Hot Girl Summer was a blast, but now as the air cools and the leaves turn, we’re tipping our collective chapeaux to Megan Thee Stallion and looking forward to a glorious new season: HOT NERD FALL. (Or uh, thot-umn, if you will.) We’ve compiled a list of Hot Nerd characters for you. Perhaps you’re wondering about our criteria? Well, simply put, we wanted to gather up our favorite fictional adult* characters from the SFF spectrum who are hot because of their nerdiness. People whose passion, whether for magic or math or philosophy, makes them crackle with allure and who we can’t stop loving.
Like, you know, an autumn leaf or something. We’re still working on the metaphors here, but you get our point! Now join us in a celebration of the hotness that can only come when a person lets their nerdiness shine through.
I should note that I am not a fan of serial killers. I am not a murder podcast aficionado. I get frustrated with the conflation of non-supernatural killing sprees and what I consider proper “horror”—which involves ghosts and Frankenstein creatures and the like, and should only stretch to include regular human violence if the serial killer is, say, a revenant, or under a curse of some sort.
Having said all of that, Will Graham, as played by Hugh Dancy, is a murder nerd, and he’s hot AF. Will Graham is a staple of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter series, and he’s been played ably by other actors, but usually as more of a straight-ahead procedural detective. In Dancy and Bryan Fuller’s hands, he becomes an adept, blessed/cursed with a capacity for empathy so extreme it endangers his sanity. All he has to do is examine a crime scene and he can imagine himself into the murderer’s mind. What this means psychologically is that Will is a MESS. What it means for this list is that he spends lots of time staring intently at crime scenes, sometimes reading super intensely, often grappling beautifully with moral dilemmas, and he is often drenched in sweat. What’s fantastic about Hannibal is that we often see Will through Hannibal Lecter’s gaze, and Hannibal is (canonically per Bryan Fuller!) totes in lurrrrrve with Will, so it’s like the show is conspiring with us to find him attractive?
God, Hannibal’s great.
All of the folx in Nomi’s “cluster” (eight people who are bound by a psychic sensory connection, making them “sensates”) are hot in one way or another, as are their partners, friends, and confidantes—if you’ve seen cluster sibling Kala wield a syringe or Lito’s boyfriend Hernando talk about art, you know this. But Nomi is a freaking hacktivist who blogs about politics from her home in San Francisco, California. Without her, the cluster has no chance at gaining the intel and access they require to stop BPO (the Biologic Preservation Organization) from kidnapping and lobotomizing them all. What’s more, Nomi manages all this at the center of her own gorgeous love story. Her fiancée, Amanita Caplan, is with her through the whole journey, as is her hacker buddy, Bug. Nomi’s found family is leaps and bounds above her parents, who regularly deadname her and fail to respect her choices and life. Which is honestly their loss, as their daughter is a hacking, nerdy, political powerhouse who uses her skills to save people. Which is pretty much the definition of hotness.
Chidi Anagonye—The Good Place
It’s not the surprising jacked-ness, or the way he occasionally looks at Eleanor when he’s briefly calm enough to look at her, for my money Chidi is hottest when in full philosopher mode. Seeing him in his element, up at his board, outlining different philosophical breakthroughs? How patient he is with Eleanor, and later Michael, because he genuinely wants them both to learn? How excited he gets when he really gets going on a thought experiment? These are the things that add up to a True Hot Nerd.
And side note? One of his favorite philosophers is actually University of Reading professor Jonathan Dancy, one of the leading figures in the philosophy of moral particularism, who is also the IRL father of Hugh Dancy, who plays another Hot Nerd on this list.
