?If you’re a nerd, then you surely know David Warner. The British actor has starred in countless movies and TV shows during his more than 40 year career and been a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, but will almost assuredly be remembered slowly worming his way into practically every nerd property ever made. He was part of Planet of the Apes and Spider-Man to Star Trek and… well, you name it, there’s a decent chance David Warner was in it. And he was awesome in it, too.
But which roles are his nerdiest? We perused his massive resum? to find the roles that have been the most influential on nerd-dom in all of its various facets. Despite his equally massive and impressive voice acting career, we decided to skip those roles he didn’t physically appear in, because otherwise we could have never narrowed this list down. Read them, and see the majesty of your dark lord and savior.
10) Amos Hackshaw, Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)
Besides its sequel, Cast a Deadly Spell is probably the only made-for-TV movie to extensively reference the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Fred Ward plays a detective named Harry P. Lovecraft, and he lives in a world of magic-users, one of whom is Hackshaw (Warner), a man obsessed with summoning the Old Gods. For battling H.P. Lovecraft — ANY H.P. Lovecraft — and summoning Yog Sothoth with the Necronomicon, Warner gets nerd points from a very specific, very long-lived subsection of nerdery. The Old Nerds, if you will.
9) Evil, Time Bandits (1981)
Though at the time it was just another ridiculous Terry Gilliam film, Time Bandits has become one of the most nerd-embraced non-Python Gilliam movies, on a par with 12 Monkeys. Both feature time travel, but only Bandits features six dwarves who are refugees from God’s landscaping team, plundering history’s greatest treasures from the likes of Sean Connery, John Cleese and more. Warner plays “Evil Genius,” but he’s really just Evil, as in the human incarnation of Evil, who spends all of his time in a castle surrounded by old weirdos in hazmat suits, speaking people’s dialogue and destroying them on a whim, like some sort of real-life Dungeonmaster.
8) Jack the Ripper, Time After Time (1979)
There’s nothing inherently nerdy about Jack the Ripper, but there is something very nerdy about Jack the Ripper using H.G. Wells’ time machine to visit the present day. That’s right — the time machine invented by and belonging to science fiction author H.G. Wells. Warner is frightening as a serial killer who’s found a home in 1979, but there’s a certain bonus nerdiness that comes from playing the nemesis of Malcolm McDowell, since McDowell is a fairly nerdy actor himself. Plus, there’s bonus nerdery in the fact that Wells’ love interest is played by Mary Steenburgen, who would later play a time-traveling H.G. Wells Jules Verne fan in Back to the Future III. Nerd paradox!
7) Prof. Jordan Perry, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Just as Christopher Lee played Dr. Catheter in Gremlins 2: The New Batch, so too did Warner accept a paycheck to play a scientist in a kid-friendly American franchise. As TGRI’s chief scientist Professor Perry, Warner has the dubious honor of being the man who first mutated omnipresent TMNT foes Tokka and Rahzar, as well as the one who helped the Turtles defeat them, He also has the legitimate honor of being on the scene when Vanilla Ice first improvised his famous “Ninja Rap.”
6) Jor-El, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1994)
?Many have had the honor of playing Jor-El, father of Kal-El, a.k.a. Superman. Marlon Brando was one, George Lazenby another, Terence Stamp yet another. But only Warner can claim to be the father-in-law to Teri Hatcher.
5) Ra’s Al Ghul, Batman: The Animated Series (1992-2000)
I know we said there’d be none of Warner’s voice acting roles on this list, but we had to make an one exception for Ra’s Al Ghul. Warner’s smooth, villainous tones were perfect for the renewable terrorist Al Ghul on Batman: TAS (as well as many other animated characters, hence his lengthy voice acting resume), so much so that he became a semi-regular in the DC animated universe — he was in five Batman eps, a Superman and one episode of Batman Beyond (thanks, Lazarus Pit!). He played the role as wonderfully as any of his live-action performances, which is why we felt we had to include the role here. He’s recently ceded the role to Peter Woodward (Brave and the Bold) and Jason Isaacs (Under the Red Hood), but he will always be the definitive voice of the Demon’s Head.
4) Chancellor Gorkon, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Playing a Klingon in a Star Trek film is a venerable tradition, and a nerdy one. Christopher Lloyd memorably played Commander Kruge in the third movie, and Christopher Plummer chewed the scenery as General Chang in the sixth, overshadowing Warner’s turn as the Chancellor who wished to broker peace with the Federation. Though assassinated early on in the film, he still remains an important player in the history of Human-Klingon relations, and for that he will always have a place in the nerd pantheon.
3) Gul Madred, Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992)
The only thing nerdier than playing a Klingon in a Star Trek film? Playing a Cardassian in a Star Trek TV series. As Gul Madred, Warner tortured the hell out of Jean-Luc Picard, which basically made the character Public Nerd Enemy No. 1., and he became so popular that he turned up in several Star Trek novels, the nerdiest literature known to man.
2) Aldous Gajic, Babylon 5 (1994)
?The only thing nerdier than playing a Star Trek character? Playing a Babylon 5 character, especially one who’s traveling through space in search of the Holy Grail. Not only did that quest become incredibly nerdy after 1945 (because, as we all know, it fell down a chasm in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, duh), but looking for the cup that caught the blood of Jesus Christ in space may be the nerdiest idea ever committed to fiction.
1) Ed Dillinger, Sark and the MCP, TRON (1982)
While not as nerdy as asking aliens where the Holy Grail is, creating a tiny version of yourself that lives in a computer and races motorcycles is certainly up there. And Warner doesn’t just play the evil computer programmer and his evil digital avatar — he also provides the voice of the Master Control Program, a giant spinning supercomputer who wants to take over the world. For playing the father, the son and the Holy Ghost of Tron — a movie so nerdy that nerds were still talking about it 25 years later and somehow managed to convince Disney to make a sequel to it — Warner has long ago cemented his position as the Pope of Nerds. Bow down and pledge your fealty to him.