It's almost a given that in every superhero film, there must be a major nerdy character involved in some way. As long as the person isn't named Felicity "I Swear I'm Not Barbara Gordon In Disguise" Smoak, we're absolutely down with this idea and have no issues whatsoever. But what's up with Hollywood trying to make nerds look unattractive all the time? It's like they run the characters through the ugliest Instagram filter they can find, suggesting that nerdy people cannot be seen as hot. The year is 2018 but Revenge of the Nerds remains the template of how to handle geeky people on screen...
Fortunately, a good actor is capable of disappearing into whichever role is required and then shedding the camouflage after the production. In the case of movie nerds, many of them are drop-dead gorgeous off screen and would put the likes of Jason Momoa and Gal Gadot to shame. Here at CBR, we decided it's time to squash the stigma about on-screen geeks and hand-picked 15 superhero nerds who are attractive in real life. So, take a seat and adjust the dial on your air conditioner to the coldest temperature because things are about to get ridiculously hot in here.
15 ANDREW GARFIELD
When you look at the last three actors to portray Spidey, Andrew Garfield is the least geeky of the lot. Tobey Maguire and Tom Holland both look like they were born to play Steve Ditko's Peter Parker, while Garfield looks like he was brought to life and sculpted by Todd McFarlane.
Yeah, Marc Webb and his team tried to give him the glasses and baggy clothes to hide under, but Garfield was always the best-looking guy on the screen in The Amazing Spider-Man film series. In fact, even looking at his interactions with Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy, it was obvious that Peter had game and could teach his classmates a thing or two about dating. Someone needs to tell Hollywood that just because an actor is skinny and lanky doesn't mean they're unattractive.
14 DOMINIC COOPER
While Tony Stark exudes an air of confidence and debonair suave, his father, Howard, was more of a stereotypical boffin. As he aged, though, he grew into his dashing gray locks and mustache, but in his early years Howard wasn't exactly someone whom you'd dub cool by any means. In Captain America: The First Avenger, Dominic Cooper portrayed the younger Howard, even if his puny excuse for a mustache made Tom Selleck laugh out loud because of its sheer ridiculousness.
When he's not playing Tony's daddy, Cooper is one stylish man. Whether he's sporting a clean-shaven face or fashionable stubble, he looks like he's stepped out of the latest catalog for an electric shaver. Also, he has really good, thick hair, which puts Chris Hemsworth's luscious locks to shame.
13 DANIELLE PANABAKER
Danielle Panabaker is building a career out of playing the cute, nerdy girl, with her role as Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost on The Flash being an obvious and more recent example. But a decade ago, her foray into geekdom started when she played Layla Williams in Mike Mitchell's superhero comedy Sky High. Layla was Will Stronghold's best friend and a pacifist who was able to animate and control plant life. In other words, she was a dorkier Poison Ivy.
Away from the camera, though, Panabaker is an elegant young actor who possesses a classic Hollywood panache. She's akin to a modern Audrey Hepburn, with all the charm and girl-next-door appeal. That said, she's not afraid to show her sexier side as her GQ spread proved there's more to her than meets the eye.
12 PETER SARSGAARD
While we don't often associate good memories with 2011's Green Lantern movie, it did at least introduce ol' egghead Hector Hammond to the big screen. He's one of the Lantern's primary antagonists and deserved to feature in the superhero's first live-action film. Portraying Hammond was Peter Sarsgaard, who suffered the trauma of a ridiculous mullet and mustache combo that would strike fear into the hearts of schoolchildren everywhere. Heck, those two features alone were much scarier than his enormous head.
When he gets a haircut and shave, though, Sarsgaard cleans up pretty well and looks like a leading man. The ladies seem to love him, too, as he's previously been linked with the likes of Dita Von Teese, Shalom Harlow, and Malerie Mader. Nowadays, he's Jake Gyllenhaal's brother-in-law, having married Maggie in 2009.
11 ELLEN PAGE
Interestingly enough, Ellen Page was the third actress to portray Kitty Pryde in Fox's X-Men film universe. She might not have been the first pick, but she's undoubtedly the most famous of the bunch and encompassed the dynamic personality of the character perfectly. It's even more impressive when you recall that Page said she was never a comic book fan growing up.
Speaking to Good Morning America, Page admitted that she almost turned down the role. "I had just graduated high school, and I had weirdly kind of taken some time off from acting and was just in a different space." Much like Pryde, though, Page prefers to keep herself out of the limelight – even if she shines and successfully turns heads when she walks the red carpet.
10 RJ CYLER
RJ Cyler had a game-changing role in Dean Israelite's Power Rangers. As the autistic Billy Cranston/Blue Ranger, he proved that truly anyone has the potential to be a superhero. Regardless of the film's financial shortcomings and the unlikelihood of a sequel in the future, it was a huge and crucial step forward for Hollywood blockbusters.
While he's known for his quirky performances, Cyler looks every bit the movie star when he's out meeting his fans and doing press tours. There's also a certain toughness to him, which undoubtedly has a lot to do with past experiences in his young life. Before he secured the role in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, he and his family were homeless for a short period of time.
9 OLIVIA THIRLBY
The direction that Pete Travis and his team took with Cassandra Anderson in 2012's Dredd was a departure from the comic book series. While the characteristics and traits stay largely the same, her appearance is different with Judge Anderson often looking like a voluptuous, blonde bombshell in 2000 AD. In the film the character's sex appeal was turned down a notch.