Q—The James Bond Franchise
Though the character never appeared in any of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels, Q of the spy film franchise has always been hot because he makes amazing espionage gadgets and gives Bond a hard time for being… well, Bond. The current Q, played by Ben Whishaw gets extra points for dressing Bond down on their introduction via J.M.W. Turner’s “The Fighting Temeraire” as they sit side by side in The National Gallery, telling him to jump onto a moving train, and oh-so-gently dragging fancy assault weapons from his curious grip. He is also the most adorable person to make terrible dad jokes in the film franchise’s history, which is another qualifier for hotness. Add to that his penchant for being helpful even while lamenting to 007, “I really, really hate you right now”. And how he pleads with Bond not to ruin his job because he has two cats to support. This boy has hot nerd written all over him. Even Bond knows it, hence the liberal amount of flirting they do.
At the start of this contemporary Sherlock Holmes retelling, genderbent Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) seems to be little more than a crutch for Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller): a doctor who let her medical license lapse after losing a patient, she has become a sober companion to recovering addicts such as himself. But as she tags along to crime scenes and becomes embroiled in many a mystery, it quickly becomes clear that Watson is equally sharp and possessed of certain instincts her partner lacks, making them a complementary team—especially where it concerns his blind spots like Moriarty. Better yet, she likes it. “You make an effort to appear conventional,” Holmes tells her early on, once her time as his sober companion has ended and she has begun training as his apprentice, “but I know, Watson, you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the humdrum routine of ordinary life.” Imagine his lack of surprise, then, when Sherlock returns to New York in season 3 to discover that rather than wait around for him, Watson is working as a New York City detective in her own right.
Ian Malcolm (the Book Version)—Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Honestly doctors Ellie Sattler and Alan Grant are also Very Hot Nerds, but only one Jurassic Park nerd was so hot that even death couldn’t contain him. And obviously, yes, Jeff Goldblum plays him in the movies, and he’s great. But in the books Malcolm gets pages and pages to shine, throwing chaos theory and fractal description around like confetti, macking intellectually on every woman he sees, mocking John Hammond for meddling on God’s domain, and just generally being right about everything. Plus in the original book he totally dies, and gets a great drawn-out death scene where he murmurs sweet nothings about “paradigm shifts” and stays a nerd right to the end. Except then Crichton brought him back for The Lost World because The People Love Their Goldblum, so we got to then see Concerned Dad Nerd Malcolm, who is once again trying to make it work with a woman who’s every bit as smart as him, plus being supportive to his amazing daughter.
Poison Ivy—DC Comics
Pamela Isley is a dangerous redhead who cares about exactly one thing: Plants. And also (in Batman: The Animated Series) her gal pal, Harley Quinn. But mostly plants. She’s an ecologist whose primary concern is environmental activism and the danger humankind poses to the world by way of industry, corporate greed, and chemicals that harm the planet. Basically, Poison Ivy is here to be the Number One combatant against climate change. Which is, you know… kind of relevant right now. Kind of maybe more important that anything right now. If we crown any of these hot nerds to be our queen, it should definitely be Pamela. She’s an extremist, but she’ll save us all, whether we ask her to or not. #HotNerdFall? More like #FallTooHotBecauseThePlanetIsDyingYouFools
Richie Tozier—IT: Chapter Two
I want to add a caveat on this one that the True Hot Nerd is Richie-Tozier-as-played-by-Bill-Hader. First of all, all of our Hot Nerds have to be grown-ass adults, but also, Richie isn’t quite as much of a Hot Nerd in the book. He’s hilarious (although, be warned, much of his humor has not aged well) but he’s also a somewhat smaller character in the book, which gives more space to the Bill Denbrough-Bev Marsh-Ben Hanscom triangle. (But again, to be fair, this is ‘80s Stephen King and he gives space to literally everything.) But in the film Hader is able to bring all of Richie’s queer subtext to the fore, to infuse him with a sense of romantic longing underneath all the jokes, and to rock a particular hipster-nerd-comedian look that makes a particular type of heart flutter. (Leah’s heart, to be exact.)
