• 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.

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  • Photo: Venom / Columbia Pictures

    Venom is cool, but Eddie Brock is not. As an investigative reporter in San Francisco, he stays on the tech beat and keeps an eagle eye on places like the Life Foundation, reporting on their unethical practices. It's good work, but it's about as un-hip as you can get.

    Admittedly there's something sexy about a reporter intent on bringing down a mysterious company that's up to no good, but the reality of such a thing is hours upon hours of research backed up by a bachelor's degree at the least, and probably a Master's. Even after Eddie bonds with the Venom symbiote and blows up his enemies, he goes back to working in journalism. He may be an action hero, but he sticks with his egghead roots.

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  • Photo: The Fate of the Furious / Universal Pictures

    Guys like Dominic Toretto are born into the street life; they race and steal and protect their families because they must. Tej Parker can do anything he wants. A mathematics genius and computer expert, he gets into the street racing game not because he has to, but because it's fun.

    Tej earns his action-hero status by volunteering time and time again to drive in completely insane heists. He may not be the point man - that's Dom - but he maintains the cars and updates them so that they're perfectly tuned to be not only fast, but also furious.

    As far as action nerds go, Tej is the kind of guy you want on your team. He's fun, he's cool, and he stays three steps ahead of everyone else.

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  • Can Isomorphic Algorithms be heroes? In the Tron universe, anything is possible. Quorra isn't designed to be a self-sacrificing, name-above-the-title butt-kicker (bit-kicker?), but she steps up to the plate whenever her friends are in danger. When the audience first meets this ISO, she'd rather read Jules Verne and learn about the outside world than fight someone with her identity disc.

    Quorra is smart and she's an ace Light Jet pilot, but neither of those traits are what make her a nerd hero. She rises above quippy sidemember of the party status because she sticks by her friends through thick and thin. It's not her desire to see the outside world that pushes her to help Sam escape from the Tron System - that's definitely a perk for this IRL obsessive - but her dedication to one of the few people who treat her like an equal. Any nerd who's found their people after years of loneliness gets why Quorra has to rise to the occasion.

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  • 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.

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