A truly talented actor can make you believe anything – that they are a stoner, a princess, a serial killer, or even a complete idiot. Some actors even get type-cast and continuously convince you they ARE that one type of person. In reality, this kind of talent also takes extreme intelligence. You’ll be shocked to look through this list of insanely popular celebrities that are MORE than good-looks and silly on-screen behavior. These celebs are Ivy League grads. Behind these perfect smiles and witty banter are real life geniuses – and they have the paperwork to prove it!
Julie Bowen – Brown University Grad
You’ll recognize her as the type-A, stay-at-home mom from Modern Family, but she has a Brown degree to back up all of her TV sitcom awards. She always did seem to play a pretty straight-laced, smart woman, though. You can also see this side of her in Happy Gilmore, Lost, and Boston Legal. In 2010, she was even on Jeopardy!
James Franco – Yale
The first thing that comes to mind when you picture James Franco is a stoner. He often plays a too-honest, not bright stoner who gets himself into mishaps, run-ins with the law, or offends everyone around him. He must be the greatest actor of all time, because he also attended Yale (not easy to get into is putting it mildly). More than that, he actually has a number of different degrees from prestigious schools and attended New York University at one point, too. Even James Franco can’t fake that…
Donald Trump – University of Pennsylvania
Donald Trump, extremely popular politician, billionaire businessman, and reality TV king didn’t get to the top by accident. Coming from a prominent, wealthy family, naturally Donald would attend an Ivy League school. Using his status and education, he climbed from college, to business, to TV, to Washington (maybe…)
Natalie Portman – Harvard University
While what we know of Natalie Portman (star of the Star Wars prequel trilogy and award-winning actress in Black Swan) hearing that she attended the prestigious Harvard isn’t a very far stretch. She wasn’t the only well-known face at Harvard at the time. Mark Zuckerberg was studying there at the exact same time! This Jerusalem born celeb also speaks Hebrew and has been published in scientific journals.
Bill Maher – Cornell
New York City born Bill Maher must have honed his speaking and political skills in college when he attended Cornell. HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher was not his first step into television or political satire. He was also host of Comedy Central’s Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher as well as appearing on many other shows.
Meryl Streep – Yale
While Meryl Streep can, quite literally, pull off ANY type of role, she surely can also get into Yale. This woman of many talents did not stop at Hollywood stardom and used her high intelligence to further her education at Yale. Whether she’s on the screen as a high powered magazine editor, haggard conniving witch, or vain washed up has-been, you can believe she’s a brilliant mind in real life. Streep was also a student at Vassar and Dartmouth in her youth.
Matt Damon – Harvard
This is not a joke. While you remember Matt Damon’s breakout role as an actor and writer in Good Will Hunting as a secretly brilliant janitor, Damon also attended the university in real life. Being a brainiac and growing up in Boston, doesn’t it seem like a logical step for this celeb? Matt always did seem to exude a sense of brilliance onscreen as well with roles in The Talented Mr. Ripley and the Bourne series.
Emma Watson – Brown University
Most widely known for her role as Hermoine in the wildly popular Harry Potter series of films, Emma Watson is also coming to be well respected and regarded as wise on social media. Is it any wonder that after arriving in the U.S. from England that she would attend Brown University. Emma, with a beautiful and intelligent head on her shoulders is proving females really CAN have it all.
Claire Danes – Yale
Claire Danes seemed to disappear for awhile after her breakout role on the teenage drama My So Called Life and hit films like Romeo & Juliet and Little Women in the late 90’s. It wasn’t because she couldn’t get another acting job – she was busy doing more important things… like getting a degree at Yale! This smart cookie took a break at a high point in her career to get an Ivy League education, then came back to Hollywood full force with roles in The Hours, Terminator 3, and Temple Grandin (which won her an Emmy and a Golden Globe).
