The Top 25 Smartest TV Characters

Who says TV's for dummies?

From mind-melding Vulcan's with unparalleled logic, to desert island castaways capable of building anything under the sun with only bamboo sticks and coconuts, TV smarties have been gracing our television screens, showering us with their brilliance for a long, long time. And while some may be nerdy and others may be evil, their genius is undeniable.

But which of these brainiacs really is the sharpest tool in the shed? That's what we're aiming to find out today, kids.

With the assistance of my world-renowned mad scientist research team and the utilization of the extensive DVD collection that's been sucking my life dry of all meaning and exercise since the days of yore, I've gotten down to the nitty-gritty of this grueling question once and for all. So sit back, relax, and prepared to be awed by The Top 25 Smartest TV Characters of all time.

25.) The Brain

Voiced by Maurice LaMarche in Pinky and the Brain

A mix between Orson Welles, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Don Quixote, this adorable little genius, whose intelligence has been significantly raised due to Acme Labs experiments, is hellbent on taking over the world by any means necessary.

To do this, Brain (whose name is an acronym for "Biological Recombinant Algorithmic Intelligence Nexus"), with the assistance of his dimwitted friend, Pinky, develops complex plans for global domination through politics, cultural references, and a cornucopia of his own brilliant inventions.

24.) The Professor

Played by Russell Johnson in Gilligan's Island

With a list of degrees from numerous schools (including USC, UCLA, SMU, and TCU) The Professor wasn't only the most sane castaway on Gilligan's Island, but he was also the only one to display a lick of usefulness. With only the aid of coconuts and bamboo, The Professor managed to conjure up one heck of a lot of inventions, including battery chargers, a lie detector, and a sewing machine.

Granted, he apparently wasn't clever enough to devise a raft to get he and the other castaways the hell off that infernal island, but, hey, that's why he only makes it to 24 on the list.

23.) Gus Fring

Played by Giancarlo Esposito in Breaking Bad

While little is known about his past, Gus Fring, from AMC's hit series Breaking Bad, was clearly one smart cookie. Other than being one of the most prominent and successful methamphetamine distributors in the southwestern United States, he also owned and operated several legit businesses, including a chain of fast food restaurants and an industrial laundry facility. He was extremely meticulous and methodical in his evil doings and always remained one step ahead of the DEA and other drug kingpins who were out to get him.

And while in the end he may have met his match with the up-and-coming criminal mastermind, Walter White, Gus still deserves his due respect for being one of the smoothest evil genius's to ever blast onto television.

Intelligent Professor Farnsworth
Intelligent Professor Farnsworth

22.) Professor Farnsworth

Voiced by Billy West in Futurama

He may be a deranged senile old codger who does more harm than good with his genius, but nevertheless, by constructing such mind-boggling inventions as the Smell-O-Scope and a plethora of doomsday devices, a genius is most certainly what he is.

21.) Malcolm

Played by Frankie Muniz in Malcolm in the Middle

Being the middle child of a highly dysfunctional family, things were bad enough for poor Malcolm as it was. Added to this, though, he also happened to be alienated from the rest of his peers due to the fact that he just happened to be a brilliant child prodigy as well (thus causing him to be put in special classes for gifted children, who are mocked by the other students who call them "Krelboynes"), The last we saw of Malcolm he was earning his way through Harvard by mopping floors.

Intelligent Dr. Cal Lightman
Intelligent Dr. Cal Lightman

20.) Dr. Cal Lightman

Played by Tim Roth in Lie to Me

Dr. Cal Lightman from the short lived TV series Lie to Me was a highly intelligent psychologist with an expertise in body language -- predominantly microexpressions (based on the real-life scientific discoveries of American psychologist Paul Ekman) -- and founder of The Lightman Group, a private company that operates as an independent contractor to assist investigations of local and federal law enforcement through applied psychology.

