s not going to get a better example than in the upcoming Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. Belle is arguably one of the nerdier Disney princesses, after all, do you really think Pocahontas or Mulan would lose their sh-t over getting a library?
Watson hopes to add more backstory to the character of Belle in the upcoming movie, including exploring more of her intellectual side and admitted in an interview that she will take on the “mad wacky inventor” role that her father had in the cartoon version.
11. Kristen Bell – Fanboys (Zoe)
Kristen Bell is no stranger to playing characters that are both intelligent and in many cases, exhibit some pretty geeky qualities. One of her more memorable nerdy roles has to be Fanboys if not only for the fact that we get to see her in a Princess Leia slave outfit!
When talking about the movie, Bell said,
“It’s kind of like ‘Swingers’ for nerds because it’s about these four awesome guys who are ‘Star Wars’-obsessed and they drive cross-country to break into [George] Lucas’ ranch to steal the final episode.”
Bell went on to say that she was ecstatic that more nerd culture was making its way into the mainstream,
“I’m really flattered. I love nerds. Comic-Con junkies are the tastemakers of tomorrow. Isn’t that funny? The tables have turned. They’re a fiercely intelligent audience, which makes filmmakers want to please them. But I’m looking for the fangirl to come out of her shell a little, to be more accepted.”
10. Alison Brie – Community (Annie)
Alison Brie is absolutely aware that her character of Annie Edison has gone through some evolution. When the show was coming back for its 5th season, Brie opened up more on how that feels and her feeling towards going back to the ambitious and nerdy Annie that we all know and love;
“It’s interesting because, while I do feel like it’s the biggest progression this character has made in the course of five seasons towards being a more mature person, at the same time it’s really a return to that original Annie from seasons one and two that’s a go-getter and very ambitious and keeping the group together.”
9. Lindsay Lohan – Mean Girls (Cady)
Lindsay Lohan looked like one of the most promising actresses when the movie Mean Girls came out. The movie saw her dump her intelligent and nerdy ways for the seductive life of being “popular” (and you know, let her get close to Rachel McAdams), and the movie is hilariously written by Tina Fey.
Lohan was interviewed this past summer during which she expressed an extreme interest in re-visiting her nerdy routes,
‘”I have been trying so hard to do a ‘Mean Girls 2.’ It is not in my hands. I know Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels and all of Paramount [Pictures] are very busy. But I will keep forcing it and pushing it on them until we do it. I would love to! I would love to have Jamie Lee Curtis and Jimmy Fallon in the movie.”
Lohan also said she would be positive that the original director Mark Waters would also be interested. The biggest hindrance may be the fact that as Lohan pointed out, some of the bigger names (including McAdams) have bigger fish to fry than revisiting their past.
8. Tina Fey – 30 Rock (Liz)
Tina Fey decided to loosely base the series 30 Rock around her own life, and it doesn’t take long to realize that in her real life, Fey is a bit of a nerd.
“I definitely am a nerd in life. I think Liz Lemon might be a bigger nerd than me. One of the writers put a flashback of her playing Dungeons and Dragons in college. And I said ‘I never played Dungeons and Dragons in college’. Liz Lemon is much more of a geek than I ever was,” said Fey in a past interview.
7. Amanda Seyfried – Jennifer’s Body (Anita)
When Amanda Seyfried was cast in the role of Anita “Needy” Lesnicki, she knew that she was going to get to embrace her nerdy side and downplay her sexuality. This was something she was incredibly comfortable with, especially when you consider that Megan Fox excelled in doing just that.
“Being a lead (like Megan), you have that weird pressure of feeling like you have to look attractive. In this movie, I didn’t worry about any of that shit. I don’t want to play the one that everybody is supposed to want to have sex with,” said Seyfried.
6. Emily Rickards – Arrow (Felicity)
Felicity Smoak may very well be one of your favorite characters on the television show Arrow. She is not only incredibly beautiful, but Emily Rickards’ personality and outstanding acting have quickly made her a fan favorite.
“I love her. I’m just glad other people love her, too. That’s huge for me, to be able to help create or to symbolize a strong, intelligent woman that people like. I think that’s really important,” she said in a past interview.
5. Kristen Bell – Veronica Mars (Veronica)
Let’s be honest, you aren’t going to be able to be a realistic private detective like Veronica Mars without being incredibly intelligent (and let’s be honest, a little geeky!). It was one of Kristen Bell’s biggest roles, so naturally when she started dating her now-husband Dax Sheppard; she made him watch the series.
Thankfully for her, he fell in love with the series largely in part we are sure because of the strength that Bell’s character displays.
While Bell has been able to take the character to the movie format as well, in a past interview that was done following the release of the low-budget movie, she admitted that perhaps we could see Mars return through Netflix.
“We wouldn’t have been able to make this movie if there wasn’t an audience that didn’t want to see it. So I’d like to know what they want. I loved making it low-budget. It was so much fun. Maybe it exists in a Netflix series, which I know [creator] Rob [Thomas] would love to do.”
4. Zoe Saldana – Star Trek (Uhura)
While both Gamora and Uhura are outstanding characters, if there is one that’s the nerdier of the two, we definitely have to give the edge to Uhura.
When talking about playing the role, Saldana indicated she has no plans to step away; even after the tragic loss of Anton Yelchin in 2016.
“I love being a part of something where the mission — to spread peace and unity — has been special and is going to live forever. I like to be immortalized in that way. And I would also come back for him because I know that he would have kept coming back until he was 70.”
3. Melissa Rauch – The Big Bang Theory (Bernadette)
Melissa Rauch is outstanding in her role as Bernadette on The Big Bang Theory. Not only is her character incredibly intelligent and nerdy, while also embracing her good looks on regular basis, but she’s also incredibly unique.
Look no further than the fact that she was a Quiznos Beauty Pageant Contestant in a past episode! Rauch was interviewed about that particular episode, leading her to say,
“Other than the Smurf costume, that was the longest I’ve been in hair and makeup on Big Bang…close to three hours. It took a village just to hold my head straight so I didn’t tip over from the weight of the hair. I had a blast shooting it! I love me some big hair. We only did a few takes, excluding me practicing in my bathroom mirror that is.”
2. Emma Watson – Harry Potter Series (Hermione)
Emma Watson is making a very strong case that she is going to be one of the most successful child actors to transition well to an outstanding career. Not to mention being able to separate herself from her iconic role of Hermione Granger; though it’s not like many people would complain about having Harry Potter on the resume.
Watson’s character has always had intelligence and nerdy qualities at the forefront, and in a past interview Watson explained how this translates on screen,
“Hermione finds a way to wield her intelligence and become really the leader in this group of two other boys. That’s kind of the role that she assumes… Harry is much more intuitive. Ron is just along for the ride. Hermione is the one with a plan. She’s in control. Somehow that gave other women permission to feel that they were allowed to take up space.”
1. Ariel Winter – Modern Family (Alex)
One of the best things about having so many beautiful and awesome geeky/smart women on our list is that they can serve as wonderful role models. When Ariel Winter was interviewed about her character Alex Dunphy back in 2013, she was well aware of that influence,
“Alex and I definitely have similar traits—she’s not the girl who’s super obsessed with her looks or going out with boys. We’re both snarky, and we both value education. She makes it OK for girls to want to be smart.”
While Winter has absolutely become more boy-focused and aware of her sexuality in the last few years, it is still interesting to see the evolution not only of the character but of Winter herself.