In the Pokémon Universe, anyone who dreams of being a Pokémon trainer leaves their home at the age of 10 to embark on a fantastic journey to catch, train, and battle their Pokémon. It can take years of dedication and hard work to become a Pokémon master and compete with the very best in their field.
While some of the greatest trainers are talented in displays of great strength, heart-warming compassion, or simply sheer brute force, not every trainer is gifted with great intelligence. Looking at all of the trainers featured in the long-running anime series, we've ranked 10 of the smartest from the show who might just have the brains to catch 'em all.
The Sinnoh region League Champion, Cynthia is more than capable of outwitting and outranking many other trainers in battle. Her years battling Pokémon have granted her expert knowledge of how best to handle them, teaching her that strong bonds between a Pokémon and their master are much better than raw strength itself.
Cynthia also studies archaeology, with a particular interest in ruins and the mythology surrounding legendary Pokémon – an interest no doubt carried over from her role in the Sinjoh Ruins in the Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver games (remakes of the beloved generation two titles, Pokémon Gold and Silver). With her trusty Garchomp at her side, Cynthia's legendary knowledge ensures she always gets the upper hand in battle.
One of the series' most eccentric characters, Cilan is a master of many trades. The Striation City Gym leader is known for his keen interest in Pokémon and prides himself on being able to tell if a partnership between Pokémon and trainer is a good one.
Cilan's smarts don't just lie in Pokémon, though. His interests are hugely varied, and he strives to be an expert in each thing he tries, from cooking to sleuthing. However, trains are his real passion. While it might not be the most useful asset in a Pokémon battle, Cilan's knowledge of carriages and subway lines would put engineers to shame.
Master trainer and Champion of the Indigo Elite Four, Lance is a real force to be reckoned with in battle. His beloved Dragon-type Pokémon are incredibly strong, thanks to Lance's dedication to becoming the greatest Dragon-type trainer of all-time. His knowledge about Dragon-type and ancient Pokémon is near limitless, earning him the reputation of being the world's leading Dragon-type expert.
He's also a brilliant investigator, using his smarts to stop criminals from carrying out their cruel plans to keep Pokémon safe. A master of disguise, he has proven that he can easily infiltrate enemy bases, allowing him to help Ash and his friends when they find themselves in a tight spot against Team Rocket.
Lillie is a real bookworm who loves to study and helps her fellow classmates with their schoolwork at the Pokémon School of Melemele Island. Growing up with a phobia of Pokémon, she observed them for years to learn about them. This extensive period of watching the creatures and their behavior provided her with incredible in-depth knowledge about many different types of Pokémon, ultimately allowing her to overcome her fears!
That same observant nature also made her a formidable opponent, having watched and learned various strategies from her friends' battles. While she may not be the most confident trainer, she's certainly one of the smartest.
The villainous Team Rocket leader has stood in Ash's way countless times along the young hero's journey, often sending Jessie, James, and Meowth to do his bidding. The former leader of Viridian Gym has built an extensive criminal empire from the comfort of his mysterious headquarters, making him the brains behind the entire operation.
Not only does he use his smarts to run his various crime syndicates, but he is incredibly knowledgeable about other nefarious gangs and their projects, cleverly judging which criminal activities would be best for Team Rocket to get involved in. An adept businessman, he even owns Pokémon Island, and was the one to arrange Mewtwo's creation.
One of Ash's fellow students at the Pokémon School of Melemele Island, Sophocles is a proud scientific genius with a deep love and incredible knowledge about technology. Linked to his preference for Electric-type Pokémon, Sophocles has become a master in programming and enjoys tinkering with machinery. He loves to dabble with creating his own devices to help him gain the upper hand in battle – and to show off to his classmates.
His analytical mind helps Sophocles in battle, and his time studying on Melemele Island has only enhanced his abilities as a trainer, with his friends sharing their knowledge and supporting him along the way.
Steven Stone is an incredibly strong trainer and Champion of the Hoenn region. When he's not in battle or levelling up his preferred Steel-type Pokémon, he's pursuing his favorite hobby: excavating rare stones.
Deeply interested in what can be found in the Pokémon Universe's caves, he has become a brilliant geologist with an expert knowledge of the Mega Stones. Willing to help Ash and his friends keep the world safe, Steven uses this knowledge to understand the true nature of the powerful and dangerous Giant Rock. Steven's interest in studying these mysterious rocks even led to a four-part special, Pokémon Mega Evolution Special, which saw Steven flaunt his knowledge as the Giant Rock began to attract ancient legendary Pokémon.
It may have taken Ash 22 years to win a Pokémon League, but the beloved protagonist has proven time and again that he is diligent, caring, and intelligent when it comes to handling his Pokémon. If he wasn't so reckless at times, he could have ranked higher.
While he might not seem like the sharpest tack on the surface, all of Ash's prominent battles have relied on his excellent strategy and problem-solving skills. He knows which Pokémon to use and how their special abilities will impact their opponent. His willingness to learn and determination to succeed have only made him smarter over the years, making him one of the brightest trainers anyone could face in battle.
While Brock's wisdom may stem from his 'big brother' role, journeying with Ash through their wonderful world during the anime's early seasons, helping him in his quest by passing on his own knowledge and cooking for his friends, he has grown to become one of the show's most intelligent characters.
A former Pokémon breeder and Gym leader, Brock is now training to be a doctor, proving he has plenty of book smarts. But it is his observant nature that really gives Brock his edge. Watching trainers battle, he has become an expert tactician who taught Ash how to quickly problem-solve to come out on top. If he didn't lose his wits completely when confronted with cute girls, he'd possibly outrank everyone on this list!
Professor Oak is the perfect example of how deceiving appearances can be. Although he is forgetful, he is incredibly intelligent and was once a highly respected competitive trainer, known for far more than inventing the Pokédex.
Having built a strong, diverse roster of Pokémon, he eventually gave up battling to dedicate his life to studying. After writing a widely acclaimed research paper at the age of 20 and becoming a University Professor by the age of 25, Professor Oak quickly became the leading expert in his field – studying the relationship between humans and their Pokémon. His notoriety and love of academia led him to open his own huge research laboratory in Pallet Town. While he's not actively training anymore, it probably wouldn't be wise to challenge him to a battle!