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30 of the Hottest Brains in Hollywood

Hollywood is chock-full of beautiful people, everyone knows that. But a lot of the time, there is this assumption that if you are beautiful on the outside, you must be a little lacking on the inside. You can’t have both right? WRONG. These 30 women prove that beauty and brains can coexist, and that smart is sexy. Let’s take a look at 30 of the hottest brains in hollywood!  

30. Ashley Judd

In addition to being a great actress, Ashley Judd is incredibly smart! Oddly enough, she attended 13 different universities (yes 13, that wasn’t a typo) until she landed at one she liked.
After graduating with a Bachelors, she went to Harvard to pursue her master’s degree. While there she attended the prestigious Kennedy School of Government, with one of her classmates being the equally venerable Meryl Streep. Could you imagine going to Harvard and finding out those two were in one of your classes?

29. Rashida Jones

Who can forget Ann Perkins from the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation played by the graceful, gorgeous and elegant Rashida Jones? And while she is known for her comedic timing and general upbeat personality, you might not know that she has a smart past as well. Originally, Rashida set out to be a lawyer. However, that career choice left a bad taste in her mouth after the O.J. Simpson case. It was at this point that she turned to the performing arts, serving as music director for the Oppertunes, an acappella group, and heavily involved herself in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals group as well as the Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club. However, oddly enough Rashida didn’t study acting, art or theater of any sort. Her focus? Religion and philosophy. Smart indeed.

28. Shakira

So most of us probably know Shakira from her “Hips Don’t Lie” fame, or more recently as a singing Gazelle in Zootopia. But would you guess that she has an IQ of 140? Being fluent in 5 languages might be a contributing factor, or that she nonchalantly studies ancient civilizations and goes on Indiana Jones -esque expeditions in her spare time. Waka Waka, eh eh is right, Shakira. This time for Afri… KNOWLEDGE.

27. Lily Cole

It seems the thing to do these days is go straight from modeling to acting. It worked for Lily Cole. She pursued modeling as a teen, working with iconic magazines like Vogue at a very young age. In fact, she was named by Vogue Paris as one of the top 30 models during the 2000s. She worked with other well known brands too like Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen and Chanel. Her foray into acting included starring roles in films like The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. It seems she is following the usual model turned actress track, indeed. But get this. As beautiful as she is, modeling was never her first focus. It just serves to bankroll her other interests. She is a Cambridge graduate, with a Double honors in History of Art.

26. Mira Sorvino

This is one on our smart list who was smart on and off screen. For starters, Mira Sorvino is a Harvard graduate who graduated magna cum laude with a major in East Asian studies. She also took the slow and patient approach when it comes to acting as well. Instead of going out for lead roles right out of the gate, she signed on as third assistant director and worked her way up from there. Her time to shine came in Mighty Aphrodite, the 1995 film by Woody Allen. She played the lead character. She also had supporting roles in Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, the Replacement Killers and Mimic.

25. Ashley Rickards

Ashley is most familiar to us for her role as the severely autistic character Mandy in the motion picture Fly Away, as well as the lead character in the MTV drama “Awkward”. For all her success in acting though, her smarts are what put most people to shame. For instance, at 15 she graduated high school and is now a current member of MENSA. But she’s not just smart in an academic sense. Nope, this five foot phenom is also a competitive equestrian in addition to serving on the board for the Project Futures Somali MAM Foundation, an organization that works to end slavery and prevent human trafficking from southeast Asia. In her spare time you can find her writing short stories, authoring poetry and making movie or television scripts. She is a pet lover, too, and spends some of her time sharing those pets with special needs children as part of a therapy program.

24. Julie Peterson

This Playboy Playmate is known for sending men into overdrive, but most people would NEVER guess she is also a member of MENSA. Julie was proud to hold the title of the first Playboy playmate admitted to the group, and MENSA was more than pleased, too. Ironically enough, it was her current position with Playboy that first sparked her interest in the group. In 1985, they did a pictorial on “The Women of Mensa.” Julie met a few of the models, applied for the Mensa test and found out she could qualify with her score. After induction, the media went into a frenzy for a bit. It seemed that a blonde Playmate being admitted into the secret Society of super brains was simply too much to fathom. At any rate, this Playboy Playmate knows she is no dummy. People who are included in Mensa have an IQ that lies within the top 2% of people in the US. That’s pretty impressive if we do say so ourselves.

23. Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys is one of the most respected figures in the music industry, winner of countless Grammy’s, and all around badass. So it shouldn’t surprise you that she is ridiculously smart as well. At the age of 16 she became high school valedictorian. That’s right, not 17 or 18, she graduated early, at the top of her class, a mere 16 year old youngling. She has a high IQ as well (reportedly 154). She even attended prestigious Columbia University for a while before dropping out to focus on her music career full-time. We think she made a wise decision. Her music speaks across generations, breaking socio-economic and class boundaries. She is widely regarded as one of the top female performers in the world. She just happens to have an IQ right up there with Stephen Hawking.

22. Lisa Kudrow

Don’t let Lisa Kudrow fool you. While she played the clueless type on the network sitcom hit, Friends, she is extremely intelligent. She went to Vassar and earned a B.S. in Biology. Her dad is a well respected doctor and when Lisa graduated, she went to work for him doing medical research. She did this for 8 years before moving on to pursue her acting career.

21. Claire Danes

Claire got her start on MTV’s My So Called Life, which launched her into the leading role of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet. Fast forward 10 something odd years and now she is one of the leads on Homeland. However, you may not realize Claire has a bit of Ivy growing underneath her acting pedigree. That’s right, she went to Yale for two years. Rumor has it that she got in because of a recommendation letter written by her director friend Oliver Stone. Either way, she made it. She only studied psychology for two years, though. Then she dropped out to focus more on her acting career. And while psychology can be challenging, this could be code for “Yale was too hard.” Either way, we don’t mind. At least she made it for two years. Only a handful of actors would even make it into Yale, much less actually apply themselves.

20. Jennifer Connelly

Most of us know that Jennifer Connelly began her career as a model before segueing over to the film industry. That seems to be a common theme with many models. However, her first solo role didn’t happen until 1985 with the horror film Phenomena. After that, she starred in several other films, perhaps the 2000 drama Requiem for a Dream being the most recognizable. These roles garnered her an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award as well as a BAFTA award. Behind the winning Revlon smile, however, is a brain that is a force to be reckoned with. Jennifer studied at Yale AND Harvard and she speaks fluent Italian and French.

19. Katariina Souri

Our next really hot smart girl was playmate of the month in December 1988. After her brief career as a Playboy Playmate, she announced a name change to her then current name. She is a writer now and has authored several novels including Mina Jay Morrison (a major motion picture), Vangitse Minor Vapaaksi, Tulikarpasia, Kahdeksas Huone and Jumalasta Seuraava.

18. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

This Indian beauty first wowed us when she won Miss World in 1994. It was her long eloquent answer to what she would do as Miss World that ultimately convinced the judges to crown her as the winner. As beautiful and poised as she looked giving the answer, it was her brains that powered the response. She scored 90% when she took her HSC exams. At first she was going to pursue zoology, but later ditched those plans in favor of pursuing an architectural college, then ditched those plans to make it big as a model and Bollywood actress. She speaks Marathi, Hindi, Tamil, English and Tulu.

17. Reese Witherspoon

Reese seems to have had quite the storied life. She has beautiful children and makes beautiful movies. However, to quote her own words she is simply a “big dork that reads a lot of books.” This stands in stark contrast to the character she played in Legally Blonde. That’s part of her secret, though. There’s more to Reese than meets the eye. For a movie example, check out her hit Sweet Home Alabama. As for real life, she has a little known tidbit of her own. You would be surprised to know she actually attended Stanford for a while. However, as with several other people on our list she left early to pursue her acting career. If you are Reese Witherspoon, though, that’s a good call. That’s how we see it anyway. Why pursue a law degree when you can make a lot more playing one on the silver screen.

16. Sharon Stone

Most of us remember Sharon Stone steaming up the big screen in the movie Basic Instinct. Who can forget the iconic interview scene with those crossed legs. Many teenage boys spent hours rewinding their VHS player searching for something in vain. And while the movie certainly was a slick marketing ploy, Sharon is no stranger to marketing ploys herself. For instance, she once told a group of reporters in an interview that she was a member of Mensa. She kept the ruse going until 2002 when Jim Blackstone, the national marketing director for Mensa, called her hand. She then modified her story to say that she went to a Mensa school even though she wasn’t a member of the organization itself. However, this is false as well because Sharon Stone was born in 1958 and the Mensa schools stopped existing in the early 60s… well before she was school age. However, that’s not to say she isn’t a smart cookie. Jim Blackstone tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. He pointed out that her IQ is 156, so she could get in the club if she passed the test. That’s higher than Abraham Lincoln’s IQ.

