15 of the Top Movie and TV Scientists of All Time

Some of the greatest Sci-fi films, TV series and literature would be nothing without their ingenious, and at times, mad scientist protagonists. These 15 are some of the crème de la crème.
Christopher McFadden
Mad Movie Scientists1, 2

We all have our favorite fictional movie and TV scientists but some are likely to feature in most people's 'dream team'.


Whether it be Spock from Star Trek (not featured here) or Dr. Emmett Brown (he's here), no list can ever please everyone.

And so we took it upon ourselves to attempt to hand-pick some of the 'best' from the enormous back catalog of science fiction media and literature that stretches back over the last 100 years or so. 

This list of 15 contains some of the 'usual suspects' but we've also thrown in some lesser known 'curve balls', just to mix things up a bit. 

The following list is in no particular order and is far from being exhaustive. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below. 

1. Dr. Emmet Brown - Back to The Future Trilogy

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Theoretical Physics/Inventor

Specialty and/or their research: Time-Travel and inventor

Notable achievements: The Flux Capacitor/The DeLorean Time Machine and modified Steam Train

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Christopher Lloyd

Brief Biography/Additional Information: According to canon, Emmet was born in 1920 and was the son of a nativized German father. He changed his name from Von Braun to Brown during the first world war.

Emmett would go on to lead a mainly solitary life as a prolific inventor and "student of all sciences". 

15 of the Top Movie and TV Scientists of All Time
Source: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment/YouTube

2. Dr. Henry Jekyll - Jekyll and Hyde

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Chemistry/Pharmaceuticals

Specialty and/or their research: Chemistry

Notable achievements: Best known for his development of a serum that accidentally manifests his 'evil' alter-ego

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Various from John Barrymore in 1920 to Russell Crowe

Brief Biography/Additional Information: After battling with the good and evil within his psyche, Dr. Jekyll develops a serum to help him repress these feelings. Sadly in doing so, the serum allows his alter ego to take control of his body.

Movie Scientists Dr. Jekyll
Source: Henry Van der Weyde/Wikimedia Commons

3. Dr. Strangelove - Dr. Strangelove

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Nuclear Physicist

Specialty and/or their research: Nuclear weapons

Notable achievements: Helping the U.S. Develop Nuclear Weapons

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Peter Sellers

Brief Biography/Additional Information: Dr. Strangelove's character is ostensibly based on the real-life Nazi scientists relocated to the United States after WW2 during "Operation Paperclip". 

Suffering from "alien hand syndrome" he can be seen, on occasion, lapsing into giving Nazi salutes in the film. Apparently, this affection of the character was improvised by Peter Sellers during filming.

Movie Scientists Dr. Strangelove
Source: WikiPedant/Wikimedia Commons

4. Lex Luthor - Superman Series

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Engineering/Business Magnate 

Specialty and/or their research: 

Notable achievements: Developing global corporation LexCorp and inventing various devices to combat Superman.

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Various including Gene Hackman (1970's to 1980's) and Michael Rosenbaum in Smallville

Brief Biography/Additional Information: Lex Luther's story varies depending on his depiction in media. He ranges from a power-hungry, wealthy business magnate to ingenious engineer and megalomaniacal genius.

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5. C. A. Rotwang - Metropolis

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Robotics/Engineering 

Specialty and/or their research: Development of humanoid AI robot

Notable achievements: His fembot built in the image of his dead wife

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Rudolf Klein-Rogge

Brief Biography/Additional Information: Rotwang is a diabolical mad-scientist who locks himself away in his underground lab building a fembot in the image of his long-lost wife. The android goes on to lead the oppressed working class, incites riots and plunges the city of Metropolis into anarchy.

6. Dr. Seth Brundle - The Fly

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Theoretical Physics

Specialty and/or their research: Teleportation

Notable achievements: Telepod (instantaneous teleportation devices)

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Jeff Goldblum

Brief Biography/Additional Information: Dr. Seth Brundle was a brilliant and eccentric scientist who dedicated his life to developing practical teleportation in his warehouse/lab home.

Initially only having success with inanimate objects he eventually masters the Telepods ability to transport living tissue and eventually organisms. Sadly during a test on himself, his DNA is mixed with that of a stray fly merging the two and leading to disastrous genetic mutation of his body.

7. Walter White - Breaking Bad

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Research Chemist/Chemistry Teacher/Company Founder/Narcotics Producer

Specialty and/or their research: Early career: Radiography, Later: Narcotics Production

Notable achievements: Early Career: Proton radiography (Nobel Prize), Gray Matter Technologies Founder

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Bryan Cranston

Brief Biography/Additional Information: After graduating from the California University of Technology with a degree in Chemistry, Walter goes on to conduct groundbreaking research in proton radiography. He later founds a company with his former classmate and friend before selling his stake in it and leaving.

He later works as a high school chemistry teacher and supplements the low wages with a secondary job at a local car wash. After being diagnosed with lung cancer he decides to begin manufacturing methamphetamine to cover his medical costs and bills.

15 of the Top Movie and TV Scientists of All Time
Source: Nicky Kelly/YouTube

8. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Neville - I Am Legend

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Virology/Biology

Specialty and/or their research: Virology

Notable achievements: He finds a cure for the zombie-plague ravaging the planet

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Will Smith

Brief Biography/Additional Information: After losing his family and everyone he ever knew in the zombie apocalypse, Robert is left alone with his trusty canine partner, and family pet, Samantha. He spends the next three years slowly going mad in his isolation, whilst experimenting on a potential cure for the plague.

