by Tom Kaneshige

Hollywood’s Top 12 Tech Heroes

May 08, 20125 mins
IT Leadership

From the gothic Lisbeth Salander in "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" to the brainy Mark Zuckerberg in "Social Network," blockbuster movies have recently elevated the tech geek from quirky sidekick to cool hero (or anti-hero). While these lists are fun, it's important to note the changing ways popular culture views tech people.

Lisbeth Salander, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Better hope Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) never has you in the crosshairs of her laptop. She’ll uncover your deepest, darkest digital secrets — and then you’re toast. We’re going with the original movie starring Rapace, not the 2011 version starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig. Rapace is electrifyingly cool.

Lucius Fox, The Dark Knight (2008, 2012)

Ever get the feeling that the techie is the smartest guy in the room? Sure, Lucius Fox, played by the great Morgan Freeman, in the “The Dark Knight” and soon-to-be-released “The Dark Knight Rises,” doesn’t wear a cape or beat up bad guys. But he did help invent the bat mobile and the rest of Batman’s awesome tech gadgets. He also became CEO of Wayne Enterprises. So who’s the real stud?

Benji Dunn, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011)

IMF technical field agent Benji Dunn, played by the incredibly funny Simon Pegg, says he has “arrived at the party” in the movie “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.” Heck, he plays opposite lead man and super spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). Dunn throws one-line zingers as he hacks into computer systems, while Hunt risks life and limb just to get into a server room.

Mei, Safe (2012)

The bad guys don’t want to leave a computer trail in their nefarious dealings, so they force a young Chinese girl, Mei (Catherine Chan), to remember important numbers. Her mind and memory are like that of a computer. Spoiler alert: After about a million people die in the bloodbath that follows, including Russian mobsters and corrupt NYC cops, Mei finally goes to a school for gifted students. We’re guessing she graduates.

Data, Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

Without question, the greatest techie in the Hollywood universe is Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner) of Star Trek: TNG. He rivals Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) as the most admired character in the entire Star Trek canon. Even better, he’s an Android, which, of course, techies love.

Tony Stark, Iron Man (2008, 2010)

What’s Iron Man’s superpower? A glowing green ring? A hometown called Krypton? Nope. Iron Man’s power comes from the genius technological mind of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who is basically a techie on steroids. Tony Stark is the new Bruce Wayne, both billionaire playboys. Who knew a techie would challenge Batman as the top superhero on the planet?

Mark Zuckerberg, The Social Network (2010)

In the real world, Mark Zuckerberg is the new Larry Ellison. The Oracle boss flies fighter jets, lives in Samurai-styled mansions, and owns a super-fast racing yacht. However, the Facebook chief had a movie made about him, starring Jesse Eisenberg. Who’s cooler now? The brainy-yet- socially-challenged Zuckerberg is this generation’s CEO star. Teardown: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Larry Ellison in Pictures: It’s Good to Be The King

Trinity, The Matrix (1999)

Fans will recall that the beautiful and intense Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) was a computer programmer and hacker before escaping the Matrix. That’s right, she’s a techie who kicks butt and smashes the stereotype of the meek geek. We’re also giving a special shout out to Tank (Marcus Chong), the tough program loader who gets up to shoot the bad guy after taking a bullet.

Livingston Dell, Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen (2001, 2004, 2007)

Every gang needs a techie to do the real heavy lifting of computer hacking and surveillance work. Among the “Ocean’s” robbers was Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison), a twitchy techie. How are his nerves? Not so bad you notice, says No. 2 man Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt). Our favorite Dell quote: “D-D-Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t touch that.” Wish all end-users would heed his words.

Michael Bolton, Office Space (1999)

In order to understand how far the image of techies has come, we need a baseline. And that baseline is Michael Bolton (not that Michael Bolton) played brilliantly by David Herman in “Office Space.” He was the stereotypical techie — a closet rap music listener and Bill Gates lookalike. He would describe managers as having “thumbs up their as—s” yet wilt in their presence. The hit he put on the fax machine was pretty bad-ass.

Stanley Jobson, Swordfish (2001)

Ah, who can forget cracker Stanley Jobson’s (Hugh Jackman) job interview with bad guy Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) in “Swordfish”? Jobson’s test: break into the Department of Defense’s encrypted site in 60 seconds while a gun is pointed at his head and Helga is, um, distracting him. Did he pass? Access granted.

Matt Farrell, Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

In the fourth installment of the “Die Hard” franchise, Matt Farrell (Justin Long) is a hapless hacker who drags tough guy John McClane (Bruce Willis) into big trouble with ruthless cyber terrorists. Though Farrell spends most of this frantic flick on the verge of a nervous breakdown, he does provide comic relief and, in the end, it’s his tech brains, with help from McClane’s brawn, that save the day… and the world.

Honorable Mention: The Big Bang Theory (2007-current)

While the hit television show “The Big Bang Theory” hasn’t arrived on the silver screen yet, the show’s geeky characters Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) and Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) deserve a ton of credit for making geeks cool. As Wolowitz says, “Recognize.”

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