11 Actresses Whose Brains Are Clinically Bigger Than Yours



Do you ever encounter overachievers and just want to shake them and be like, “it’s cool, calm down, you don’t need to be the CEO of that awesome start-up AND be the star of your SoulCycle class AND be polite to strangers AND wear matching socks every day even though no one can actually see them under your boots”? No? Just me? Well, regardless, that’s basically how I feel about Natalie Portman—you know, right after I basically bow down to her very existence because she’s pretty much the best thing since sliced bread. In case you weren’t already aware, not only is she an extremely talented actress, but homegirl is SMART. She graduated from Harvard University with a 4.0 GPA and a B.A. in Psychology, then went on to take graduate courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. And, as if all of that weren’t enough to make us revere her, she is also fluent in French, Hebrew, and Japanese. And all this time I’ve been so proud of the fact that at age 21 I’ve managed to kick my habit of using the word “literally” in every other sentence.

Anyway, in honor of Natalie’s 33rd birthday today and her insane ability to be both extremely smart and even more extremely talented, here are 11 other actresses whose brain-to-talent ratio is simply off the charts.

1Emma Watson

emma watson


Hermione Granger’s not the only one with all the brainpower; Emma Watson just graduated from Brown University a couple of weeks ago with a degree in English Literature. I consider myself to be her long lost twin because that was what I received my degree in as well. Please try to contain your awe.

2. Julia Stiles

julia stiles


After completing extremely popular movies among us 90′s-era folk such as 10 Things I Hate About You and Save the Last Dance, Julia wasted no time with the silly fodder of everyday luxuries. Instead, this smartypants graduated from Columbia University in 2005, also with a degree in English Literature. So, yes, I consider myself her long lost twin as well. I’ve just always wanted a twin, okay?

3. Brooke Shields

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A girl can’t get by just on eyebrows looks alone. In addition to being a Calvin Klein model and starring in film and TV roles ranging from the 1980 The Blue Lagoon to Miley Stewart’s mother on Hannah Montana, Shields got her B.A. in French Literature from Princeton University in 1987, for which she abandoned her modeling career. Gotta love a girl with priorities.

4. Jodie Foster

jodie foster


Jodie Foster isn’t just one of the most instantly recognizable actresses of our time. She also has a brain that’s probably bigger than all of Hollywood put together (author’s note: I have not measured this exactly and cannot comment on the absolute scientific validity of this statement). An actress from the very early moments of her life, she received a bachelor’s degree in Literature from Yale in 1985.

5. Jennifer Connelly

jennifer connelly


Jennifer Connelly clearly did not want to waste any time, despite the fact that she appears to want others to do so. I can only imagine her intent is to distract them so that she continue being awesome without having to worry about being overshadowed by others. No that that would be an easy thing to do; she is both a highly-regarded actress and an alumna of Stanford University, to which she transferred after spending two years at Yale. You know, because she’s kind of a little bit smart.

6. Anne Hathaway

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In addition to teaching us that makeovers are the best thing to happen ever in the world, The Princess Diaries showed us that being smart and kind of nerdy and working hard in school can lead to great things, like becoming a princess of a fictional country. Anne Hathaway herself really understands that whole concept. In addition to completely overhauling her style over the course of her rise to A-list status, Hathaway is a Vassar College alumna. Not too shabby…I think Fat Louie The Cat would approve.

7. Reese Witherspoon

reese witherspoon


With logic like that, it’s no wonder Elle Woods got in Harvard Law School in Legally Blonde. Reese Witherspoon is no slacker either; she might not have a law degree, but she  does have a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Stanford University. Besides, whoever said law degrees were the new English degrees was seriously disturbed.

8. Mayim Bialik

mayim bialik


You may know Mayim Bialik as Amy on The Big Bang Theory, but she and her character have something else in common other than their looks. Mayim is actually a neuroscientist in real life. After earning a B.S. degree in Neuroscience, Hebrew studies, and Jewish studies at UCLA, she went on to receive her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the same school. I’m sure all of that studying helps her understand what she’s talking about when she plays her character on Big Bang, because I know I don’t.

9. Amy Poehler

amy poehler


Amy Poehler may, indeed, be the best in the world (though I’ve been known to exaggerate so don’t quote me on that). Her time as co-anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live are eternally memorable and loved, and Park and Recreation is not to be missed. But Amy (we’re on a first-name basis, clearly) is so much more than her spectacular achievements in television; she’s also quite the scholar. She received her bachelor’s degree at Boston College, the first step on her way to greatness.

10. Rashida Jones

rashida jones


Ever the wordsmith, it only makes sense that Rashida Jones should follow her Parks & Rec co-star Amy Poehler on this list. Like Natalie Portman, Jones attended Harvard University where she earned a degree in philosophy and religion, the two most useless majors that any university has ever offered in the history of the world. I can say that because I was a religion minor. Calm down.

11. Mindy Kaling

mindy kaling


Is it completely inappropriate to say that I am 100% obsessed with Mindy Kaling to the point where it would probably be considered stalking if I wasn’t too lazy to engage in the actual activity of stalking itself? Probably. Fine. But Mindy is hilarious (if you haven’t seen The Mindy Project you’re doing something wrong) and she is extremely bright, a fact that she (charmingly) made sure we were all aware off during her speech at Harvard Law’s Class Day. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 2001 with a degree in Playwriting.

You can reach this post's author, Sara Steinfeld, on twitter.
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    • Alana Vincenza

      Going to show this list to everyone who thought only slackers got English degrees. Suck it, business majorssssss!