19.) The Doctor

Played by William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith in Dr. Who

As if being a Time Lord wasn't enough, The Doctor uses his extensive expertise in various fields of science, technology and history while outsmarting a cornucopia of monsters, gods, demigods, and demons of all kinds while he travels through time and space. Being a Time Lord though, The Doctor also has the unique ability to magically regenerate his body whenever he's near death. This is an ability especially useful in keeping Dr. Who as longest-running science fiction television show in the world

Intelligent Lex Luthar
Intelligent Lex Luthar

18.) Lex Luthor

Played by Michael Rosenbaum in Smallville

From comic books, to movies, to TV, Lex Luthor has always been one of the most notoriously brilliant archnemesis, criminal masterminds in superhero history. With the addition of his extensive wealth and power, Lex is the embodiment of the classic TV villain intent on using his brilliance for evil.

17.) River Tam

Played by Summer Glau in Firefly

A child prodigy with outstanding athletic capabilities and a mind capable of immediately understanding the most complex subjects and scenarios, River was sent to a government learning facility known only as "The Academy" (which is said to be for the teaching of gifted children, but in actuality is designed for the molding of perfect assassins) at the age of fourteen. Due to the experiments conducted on her by The Academy, River admittedly has a few problems here and there, but with a brain that big and a face that hot, who really cares?

Intelligent Temperance "Bones" Brennan
Intelligent Temperance "Bones" Brennan

16.) Temperance "Bones" Brennan

Played by Emily Deschanel in Bones

An anthropologist, forensic anthropologist, kinesiologist, trained in three types of martial arts, and a bestselling author, who has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for 18 weeks, Bones, like most TV genius's, is an extremely rational and straightforward character, with limited social skills. And while it has never been explicitly stated in the shows plot, her character is said to be based on a person with Asperger syndrome.

15.) Lisa Simpson

Voiced by Yeardley Smith in The Simpsons

There was a brief scare in the late 90's when Lisa found out about a dreaded "Simpson gene" which had the potential to cause her to turn very dumb and Homer-esque, but, luckily, it's found out later that this gene only affects the male side of the family -- lucky for her. Because with a broad knowledge of many different fields and an IQ of 159, Lisa Simpson is one of the select, gifted few accepted into the Springfield chapter of Mensa... right up there with Professor Fink himself!

Intelligent Adrian Monk
Intelligent Adrian Monk

14.) Adrian Monk

Played by Tony Shalhoub in Monk

You know, science has already shown that there's a strong correlation between having a high intelligence and having obsessive compulsive disorder, so it's not really surprising that some of the most brilliant minds on this list are inflicted with this double-edged sword of a disease. None more so afflicted than this meticulously organized germaphobe detective.

13.) Dexter Morgan

Played by Michael C. Hall in Dexter

Part-time forensic blood spatter analyst, part-time vigilante serial killer with a warped code of ethics, it's debatable how good of a role model Dexter Morgan really is. That being said, his brilliance is unquestionable. Whether solving cases for the Miami-Metro Police Department or butchering evildoers in his spare time, with a keen analytical mind and meticulously laid out plans, Dex is superb at whatever job he puts his mind to.

12.) Patrick Jane

Played by Simon Baker in The Mentalist

Raised from childhood by his con-artist father to be a fake psychic medium, The Mentalists Patrick Jane has had many years of training to master his skills in observation, deduction, and knowledge of social engineering. After leaving that career, he decides to utilize his powers for good as a consulting member of the CBI (Californian Bureau of Investigation) crime fighting unit.

11.) Stewie Griffin

Voiced by Seth MacFarlane in Family Guy

At only one-year old, Stewie can speak fluently (in an English accent, no less) and has already mastered physics and mechanical engineering, having built such mind-bending inventions as time machines, teleportation devices, mind reading devices, robots, and weapons of all sorts (most of which influenced by his desire for world domination and his matricidal tendencies).

If only it weren't for his inability to use the toilet by himself, he would have made it higher on the list.

10.) Angus MacGyver

Played by Richard Dean Anderson in MacGyver

Preferring non-violent conflict resolution over the nasty world of guns and other deadly weaponry, this secret agent with an education in science (and one glorious head of hair) was the most clever and resourceful problem solver ever to make his way onto television screens. With only common household items, a Swiss Army knife, and a little bit of duct tape, MacGyver could foil the evil plans of any villain to cross his path.