Mindy Kaling – Dartmouth
Way before Mindy became the star and creator of the hugely successful sitcom The Mindy Project, and even before her hilarious role as Kelly Kapoor in The Office, in which she gained her initial notoriety, she attended Dartmouth. Mindy’s actual given name is Vera (though no one calls her that) and was born to very smart parents (an architect and an OB/GYN!) I guess we know where she gets it…
Conan O’Brien – Harvard
Late night sensation Conan O’Brien not only graduated from Harvard, but he did it WITH HONORS. Also Massachusetts born, it isn’t a shock that Conan opted for Harvard, since his father, a doctor, was also a professor of medicine at the university and his mother was a partner in a Boston law firm. Conan’s writing and comedy talents have been seen on his own late night show as well as The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live.
Anna Paquin – Columbia
Anna Paquin, at age 11 became the second youngest Academy Award winner for her role in The Piano. After accomplishing such a huge feat so early, Anna took a break to complete her education, which included Columbia University. Paquin is now more famously known for her role as Sookie Stackhouse on the vampire series True Blood for which she won a Golden Globe award.
John Legend – University of Pennsylvania
Handsome. Talented musician. A voice to melt your heart. And a brilliant mind. John Legend is a University of Pennsylvania graduate on top of all of his other successes. Did we mention he’s also married to a supermodel and about to have his first child? Gentlemen, take note. An Ivy League degree will get you very, very far.
Paul Giamatti – Yale
Among a Yale degree, Paul can also add 4 time Screen Actor’s Guild award winner, 2 time Golden Globe winner, and Emmy award winner to his list of accomplishments.
Jon Krasinski – Brown University
Before his days at Brown, Krasinski taught English as a second language in Costa Rica. Afterwards, this Brown graduate went on to steal the show on the hit sitcom The Office, which launched him into movies like Leatherheads, Away We Go, and License to Wed. Though most automatically think of “Jim and Pam” when they see Jon Krasinski, he’s actually expecting his second child with wife, actress Emily Blunt.
Elizabeth Banks – University of Pennsylvania
Most recently known for her outlandish style as Effie Trinket in the Hunger Games films and her sassy, no-filter announcer role in the Pitch Perfect movies, Elizabeth Banks is one smart cookie. She’s portrayed a wide range of roles – from evil stepmother to reserved First Lady of the United States to porn-star wannabe. In real life, she was a sorority girl who graduated magna cum laude at U. of Penn.
David Duchovny – Princeton
It must not have been a stretch for David Duchovny to play a genius FBI agent in The X-Files. This Princeton grad was obviously already a brainiac, although his degree has nothing to do with science or criminal justice. His B.A. is in English Literature. Duchovny has even published two books!
Edward Norton – Yale
A priest. An Air Force Colonel. A scout master. An illusionist. A cop… The INCREDIBLE HULK. What can’t this guy do? Not much, apparently. He was even able to work his way through Yale.
Laura Linney – Brown University
What are Laura’s claims to fame? How about 2 Golden Globes, 4 Emmys, several Academy Award and Tony Award nominations and… oh yeah… She graduated from Brown University! This Ivy Leaguer is more remembered for her talents in The Truman Show, Love Actually, Mystic River, and many many others.
B.J. Novak – Harvard
First noticed on screen as “the intern” Ryan on NBC’s The Office, this guy is far more involved off screen with his many writing credits. He also got his start in comedy. But first, this Massachusetts native went to Harvard. It seems like Massachusetts folks really strive for that Harvard acceptance…
Jake Gyllenhaal – Columbia University
Although he only went there for two years, Jake attended Columbia (along with sister Maggie who was a senior at the time) and followed in the footsteps of his mother, who was also a Columbia graduate. Jake does express that he’d like to finish his degree, eventually.
Paul Newman – Yale
Paul Newman was an American actor, film director, entrepreneur, professional racing driver and team owner, environmentalist, activist and philanthropist.But we don’t need to tell you that. (He’s pretty famous, right?) This jack-of-all-trades also went to Yale. What else would we expect from such a success?
Rashida Jones – Harvard
This daughter of Peggy Lipton and Quincy Jones originally wanted to be a lawyer, but changed her mind after the O.J. Simpson trial. She went to Harvard anyway, but studied religion and philosophy while performing in several plays and with an acapella group. Naturally, this led to her successes in Hollywood as an actor, writer, producer and singer.
