Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Essays

‘Jobs’ and our favorite movie geek gods

It seems like all of our movie heroes are defined by only physical prowess or courage in battle. Even in science fiction movies, our heroes tend to be the men of action rather than the thinkers and scientists: Bruce Willis rather than Stephen Hawking. What’s a nerd to do?

JOBS, the new film starring Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs — the Apple computer guru who turned computers into a home appliance, reimagined the phone as a “Star Trek” communicator, and changed the way we interact with movies and music and all forms of media — reminds us that the real game-changers in history are the thinkers, the inventors, the visionaries who change lives with their creations. Steve Jobs is not necessarily a hero for our age, but there is something satisfying in celebrating smarts and creativity over brawn and speed. Here are our favorite nerd heroes. Smart may not always be sexy, but these guys — both fictional and real — wear their nerd credentials proudly and sometimes even make it cool to be uncool. This is our dream-team geek squad.

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and many other films

Geek credentials: He pioneers the use of fingerprints, catalogues every brand of tobacco ash, has a fascination with beekeeping.
Greatest achievement: He made a thinker into the most popular fictional character of his day.

Decades after his final portrayal of Arthur Conan Doyle’s coldly logical detective, Basil Rathbone is still the definitive big-screen Sherlock Holmes. The gaunt, classically trained Rathbone donned the deerstalker cap for the first time in 1938 for “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” with Nigel Bruce as a portly Dr. Watson, and he first utters the signature line that Doyle never wrote: “Elementary, my dear Watson.” With his crisp diction and piercing eyes and aquiline features, he gives Holmes the offhanded arrogance so memorably displayed in the stories, and tempers it with his delight in conundrums and challenges. He’s exacting, obsessive, exasperating, socially negligent and oblivious to all else while concentrating on an experiment or a case. Think of him as the most cultivated geek in pop culture.

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