21 best movies featuring tech geniuses, ranked

Every year sees a new movie about a heroic or quirky tech genius; here are the ones worth your time
1 of 21 Universal Pictures

21. Weird Science (1985)

Talk about your inspired keystrokes...of genius. A couple of geeky boys create their perfect woman via a home computer; a doll festooned with electrodes; a hacked government computer system; and a bolt of lightning.

The result: A mix of beauty and worldly wisdom. While the young lads might be masters of new technology, their A.I. dream woman is obviously the smart one here.

Metacritic score: 46

2 of 21 20th Century Fox

20. Independence Day (1996)

The aliens don't come in peace, and much of the movie's action features fighter pilot Will Smith going bad-ass on the evil ET's. But give props to Jeff Goldblum, the stammering genius who figures out what the aliens are up to, how their computer systems work, and how to bring them down with a virus. Not bad for a couple of days' work.

Metacritic score: 59

3 of 21 Walt Disney Studios

19. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

It's not a bug, it's a feature. Tech wiz Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) accidentally unleashes the evil earth-exterminating artificial-intelligence program Ultron. Oopsy-doopsy! Coding soon gives way to kicking ass as the Avengers band together to save the planet, which, spoiler alert, they do. In the end, smart 'n' smart-alecky Stark's super friends help him atone for his technology blunder.

Metacritic score: 66

4 of 21 Buena Vista Pictures

18. The Prestige (2006)

This is a fun popcorn flick about magicians' professional rivalries as they create illusions, not technology. But don't write it off yet. It does have a cameo role for a real life genius: Nicola Tesla, inventor of alternating current and countless other wonders (played by under-appreciated acting genius of the late David Bowie).

When Tesla/Bowie holds the screen, it's truly electric and magical, and makes us wonder why there isn't a great movie about the visionary scientist.

Metacritic score: 66

5 of 21 TriStar Pictures

17. Real Genius (1985)

Physics smarty-pants Val Kilmer is working on an advanced laser system in college, not knowing that his pride and joy is really just a deadly defense-department toy. However, as the film's title suggests, he's a real genius who wises up just in time. He gets back at his corrupt boss by hijacking the laser to cook the guy's house. Which, by the by, has been filled with popcorn, causing the place to split at the seams.

IMDb rating 7.0

6 of 21 Turner Network Television

16. Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)

Genius is still genius, even in a TV movie, as this TNT plum proves. Dramatizing the already dramatic rivalry between Steve Jobs (Noah Wyle) and Bill Gates (Anthony Michael Hall) from 1971 to 1997, this one is guaranteed to ignite the Apple vs. Microsoft troll wars right in your living room any old time.

Back in the day, New York magazine's John Leonard called the film a hoot! And he's not the only one. But in retrospect we'd go even further: It's a hoot and a half! Though it's not even the best Steve Jobs movie on this list.

7 of 21 Universal Studios

15. October Sky (1999)

For once, we can say it is rocket science. In this based-on-a-true-story flick, a West Virginia teenage rocket enthusiast takes Russia's Sputnik success in 1957 as a life challenge. Jake Gyllenhaal is the scientist-to-be at the center of this feel-good story of a lad and his pals, who not only have smarts, but also real heart. There's a lot of trial and error along the way, but yes, it's a total blast.

Metacritic score: 71

8 of 21 MGM

14. WarGames (1983)

Age is just a number, as teen genius Matthew Broderick proves in this thriller.

The high-school hacker graduates from fixing his bad grades to breaking into government computers and nearly starting World War III. Not to worry, though: He teaches the military's battle computer the madness of Mutually Assured Destruction with the help of a game of tic-tac-toe. Easy peasy, when you're a teen genius.

IMDb rating: 7.1

9 of 21 Universal Pictures

13. Despicable Me (2010)

Insecure supervillain Gru is a total tech master who knows his way around sophisticated weapons like freeze rays and shrink rays, the latter of which he audaciously uses to steal the moon. See? He thinks big and small at the same time.

Metacritic score: 72

10 of 21 The Weinstein Company

12. The Imitation Game (2014)

Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, gets a compelling bio with the high points (cracking the Nazi's "unbreakable" code in WWII) and low points (post-war persecution for homosexuality).

Benedict Cumberbatch is typically stellar as the intriguing eccentric genius who must initially imitate others to get along. While he masters the subtle balancing act of fitting in and standing out, the filmmakers achieve the equally daunting task of making genius somewhat understandable.

Metacritic score: 73

11 of 21 Warner Bros.

11. The Matrix (1999)

You cannot know that Matrix, but Neo sure can.

