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Geek Love: 30 Nerd Sex Symbols

Astrophysicists and sci-fi TV icons, comic-book obsessed porn stars and Cylons: these are the men and women that are likely to up the BPM of the Geek Nation’s pulse

Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection; Frank Ockenfels/AMC; Brian Bowen Smith/FOX

The phrase "Nerd Sex Symbols" usually refers to one of two things: Smart celebrities who get the pulse racing; or sci-fi characters and superheroes who inspire NSFW fan-fiction and beaucoup cosplay among nerds and nerdettes. (George Clooney is hot, but how many people do you see dressed up like him at Comic-Con? The Walking Dead's hillbilly hunk Daryl Dixon, on the other hand….) There are legendary characters from intergalactic sagas and fantasy epics that we all love, sure. But there are also actors who obsess over comics, astrophysicists with swagger, jocks who love gaming, and babes and hunks whose knowledge of Middle Earth, mathematic theory, and how a TARDIS works can put the average fanboy to shame. Being a geek isn't just cool these days. It's downright white-hot.

The Top 20 Best Sci-Fi Movies of the 21st Century 

With that in mind, we decided to combine the best of both worlds (Universes? Galaxies?) to come up with a definitive list of the most alluring — conventionally or not — movie stars, scientists, robots, alien warriors, tech gods, comedians, wizards, zombie killers, musicians, and more. By Dan Reilly

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‘Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols

The USS Enterprise's chief communications officer Lt. Uhura set the bar pretty high, and has the distinction of being a significant, integral black character at a time when that was virtually unheard in on television, let alone in sci-fi. In fact, Martin Luther King, Jr. persuaded actress Nichelle Nichols not to leave Star Trek after its first season because of how important the role was. Since then, the franchise has gone on to feature a number of badass women: Next Generation's Commander Deanna Troi; Jeri Ryan's part-Borg, part-human, all pin-up Seven of Nine; and plenty of surprisingly photogenic officers, Klingons, robots, and green-skinned women. When Avatar's Zoe Saldana took over the Uhura role in the 2009 franchise reboot, a new generation of fanboys had a Trek sex symbol to call their own. 

Cliff Lipson/CBS

The Cast of ‘The Big Bang Theory’

The geeks of the CBS hit, led by Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki, have done plenty to make being a sci-fi/comic/gamer fanboy cool — and therefore, sexy. For those who'd like to think that the blonde bombshell across the hall is really a closet nerd-lover, there's Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting. And then there are the guest stars: Mayim Bialik, the former Blossom actress who took a break from showbiz to get a Ph.D in neuroscience from UCLA (and later became a Big Bang full-timer); Star Trek: The Next Generation alums Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton; former Wonder Years actress, author, and mathematics-for-girls proponent Danica McKellar; and Stand by Me star, fellow Star Trek: TNG cast member, gamer, blogger, and all-around nerd icon Wil Wheaton. It's a smorgasbord of geek love here!

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Lynda Carter

The former Miss World USA has been a staple of the comic world since she first starred in 1975's The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, playing the DC heroine and her human alter ego Diana Prince for three seasons. Though Carter disliked that so much attention was focused on her physical attributes, her performance as the feminist icon has yet to be matched. Israeli actress Gal Gadot is set to take on the Amazonian role in the upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie, though it's unclear how significant her part will be while the dudes fight it out. Regardless, Gadot has got some big red, vinyl boots to fill if she's going to match Carter for sheer wonder.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson

What's cooler than being cool? How about being an astrophysicist who's quick with a joke, into fine wines, and once won a medal in Latin Ballroom dancing? The director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of Fox's rebooted Cosmos has proven that it's possible to explain life, the universe and everything with a sense of humor and zero condescension; his frequent appearances on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Reddit have made him the face of brainiac science made accessible for the general public. Make that the "handsome face": Tyson was even named "Sexiest Astrophysicist" by People back in 2000. 

Diyah Pera

‘The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny

Sure, the conspiracies, aliens, and paranormal phenomena were the main selling points of Fox's hit show, but one reason viewers kept tuning into The X-Files was the ongoing romantic tension between FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. David Duchovny played the vulnerable watch-the-skies believer while Gillian Anderson was the tough skeptic, a dynamic that flouted traditional gender roles and made for one of the more unique (and sexy) onscreen relationships at the time. It didn't hurt that the duo were also incredibly telegenic even when chasing monsters, hunting down psychopaths and finding themselves elbow-deep in extraterrestrial goo.

