• Total Nerd

15 Action Movie Heroes Who Are Really Just Nerds, Deep Down

List RulesVote up the nerdiest action heroes in movies.

What does it mean to be a hero? Some heroes are formed in a lab, while others are thrust into the world with a shield and sword ready to go to battle. That's not the case for the heroes collected here. They'd all rather be at home working on their hobbies, playing on their computers, or just doing nothing than putting their lives on the line for the sake of humanity. But they do it anyway because they don't have a choice.

Deep down, many of our most beloved heroes are straight-up nerds. Guys like Bruce Banner and Peter Parker may have super-strength, but their main superpower has always been their intellect. Nerdy heroes don't have to be theoretical scientists to rate high on the dork spectrum. Heroes like Bucky Barnes and Neo from The Matrix just happen to have some truly nerdy obsessions that would get them stuffed in a locker if they weren't also buzzing with superpowers.

Which of these action-movie heroes is the most nerdy and which one is just going to Comic-Con for free swag? That's up to you to decide.

  • 5

    Bucky Barnes Is A Tolkien Stan

    Photo: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier / Disney+

    When the audience is first introduced to Bucky Barnes in Captain America: The First Avenger, he's a dashing soldier with a heart of gold and a soft spot for the little guy. Does that come from the Winter Soldier just being an all-around good guy even with his Hydra programming? Or is it because he's been a fan of Tolkien since The Hobbit was first released in 1937?

    In the second episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Bucky reveals that he's not just a fantasy nerd, but that he also picked up a first edition of Tolkien's earliest work when it was released. He must have been so excited when his Hydra programming was finally broken and he had a chance to tear through The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

    Nerdy hero?
  • 6

    Benjamin Franklin Gates Is A History Buff And Conspiracy Theorist

    Photo: National Treasure / Buena Vista Pictures

    Treasure hunter, cryptologist, history obsessive - these traits certainly spell adventure, but they don't necessarily make someone a hero. With degrees from MIT and Georgetown, Benjamin Franklin Gates is certainly one of the most qualified protagonists in film history, but it's why he goes about his business and how he handles himself after he succeeds that make him into a real action hero, even if most of his work is done through deciphering 200-year-old codes.

    It's through Gates's knowledge of America's historical artifacts that he's able to ascend from crackpot conspiracy theorist to adventurer on the heels of the Knights Templar treasure. His years of research and bookworming put him in a unique position to find one of the most storied vaults of historical artifacts ever. Once he discovers the mysterious cave of American riches, he doesn't keep it all for himself - he hands it over to the US government so it can be studied and enjoyed for the rest of time. And he only takes a 1% finder's fee.

    Nerdy hero?
  • Photo: The Rock / Buena Vista Pictures

    Stanley Goodspeed didn't have a chance to be a hero until someone believed in him. Right up until he was drafted by the FBI to stop San Francisco from being turned in a smoldering crater, he was a desk-riding chemical weapons specialist who did his best. It's not until former MI6 agent John Patrick Mason imparts the knowledge that it's not enough to do his best - that he has to think like a winner to actually accomplish anything - that Goodspeed actually begins asserting himself.

    Goodspeed's heroics in The Rock can't be completely chalked up to Mason's words. It's Goodspeed who accepts the challenges placed in front of him and uses his knowledge of chemical weapons and blind lunatic bravery to actually save the day. His is the story of an everyman - a genius intellect everyman - who accepts that in some situations, the only thing you can do is give everything you have and forget that failure exists.

    Nerdy hero?
  • Photo: Big Trouble In Little China / 20th Century Fox

    Not all nerdy action heroes are geniuses. In this case we're far from smarty-pants territory. Jack Burton is just a truck driver with a heart of gold and a desire to save the day. He's not a brilliant mathematician and he can't (or won't) think three steps ahead of his adversary. Instead, he rushes into a fight even when he knows he's outmatched because he has a John Wayne complex.

    That's not to say that Burton is walking around San Francisco's Chinatown calling people "pilgrim" or wearing an eye-patch; he's just a guy who's trying to do right by his friends and his trusty truck. He knows how a hero is supposed to act, so he charges into situations with gang members and ancient wizards with no apparent fear of failing - and he fails constantly. Every plan that Burton cooks up is a massive misfire, and nearly every punch he throws fails to land.

    Burton is like the grown-up version of a kid who took a couple of years of Taekwondo before getting into an MMA ring. He's unprepared for the realities of the situation, but that doesn't stop him from saving the day because he refuses to give up. We could all stand to be a little more like Jack Burton.

    Nerdy hero?