Intelligent Gaius Baltar
Intelligent Gaius Baltar

9.) Dr. Gaius Baltar

Played by James Callis in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica

Possessing both an unmatched intelligence and a manipulative charm that could make even a toaster fall in love, Gaius Balter had the ability to outsmart everyone around him while miraculously saving himself from the most sticky of situations. Among his many accomplishments he has served as one of the greatest scientists of the Twelve Colonies, later as the president of New Caprica, and finally as a holy leader to a group of (mostly female) followers.

Sure, he unintentionally brought about the near-annihilation of the human species too, but, hey; no one's perfect.

8.) Benjamin Linus

Played by Michael Emerson in LOST

Perhaps one of the greatest and most manipulative liars in TV history, Ben was as smart and cunning as he was mysterious.

On the weird and mystical island on LOST Ben had everyone around him wrapped around his little finger; each walking right into his plans with every step they took (and he ALWAYS had a plan). Even when at a disadvantage, Ben managed to always get what he wanted, while coming out on top.

7.) Gregory House

Played by Hugh Laurie in House

While he may be one testy curmudgeon with an ego the size of the Sears Tower, there's no questioning the intellect of this unorthodox, misanthropic, Vicodin-loving doctor. No matter what disease is thrown at him, no matter how impossibly incurable it seems, House (usually) manages to save the day.

... If only he'd smile more.

Intelligent Steve Urkel
Intelligent Steve Urkel

6.) Steve Urkel

Played by Jaleel White in Family Matters

Originally set to appear only once in the hit sitcom Family Matters, this beloved epitome of nerdyness went on to become the most memorable and well-known star of the show.

Like most TV nerds, Steve was a genius when it came to all things science. His most stunning scientific achievement being his invention of a device capable of transforming his DNA (using a serum known as "cool juice") from the nerdy gene he was born with to the cool gene he was lacking; thus changing his appearance and personality to a charismatic alter ego named Stefan Urquelle.

Let's see Hawking do that.

5.) Doogie Howser

Played by Neil Patrick Harris in Doogie Howser, M.D.

Possessing a genius intellect and an eidetic memory, Doogie Howser was a child prodigy who earned a perfect score on the SAT at the age of six, completed high school in nine weeks at the age of nine, graduated from Princeton University at age 10, and finished medical school at age 14, when he then went on to become the youngest licensed doctor in the country. Seventeen years later, he played a pivotal role in Harold and Kumars infamous journey to a White Castle.

4.) Walter White

Played by Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad

When we first met Mr. White, he was a shy, soft-spoken, mild-mannered family man, disillusioned with his job and struggling to put food on the table for his wife, disabled son, and baby on the way. After discovering he has an inoperable case of lung cancer, though, this overqualified high school chemistry teacher finally decides to get his ass in gear, becoming one of the most wanted and powerful methamphetamine manufacturers in the country.

Since then, we've seen Walter put that big brain of his into action by using his expertise in chemistry to not only cook meth and teach bored high school students, but also to combat some of the most vicious drug dealers in the land while building an ever-growing empire from the ground up.

Intelligent Sheldon Cooper
Intelligent Sheldon Cooper

3.) Sheldon Cooper

Played by Jim Parsons in The Big Bang Theory

Through the use of consultants from the actual scientific community and the regular incorporation of real scientific findings in their dialogue, The Big Bang Theory is one of the few TV shows that actually puts the real life genius of scientists in the spotlight. And while Leonard, Raj, and Howard are all brilliant, it's the shows breakthrough character, theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper, who takes the cake when it comes to unrivaled brainpower.

Devoid of all empathy for others, with a B.S., M.S., M.A., a Ph.D, an eidetic memory, an IQ of 187, and a strict logical mind, Sheldon has a rational, analytical way of thinking that's matched only by the smartest of sci-fi androids and the most logical of Star Trek Vulcans.

Intelligent Mr. Spock
Intelligent Mr. Spock

2.) Mr. Spock

Played by Leonard Nimoy in the Star Trek franchise

Speaking of Star Trek Vulcans...

Mr. Spock is the incomparable king of serious, no-nonsense logical thinking. Part-human, part-vulcan, with a mind as sharp as his ears, this science fiction favorite is a master of reason over feeling. As far as living creatures go, Spock tops the list of fictions brainiacs.

