Real Genius


Teenage geniuses deal with their abilities while developing a laser.

Release Year: 1985

Rating: 6.8/10 (14,550 voted)

Martha Coolidge

Stars: Val Kilmer, Gabriel Jarret, Michelle Meyrink

Mitch is one of the youngest students ever accepted to a university known for its programs for geniuses. He's partnered up with his roommate, science club legend Chris Knight, on a project to develop a high-powered laser. Together with their hyper-kinetic friends, they employ their intellects in the pursuit of bigger blasts, practical jokes, and a deeper understanding of what real genius is. When their final, functional laser is stolen by their teacher for a military weapon, they decide to get even.

Writers: Neal Israel, Neal Israel


Val Kilmer

Chris Knight

Gabriel Jarret

Mitch Taylor

(as Gabe Jarret)

Michelle Meyrink


William Atherton

Prof. Jerry Hathaway

Jon Gries

Lazlo Hollyfeld

(as Jonathan Gries)

Patti D'Arbanville

Sherry Nugil

Stacy Peralta

Shuttle Pilot

Daniel Ades

Laser Ray Victim

Andres Aybar


Louis Giambalvo

Maj. Carnagle

Ed Lauter

David Decker

Charles Shull

Air Force General

Beau Billingslea


Charles Parks


Sean Frye

Boy at Science Fair

It's yet another in a long series of diversions in an attempt to avoid responsibility.


Official Website:
Imperial [Poland] |

Release Date: 7 August 1985

Filming Locations: Crystal Springs Ranch, Canyon Country, California, USA

Gross: $13,000,000

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


When Hollyfeld sends in a large number of entries to the Frito-Lay contest, he is mirroring the actions of Caltech students Steve Klein, Dave Novikoff and Barry Megdal, who, in 1974, used a similar strategy to win a McDonald's sweepstakes. Their entries came to roughly 1/5th of the total entries and won them a station wagon, $3,000 cash and $1,500 in food gift certificates.


Plot holes:
When the students are trying to break into the military computer, Laslo comments, "Oh, we'll get in; it's just going to take six hours." A six letter string using only the 26 letters of the alphabet (and no numbers or case changes) has approximately 308.9 million possible combinations. There are about 31 million seconds in one year. That means that trying every combination once every five seconds would give Laslo the chance to try about 6.3 million combinations per year. Given that there are 300 million possible combinations, it would take approximately 47 years for Laslo to try every possible combination.


Chris Knight:
Jerry, if you think that by threatening me you can get me to be your slave… Well, that's where you're right. But – and I am only saying this because I care – there are a lot of decaffeinated brands on the market today that are just as tasty as the real thing.

Professor Hathaway:
I'm not kidding Chris.

Chris Knight:
Neither am I Jerry.

User Review

More than just a guilty pleasure of a movie . . .

Rating: 10/10

Siskel and Ebert once ran a special show entitled "Movies I'm
Embarrassed to Admit I Liked." I suppose that if I composed such a list
of guilty pleasures, this one would be one of them . . . but upon
reflection, it's really a lot better than that. Fifteen year-old
science prodigy Mitch (Gabe Jarret) is recruited by ambitious college
professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton, in yet another of his
patented roles as a loathsome character) to work on the professor's
prize laser project, not knowing that Hathaway is really developing a
government weapon. Along the way, Mitch is mentored by Chris (Val
Kilmer), another prodigy a few years his senior who teaches Mitch how
to loosen up.

This could have degenerated into nothing more than just another teen
revenge comedy, but there's so much more: the dialogue is laced with
sharp wit; there are some lovely scenes that have nothing to do with
the story yet are carefully set up, almost as blackouts (e.g., Mitch
goes to a lecture at which a few students have left tape recorders
instead of attending; later, at another lecture there are more tape
recorders than students; and, in a final scene, one large tape recorder
gives the lecture to a room populated by nothing but other small
recorders!); and throw-away scenes that make you want to stop and back
up the story to watch again (e.g., Chris off-handedly cutting a slice
off a bar of dry ice to make a slug for the coffee machine).

It's also one of the few movies to boast the presence of the memorable
Michelle Meyrink — as Jordan, the "girl-nerd" who made being smart and
female something to emulate. And there's Tears for Fears' great song,
"Everybody Wants to Rule the World" providing the perfect coda as the
closing credits begin to roll . . . . Yes: really now, what's there to
be embarrassed about?