The Real Genius of Science in the Movies

I’m going to agree with Tara, Evil Monkey, Steinn v2.0, and Chad on this week’s Ask a Science Blogger:

What movie do you think does something admirable (though not necessarily accurate) regarding science? Bonus points for answering whether the chosen movie is any good generally.

The answer: Real Genius, starring a young Val Kilmer (pre Top Gun) as the hotshot undergrad (Chris Knight) and the annoying EPA agent from Ghostbusters as his slimy advisor. Plus, it’s got Uncle Rico as the guy that lives in Knight’s closet and Stacey Peralta as, well, I’m not quite sure, but he’s listed on the first billing.

Here’s the plot in three sentences: Knight thinks he’s designing a high powered laser for telecommunications, but it’s actually a new secret weapon for the military. When Knight finds out, he and his buddies break into a military base and sabotage the training run. They aim the laser at their advisor’s house, igniting a ginormous container of instant popcorn. Happy ending and smiles all around. Along the way, the kids turn their dorm into a ice rink, go to a pool party complete with people in scuba gear, and put some douchebag’s car in his dorm room. Best. Science movie. Ever.

As the others have said, this movie is great because it makes science seem fun, and it makes scientists seem like real people. The scientists aren’t devoid of personality, they don’t spend their entire lives in labs wearing white coats, and they fuck up. The PI is a manipulative bastard, but he gets his due in the end, as does his devoted lackey. If only real life had such poetic justice (note: I have no problem with my advisor, but I have heard other folks complain about their mentors). Who cares if Chad thinks the science is bad, it’s got freakin’ lasers!!


  1. #1 sya
    August 4, 2006

    That movie is so cheesy, it’s great. Although I must say I like Real Genius less for its use of science and more for the parody it was of the institution I had attended as an undergrad.

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