Jeremy explores nostalgic topics when not working as a chemist or building manager at his undergrad university.
Who Are the Smartest Cartoon Characters?
Throughout cartoon history, introducing geniuses grants writers several excuses to craft whatever plot they desire, as their characters are smart enough to build any necessary contraption. As both kids and adults, we enjoy the wacky antics of our brainy protagonists, whose inventions often carry an unexpected element that our heroes must tackle.
Yet ingenuity comes in many forms, from Velma's mystery-solving in Scooby-Doo to Plankton's villainous engineering in SpongeBob. So, which characters are the savviest of the bunch? These are the 10 smartest animated characters throughout television history!
10. The Brain
Cartoon: Pinky and the Brain
A spin-off from the equally hilarious Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain features two talking mice, the oafish Pinky and world domination-centered Brain. While Brain fantasizes about conquering the globe, he's got humanity's best interests at heart, genuinely believing he'll do a better job of ruling than current leaders.
Brain's schemes inevitably fail, but this is often due to Pinky's interference or unpredictable events, meaning Brain has come surprisingly close to succeeding with his plans. Either way, he consistently demonstrates his smarts with his inventions ranging from high-tech robots to mind control devices.
9. Susan and Mary Test
Cartoon: Johnny Test
While Johnny Test isn't quite as popular as most of today's shows, few can deny the mental fortitude of Johnny's red-headed twin sisters. Susan and Mary showcase incredible engineering abilities despite only being 13 years old, often using their younger sibling as a lab rat. Their spectacular inventions include a time machine, cloning facility, and mind-control device. Though for all their brains, they're not so talented at winning the affections of handsome neighbor Gil.
8. Mr. Peabody
Cartoon: Peabody's Improbable History
Mr. Peabody's initial appearance in Peabody's Improbable History (aka Mr. Peabody and Sherman) depicted a strict, no-nonsense mentor to young Sherman, while his more recent appearances (including an animated film) depict the dog as a loving if overprotective father figure.
Whichever rendition you're viewing, Mr. Peabody is recognized as the smartest person on Earth, and earns bonus points for accomplishing this feat as a canine. Not only does Peabody excel in science, having built time machines and the like, he's well-rounded in other areas, showing talents like athleticism, musical skills, artistry, and more. Guess he really is a Renaissance man, er, dog.
7. Phineas and Ferb
Cartoon: Phineas and Ferb
Preteens Phineas and Ferb display incredible amounts of creative genius for their young age, constructing wonders like time machines and giant robot tree houses (because why not?). They're also skilled musicians, surprisingly popular in social settings (unlike many of today's recluse geniuses), and it's hard not to love their optimistic attitude.
Still, their pet platypus Perry manages to conceal his identity as a secret agent from the two, so even their intelligence has its limits.
Cartoon: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Of the four ninja turtles, purple-headbanded Donatello is arguably the most essential member of his reptilian squad. While the four brothers and Splinter are all skilled with fighting, only Donatello brings the scientific brains, constantly inventing new machines, gadgets, suits, and upgrades for his allies.
How did Donatello learn engineering? Where does he get the finances to build his gear? He can't exactly attend a regular school, making this warrior's smarts all the more impressive. The only weird thing is a genius mastermind like him choosing to use what's essentially a big stick in battle, but hey, it always gives him the best range in Ninja Turtle video games.
5. Stewie Griffin
Cartoon: Family Guy
Unlike today's many family-friendly entries, Family Guy definitely isn't for kids, but its unique blend of humor and engaging cast have entertained audiences for years. Stewie Griffin's intellect impresses not just for its scope, but the early age it appears—after all, Stewie's still an infant.
Armed with inventions like a laser gun, time machine, and teleportation device, Stewie holds a grudge against his mother Lois for his time "trapped her in womb," showing just how fast his memory and intellect developed.
Cartoon: Batman: The Animated Series
Bruce Wayne's tragic past lead him to become the crime-fighting hero called Batman. While he doesn't bear actual superpowers, Batman's peak physique, incredible mind, and wealth of high-tech gadgets make him a force to be reckoned with and a respected member of the Justice League.
Batman's appeared in several cartoons throughout the years, and while his design changes between shows, his incredible detective skills and genius mind remain constant.
3. Rick Sanchez
Cartoon: Rick and Morty
Another program best saved for the adults, Rick and Morty has become a fan-favorite for its zany humor, sci-fi adventures, and willingness to delve into the darker aspects of life. Titular character Rick draws inspiration from Doc Brown in the Back to the Future films, with Rick mimicking the Doc's brains but adding in a healthy dose of skepticism and alcoholism (well, maybe not so healthy).
Still, despite Rick's nihilistic views, at heart, he cares about his family, and he's constructed impressive feats such as cloning facilities, near-invincible combat suits, and a compact dimension-crossing portal gun.
Cartoon: Dexter's Laboratory
Despite being a young boy, Dexter somehow manages to finance and build his own secret laboratory, where his genius intellect fuels the creations of several powerful creations. These include giant robot mechs, dimensional portals, and the nightmare-preventing dream machine.
Dexter serves as an absent-minded genius; he's incredibly intelligent but sometimes overlooks obvious flaws or common sense solutions to his problems. That said, his meddling sister Dee Dee is to blame for the many mishaps surrounding his inventions, and Dexter deserves credit for his brilliant successes.
1. Jimmy Neutron
Cartoon: The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius
Similarly to Dexter, Jimmy is a boy genius who somehow built a full-fledged laboratory despite his youth, but he's better adjusted to life outside his research. Jimmy is far less secretive with his work, maintains a healthy social life, eventually kindles a romance with frenemy Cindy, and is less prone to common sense lapses.
Jimmy's incredible list of inventions includes his mechanical dog Goddard, a matter-condensing hypercube, anti-aging tonic (which can seemingly keep people young forever), and of course, the ever-popular time machine.
More Animated Geniuses
With thousands of cartoons spanning several decades, we've encountered hundreds of potent think tanks, and narrowing the list to just 10 wasn't easy. We'll undoubtedly return to unearth additional intellectual masters, like Gretchen from Recess, superheroes Spider-Man and Iron Man, and the remaining array of anime prodigies. But for now, as we eagerly await more clever characters in upcoming series, vote for your favorite genius and I'll see you at our next television countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on October 16, 2018:
Definitely! Unlike many outcast geniuses, the only person Phineas and Ferb seemed to annoy was Candace; everyone else enjoyed their creations.
The show was fun enough to appeal to kids while clever enough to entertain adults, making it a classic I'd definitely recommend for parents.
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on October 15, 2018:
Cool, I was hoping to see Dexter on this list! I loved Phineus and Ferb as well, because as well as being smart, they were nice boys. They were even (usually) nice to their sister, unlike Dexter. That whole cartoon was genius.
Liz Westwood from UK on October 15, 2018:
My cartoon watching days were a while ago, but I guess even Tom and Jerry had a genius in there somewhere.