138 user 53 critic

Real Genius (1985)

Teenage geniuses deal with their abilities while developing a high-powered laser for a university project. When their professor intends to turn their work into a military weapon, they decide to ruin his plans.


Martha Coolidge


Neal Israel (screenplay), Neal Israel (story) | 3 more credits »
4,054 ( 950)

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2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Val Kilmer ... Chris Knight
Gabriel Jarret ... Mitch Taylor (as Gabe Jarret)
Michelle Meyrink ... Jordan Cochran
William Atherton ... Prof. Jerry Hathaway
Jon Gries ... Lazlo Hollyfeld (as Jonathan Gries)
Patti D'Arbanville ... Sherry Nugil
Stacy Peralta ... Shuttle Pilot
Daniel Ades Daniel Ades ... Laser Ray Victim
Andres Aybar Andres Aybar ... Bartender
Louis Giambalvo ... Major Carnagle
Ed Lauter ... David Decker
Charles Shull Charles Shull ... Air Force General
Beau Billingslea ... George
Charles Parks Charles Parks ... Larry
Sean Frye ... Boy at Science Fair


Mitch Taylor is one of the youngest students ever accepted to a university known for its programs for geniuses. He partners up with his roommate, science club legend Chris Knight, on a project to develop a high-powered laser. Together with their hyperkinetic friends, they employ their intellects in the pursuit of bigger blasts, practical jokes, and a deeper understanding of what real genius means. When they find out that their professor intends to turn their work over to the military for use as a weapon, they decide to get even. Written by Lordship <lordship@juno.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


When he gets mad, he doesn't get even... he gets creative. See more »


Comedy | Romance | Sci-Fi


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

7 August 1985 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Real Genius See more »

Filming Locations:

Claremont, California, USA See more »


Box Office


$8,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Delphi III Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In their research for the movie, producer Brian Grazer and director Martha Coolidge were not surprised to discover that the term "genius" applies, as well, to a genius for mischief. Coolidge said: "Some of the most inspired practical jokers on college campuses are in the advanced science programs. They see a situation which seems perfectly normal and ask themselves, 'What's the funniest, most amazing thing I can do to turn this situation upside down?'. It's not just high spirits, but a release, a kind of safety valve, against the tremendous academic pressure they're under. It became the basis for a lot of the story's humor". See more »


Before the shot is fired on Dr. Hathaway's house, the aircraft used to deploy the laser is shown as three different planes. On the base, it is a dark B-1B Lancer, on the approach it is the spaceship from the opening of the movie, and on the closeup shots it is a camouflage fighter jet. See more »


Chris Knight: You unbelievable bastard.
Professor Hathaway: Count on it.
See more »

Alternate Versions

An edited version of Real Genius has appeared on American television. Some of the language has been altered, for instance "penis" to "pinkie", "bastard" to "bonehead", and "Jesus" to "God". Also, instead of the children playing in the popcorn as the final credits roll, we see a long-distance high-angle shot of the Professor's house as he comes home and discovers the popcorn. See more »


Featured in Atop the Fourth Wall: More Fun Comics #73 (2015) See more »


The Walls Come Down
Written by Michael Been
Performed by The Call
Courtesy of Polygram Records, Inc.
See more »

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User Reviews

You are not supposed to like the super smart kids, but these guys are rather cool.
28 April 2009 | by Aaron1375See all my reviews

This is a funny comedy movie from the 80's that just works thanks mainly to the spot on cast. Granted, Val Kilmer kind of steals the show. The movie has a simple enough plot to begin with and through the course of the movie gets bigger and bigger till it "pops". A very intelligent kid is coming on board at a school for very smart guys, can not remember if it is a college or just an advanced high school. He is a bit out of place, however, he is going to get to meet this legend. Unfortunately, this legend is not at all what he expects clowning around and such and being a rather fun guy. Granted he has a very good reason for this later in the movie. The movie has great scenes where the smart kids make it so dry ice is formed in the halls of the dorm and at one point they have a pool party. They are all in the end working on this laser project which is the central plot point in the film and what makes the plot go from just your typical school type movie to something a bit more. It ends on a very funny note and great ending scene too. So all in all a funny movie with likable characters, I prefer this "nerds" to the ones in "Revenge of the Nerds". Also, the first time I heard the very good Tears for Fears song "Everybody wants to rule the World".

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