Art Garfunkel – Columbia University
Before he got hooked up with Paul Simon and became a music legend, Art Garfunkel was a fraternity brother at Columbia University. Although he started out studying architecture, he ended up with two degrees – a Bachelor’s in art history and a Master’s in mathematics.
John Lithgow – Harvard
It takes a brilliant man to portray so many different characters across a lifetime of TV, stage and film roles. Lithgow is one such smarty from Harvard. He is known across several decades from Broadway in the 1970’s to Footloose and Terms of Endearment in the 1980’s, to an alien in 3rd Rock from the Sun in the 1990’s, to a plethora of epic films and TV appearances in the 2000’s. This Harvard know it all shows no sign of stopping.
Liev Schreiber – Yale
Liev’s Masters from the Yale School of Drama is only one of many accolades this actor has earned. He was drawn in by the stage and ultimately ended up on screen. As the son of a stage actor and producer and a “far out Socialist Labor Party hippie bohemian freak” where else would Liev end up but Hollywood?
Tommy Lee Jones – Harvard
Tommy Lee Jones seems in control of just about every epic, disastrous, or exciting situation he comes across on screen. He must have learned that from his days at Harvard. And you’ll never guess who his famous roommate was… Former United States Vice President, democrat Al Gore.
Jane Lynch – Cornell
Funny AND smart seems to be a theme with these Ivy League ladies. Cornell graduate Jane Lynch continues to crack up audiences on TV and the big screen alike. All of this while being deaf in one ear as the result of a high fever as a child. Funny, smart AND tough.
Anderson Cooper – Yale
As did many other Ivy Leaguers, Anderson Cooper is from a long line of ridiculously wealthy ancestors. Being part of the Vanderbilt family pretty much makes an Ivy League education mandatory. Anderson is a Yale grad, but also a former model and now CNN anchorman often on the scene of breaking news.
Ashley Judd – Harvard
Though this daughter of country singer Naomi Judd and talented actress in her own right attended the University of Kentucky, she later earned a Mid-Career Master of Public Administration degree (MC/MPA) from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2010 through the Mid-Career Master of Public Administration program (MC/MPA). While many of these celebrities started out in the Ivy Leagues, Judd did it after she was already a star.
Brooke Shields – Princeton
Shields certainly proved that she’s not just another pretty face. While gaining notoriety as a child model and starring in feature films as a teenager, Brooke Shields still wanted more. She left modeling to attend none other than Princeton, studying French literature. She returned to acting in the 90’s and is still going strong today.
Aisha Tyler – Dartmouth
At Dartmouth, Tyler co-founded and sang in the Dartmouth Rockapellas, an all-female a cappella group. Since then, she’s led a life of comedy (and sometimes drama) on television and movies. You can see her in action now on Supergirl and Criminal Minds.
Maggie Gyllenhaal – Columbia University
This big sister was always one step ahead of little brother Jake. When Jake had his short stint in the Ivy Leagues, Maggie was already a senior. With a last name like Gyllenhaal, one almost needs an Ivy League degree to spell it correctly. This overachiever is also politically active and involved in charity work.
Jennifer Connelly – Yale
From her days as a child model and her breakout role in Labyrinth beside the legendary David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly has come a long way – including studying at Yale for two years before transferring to Stanford to study drama. Beyond her brain, Connelly has been ranked as one of the most beautiful women in the world by several big publications.
Ivanka Trump – University of Pennsylvania
Arguably the most famous of the Trump children, Ivanka followed in daddy’s footsteps and attended the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. This former model is a very successful businesswoman on her own, as well as Executive Vice President of Development & Acquisitions at the Trump Organization. While she clearly gets her good looks from her mother, her head for business comes from a long line of successful Trumps.
Henry Winkler – Yale
FONZIE went to YALE? Ok, Fonzie didn’t, but Henry Winkler did. That’s why he’s so cool…
Jodie Foster – Yale
Modeling at 3. Acting at age 5. Yale. During her freshman year at Yale, Foster was stalked by John W. Hinckley, Jr., a mentally disturbed man who had developed an obsession with her after watching Taxi Driver. This same man later attempted to assassinate President Reagan in an attempt to impress her. Though Foster is extremely successful and is still on screen, she remains very private and keeps out of the public eye as much as possible.