What makes a nerd movie? Is it the presence of nerdy characters in the film, or is it the presence of subject matter that appeals to the nerds themselves? For the purposes of this list, I deferred to the latter, choosing films nerds enjoy rather than films that depict them. With one notable exception, you won’t see movies like Napoleon Dynamite and Real Genius on this list.
Trying to narrow a list of hundreds of films down to only 11 was ridiculously difficult, and I’m sure there are many deserving films I left off. But please keep in mind that my choices are legally binding, and no amount of bitching in the comment section will alter the fact that this is now the definitive list on the subject, and will be until the end of time. With that in mind, let’s take a look.
OK, right off the bat, I broke my rule. These are supposed to be films that appeal to nerds, not films about them.
That said, this movie probably did more to raise the status of nerds than any other film. It’s a classic, and it still gets laughs nearly twenty years on. Aside from the nerdy characters, the film’s plot really isn’t that nerdy. It’s more along the lines of Porky’s or Caddyshack than any of the films on this list. However, the scene where one lucky nerd dressed as Darth Vader nails a frat boy’s hot girlfriend more than makes up for it.
There’s no question that original The Star Wars Trilogy is beloved by nerds the world over. But I hesitate to add it to the list. After all, the films have become so popular that it’s hard to even label it in a nerd specific manner. But in the end, any film with laser beams and talking robots can’t escape its true nerdy nature.
By today’s standards, the special effects in Tron look pretty weak. But back in 1982, they were groundbreaking. Throw in a premise based on video games, and characters with names like “Master Control Program,” and you’ve got a film that only a nerd could love.
The Evil Dead Trilogy is widely loved by the nerd community, due in large part to its protagonist, Ash Williams. And what’s not to like about a guy who works at the equivalent of a Walmart and ends up fighting demons with a chainsaw in place of his severed hand. The film was so popular, that it catapulted actor Bruce Campbell into the pantheon of nerd legends.
Christopher Nolan has turned the Batman franchise into every nerd’s wet dream. This is even more impressive when considering the sad state of the affairs left in the wake of Joel Schumacher‘s Batman and Robin. The Dark Knight had everything we loved about Batman Begins, and managed to turn up the action without sacrificing the plot or character development. Here’s hoping the third installment lives up to its predecessors.
Pi is about a paranoid mathematician who is more comfortable sitting in front of his computer than he is interacting with people in the outside world. That alone gets it a spot on this list. Throw in the fact that he’s discovered a complex string of numbers representing the name of God which is also useful for making stock picks, and you’ve got yourself some real nerd street cred. The gritty, documentary-style cinematography doesn’t hurt, either.
When it comes to comedy films, they don’t get much nerdier than Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The medieval-fantasy setting certainly helps matters, but what really pushes this film over the top is its bizarre, off-the-wall humor and its highly quotable nature. After all, if there’s one thing nerds love, it’s memorization, which explains why they’ve been memorizing and repeating lines from this film for close to 40 years.
Yes, the original Planet of the Apes is a far better film. But I contend that Escape from the Planet of the Apes is far more nerdy. After all, talking, futuristic apes are one thing. Transporting these apes back in time and using them as social commentary on 1970’s racial and gender roles is quite another. Only a hardcore nerd could sit through this nonsense.
Rather than single out a specific film, I included the entire LOTR trilogy. Like Star Wars, it was meant to be viewed as one continuous story, and like Star Wars, the series offers everything a nerd could want. From elves to orcs to hobbits, the universe created by J. R. R. Tolkien is littered with the pointless minutia and alternative histories that nerds crave. And with hardly a female character to be seen, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most popular franchises of all time.
2001 has all of the elements you’d expect from a sci-fi film: space travel, time travel, evolution, robots, etc. However, one crucial element is missing: fun! I don’t intend that as a detriment. It is widely considered one of the greatest films of all time. But that said, it’s more of a thought-provoking tribute to mankind’s scientific advancements than it is entertaining, which is why it is appreciated more by nerds than your average moviegoer.
Let’s face it; when it comes to nerd films, Star Wars is for pussies. After all, science fantasy is bush league. Science fiction is the real deal, which is why Star Trek is and always will be the franchise of choice for hardcore nerds. I chose the first film for one simple reason: it sucks. Honestly, it is not good. Those long, drawn out scenes of the Enterprise floating in space are completely unnecessary, not to mention a blatant ripoff of 2001’s style. And the cheesy tie into the Voyager space probe was laughable at best. But despite all the flaws, nerds rallied around the film, and it sparked one of the most storied sci-fi film franchises in history. Well done.