Aziraphale—Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
We could technically put both Aziraphale and Crowley on this list, since they’re just nerds of a different kind, but we’d like to reserve some time to properly appreciate our favorite Principality and his nerdiness over weird books and all delicious consumable matter. Being a food nerd is a particularly indulgent and enjoyable enterprise, and being enough of a nerd to open your own bookshop mainly for the purpose of housing your own personal collection is Boss Level geekery. Plus, he knows how to wear a pinky ring, and almost got himself killed (well, discorporated) for wandering into Revolution-Era France dressed like the upper classes. So he’s a fashion nerd, too. And learning to dance the gavotte has also got to be high on some other nerd lists. Point is, Aziraphale knows nothing about bebop, but if Crowley typed “hot nerd” into his preferred search engine (we’re pretty sure Hell created Google; Bing belongs to Heaven) and didn’t see a picture of his angel, he’d be furious. And he’d be right.
Katherine Murry—A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
In the books, Meg Murry’s mom is tall, auburn-haired, and gorgeous, and in Ava DuVernay’s film adaptation she’s played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, so, yeah, equally gorgeous. But in both cases Dr. Murry really comes into her own when she’s working over a Bunsen burner, grinning while her math whiz daughter explains complicated proofs, or developing computer programs that inadvertently send her twin sons back to the Time of the Flood. For a couple of generations of young readers, she was an example of a woman who dedicated herself to an intellectual career while also being a pretty great mom, and maintaining a loving, equal partnership with her absent-minded physicist husband that still, even after four kids, had plenty of sexual spark to it.
…at least it did when he wasn’t trapped on other planets fighting a cosmic moral battle.
Professor Hulk—Avengers: Endgame
Look, it’s weird, but there’s something extra charming about the Hulk in glasses and flannel. (Think about it—he must have a tailor now! Is there anything cuter than that thought?) It’s Hulk, but he’s got Bruce Banner’s awkward allure and goofy grin. And we should just let ourselves be okay with this. We should embrace Professor Hulk as our Hot Nerd mascot. You know why? Because far too recently people were asking if Thanos was a Zaddy (*screaming punctuated by sobs*), and this is the better version of that timeline, okay? Hot Geek Hulk. Roll with it, I’m begging you.
Palamedes Sextus—Gideon the Ninth
At first glance—and especially when seen through the eyes of a Ninth cultist—the Sixth House’s Master Warden of the Library seems an insufferable drip: dressed all in drab grey, cranky and superior, more likely to read a book about swordfighting than ever pick up a blade. And yet even upon first meeting, Gideon notices his eyes—”the eyes of a very beautiful person, trapped in resting bitch face”—and the jaw-dropping intelligence behind them. What he lacks in street smarts he makes up for in his particularly bookish brand of necromancy, culminating in a badass moment that deserves applauds from hot fall nerds everywhere.
Also, dude, your name shortens so easily to SEX PAL.
Henry Jones, Sr.—Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Obviously he’s played by SEAN CONNERY so a certain subset of the population is going to find that hot. But what we here at Tor.com love about this particular role is how Connery plays against type, becoming a slightly bumbling professor who is so carried away by his passion for scholarship that he gets tangled up with Nazis and has to be rescued by his globetrotting son. This is a man who saves his son by remembering a Charlemagne quote, who can speak and read multiple languages, who hand-illuminates his own journal in which he charts the history of the Holy Grail? He’s amazing. And if you ask us, one of the hottest scenes in all of cinema is when Jones, Sr. grabs a Nazi by the arm like a naughty schoolboy, during an interrogation, with a gun to his head (!!!!!) and snaps at him “goose-stepping morons like yourself should try reading books instead of burning them!”
Who wouldn’t follow that man on a Crusade?