After his lab and house are invaded by hordes of zombies he manages to smuggle his cure away with some other survivors before being blowing them to pieces, along with himself.

15 of the Top Movie and TV Scientists of All Time
Source: Sue Crawte/YouTube

9. Dr. Henry Wu - Jurassic Park Series

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Biotechnologist/Geneticist

Specialty and/or their research: Advanced Genetic Engineering

Notable achievements: Headed the team that was able to resurrect dinosaurs and other extinct species from ancient DNA and splicing with extant organism DNA

Actor(s) or Actress(s): B D Wong

Brief Biography/Additional Information: Dr. Henry Wu was a child prodigy who drew Mr. Hammond's attention for his undergraduate thesis at MIT. Whilst working for InGen he was instrumental in developing the procedures behind the company's de-extinction program.

The character appears in the original film and the fourth and fifth installments of the series. 

Dr. Henry Wu
Source: Villains Wiki

10. Hubert J. Farnsworth - Futurama

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Undefined - Supposedly he has mastered all fields of science

Specialty and/or their research: All

Notable achievements: He can demonstrate a vast knowledge and expertise in any field of science and is the most brilliant inventor on Earth.

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Billy West

Brief Biography/Additional Information: The Professor is the very embodiment of the 'mad' scientist and is the proprietor of the Planet Express delivery service. This is the company the other main characters in Futurama work for.

He can often be found switching between supreme intelligence and amoral senility because of his advanced age. Despite his genius, he often falls asleep.

Prof. Farnsworth
Source: AKSHAT JAIN/YouTube

11. Indiana Jones - Indiana Jones Series

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Archaeology

Specialty and/or their research: Archaeology - specializing in historical artifacts

Notable achievements: Discovering the Arc of the Covenant and the Holy Grail

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Harrison Ford (main films), various others in spin-offs

Brief Biography/Additional Information: Indy serves as a college professor of archaeology who specializes in ancient civilizations. But he is always keen to get into the field to track down and recover ancient artifacts and treasure.

This often gets him into trouble and puts any companions of his in real mortal danger. He also has a penchant for outsmarting his enemies and generally being a thorn in the side of Nazi ambitions around the world.

15 of the Top Movie and TV Scientists of All Time
Source: John Griffiths/Wikimedia Commons

12. Doctor Mason Wren - Alien Resurrection

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Xenobiology/Geneticist

Specialty and/or their research: Cloning and Xenobiology

Notable achievements: He, and his team, was able to successfully clone an Alien queen and Ellen Ripley from blood samples alone

Actor(s) or Actress(s): J. E. Freeman

Brief Biography/Additional Information: Dr. Wren was in overall charge of a team of scientists within a project to synthesize the Xenomorph species and manipulate it for human use. After 10 years of trial and error, the team finally 'succeeded'.

Both the Alien queen and clone Ripley shared some DNA and physiological traits and, therefore, were hybrids of both species albeit to varying degrees. 

Wren was eventually killed by a 'chestbuster' whilst trying to flee after an Alien containment breach.

15 of the Top Movie and TV Scientists of All Time
Source: SyrupBuccaneer/YouTube

13. Dr. Victor Frankenstein - Frankenstein

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Anatomist/Biomechanics

Specialty and/or their research: Resurrection of the deceased/Creating life

Notable achievements: Creating and resurrecting a composite cadaver

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Various throughout history

Brief Biography/Additional Information: Swiss scientist Victor Frankenstein who is typically portrayed as the archetypical mad scientist in film and TV adaptations but was actually a tragic, selfish figure in Mary Shelley's original novel.

After succeeding in his plan to create life his invention becomes his undoing. His 'monster' obsessively pursues his family, kills his brother and wife and eventually leads to Victor's own demise at the North Pole. 

Although the monster is often portrayed as a mindless automaton, this couldn't be further from the truth. 

15 of the Top Movie and TV Scientists of All Time
Source: J. Searle Dawley/Wikimedia Commons

14. Agent Dana Scully - The X Files

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Forensic Sciences/Medical Sciences/Physics

Specialty and/or their research: Forensic Sciences and Specialist Top Secret Research for the FBI

Notable achievements: She is most noted for her part played in the FBI's highly secret X Files Project into supernatural and alien activities, with her partner Fox Mulder

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Gillian Anderson

Brief Biography/Additional Information: Dana Scully studied at the University of Maryland for an undergraduate degree in Physics. Her senior thesis titled Einstein's Twin Paradox: A New Interpretation, was published in 1986 when she was aged 23.

She later went to medical school but decided to not practice medicine. Scully was recruited by the FBI and would go on to lead a distinguished career before being assigned to the X-Files in 1992

She and her partner, Fox Mulder, would have a frosty start to their partnership but mutual respect and compassion between the two would quickly form.

movie scientists Dana Scully
Source: The X Files Wiki

15. Wayne Szalinski - Honey I Shrunk The Kids

Movie/Fictional Scientist's Field: Amateur Physics/Inventor

Specialty and/or their research: Prolific inventor

Notable achievements: His successful development matter shrinking and enlarging machine

Actor(s) or Actress(s): Rick Moranis (films), Peter Scolari (TV series)

Brief Biography/Additional Information: Wayne is an inventor who struggled to build a device to shrink and expand matter. After a lot of trial and error and a lot of exploded apples, he resigns himself that the machine will not work as intended.

Unbeknownst to Wayne, however, the machine actually works and his children accidentally shrink themselves. 

movie scientists honey I shrunk the kids
Source: The Disney Wiki
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