Last night, HBO premiered Mike Judge’s new series Silicon Valley, and I’m pretty sure it’s the best show for and about nerds ever made. Forget The Big Bang Theory, forget Head of the Class, forget Freaks and Geeks and forget even The IT Crowd. Silicon Valley is a hilarious look at young guys working in the titular hub of the tech world, and much of its humor comes from jokes that only true nerds can appreciate.
In recognition of that series, I thought it’d be interesting to consider its movie equivalent. Nerds have been a staple of cinema for decades but for the most part in stereotypical form. Revenge of the Nerds is certainly the most obvious title in that regard, though the 1980s were full of the conventional glasses-and-pocket-protector variety. Most, however, haven’t got the Toby Radloff stamp of approval (see American Splendor), yet most also were without Revenge‘s awful plot points involving rape.
In the past decade, nerds have become more humanized thanks to the world better recognizing that, in the age of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and others, geniuses are not only rich and powerful but also heroes to many around the globe. They come in all shapes and sizes and wardrobes and visual acuity, and though we’ve continued associating them all with programming and other computer-related work, not all of them are as plugged in as that most enduring cliche.
More in the tradition of noncomputer-centric nerd movies like Real Genius, today’s other positive trend with this type of character is in the superhero genre. Peter Parker of Spider-Man, Tony Stark of Iron Man and Bruce Wayne of the Dark Knight Batman movies are all nerds in their own way. And then there’s the combination of trends, which actually isn’t that recent: The Matrix. Maybe TRON: Legacy fits that bill, too.
I think the best quality nerd movie with the best portrayal of nerds is one of the most defining cultural zeitgeist works of the past decade, and yes it does involve the computer sort: The Social Network. David Fincher’s movie about the founding of Facebook is not stereotypical at all, showing nerds as attractive rock-star types, nerds of all different social traits, nerds as fully developed and dimensioned real people.
As an honorable mention, though, goes to a movie released recently but set decades ago: Computer Chess. More stereotypes there, but the characters are still more interesting than most of their kind.
What is the best movie about nerds?
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