Smartest Celebrities in Hollywood

By , on October 19, 2013

Contrary to popular notion, Hollywood celebrities aren’t just about glitz and glamour. Some of them have bested thousands of people not just in landing the next multi-million dollar role that made them a household name, but also in the field of academics.

Yep, you read that right. Academics. Get ready to “ooh” and “ahh” and “really?!” (perhaps there’s going to be a “no way!” out there) as we list (in alphabetical order) some of the smartest celebrities in Hollywood as named by Business Insider Magazine in October 2013.


Kate Beckinsale

At a very young age, 6-year-old Kate Beckinsale showed promise after being assessed to have the reading skill of an 11-year-old.

She then grew up and finished her French and Russian literature degree from Oxford University New College and now fluently speaks French, Russian, and German.

Mayim Bialik

NBC’s “Blossom” has surely blossomed (forgive me) to earn two degrees from UCLA: Hebrew/Jewish Studies in 2000 and Neuroscience in 2007.

She’s an actual neuroscientist who is playing neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler (to Sheldon Cooper) on sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

Matt Damon

Mattie actually came up with the idea for “Good Will Hunting” while he was studying in Harvard University, so he might as well be as smart as Will Hunting himself.

However, Damon decided to drop out of college to focus on his acting career. He later on completed the screenplay for “Good Will Hunting” with long-time buddy Ben Affleck and won numerous awards for their work.

Damon was awarded the coveted Harvard Arts Medal this year.

David Duchovny

Before he starred in “X-Files,” David Duchovny studied actual files in English literature from Princeton University. And as if one ivy league university isn’t enough, he decided to get his Master’s in Yale.

Colin Firth

Firth graduated from Barton Peveril College in the United Kingdom and admits he “can still quote randomly from Thomas Hardy and Lord Byron.”

Perhaps in an attempt to explain the musings of a politician, Firth commissioned scientists to analyze brain scans of some willing politicians to check if there are neurological differences in terms of political inclination. He was named co-author of the clinical study and was published in the Current Biology journal.

Jodie Foster

Perhaps Foster’s biggest academic achievement is teaching herself how to read before she was even three years old. She balanced her acting career and a full load at Lycée Français de Los Angeles. She graduated from Yale and studied upper-level French.

James Franco

Would you believe that a guy who played the role of a dude named “Taste” (alongside Mila Kunis’ “Whippet,” Tina Fey, and Steve Carrell in “Date Night”) has attended four (five!) big-time schools and is currently earning his PhD at an ivy league university?

Yes, that’s James Franco in real life. He graduated from UCLA, took a filmmaking course at NYU, studied fiction writing in Columbia University and Brooklyn College, and even poetry in Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.

Currently, Franco is earning his PhD in comparative literature at Yale University.

And that’s not enough. He also taught screenplay writing and directing at UCLA, USC, NYU, and Columbia.

Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal

Real-life siblings Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal both attended the prestigious Columbia University. Maggie majored in English and was given a personal achievement award as an alumnus.

On the other hand, her little brother Jake planned to major in Eastern religions but forego Columbia University for Columbia Pictures (no, not exactly that film company, just looking for something clever) when he decided to leave school and pursue his acting career.

Ken Jeong

When the guys in “The Hangover” was stuffing Mr. Chow in a suitcase, they were actually stuffing a licensed obstetrician in real life.

Ken Jeong is a licensed medical practitioner who graduated from Duke University, earned his MD at UNC Chapel Hill, and took his residency in New Orleans.

His breakthrough role was playing the role of an obstetrician (surprise surprise) in “Knocked Up” starring Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl.


Mindy Kaling

The narcissistic and not-so-bright office clerk Kelly Kapoor of NBC’s “The Office” actually attended an ivy league university in real life. Kaling went to Dartmouth College and majored in theater.

She also won an Eleanor Frost Playwriting Award in 1999.

Kaling was recently included in ‘TIME’s 100 Most Influential’ list.

John Krasinski

Aside from being a prank genius in “The Office,” in real life John Krasinski may as well be a genius, too.

Before enrolling at Brown University, John spent some time in Costa Rica as an English teacher.

Lisa Kudrow

Richard (the eye doctor) isn’t the only “FRIENDS” character who graduated from Vassar College. Lisa Kudrow, who plays Phoebe Buffay, earned her biology degree from Vassar in real life.

She is the daughter of an esteemed specialist in headaches. In fact, a few months after graduating, Lisa published her research paper in a scientific journal.

Ashton Kutcher

“The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart,” Ashton said at the recently held Teen Choice Awards.

You’re probably as surprised as I was when I found out about this, having loved him for eight beautiful, laugh-filled seasons as dim-witted Michael Kelso on the hit sitcom “That 70’s Show.” But believe it or not, Kutcher attended University of Iowa and was supposed to major in biochemical engineering until a talent scout came up to him one day and suggested that he should join a state-wide modelling contest. Since then, Kutcher dropped out of college to pursue his modelling and acting career in Los Angeles.

Steve Martin

Steve Martin has been a MENSA member for the last 16 years. He even documented his year-long journey of getting into MENSA by writing an article for The New Yorker in 1997.

He earned his degree in philosophy in California State University where he also became a professor.

Can you imagine coming to class and Steve Martin is your professor?

Edward Norton

Norton majored in history at Yale University and was part of the school’s rowing team. It was an unfortunate back injury that led him to take a break from rowing and try his luck in theatre arts.

Though majoring in history, for a period in his well-lived life, Edward lived in Osaka to work for his grandfather’s non-profit organization as a consultant in providing affordable housing. While in Japan, he became proficient in Nihongo and Aikido.

Conan O’Brien

There’s finally an explanation to Conan O’Brien’s giant hair–his giant brain.

O’Brien graduated from Harvard University majoring in history and literature. He was the president of a not-so-secret social organization that published a parody magazine, the Harvard Lampoon. He was also named as the “Pre-eminent Jokester” of Class ’85.

To complete his academic requirements, O’Brien wrote a 72-page senior thesis about literary geniuses William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor entitled “The ‘Old Child’ in Faulkner and O’Connor.’

Natalie Portman

Acclaimed and loved for her wide range of acting potency, Portman has also graced lists of this nature because of her degree in psychology from–wherelse but–Harvard University. She also earned graduate courses from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

For anonymity, she enrolled using her birth name: Natalie Herschlag. But anonymity won’t be so kind if you get published twice on a scientific journal or if you become a guest speaker in Columbia University.

Words of your scholastic awesomeness gets around really fast, Nat.

Kevin Spacey

Spacey is a classically trained actor who attended the prominent Juilliard University.

Two years into his fine Juilliard education, he dropped out to answer the call of Broadway.

He later earned Tony and Oscar awards for his performance.


Sharon Stone

Lots of people know Stone has an IQ of 154, but not everyone knows that she was a college scholar at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania at the tender age of 15.

Quentin Tarantino

He doesn’t need to direct brilliant films like “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill” to be called a genius. He already is. He has an IQ of 160, same as famous physicist Stephen Hawking.

Despite his superb brain power, Tarantino admitted that he never liked school. He didn’t like school so much that he dropped out of high school. Years later, he started making films that are now considered classics (not to mention badass).

Based on an article by Melia Robinson and Melissa Stanger, Business Insider.