15. Aisha Tyler

Most of us know Aisha Tyler as the award-winning producer, author, writer, actress and director. She is well known for her role as Andrea Marino in Ghost Whisperer, the voice of Lanacane in the hit TBS series, Archer, and her portrayal of mother nature in Tim Allen’s popular Santa Claus film series. She also happens to be one of the most gorgeous females on the planet. However, since she is on our list she must be smart, right? Absolutely. What you don’t know about her is that she was an Ivy League graduate. She attended Dartmouth in 1992 and was a member of the popular co-ed fraternity Tabard. Yeah, we don’t know what it means, either; probably something to do with singing. The reason we say that is because she sang in the all-female Rockapellas singing group while attending Dartmouth. After graduation she briefly worked for an advertising firm before setting out across the country to pursue a career in comedy.

14. Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields has been wowing us for quite a while. She found success early on as a child actor, and went straight to modeling after that. Then she took a break in her career to pursue, of all things, her education. So where did she go and what did she do? The answer is Princeton. Her major was Romance Languages with an emphasis on French. In fact, her transcript was published in a 1987 edition of Life magazine. It showed that Shields scored all A’s and B’s, implying that Princeton turns out well-rounded candidates. It seems to fit her style, too. She has excelled at everything from modeling, to acting, to marketing and selling. Probably the most surprising fact about her is she serves as a spokesperson for Tupperware. They have a SMART Girls Campaign that Brooke spearheads to teach girls how to nurture their physical and mental well-being. This is something she believes in because she struggled with confidence as a child.

13. Marina Orlova

This Russian linguist has starred in more than 40 major motion pictures and television shows spanning Beijing, Moscow and Rome. To Russians she is known as their version of Marilyn Monroe. She is always near the top of the 10 Most Famous and Recognizable Young Russian Actresses list released annually. Currently, though, she does not live in Russia. LA is her home, and she is as smart as she is beautiful. Being a linguist is demanding and takes a certain amount of skill in its own right, yet she also serves as Goodwill Ambassador for an Italian charity organization. The name is Maria Diomira. It has the support of the Vatican and is designed to help Kenyan children in need as well as fund construction for art schools across the globe. Not bad for someone who is primarily known for her cleavage and teaching people to speak. To see more of the former find her YouTube channel. You can thank us later.

12. Natalie Portman

Before she was burning up the screen, wowing us in movies like Star Wars and V for Vendetta, Natalie Portman was a genius. Okay so she still is a genius. She has an Erdős-Bacon Number of 7. What is this, you ask? Well, its the number of distance you are from a Hungarian mathematician named Paul Erdos (very smart guy) combined with your six degrees of Kevin Bacon number. The lower, the better. Seven is really good, as only a handful of people are both published academics and accredited actors. Natalie also speaks fluent Hebrew and has studied German, Arabic, Japanese and French. The Hebrew fluency probably has a lot to do with her graduate program. She graduated from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She attended Harvard, though, where she studied neuroscience and psychology. So how did such a genius get her start in film? In 1994 she was cast alongside Jean Reno in The Professional. Her next role would be the Star Wars movies. Natalie was then encouraged to pursue modeling, but turned it down to focus on acting. Seems like she made a wise choice.

11. Elizabeth Banks

We are used to seeing Elizabeth Banks on screen in such leading movie roles like the Hunger Games. Her winning smile and gorgeous eyes are always the perfect complement to any motion picture. She also has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania where she graduated magna cum laude. Of course, it wasn’t all work and no play for Elizabeth at college. She joined the popular Delta Delta Delta sorority during her four year stint. It was also while attending classes there that she met her husband, Max Handelman.

10. Emma Watson

There are many who would say Emma Watson is much like her Harry Potter character, Hermione. In fact, she herself has said she is a lot like Hermione. Both are outspoken (Emma is a self proclaimed feminist), beautiful, down to earth and brainy. While Hermione proves smart in spells and potions, Emma proves smart in Literature. That is the degree she holds from Brown University at least. When she moved to the states she wanted to attend Brown because of its status as an academic institution with a bent toward creativity and expression. I guess the actress in her was crying out for something. And while a literature degree suits her we are not exactly sure why she needs one. Maybe she thought she might need something to fall back on if the Screen Actors Guild went on strike. One must always keep their options open.

9. Kate Beckinsale

Sometimes you need both beauty and brains to make it through life. Kate Beckinsale is the perfect example of this. Her movies are the type where she seems to make an appearance for pure eye candy reasons. Films like the Underworld Series, Vacancy, Click, and Whiteout to name a few. And while she may not win any Academy awards for these movies, they do seem to resonate with one aspect of her person… writing. That is what Kate was known for during her pre-acting days. As a teenager she won the coveted W.H. Smith writing award. Her first win was for three short stories and her second for three short poems. And she did go to college, she just never finished. Her interests? She studied Russian and French while she attended, but gave it up to pursue acting. We think she made a wise choice, don’t you? Watch another Underworld movie if you are on the fence. That should do it.