Evie Carnahan—The Mummy
Has there ever been a better movie heroine than Evie Carnahan? This is a woman who fights her way through a male-dominated industry in the 1920s, who walks straight into an Egyptian prison to question a potentially dangerous prisoner, who can read multiple languages, who keeps going despite a mean boss who turns out to be the head of a Mummy-fighting cult, and who, even in the throes of drunkenness, when asked to offer an accounting of herself, yells “I…am a librarian!” PLUS she keeps her cool whilst fighting a Mummy and his undead minions and keeps translating and reciting incantations without missing a beat, even when she’s about to be used as a vessel for the reincarnated soul of the Mummy’s dead girlfriend?
What could be hotter than that?
Jonathan Strange—Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Many of the choices that Jonathan Strange makes are not good ones. Determined to learn magic at all costs, he often goes too far in his pursuit of the first profession that ever truly spoke to him. (He was rather aimless before he realized he had a knack for the discipline.) But the pursuit of knowledge is pretty darn hot, and Strange certainly has an affinity for his chosen subject. The creative ways that he uses magic in service of the Duke of Wellington during the Napoleonic Wars is just one way he puts that creative learning to use. Sure, he’s got a bit of that “tortured genius vibe”, but his inherent wryness seems to keep that at bay more often than not. Plus, he’s learning magic. That’s hot all by itself.
Tyrion Lannister—A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones
Yes, let us stop you, of course Tyrion Lannister is incredibly problematic. Both in A Song of Ice and Fire and in HBO’s Game of Thrones, he makes some terrible, evil decisions. HOWEVER. Compared to most of the cast he’s practically a saint, and, for the purposes of this list, he is one of the only characters in Martin’s giant world who genuinely loves learning for its own sake, who reads for fun, who encourages others to use their brains instead of their swords or their, er, swords. While Book Tyrion especially isn’t considered as conventionally attractive after his face is disfigured during the Battle of the Blackwater, his continued attempts to keep the kingdom running and to educate King Joffrey even at the risk of his own life make him an alluring character on the page, which certainly helped inform Peter Dinklage’s performance as the somewhat more suave TV Tyrion.
Hiro Protagonist—Snow Crash
When you’ve got a self-fulfilling kind of name like Hiro Protagonist, you could do the bare minimum and still get back-pats for being the star of the story. But our boy Hiro isn’t just reasonably attractive and good-looking on a motorcycle—he’s also a dedicated swordsman and gifted programmer, both of which make him something of a celebrity in the cyberpunk future of Snow Crash. As one of the original architects of the interactive Metaverse he’s got clout, but his real claim to fame is programming swordfighting into that virtual world and then trouncing all challengers. When a new drug called Snow Crash shows up and Hiro gets embroiled in a massive conspiracy, he’ll need to draw on those two big talents to get out alive—every nerd’s dream.
L3-37—Solo: A Star Wars Story
Elthree got a terrible lot by the end of Solo, but she makes her way onto this list by being in the extremely hot and nerdy profession of robot liberation. Hells yeah. And despite the fact that Lando might be kind of into her, she has no time for that nonsense—she is going to free any and all droids wherever they go. Elthree is so hot that she kitbashed herself. She essentially rewrote her own programming and built herself out of several different types of droid parts. Our girl started out as an R3 unit before grafting on bits of protocol droid parts and coding, along with espionage droid data. Nothing is cooler than this. Are you awed? You should be awed. The fact that she’s very tall doesn’t hurt either.
Rupert Giles—Buffy the Vampire Slayer
A bizarre side effect of rewatching Buffy in one’s thirties is to find oneself identifying less with the supernatural teenagers and sympathizing more with the fortysomething librarian who has been saddled with babysitting, and eventually collaborating with, this crop of youths. All Giles wants is for these kids to open a bloody book and they’ll find the answer to save the world… and that’s kinda hot. While you might argue that Giles hit peak bookishness in tweed suits in the Sunnydale library, I would argue his truly hot-nerdiest moment was the UC Sunnydale overhead projector presentation in “Hush,” complete with illustrations and classical-music accompaniment.