The genius hacker teams up with human rebels led by Morpheus and Trinity to counter the future technology that our machine overlords are using to farm our bio-electricity. Neo looks to be the savior of all homo sapiens crops, as he fights back by peeling back the layers of illusion. Oh: And by kicking the ass of all the assassin programs that the machines send his way.

Metacritic score: 73

12 of 21 Nordisk Film

10. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The Hollywood remake isn't half bad, but the Swedish original is the way to go. Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth Salander, a genius hacker with a heart of acid for any and all abusers. Lisbeth uses her mad computer skills to help abused and neglected women, and also to help investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist as he tries to solve a cold missing persons case that smells like murder.

Metacritic score: 76

13 of 21 Miramax Films

9. The Aviator (2004)

FYI: Howard Hughes was not just a billionaire nut-bag recluse. He was also an aviation icon -- before he became a billionaire nutbag recluse. Director Martin Scorsese focuses on the before part of the Hughes resumé, and it's the aviation technology that's at the heart of this thrill ride. That and all his movie star girlfriends, such as Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett), Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale) and Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani).

Metacritic score: 77

14 of 21 Buena Vista Distribution

8. TRON (1982)

Genius hacker Flynn (Jeff Bridges) gets his brilliant new video games stolen by his bureaucrat boss. Worse yet, Flynn gets digitized and becomes a ghost in the machine -- stuck inside the mainframe. As a personified user in a world of programs, Flynn leads a revolution and ultimately defeats his evil boss, in the digital realm and the real one.

Roger Ebert called it "a technological sound-and-light show that is sensational and brainy, stylish and fun."

What he said.

15 of 21 Walt Disney Pictures

7. Iron Man (2008)

Genius inventor and arms dealer Tony Stark becomes a literal self-made man when he constructs an armored power suit to escape terrorist kidnappers and save his own life. Wise-cracking Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) snarks his way through this movie and into as many sequels as he wants, living a swanky tech-billionaire Malibu lifestyle even after he decides to help save the world.

Metacritic score: 79

16 of 21 Universal Pictures

6. Frankenstein (1931)

Recombinant DNA kicks it old school as the mad genius Dr. Frankenstein creates life from spare parts dug up by grave-robbing sidekick Igor. It would have worked too, if that darned Igor hadn't used a murderer's brain. It's genius gone awry, obviously, as not all experiments work out as planned. Still, Boris Karloff totally rocks as the iconic monster. It's alive!

IMDb rating: 8.0

17 of 21 Universal Pictures

5. Steve Jobs (2015)

Michael Fassbender shines as the acerbic Apple computer honcho who created a reality distortion effect around himself and his creations. Critics and fans loved this impressionistic tale, in which monologue madman Aaron Sorkin opens his word-hose and spews, while director Danny Boyle somehow makes all that talking into action.

This is for the crazy ones...and the sane ones, too.

Metacritic score: 82

18 of 21 Universal Pictures

4. Apollo 13 (1995)

The whole space program was one giant composite genius, proving how smart we can be technologically when we put our heads together.

In short: Astronauts on a disabled moon rocket (Tom Hanks, Jim Paxon, Kevin Bacon) and a NASA mission control crew somehow conjure the courage and ingenuity to get the explorers back home safely.

Metacritic score: 86

19 of 21 Universal Pictures

3. Back to the Future (1985)

Doc Brown's (Christopher Lloyd) DeLorean time machine is one of the coolest onscreen tech toys ever, and was integral to one of the most beloved movie franchises of all time.

Loopy Lloyd and ultra-likeable Michael J. Fox create incredible chemistry while also breaking (or at least bending) the laws of physics. Not to mention getting struck by lightning...on purpose.

Metacritic score: 86

20 of 21 Focus Features

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

When Jim Carrey finds out that eccentric girlfriend (Kate Winslet) has had her brain washed of their love, he decides to do the same by tracking down the mad genius shrink whose software works like a Roomba of the mind.

But Carrey's character has second thoughts after the process is underway, and struggles to help his memories of love hide in his mind, so he can find them again later. Against all odds, it sorta works, just like the movie -- a quirky-cool movie for the ages.

Metacritic score: 89

21 of 21 Jefferson Reid/ZDNet

1) The Social Network (2010)

You don't have to like it, but Facebook is kind of a big deal. How Mark Zuckerberg's online college convo hub got to be that way is the story here. Jesse Eisenberg seethes geeky menace, expertly visualized by director David Fincher from Aaron Sorkin's Oscar-winning script.

But one of the biggest highlights is Justin Timberlake's Napster dude-bro Sean Parker, who points out that a million dollars isn't cool. A billion dollars is.

Metacritic score: 95

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