8. AJ Bailey

Here we have a different kind of celebrity who is extremely smart. AJ Bailey highly regards her reputation for being the “smartest woman in porn.” It’s a different kind of celebrity for sure, but if you will recall, early on in her career she was a guest on the Howard Stern show. He put her in the Tickle Seat for a quiz and she passed with flying colors. Her masters degree is in Anthropology and Museum Studies, and while we are not quite sure how effective those translate over into the porn industry, we highly doubt any guy who watches her cares either. Still, it’s nice to know that some women who bare all aren’t doing so as a last option. Some of them are just incredibly smart and choose to make a living doing other things. Just don’t expect us to help you with an explanation if you are caught watching her.

7. Danica McKellar

We remember her as Winnie from the Wonder Years, and while she may have appeared smart on the show, nothing compares to her real world accomplishments. After the Wonder Years came to an end she attended UCLA. While there she graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Math. Perhaps her most impressive accomplishment is the paper she co-authored in college. The title was “Percolation and Gibbs states Multiplicity for Ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller Models on Z Squared.” Yeah, we don’t know what that means either; we just know she is smarter than 99% of the world’s population. She has also authored a series of teen books targeted at girls to encourage them to dig in to math and science. Winnie certainly has come a long way since the Wonder Years. If she is this smart in her prime, she will probably be a certified MENSA genius in her golden years.

6. Laura Shields

We know Laura Shields for just being beautiful. She placed in the top 10 of the UK Miss International 2004 beauty pageant and served as a model for a while on the popular Deal or No Deal show starring Howie Mandel (she was the beauty holding case number 22 during the second season). In 2005 she was listed as one of the top 101 Sexiest Women according to Stuff Magazine and has appeared under similar monikers in other publications. She happens to be incredibly smart, too! For starters, Laura is another famous celebrity who happens to be a member of Mensa (we see a pattern here). She also holds a masters degree from Leeds University in chemical engineering.

5. Carmen Kass

Who says good things don’t come from Estonia. Carmen Kass is a supermodel from the exotic sounding country, as well as a former political candidate. She worked for years modeling for industry giants like Valentino, Calvin Klein, Chanel, Versace and Dior. In 2002 it was estimated that she was the second highest paid model in the entire world. So just how smart is she? Well, when she’s not modeling or running for political office she loves chess tournaments. And these aren’t your average chess tournaments either. These are tournaments that match you against some of the smartest in the world. This hobby has earned her the title “smartest supermodel.” She wears it proudly. In fact, she wears a lot of things proudly when she models. Do a quick search and see for yourself. We think she could easily be the “World’s Hottest Political Candidate” too… if there is such a category.

4. Asia Carrera

Most people who have seen Asia perform on screen would never tell their mother. She is a porn star with an IQ of 156 and is a member of MENSA (yep, another one). In addition there are a few other small accomplishments she has achieved as well. Small things like playing Carnegie Hall at 15 (she played the piano for an audience twice), teaching English in Japan at the ripe age of 16 and winning a full ride to Rutgers. Oh yeah, we forgot to mention that she coded her entire website from scratch back in the day. While it looks a bit dated now it was all the rage in the early 90s. So it was quite a shock to her family when she decided to pursue porn instead of pursue a career that involved her brain. Some would say she made the wrong choice, but let her do her! It’s obviously worked for her.

3. Doda

This Polish singer-songwriter has a reported IQ of 156 and is a member of MENSA. Maybe it’s her high IQ that has allowed her to be one of the most successful Polish artists when it comes to the number of prizes won. She has been an MTV European Music Awards winner as well as a World Music Awards nominee. Her performances are always known for being controversial, though, so concert goers beware. In fact, she was fined for blasphemy, regarding a statement she once made in an interview concerning the Bible and dinosaurs.

2. Famke Janssen

Okay so let’s be honest for a minute. If we are comparing bond girls for smarts, Denise Richards leaves us wildly lacking. This is why we thank our lucky stars for actresses like Famke Janssen. You know her as Xenia Onatopp in Goldeneye. If you remember the first x-men movie, she was even more alluring as Jean Grey. If you missed it, watch the others. She plays the same character throughout and is drop dead gorgeous. She also happens to be wicked intelligent. Famke attended Columbia University where she studied literature and creative writing. She also served as a Goodwill ambassador to the United Nations. Her official title was ambassador for Integrity at the Second Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption. That’s a mouthful for sure, but an achievement nobody else on our list has even come close to accomplishing.

1. Victoria Zdrok


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