Intelligent Data
Intelligent Data

1.) Data

Played by Brent Spiner in Star Trek: The Next Generation

While Spock may be the reigning king of logical thinking as far as living creatures go, he could never match wits with a super powerful computer with the capacity of storing the accumulated knowledge of all man- and alien-kind in his memory banks. A knowledge which includes a mastery in science, combat, painting, music, literature, and even Spocks patent Vulcan nerve pinch.

This android predecessor to that beloved Vulcan is sci-fi's answer to Pinocchio; a walking, talking, sentient robot whose biggest desire is to be like, and understand, the humans who created him. And while Spock continuously attempted to avoid this behavior, deeming the desire as absolutely illogical, it's nevertheless part of what makes Data so special. Because it's through his endeavor to be human that we see Data's thirst for knowledge shine the brightest.

More by this Author

Sign the Guestbook 77 comments 7 weeks ago

Mike Ross (Suits) Eidetic / photographic memory.

Brilliantly played by Patrick Adams.

Manya 3 months ago

Y isn't Sherlock Holmes on the list ? I thought he would b in one of the top 5.

Why 7 months ago

This list is prob one of the worst i´ve seen...has the person rated this just watched youtube clips?

skylarr weaver 8 months ago

Should've had Michael scofield on this list

Wankerandy 8 months ago

Forgot to add Harold finch from person of interest to my other names lol he's definitely another genius like the rest

Wankerandy 8 months ago

Good list, but I'd put Mike Ross from suits, Walter bishop and Peter bishop, spencer Reid, Alec sadler continuum, Michael scofeild, Lloyd lowery breakout kings, Neil caffery,

Shaun Gordon 9 months ago

I was kinda expecting to see Rick from Rick and Morty

Me 9 months ago

Wher's Tony Stark?

Marc 10 months ago

Hannibal Lecter

TheGutterMonkey profile image

TheGutterMonkey 10 months ago Author

@ Kenneth

I'm sorry that you find this compilation of intelligent TV characters to be lacking in validity due to the omission of a character from Fringe. I'm a failure as a human being and I apologize for wasting my efforts on such a disastrous page. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go brush my teeth with a shotgun.

*sad trombone*


Thanks for your comment!

Kenneth 10 months ago

Walter Bishop should be #3. To not be on the list is an insult, and renders the list invalid. Sorry.

anonymous 11 months ago

Most of them have just an "informed ability" — through narration we learn that they have perfect memory, get their degree at 3 year or can read whole "Britannica" in 30 minutes but through series they act not very rationally and smart. Well, except maybe for BB heroes, or House, or cartoon characters (they're supposed to be funny, not actually ingenious).

marcus 13 months ago

walter from scorpion should be added also

Banana Boat Charlie 13 months ago

What about Walter Bishop? Hello, people!

Awesome guy 14 months ago

No Reid Richards?

TheGutterMonkey profile image

TheGutterMonkey 16 months ago Author

Ah well. As a wise character once said: Haters gonna hate.

Thanks for reading!

keogh 16 months ago

Missing from list: Kyle from kyle xy, john doe from john doe, spencer from psych, Michael schofield, charlie eppes, was looking for some i haven't seen mostly these are mainstream

darkyen 20 months ago

How could u possibly forget Tony Stark ?

Gabe 21 months ago

Walter Bishop snubbed

anonymous 22 months ago

Dexter should probably be among the top 10, along with Michael Scofield from Prison Break, and Mike Ross (photographical memory) from the TV-series suits. In my opinion, practical intellectuality is more valuable than theoretical knowledge, like Sheldon Cooper

anon 22 months ago

Sherlock Holmes from Elementary should be on this list. He is smarter than 90% of the people on this list combined. Furthermore, where is Shaun Spencer from Psych? He may act like a juvenile, but he is extremely intelligent with an eidetic memory.

Gregsadadf 22 months ago

Data "may" be the only character smart enough to make it on the list--none of the others belong. Characters are not limited to human or human-like characters. For example, Galactus should be on the list. How about the Ancients from Stargate SG-1? God has appeared as a character in quite a few movies.

