Our criteria are simple: to make this list, an actor must have been in two or more classic geeky movies or TV shows, be they science fiction, fantasy, super-hero, horror/monster, or whatever. They must have made an indelible impression with their work. It helps if their characters spouted some really quotable lines, and it really helps if at least one of their roles went on to develop true "cult" status.
We’ll start with some of the classically-trained actors who have found their ways into our geeky hearts by getting some cool roles in fantasy and science-fiction where people who could speak with authority were needed.
Patrick Stewart: Jean-luc Picard lives on in the heart of every Star Trek fan as, if not the first Captain of the Enterprise, then the one we’d trust to look after the well-being of our female relatives in any stressful situation. His stint as Professor Xavier of the X-Men, a role he earned both through acting ability and a genetic disposition towards male pattern baldness, only adds more weight to his earning a spot on this list. But let’s cap it off – who remembers he was in the quintessential telling of the Arthurian myth, Excalibur, where he got to fight like a madman and bellow at people?
Ian McKellen: This one’s really a no-brainer for two reasons you know, and one you may have forgotten. First, Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. He brought to life one of the most important characters in 20th century literature, and blew us all away with how well he differentiated The Grey from The White. Then there’s Magneto – the perfect counterpoint to Stewart’s Xavier. Despite everything else that went wrong with X3, the scene with McKellen and Stewart as younger Eric and Xavier was totally cool. Alright, so those were two reasons, but he gets one more geek cred point for a smaller role he had in a movie that appeals to geeks a couple decade ago: The Shadow. Yes, it was Alec Baldwin, but there was a lot to that adaptation of the classic comic hero that worked – perhaps due to the adept direction of Russell Mulcahy, who was only a couple years off *his* most memorable geek masterwork: Highlander. Yeah, that’s a lot of degrees of separation, but McKellen was in the movie, so it counts.
Ian Holm: The last of the old-school on this list can perhaps claim the most significant credits as well. How about playing at various times in his career, both Bilbo and Frodo? Good. How about the synthetic in the first Alien movie? Better? How about both Time Bandits and Brazil? Frickin’ fantastic! Oh, and Naked Lunch, The 5th Element, and a hell of a lot of Shakespeare over the years. It all adds up to a great career, and a tremendous geek cred.
Read more in the extended post.
Lance Henriksen: the other member of our list to play a synthetic in an Alien movie, also gets great geek cred from having his own Chris Carter-created TV show, Millennium, playing the haunted ex-agent Frank Black. Also for the fans of monster-movies, there was Pumpkinhead. But do you all remember he was in the original Terminator too? He’s always popping up in b-grade horror movies these days, and the occasional voice work as well. Always a dependable villain, and once in a while a sympathetic good guy, too.
Nathan Fillion: He’s come on strong lately as a fan-favorite, mostly for his work in the Whedonverse as Captain Mal Reynolds, and very recently as Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog. But he also gets real props for voicing Vigilante in the Justice League animated series, and Steve Trevor in the upcoming Wonder Woman animated film. He’s got the humor, he’s got the pathos, and he can do musicals. Who can ask for anything more?
Ron Perlman: Hellboy I & II, Star Trek: Nemesis, Blade II, the new Magnificent Seven TV series, Alien: Resurrection, Beauty and the Beast, and… The Ice PIrates?!?! Not bad at all! But let’s not forget to mention how many animate series he’s done: The Batman, Kim Possible, Danny Phantom, Justice League, Teen Titans, Superman, and many many more. If there’s massive make-up involved, Ron’s never been afraid of the role because, somehow, his acting comes through.
Clancy Brown: There’s just so much geek cred to Clancy Brown, he deserves his own post (and maybe we’ll get to that in the future). Starting with the Kurgan in the original Highlander movie (back to Russell Mulcahy again – six degrees of geeky separation), Clancy has earned and re-earned his geek cred so many times, it’s hard to count that high. Personal favorites include Earth2, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, and the voice of Lex Luthor in the Superman animated series. Indeed, if you read the IMDB lists, it’s obvious Clancy and Ron must carpool, because they’ve both been in so many of the same shows.
Alan Rickman: The quintessentially droll villain, he make an indelible mark as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, and he’s brought Professor Snape to wonderful life in the Harry Potter films, but his best geek cred comes from a little bit of science fiction satire: "By Grabthor’s Hammer" indeed! Oh, and let’s not forget Dogma!
Samuel L. Jackson: Sam "the Man" gets on the list because we all know he really *is* a geek at heart. Especially a comic book geek, and his turns in Unbreakable and his cameo (and hopefully future feature role) as the Ultimate universe Nick Fury just seal the deal. And the voice of Frozone in The Incredibles, of course. Plus, he’s been a Jedi, a hitman, and Shaft. Not bad at all!
But we had to save the best for last. Nothing against all the other listmembers, but one actor reigns supreme as the king of geeky movies and TV: Mr. Bruce Campbell.
I’m not going to go into everything we know and love about "the chin’s" life and work, because if you don’t know it already, you’re not truly a geek, and you need to go out and watch the following: Evil Dead 1-2, Army of Darkness, Jack of All Trades, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Xena, Hercules, Sky High, Bubba Ho-Tep, and all the Spiderman Movies. And we all know the current success of the USA Network’s show Burn Notice is all due to the fact that Bruce’s fans are tuning in to see him as the old buddy character, Sam Axe. Except, haven’t you noticed how the supposed "star" plays the straight man all the time, and the writers are giving Bruce all the best lines? "Smooth is smooth, baby!"