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‘Dr. Who’s Matt Smith

At 26 years old, the handsome Brit became the eleventh Dr. Who, the youngest actor to play the role in the show's long history. Though some fans thought he was too youthful for the part, Smith's performance earned him a BAFTA nomination for Best Actor and a legion of admirers. When asked by the Chicago Sun Times about his sex-symbol status in 2012, he said, "I don't quite know what to do with it apart from smile and say — if that is indeed the case  — 'Hurrah!' I shall embrace it with open arms." He'll soon bring those looks to the upcoming Terminator reboot, which should only add to his geek cred.

Alan Markfield

Jennifer Lawrence

She's already beloved worldwide for her charmingly unfiltered quips and grounded personality, but Lawrence commands a special place in the hearts of the sci-fi community. She brought an extra sense of humanity to shapeshifter Mystique in X-Men: First Class, the role she reprised in the blockbuster Days of Future Past. More famously, she's embodied the role of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise, proving that she can kick ass with the best of them, all while seeming like she's the last one to care about the Peeta/Gale love triangle. 

Helen Sloan/HBO

The Cast of ‘Game of Thrones’

In case you haven't heard, the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin's fantasy series is apt to feature a sex scene every now and again (by which we mean roughly every three minutes). There are the obvious heartthrobs, like the blonde-bombshell Mother of Dragons Daenarys (Emilia Clarke), and the brooding, perpetually unshaven Jon Snow (recent Rolling Stone cover star Kit Harrington). But for all the obvious pin-ups and poster boys that GoT has bestowed upon us, you have to give the showrunners credit for making Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) into a bona fide sex symbol — though don't tell the actor that. "It's nice that people are thinking outside the box, but I don't believe any of it for a minute," Dinklage told Playboy in 2013. 

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Carrie Fisher

Yes, a lot of Princess Leia fans will, first and foremost, focus on that metal bikini — which is pretty creepy, considering that's a slave outfit she's forced to wear by Jabba the Hutt. Then again, Fisher had asked to wear something a little more revealing outside of Leia's gowns and bun hair; also, she did use the attached chain to kill Jabba (so that's a bonus). But throughout the original Star Wars trilogy, she stands up to Darth Vader, matches wits with Han Solo, and jumps right into the final battles. She was funny, feisty, and a full-on royal beauty. The original trilogy wouldn't be legit without her.

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Steve Jobs

You know all about the late Apple co-founder's contributions to the world, from spearheading the personal-computer revolution to changing the way you listen to music. So why not appreciate him in a different light with this video, which features photos of the innovator set to Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver." You may begin swooning now.

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‘Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany

The comely Canadian actress has already played over a half dozen versions of a cloning experiment on BBC America's surprise hit series; at last year's Comic-Con, she revealed that music helps her get into the different characters' mindsets, so she keeps a playlist filled with diverse fare (everything from the Clash and Tom Waits to show tunes, slow jams, and dance tracks). Thanks to her versatile work on Orphan, Maslany has attracted a devout following that includes a group called the Clonesbians and geek emperor Patton Oswalt, who called her "the best actress alive."

Frank Ockenfels/AMC

‘The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus

It's hard to imagine anyone other than Norman Reedus playing the crossbow-toting zombie killer Daryl Dixon, a character who originally seemed like he'd be The Walking Dead's resident racist-redneck asshole.  But the character's growing loyalty to the group (save for a few expected hiccups) and tough-guy-with-a heart-of-gold persona has made him one of the most beloved characters. Naturally, the brooding bad boy personality, along with the gritty facial hair and frequently bare muscular arms, has also earned him a rabid fanbase among the show's female-viewer contingent.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Sigourney Weaver

The actress has some serious sci-fi bona fides: She got her big break early as Ellen Ripley, the unlikely heroine of Ridley Scott's chiller Alien. She went full-on badass for the sequels — notably James Cameron's Aliens, for which she earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination. As Dana Barrett, she fended off ghosts and the romantic overtures of Bill Murray in the Ghostbusters series. And Weaver has consistently gone back to to the genre with roles in Avatar, Galaxy Quest, WALL•E, Paul, and The Cabin in the Woods, proving she can save the universe and make people laugh with equal aplomb — all while looking amazing well into her 60s.

