Nerd action scenes?
May 15, 2012 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Best nerd action scenes?

There's a great scene in "Apollo 13" in which Tom Hanks asks some sort of question involving math, and the NASA guys in Houston get busy with their slide rules and confirm the math, one by one. It's a great scene. It's nerds doing their thing, and because of the race against time, I would call it a true, genuine, irony-free action scene. With slide rules.

What are some other scenes in which the geeks save the day? There a billion movies with some geek typing frantically on a keyboard and saving the universe; that is the kind of thing I'm looking for, but it's so ubiquitous let's just take that trope completely off the table.
posted by zardoz to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I always like the scenes in Sherlock where he's rattling off his deductive reasoning for something that seems crazily far-fetched, and the visuals are of the minute details that everyone missed (complete with on-screen text)

I also happen to like looking at Benedict Cumberbatch
posted by Lucinda at 2:02 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

The whole premise of the comicbook Global Frequency is that there's a secret worldwide network of experts who are the smartest/best in their chosen fields, and they're called upon as needed to avert crises.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:04 PM on May 15, 2012

Best answer: Sneakers is a fine nerd movie with lots of edge-of-your-seat typing action, and math!
posted by Erasmouse at 2:32 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The final scene in The Manhattan Project has the characters walking through the process of disarming a nuclear bomb, which requires an unusually precise kind of teamwork. "Are you telling me I'm going to die because some asshole didn't bring a pair of pliers?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:49 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs does this in spades.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:51 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's been a long time since I watched the series in full to be able to peg a certain episode/scene beyond this, but John Crichton on Farscape starts scribbling equations on the floor of Moya in the premiere. There's probably other scenes like this in there too, I just can't peg any.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:54 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Enigma (though the original novel is far far better)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:57 PM on May 15, 2012

There may come a day when I tire of Marisa Tomei's Oscar-winning explosion of car nerdery in My Cousin Vinny, but today is not that day. Unironic use of "limited slip differential" = geek win forever.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:58 PM on May 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

Best answer: In Close Encounters of the Third Kind you have the scene where, in a room full of sputtering paper tape printouts and blinkenlights, the scientists realise the five tones are a map reference and they charge down a corridor, break into some senior official's private office, knock an expensive globe off its stand and roll it back down the hall so they can plot the revealed coordinates. Meanwhile stunned bystanders complain about broken protocols, etc.

Arguably the scene with the musical performance on the ARP 2500 synthesizer communicating with the mothership is also a nerd action scene, with excited brainboxes working out the right notes to play in real time.
posted by galaksit at 3:13 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Real Genius might be the canonical example of this, complete with hot, hot 1980s music montage action.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:16 PM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

In an early scene of The Social Network, Zuckerberg describes in voice over his creation of "facemash." There is much computer speak and typing.
posted by hot_monster at 3:51 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

This scene might not quite qualify, since it's not entirely serious, but it's also not entirely inaccurate. (And it's a little bit action-y)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:25 PM on May 15, 2012

Response by poster: I forgot about that scene in Close Encounters when the scientists steal the globe--great, love that scene.

And Real Genius definitely qualifies, though there are so many scenes in that movie it's kind of hard to pick one.
posted by zardoz at 4:43 PM on May 15, 2012

Well, both are arcane, but how about Pi, which has some great music/talking scenes, and Primer, which has something like action scenes, even if you aren't quite sure what you're actually seeing.
posted by Gorgik at 4:52 PM on May 15, 2012

Independence Day was the first movie I thought of...plenty of action and nerdery!
posted by SisterHavana at 5:50 PM on May 15, 2012

Prez figuring out the pager code in season one of The Wire.
posted by HeroZero at 5:52 PM on May 15, 2012

Harry Caul's various surveillance scenes in The Conversation
posted by HeroZero at 5:55 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Juggernaut (74 Lester GBR) has a fair amount of this.
posted by dgeiser13 at 6:15 PM on May 15, 2012

Best answer: In Contact there's the scene when th researchers at SETI gain first contact and attempt to home in on the frequency. Lots of deliciously big scientific words in this scene.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 6:42 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

October Sky, Homer proves his innocence. One of the best geek scenes ever.
posted by Bokmakierie at 6:57 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is a scene in Transformers where Anthony Anderson's character has to hack a computer to make it transmit morse code so they can call the Air Force, because they didn't have a microphone. He has to do this quickly, because Frenzy is trying to break into the room they are in, and the rest of the Decepticons are beginning the destruction of the Hoover Dam.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 7:55 PM on May 15, 2012

I can't think of a specific scene right now (I need to watch it again), but Longitude is all nerd action (and a true story).
posted by piyushnz at 8:54 PM on May 15, 2012

Seconding Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, not least for the most nailbiting emailing-an-attachment sequence ever likely to be filmed.
posted by Erasmouse at 5:29 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

The scene in Contact that subject_verb_remainder linked to was what what came to my mind first. I'm a grad student and it's that kind of moment that you LIVE for... when after years of slogging through mistakes, confusion, endless trials, and tedious experiments at odd hours, you finally, FINALLY find a pattern in the data. It jumps out at you and you suddenly realize that you actually made an honest to god discovery. It's thrilling.
posted by Cygnet at 7:03 AM on May 16, 2012

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