LEAHUNGRACEFUL 22 months ago

Where my baby Reid from Criminal Minds

robert feld profile image

robert feld 2 years ago from Brighton, United Kingdom

I like Data and the Doctor - Data because he has an innocent desire to learn to become more human, and he grows constantly.

The Doctor because he's a time traveller who sometimes thinks he's seen everything, but something new is just waiting behind the corner, like a city in the heart of a sun.

cmint 2 years ago

I enjoyed the list Spencer Reid, Criminal Minds. Is in my top 5.

Risha Linda profile image

Risha Linda 2 years ago from Florida

Great list of characters. Thanks, I really enjoyed your lens.

ksnfkdnfdsf 2 years ago

where the hell is sherlock holmes

Niktravelfit 2 years ago

Nice list and great lens!

Good job.

FuckThisList 2 years ago

sherlock should be on this list as 1...alls I'm saying

dwelburn 2 years ago

Excellent list and some great characters. I think The Doctor should be a lot higher up the list though as he is a Time Lord and more intelligent than any human could ever be.

Pat Goltz profile image

Pat Goltz 2 years ago

The Squid told me I should tell you this was my 900th Like. :)

Pat Goltz profile image

Pat Goltz 2 years ago

Interesting topic. I was unfamiliar with most of the characters. I think Doctor Who should rank higher, though. But I agree with your top two picks.

rihannsu profile image

rihannsu 2 years ago

Oh, Doogie- your fluffed up 1980s hair is so dreamy!

iddy9731 2 years ago

I honestly cannot believe you did not put Sherlock in there. I mean, come on, he solved a cryptogram the best cryptographers of the nation could not solve in three freaking seconds!

eranbellaiche 2 years ago

what about michael scofield???

KFRaizor 2 years ago

I'm sort of sorry Jim Rockford didn't make the list, but then his "smarts" were more "dumb luck" on occasion. Wonderful and brilliantly-written lens!

anonymous 3 years ago

I'm fairly certain that Alec Hardison (Leverage), Charlie Eppes (Numb3rs) and Michael Scofield (Prison Break) should be on this list. Even the other guy from Suits.

Gypzeerose profile image

Gypzeerose 3 years ago

As I read this I realize that you have Monk really low on the list, and I disagree with that. Still I love the lens - bookmarked and linked to my own lens:

anonymous 3 years ago

Where the hell is Reid?!?

anonymous 3 years ago

I think reid and sherlock should be on the list,by the way,patrick jane is really a genius.

MakeHairBows 3 years ago

Yes, I agree with RIKR2. Where is Reid from Criminal Minds?

cmadden 3 years ago

Really enjoyed this. I would have The Doctor higher on the list and add Walter Bishop from Fringe. I also suspect that if the series had been able to develop more fully, that Summer Glau's River Tam might have warranted a higher position.

anonymous 3 years ago

Walter Bishop from Fringe!

TheGutterMonkey profile image

TheGutterMonkey 3 years ago Author

@TeacherSerenia: You know, for the record, everyone here who keeps disagreeing with the choice to count Data as a contender for this list, you're failing to realize that on the 9th episode of season 2 of Star Trek: The Next Generation, entitled The Measure of a Man, Data actually stands trial to find out if he should be considered a sentient being or not.

So I'll go ahead and direct anyone who complains about his addition to the list to go watch that episode for my defending arguments. ;)

Have a nice day!

anonymous 3 years ago

I enjoyed this lens. The Doctor is my favorite from this list and I also like MacGyver, Data and Spock. I would also add Columbo.

anonymous 3 years ago

Bugs Bunny was quite clever!

anonymous 3 years ago

You forgot Matthew Gray Gubler as Dr. Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds.

anonymous 3 years ago

How about sherlock holmes out of sherlock but still good list.