Brian Bowen Smith/FOX

’24’s Mary Lynn Rajskub

Computer programmer Chloe O'Brian started out as Jack Bauer's meek but loyal CTU, but as the series went on and the world got saved again and again, she's gotten bolder and badder. Played by actress and comedian Mary Lynn Rajskub, the character got involved in the action, had a number of romantic subplots, and, for the current comeback season, adopted a Joan Jett/Lisbeth Salander vibe for life as a hacker. Like her new story arc, Chloe's look is way darker – and long-time fans do not seem to be complaining.

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Nate Silver

A master of statistical analysis, Silver first became popular thanks to his groundbreaking work in baseball's sabermetrics community (think Jonah Hill in Moneyball). His fame skyrocketed in 2008, however, when his site — — posted stats-based presidential-election predictions that correctly called 49 out of 50 states. In 2012, when he did the same as an employee of the New York Times, he went 50-for-50. Soon after, the openly gay Silver was named Out magazine's person of the year, certifying him as a hero in the LGBT and geek communities. He left the Times for ESPN, where he's currently the editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight.

Courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures

Daniel Radcliffe and the ‘Harry Potter’ Crew

Whoever decided to cast Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint as the leads in the Harry Potter films must have had a crystal ball — or at least the magical gift of foresight to realize those kid actors would grow up into remarkably good-looking adults. Even Matthew Lewis, who played the ultimate Hogwarts dork Neville Longbottom, aged into a dashing young fellow.

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Tina Fey

Fey is adept at everything from highbrow feminist humor to fart jokes, and her tenure as the head writer for Saturday Night Live made her a comedy-nerd superstar. Throw in those Lisa Loeb-like glasses and the copious Star Wars references on 30 Rock – Liz dressing up like Leia, an Ewok alive and well in New York, Carrie Fisher's amazing cameo – and you have a genuine geek goddess. Our only complaint about her brilliant sitcom, in fact, was its running-too-long joke that Liz Lemon was considered unattractive.

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‘Community’s Danny Pudi

For all the insanity that ran rampant through Greendale's dysfunctional halls, Pudi's Abed Nadir was always the heart and soul of the show's misfit study group; despite suffering from an inability to read social situations or be emotionally expressive, he was the most likely to act as the voice of reason for his fellow students as well. Of course, he was also the college's biggest nerd, with his Dreamatorium, love of the  Doctor Who rip-off Inspector Spacetime, the Kickpuncher franchise, his terrific Bale-Batman impression, and much more. The actor's handsomeness didn't exactly hurt his appeal among Community fans either.

Justin Stephens

‘Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer

The rebooted series garnered critical acclaim thanks to its terrific writing, deeply developed characters (give it up for Katee Sackhoff's hard-living, hard-drinking pilot Starbuck!), and themes and conflicts that resonated with the post 9/11 era regardless of the space-opera trappings. But let's just say you weren't likely to find posters of the ships in a fanboy's high-school locker; that space would be reserved for the show's main Cylon bombshell Tricia Helfer. Even among a cast full of photogenic performers, you could say the statuesque blond held a special place among the show's more cybernetically-inclined viewers.

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Rivers Cuomo

As unlikely a rock star as could be in the post-MTV era, the Weezer frontman made it to stardom with singles about sweaters and looking like Buddy Holly, not to mention the D&D-praising "In the Garage." Turns out, Cuomo was not having trouble when it came to attracting the ladies — see the groupie lament "Tired of Sex," which leads off Weezer's second album Pinkerton. (Make fun of him all you want, but the guy has publicly talked about getting down with four women at once.) He later went celibate for a couple years and got married in 2006.

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Seth Meyers

His political humor was a huge part of his tenure at SNL, and the current Late Night host even helmed the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner. But when he's not in front of the camera, Meyers has shown a big-time love of comic books. In fact, he and SNL pal Bill Hader wrote a one-off 2009 Spider-Man issue called "The Short Halloween," in which Spidey is knocked out during the holiday's annual Greenwich Village parade and a drunk fan takes the hero's place. Starting in 2013, he co-created and stars in the Hulu animated series The Awesomes, about a reunited group of ragtag superheroes; Hader, Rashida Jones, Taran Killam, Cecily Strong, and Bobby Moynihan are among the all-star cast.


Alyson Hannigan

Before How I Met Your Mother's turned her into sitcom royalty, Hannigan had her big break as Willow on Joss Whedon's era-defining Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The character, arguably more popular than star Sarah Michelle Gellar's titular heroine, was involved in a lesbian relationship that was praised for its subtlety and realism (outside of the fantasy setting, of course). While less poignant but still boundary pushing, there was also that time Hannigan's American Pie character, Michelle, went to band camp….

