The 10 Greatest Tech Geniuses in Film

August 4, 2016

When people read articles like this, 94 percent of them skip the intro and just start scanning the list (I might have made that stat up, although I’m pretty sure it's accurate). But, before I get into it, let me just state the rules:

  • Only movie characters were included on this list, so no Gilfoyle.
  • Only fictional characters were considered. That means no Jesse Eisenberg playing Mark Zuckerberg, for example.

Okay, let’s jump into it:

10. David Lightman from WarGames, played by Matthew Broderick

Greatest technical achievement: It’s a tough call between hacking the US government and nearly causing a nuclear holocaust or hacking into his high school’s database and changing his love interest's grade into an A.

Why he’s on this list: This was one of the first major films about computer hacking and had a legitimate impact on the world. Specifically, the film inspired US President Ronald Reagan to enact the first Presidential Directive on computer security. That makes David Lightman the George Washington of film hackers.

9. Garth Algar from Wayne’s World, played by Dana Carvey

Greatest technical achievement: Accessing a secret military spy satellite that was in a geosynchronous orbit over the Midwest to ensure Frankie “Mr. Big” Sharpe would see Cassandra’s music video.

Why he’s on this list: First off, the work he pulled getting Cassandra’s music video in front of Mr. Big really worked out, at least in the “mega happy ending.” Secondly, and more importantly, Garth is hilarious.

8. Gru from Despicable Me, played by Steve Carell

Greatest technical achievement: Successfully shrunk and stole the moon using tip-of-the-spear compression technology.

Why he’s on this list: Sure, stealing the moon is an impressive technical feat. And yet, he was willing to trade all that in to save three orphan girls, meaning he’s both technically savvy and has a heart.

7. Angela Bennett from The Net, played by Sandra Bullock

Greatest technical achievement: Bringing down a (rather convoluted) terrorist plot with some killer hacking and fire-extinguishing skills.

Why he’s on this list: Perhaps the best portrayal of a female techie in movie history, Sandra Bullock proves that women can hack just as well as any man.

6. Wayne Szalinski from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, played by Rick Moranis

Greatest technical achievement: The obvious answer is shrinking his own children with a shrink ray he created, but that was perhaps his biggest technical mishap. I’d say his biggest achievement was bringing them back to normal size.

Why he’s on this list: What’s so great about Szalinski is that he’s doing all of this out of his garage. He very much epitomizes the aspiring genius inventor, who dreams of doing something great (only to unfortunately shrink his children).

5. Q from the James Bond series, played by multiple actors

Greatest technical achievement: Let’s see, a watch that’s a laser, car windows that don’t break when hit with a sledgehammer, a ring that could control a slot machine, a jetpack – the list goes on and on.

Why he’s on this list: James Bond is probably the coolest fictional character ever created (besides perhaps the first person on this list). And one of the biggest reasons Bond is so rad is because of Q’s awesome gadgets.

4. Scotty from Star Trek, played by multiple actors

Greatest technical achievement: Beaming people instantly to where they want to go, which would be quite the party trick.

Why he’s on this list: Star Trek is the gold standard of tech shows and Scotty is the gold standard of tech people on Star Trek. That means he is the gold standard of the gold standard, making his inclusion on this list inevitable.

3. Dr. Emmett Brown from Back to the Future, played by Christopher Lloyd

Greatest technical achievement: Probably that thing that involved going 88 mph and 1.21 gigawatts…

Why he’s on this list: Arguably the most beloved person on this list, “Doc” Brown and his fictional tech prowess has been featured in three movies, an animated series, a theme park ride and even a forthcoming musical. Not too bad.

2. Neo from The Matrix, played by Keanu Reeves

Greatest technical achievement: Learning Kung Fu via downloading it into his brain.

Why he’s on this list: A computer programmer who hacks in his spare time uncovers that the world is nothing more than a simulation and ultimately overthrows the uber-intelligent robots who were subjugating all of mankind? Come on, of course he’s going to be on this.

1. Tony Stark from Iron Man, played by Robert Downey, Jr.

Greatest technical achievement: Probably a three-way tie between the Iron Man suit itself, developing the power source for the suit and creating Jarvis. Although, he also created Ultron, who almost destroyed all of earth, so that’s probably a black mark on his record.

Why he’s on this list: The ultimate tech icon. Not only does he build the truly amazing; he’s fearless, he saves the world, he’s incredibly cool and he’s friends with Thor and Hulk. Besides, if you asked any tech person what invention they’d most like out of any on this list, 87 percent would say the Iron Man suit.

A clear number-one.

Want to get all the skills you need to become the next Tony Stark or Angela Bennett? Check out our technology section at Lynda.com today and learn how to do the truly remarkable!

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