    • Nbl

      I’m getting my masters at USC. So the only ones on this list that I will say have larger brains than me are the PhD holders. Also anyone with math and science degrees. I also had a religion minor. It adds a fun aspect to the history degree but I have to ask, where is Winnie Cooper? Isn’t she a math genius or something?

      • Dahamma

        What does a degree have to do with brain size or intelligence? Nothing wrong with studying for advanced degrees, but IMO it proves a willingness to work at and complete something more than any inherent intelligence.

      • slsdi

        For BS degrees at some top places, you never know if people get in b/c of legacy/parent donations or real aptitude/talent. I also agree that degrees do not equate to intelligence. As an advanced degree person myself, I agree with Dahamma they are more indicative of work & perseverance. However I will say that admittance into certain programs would necessitate some brains; some won’t touch you if you aren’t top 1-2%, certainly very much above average.

      • Dahamma

        Somewhat on topic, I suppose – I was actually in the same dorm as Jennifer Connelly. My guess is she dropped out not due to academics but because it’s nearly impossible to be anonymous and make real friends at college when everyone knows you before you even meet them.

        Honestly an actress who is already famous making it through a normal college degree deserves a lot of credit for that pressure alone.

      • Nbl

        Ok so why are you saying this to me? I didn’t write the article and my comment was in the same vein as the authors assertion that having a degree makes a persons brain “larger”. I was following that logic with my post. Context is your friend.

      • Dahamma

        Why would you follow bad logic with more bad logic? (and in fact state it rather than implying it). So, yes, I suppose I’m disagreeing with both you and the author. In context.

        But don’t take it personally, I’m not saying anything to you or anyone in particular. I’m posting on a public discussion.

        If I wanted you to take it personally, I’d say USC = University of Second Choice. But that’s also petty and not directed to you, really, just the fact that your school destroyed Stanford’s BCS Championship chances this year ;)

        And I agree with Winnie Cooper/Danica. Guess she wasn’t famous/current enough, because that’s basically what this silly site we are commenting on is concerned with :)

      • Nbl

        Took me a while to answer, I was in your neck of Cali but I have to laugh at the second choice joke because it really was my second choice and shhh don’t tell anyone but Stanford was the first. I was accepted and everything. Non academic circumstances put me in LA. My grandfather died leaving my 89 year old grandmother by herself in her LA home and nearest family was three states away. Also my boyfriend was stationed at Pendleton and I made the choice to stay closer to him. Good choice as he’s now my fiancé. So I like to trash Stanford with the rest of of my classmates but there’s love there :)

    • enté

      Don’t want to brag, but I had my masters in Spain, although Spanish is not even my native language (neither English, before you correct my grammar), and I’ve got a PhD, too. So I think my brain is just fine, thank you.

      • Dahamma

        “Don’t want to brag” is the surest sign that the next sentence will be blatant bragging…

    • Isabelle

      I don’t think BC is Ivy League. I still admire Amy Pohler but for different reasons

    • putesputes

      I think they are smart not because of their degrees but because they went for the
      MONEY. More people should the same. Go for the careers that pay you best.

    • NotClueless

      Really now? Mayim, yes. The rest? Not so much. A bachelor’s in nothing more than I have, and actually is less than I have. So disappointed by this list.

    • PolymathesisPolly

      While many of the people on this list are legitimately brilliant, it’s worth noting that socio-economic factors are highly relevant. The’re all wealthy and have connections to very powerful and networked people. Going to a prestigious college doesn’t automatically mean you’re a genius. The exception with these individuala is that they both attended and performed admirably (assuming they didn’t cheat or sleep their way to the top – two things I encountered disturbingly often in grad school).

    • Dahamma

      Neither Jennifer Connelly nor Reese Witherspoon actually graduated from Stanford. They both left early. Not saying they aren’t both intelligent, but clearly the motivation of acting and $$$ won out over staying for the degree…

    • Dale Richardson

      Ooooh degrees in English Literature. That doesn’t really prove intelligence, that just proves they’re good enough actresses that they won’t be needing real jobs.

    • Dave ThreeFourFive9

      The headline writer doesn’t hold the readers in high regard. What’s the key demographic they’re going for – people with IQs of 94 – 96? But even some of them have a degree in communications from Boston College.

    • Allie Orozco-Newton

      Natalie Portman also conducts scientific research and has had two of her papers published in professional science journals. She’s been involved with STEM educational programs to inspire and support girls and young women with an interest in STEM fields. She’s an outspoken feminist as well. She’s definitely a heroine to me.

    • http://rebeccaslosberg.com/ Rebecca Slosberg

      as someone with a degree in literature this is not an impressive list, outside of Mayim Bialik. Anyone can get a degree in liuterature if they went to elementary school.

    • The Voice of Reason

      being smart and having a high IQ has nothing to do with having a degree

      fact: the most intelligent people recorded did not have any degrees
      fact: anyone can get any degree they want with dedication and hard work

      it is very pretentious and ignorant to think there is any direct correlation or merit

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    • Jeff Carlson

      I was disappointed that the author seems to think anyone who
      got a bachelor’s degree from a good college is smarter than the
      reader. It’s just not true.

      I’m disappointed, but that’s my fault: what was I expecting, given the site? I mean, I saw the title, “11 Actresses Whose Brains Are Clinically Bigger Than Yours.” Red flag. Brain size being treated as equivalent to intelligence? Well, crap. Do you suppose she knows what “clinically” means?

      But I kept skimming, to see if there was actually something interesting, or if Alicia Witt turned up. Turns out she was a child prodigy:
      Spread this piece of useless trivia! Don’t let our time reading this article be in vain!