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Stephen Colbert

The man's commitment to playing a megalomaniacal political pundit is brilliant in the winkiest of ways; even conservatives (those who get the joke, that is) are fans. But Colbert is also a full-fledged Tolkien geek — his former employer Jon Stewart once played a recording on The Daily Show of Colbert explaining, in detail, the origin story of Viggo Mortensen's Lord of the Rings  movie character Aragorn. Once Colbert got his own show, it seemed as though the host showed off his knowledge of that universe whenever he could. As a reward, director Peter Jackson enlisted him for a cameo in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which the comedian might appreciate as much as being Letterman's successor.

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Mila Kunis

The star of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and That '70s Show, not to mention the voice of Family Guy's Meg Griffin, was once a big World of Warcraft fan, playing constantly with ex-boyfriend Macaulay Culkin. As an anonymous member of one of the MMORPG's guilds, a fellow player once recognized her voice, forcing her to find new online friends. Furthermore, Kunis most likely created an ultimate nerd fantasy when she admitted in an interview that she would often play in her underwear, but eventually the game became such a habit for her that she had to quit it cold turkey.

Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

Taran Killam

SNL's current leading player owns several Xbox consoles and has apparently spent over $1,000 on replacements for the controllers he's smashed after tossing them against walls in frustration. That's not to mention the fact that he has an arcade version of NBA Jam in his 30 Rock office. On the comics front, the X-Men devotee co-created his own book, The Illegitmates, about a team of spies who are the bastards of a Bond-like character. For the cherry on top, he's married to How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders, who's now part of the Marvel movie universe and voiced Wonder Woman in The Lego Movie. Talk about unlocking a nerd's dream achievement.

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‘Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott

While Leslie Knope is the hottest female political dweeb in Pawnee, she can't compete with the dork mastery that is her devoted husband, Ben Wyatt. The former teen mayor grew up to love numbers, but never got over his obsessions with some of the major sci-fi and fantasy series, including Wars, Trek, Rings, and Thrones; he also spent his unemployed time creating an intensive role-playing game called the Cones of Dunshire. Few would have guessed that when the sitcom brought Adam Scott on the hapless Wyatt, the result would be a nerd sex symbol — one that, if Knope's constant crowing about his butt is any indication, has quite the posterior.

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April O’Neil

It doesn't take a unique porn actress to star in Game of Bones or other adult-film parodies, but April O'Neil comes from a legit geek background. Her stage name is taken from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' best pal, she goes to Comic-Con as a fan, and has an obsession with Doctor Who. Lots of geeks fantasize about porn stars; O'Neil, however, may be one of the few triple-X performers they'd actually run into in line for a panel on sci-fi TV shows or at a TARDIS exhibit.

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Chris Kluwe

Punters are rarely remembered for their on-field contributions, and while Kluwe had some solid seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, the retired NFL player will always be known for his vocal, sometimes vulgar, support of same-sex marriage and other no-brainer civil rights. Case in point: In an open letter, he told one homophobic politician that gay couples "won't magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster." An obsessive gamer – his Twitter name is @ChrisWarcraft – Kluwe recently found a way to, ahem, marry both causes in one tweet that referenced a newly struck-down marriage ban and  the classic computer program Oregon Trail: "This makes up a little bit for dying from dysentery so many times."

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Jesse Eisenberg/Michael Cera

We couldn't decide which of these talented kings of the beta-males to include — so we're putting them both on this list. While both have range, Cera may have the edge when it comes to comedy thanks to Arrested Development, while Eisenberg wins out for drama on the strength of The Social Network. Cera might be too soft to play Zuckerberg and Eisenberg is too severe to play George Michael, but each of them have that vulnerable, offbeat vibe that makes them simultaneously appealing and versatile.

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Harrison Ford

The ruggedly handsome star would be a strong contender for any sex-symbol list, really, but when it comes to the world of serious nerdom, Ford may be the sexiest man alive — the George Clooney of the Geek Nation. If the star has one character that he can call his own, it's the gritty hero who's in it for the gold, whose heart gets the best of him for better or worse, and who gets the job done while trying to avoid the glory. He's also got a wisecrack or a too-cool-for-school remark at the ready: A princess says he loves him as he heads into a cryogenic prison and he replies, "I know." That takes almost as much courage as crawling through a pit full of snakes or fighting off Daryl Hannah and Rutger Hauer. Almost.

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