TeacherSerenia profile image

TeacherSerenia 3 years ago

Half of these shows I never saw, and the other half (whose names are on this list) I mostly don't agree with. If I were making this list, I would leave Data out, precisely because you can't compare a machine to a human, Spock would be first and MacGyver second. I do not agree for example, that House, Urkel and Howser are all smarter than MacGyver. One is a doctor who has a very narrow range of knowledge - namely MEDICINE. The other 2 were teenage hormonal driven boys!!

anonymous 3 years ago

The Brain should be number 1. Awesome list.

anonymous 3 years ago

@anonymous: exactly!

anonymous 3 years ago

michael schofield and charlie eppes are missing from this list

anonymous 3 years ago

Hopefully this list isn't based 100% numerically because "The Doctor" from Dr. Who should be number one or number two I don't see him being as smart as data but with a character that's over 900 years old you never know...

anonymous 4 years ago

Great list, but a couple of glaring omissions....Water Bishop from Fringe and Sherlock Holmes (from the BBC series Sherlock). Otherwise great topic and list. Cheers.

santadelcobre 4 years ago

I completely agree with your list, specially your top 5

goldenrulecomics profile image

goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

Great lens! One genius I would add: Columbo!

Diana Wenzel profile image

Diana Wenzel 4 years ago from Colorado

MacGyver was always my man. I miss that series. There's a whole lot of IQ going on here. Great idea for a lens. Enjoyed it. Thanks!

TolovajWordsmith profile image

TolovajWordsmith 4 years ago from Ljubljana

I don't know all, but many of these characters and they are not only smart, they are all parts of very good and successful series. Great presentation!

chft55 lm profile image

chft55 lm 4 years ago

Nice idea for a lens. I thought River was creepy as hell, though. I wish the show didn't end. I also think you should consider Wentworth Miller as Michael Scofield in Prison Break. Great work here!

LiteraryMind profile image

LiteraryMind 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

Interesting concept for a lens. Got to confess, I am only familiar with 8 of these.

JoyfulReviewer profile image

JoyfulReviewer 4 years ago

I've watched several of these ... MacGyver and Monk are two of my favorites. This is a very creative and nicely-presented lens. ~~Blessed!!

Gypzeerose profile image

Gypzeerose 4 years ago

Really, really good lens. Very clever - I love a lot of these characters, especially Monk and House, and I am going to investigate all of them. Pinned to my board TV I love and Squid Angel Blessed.

anonymous 4 years ago

You got style. Novel idea for a lens, and well done follow through. Only problem I have with it is - I wish I had done it! Bravo.

Frugal Bride profile image

Frugal Bride 4 years ago

I just love this lens! You're a bit of a "smart character" yourself. 'eh? Perfectly written, really enjoyed reading it. :)

anonymous 4 years ago


Zebedee32 profile image

Zebedee32 4 years ago

Dexter and Spock are my favs! nice lens

anilsaini 4 years ago

great it very much

Steph Tietjen profile image

Steph Tietjen 4 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

Impressive. The Mentalist, Spock and Data are my favorites and Lisa Simpson. Thanks

bohica96 profile image

bohica96 4 years ago

Nicely written! Some more favorites, Dexter (the cartoon), Wile E. Coyote, Jimmy Neutron and my personal favorite, Samantha Carter,

AnnMarie7 profile image

AnnMarie7 4 years ago

This is a great lens...I really enjoyed reading it. There are so many great TV genius' here that I don't think I could choose just one. You did a good job of ordering your must have been hard work deciding! I appreciate the short descriptions with the corresponding photos right next to them. I would give this lens 2 likes if I could. Have a fabulous day!

kindoak profile image

kindoak 4 years ago

I think Stewie (or whoever writes his lines) is the smartest of them all! :)

Camden1 profile image

Camden1 4 years ago

I had forgotten about MacGyver - I used to love that show!

Auntie-M LM 4 years ago

Fun lens! How about street smarts, like Murphy Brown? I would love to see a lens on the 10 most interesting women in TV series.

SailingPassion LM profile image

SailingPassion LM 4 years ago

Great choices

EEWorkouts profile image

EEWorkouts 4 years ago

Walter White is my number one. Data is synthetic...

JoshK47 4 years ago

Definitely some excellent picks! I might have rearranged a few of them, but that's just my opinion. ;) Blessed by a SquidAngel!

anonymous 4 years ago

The Brain is awesome!!! Great lens

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