Back in the real world, Olivia Thirlby doesn't spend a lot of time in the spotlight and is quite picky about her roles. That said, when she does make a public appearance, she's dressed to the nines and looks like one classy lady. She demonstrates that you don't need to have a skintight outfit to be attractive and lets her natural beauty do all the talking for her.
8 EMMA STONE
You have to admire the sensational trajectory of Emma Stone's career. A decade ago, she appeared in Superbad and Zombieland, and then cemented her place as the queen of geeks by portraying Peter Parker's first love interest, Gwen Stacy, in Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man film series. Now, at the age of 29, she's an Academy Award-winning and Golden Globe-nominated actress with the world at her feet.
Her acting talent aside, Stone is seen as a fashion icon and one of the best dressed celebrities. Vogue has described her look as "sophisticated" and "perfectly put-together", while commenting on her powerful charisma that's charmed people both on and off screen. Additionally, she's also been featured in numerous lists of the hottest and sexiest people in Hollywood.
7 EZRA MILLER
In Justice League, Ezra Miller plays a nerded-up version of Barry Allen who joins the team because he needs friends. Considering the reshoots, tinkering from everyone on the Warner Bros. movie lot, and cosmetic restructuring this film underwent, only Zack Snyder knows what sort of role he envisioned Miller playing in the first place. Nonetheless, it's fair to say that Miller does a fine job of making himself a lovable and "adorkable" goof in this film.
When he's not portraying Scarlet Speedster, though, Miller radiates a geeky attractiveness. There's certainly a touch of Bohemianism to him and you wouldn't put him out of place at an indie rock music festival. Maybe if the Flashpoint movie doesn't work out, Miller might have a future as a new member of Death Cab for Cutie.
6 PATRICK WILSON
If there's one actor who can transform into any role, it's Patrick Wilson. Looking at his filmography, you'll find wide and varied roles – playing everything from an exorcist to a geeky superhero (seriously, why has no one considered him for the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman yet?). However, it's his performance as Daniel Dreiberg/Nite Owl in Zack Snyder's Watchmen that impresses us the most.
For the role, Wilson told reporters that he put on over 20 lbs. to get into character. "I mean nobody told me to, but I wanted to anyway, 'cause I'm a pretty lean guy to begin with. I just wanted to get a little fuller, so at least I could have a little bit of a gut." Talk about maximum dedication to the cause!
5 NICHOLAS HOULT
Replacing Kelsey Grammer as Hank McCoy/Beast was never going to be an easy task. Grammer brought a sophistication to the part that channeled the spirit of the character from X-Men: The Animated Series and the comic books. That said, Nicholas Hoult added his own flavor to the party in X-Men: First Class, with his McCoy being less witty and more awkward than Grammer's – but ultimately more heroic and emotionally in-depth than his predecessor.
While Hoult does look like he should be a lecturer at a prestigious university rather than a movie star, he does trade in the intellectual demeanor for a suaver appearance when he hits the premieres. Also, can you believe that he's a Formula One and motorbike enthusiast? Appearances can certainly be deceiving.
4 JAMIE FOXX
It's unfathomable to think of Jamie Foxx as a nerd. The man is the epitome of cool and one of the hottest leading actors in Tinseltown – and that's what made his performance as Max Dillon/Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that more mesmerizing. Foxx disappeared under the combover, big teeth, and gigantic glasses to become almost unrecognizable.
Even though the film didn't exactly electrify the audiences and critics, it's still remembered for successfully turning Foxx into an ugly duckling. Looks aside, the actor had every intention of making the character deeper, telling AskMen, "To me, it's almost a questioning of the gods – like everybody else got dealt a great hand, so what happened to [Dillon]? Why wasn't I cute and why didn't I have a girlfriend?" It's a pity that the final product didn't match his vision.
3 KAT DENNINGS
Kat Dennings' Darcy Lewis was an annoying supporting character in the first two Thor films. It's almost as if she hammed up the dorky element to the level of irritation, ensuring that not one single person missed her in Thor: Ragnarok. Mind you, Dennings played a similar character in 2 Broke Girls, so is she even acting at this point?
To be fair, Dennings does stray away from the Plain Jane roles, gravitating more towards the off-kilter characters and embracing the eccentricity. "I don't think I'm a weirdo in a bad way," she said to GQ, "there’s just a lot going on in my head." She might consider herself a weirdo, but she's also a pin-up model for teenage boys – especially when she wears tight dresses that show off her curves.
2 MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD
All right, this one is cheating a bit, because although Scott Pilgrim vs. the World's Ramona Flowers was a nerd, she quickly became everyone's dream girl – even if she had seven insane exes who had the potential to end your life. However, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is far more eye-catching in real life, and it's not difficult to see why Obi-Wan Kenobi himself, Ewan McGregor, fell head over heels for her.
One of Winstead's most attractive traits is that she doesn't seem too fazed about herself. She doesn't need a bucket of makeup to step out onto the red carpet and chooses simplicity over extravagance. In the age of selfies and self-absorption, it's pleasant to find a star who doesn't spend all her time in front of the mirror.
Let's be honest here: it's difficult to imagine Zendaya as a nerd. As a fashion icon and actress who oozes glitz and glamor, it was rather surprising to see her cast as the geeky Michelle "MJ" Jones in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Sure, she felt more like an awkward character out of Freaks and Geeks than an outright nerd from The Big Bang Theory, but MJ was far removed from what she's like in the real world.
Although, if she does become the MJ we think she will eventually, we should see a visible transformation in the forthcoming sequels. Don't be surprised if you see Peter Parker and the other teenagers stumbling over their tongues when Zendaya becomes Queen MJ. The big question is, will she get the bright red hair?