Penny Adiyodi—The Magicians
I’m going to stand firm on my stance that Penny’s character arc is the most compelling on The Magicians, the television adaptation of Lev Grossman’s book trilogy of the same name. Penny arrives at Brakebills (the magical grad school in upstate New York) with a swaggering, flirt with a cute girl instead of pay attention in class, don’t-give-a-F attitude – something he can do only because he already knows he’s the smartest person in the room. He could have very easily been your average bad boy – bullying the shy geek and getting into fights. But when Penny discovers he not only has psychic abilities but also has the rare talent of being able to travel to other worlds, he becomes an essential part of the team. He also happens to have a direct psychic link to The Beast, something which transforms him from bad boy to a man who is compelling, sympathetic, and an incredibly talented Magician. We discover that Penny has his own baggage, but remains romantic and loyal and clever as all get-out (occasionally being the only one smart enough to GTFO of a bad situation). And sure, he’s chaotic neutral – not the best team player, but he’s there when his friends need him most. Doesn’t hurt that he ends up working for The Library either, which is peak sexy nerd glow up if you ask me. Yes please.
The protagonist of Samuel R. Delany’s classic linguistic space adventure is objectively hot. We’re introduced to her by a tough-as-nails general who immediately goes full heart-eyes when he meets her. Then we watch as two different ship captains and a ruthless mercenary all fall for her charms. But those crushes are all there to stand in counterpoint to Rydra’s self-knowledge—she knows she’s a poet, and a language nerd, and her true personality and joy jump out when she’s working with words. I mean, in her earlier romantic life, she was part of a space-faring throuple, and celebrated her love with a series of real-person-fic about herself and her two partners—that became classics throughout the galaxy. And by far the hottest scenes in the book all take place when she’s trying to untangle some knotty grammatical quirk, or working through how people’s pronouns affect their self-perception. Finally, it’s her language skills that both resolve the plot of the book, and seduce the man who becomes her partner. Poets rule.
The Doctor—Doctor Who
If you told me you wouldn’t hop in the TARDIS the minute The Doctor asked you to join them, you are LYING. Let’s think about this really: The Doctor is not only incredibly clever and arguably one of the smartest beings in the universe (fight me) but also brave and incredibly kind. The Doctor loves humans SO DANG MUCH and is always looking out for those who have been marginalized or hurt in some way, seeking out vulnerability because they themselves are vulnerable, lonely, and hurt too. The Doctor is the type of hero we need to see more of—heroic not because of physical strength or supernatural ability, but because they’re just so effing smart. They abhor violence and rarely, if ever, use physical altercation to save the day. It’s always cleverness, always outsmarting the enemy, always being faster and more capable than everyone around them. It’s no wonder we’ve all fallen in love with them, and that the show has been running for so long – no matter who your Doctor is, they’re just good, just a good-hearted Time Lord who wants to do the right thing and protect people. I will never love anyone the way I love The Doctor. I will always be listening for the whirring of the TARDIS engine.
Geordi LaForge—Star Trek: The Next Generation
Look, Star Trek is stuffed to the rafters with nerds. It’s pretty much an all-nerd franchise—the entire mission is to be curious and explore, and even in slightly off-center outings like DS9 and Voyager the show celebrates its characters passions at every opportunity.
But among all these nerds there is a mega nerd, and he is Geordi, and he is adorable. One of our rules for this article was that the characters had to be hot as characters, whether or not the actor in question (if the character has been played by an actor) is one of our types. This is the one case in this list where I have to say that we’re not sure? Because each of us individually have such deep and complicated love for LeVar Burton that we couldn’t be positive that that wasn’t informing our love of Geordi. But I’m pretty sure we’d dig him anyway. Of all the crew members, he’s the one who’s the most willing to just chuck propriety out the window and follow his enthusiasms, which, for the purposes of this list, catapult him into autumnal hotness.
Is there autumn in space?
*Please note that all of the characters we’ve included are 18 years or older by the time we first encounter them in their fictional worlds.