[[quoteright:206:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Real_Genius_5337.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:206:[[BillingDisplacement That's Chris, not Mitch.]]]]

''Real Genius'' is a comedy/science fiction film produced in 1985, starring ValKilmer, Gabriel Jarret, Michelle Meyrink, and Creator/WilliamAtherton.

The movie starts out about Mitch, a 15 year old boy who designs a cutting edge laser for his high school science fair. This gains him the attention of professor and educational TV show (think ''Series/CosmosAPersonalVoyage'' with Creator/CarlSagan) host Jerry Hathaway, who offers to enter the wunderkind at ''[[FictionalCounterpart Pacific Tech]]'' as an accelerated student. There, Mitch takes classes taught by tape recorder and meets the irreverent Chris Knight; who tries to teach the younger Mitch that he can't take everything in life so seriously, particularly when Mitch ends up as the butt of this school's JerkJock Kent. (Though as this is an all science and engineering school the JerkJock types are all other geniuses themselves.)

As it turns out, Chris and Kent are competing for the same post-graduate position under Hathaway, and while Chris' lighthearted quasi-slacker attitude rankles the professor, Kent shamelessly toadies up and finally seems to triumph over the heroes when he sabotages Chris and Mitch's laser project work.

The final straw comes when Chris and Mitch discover that Hathaway has secretly contracted with the CIA to turn their laser into a [[KillSat weapon]] and take all the credit. Chris [[TechnologicalPacifist doesn't approve]], and recruits the genius kids of the university to help him take revenge on both the greedy Hathaway and Kent during the laser's first live-fire exercise.
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!!This film provides examples of:
* {{Adorkable}}: Jordan and Mitch.
* AmazinglyEmbarrassingParents:
** After speaking with Mitch's parents at the science fair, Dr. Hathaway asks them if, by any chance, Mitch is adopted.
** Mitch has to assure Jordan that the reason he won't take her to meet them is because he's ashamed of ''them'', not of her.
** After watching Hathaway on TV, Mitch's mother has only one question: is his hair real?
* AppliedPhlebotinum: The laser technology in general is real, but Chris' breakthrough on the five megawatt laser is pure {{Technobabble}}. Some of the college pranks, like Ick's "ice", toe the line because nobody bothers to explain exactly what it is.
* AwesomeButImpractical: Chris uses liquid nitrogen to freeze ice which he then cuts coin slugs from with a filament knife just to avoid paying for vending machines. Even putting aside the fact that he doesn't have to pay for the gas itself if he uses university resources, he still has to freeze it into a shape that fits into the coin slot and registers as a coin.
* {{Balloonacy}}: Some trailers and promotional material depict Chris floating in a deck chair held aloft by balloons. [[TrailersAlwaysLie This didn't make the final cut of the film, however.]]
* BigBlackout: Chris Knight causes one when he turns on his laser beam pathway for the "Tanning Invitational" It's not known how far spread the blackout is; the audience only sees the Pacific Tech campus.
-->'''Chris Knight''': "Relax. That's just the fuses at the substation, they'll have it back on in a minute. Maybe I shouldn't have shorted across the building transformer. But more important: did we get a charge?"
* BillingDisplacement: ValKilmer had top billing, though Gabriel Jarret played the main character and had more screen time.
* BlondGuysAreEvil: Especially Kent
* BreakoutCharacter: It's hard to remember that Chris Knight ''wasn't'' the main character. Even the DVD box cover gives Kilmer the only billing, and uses only his photo.
* BuffySpeak: "Put simply - in deference to Kent - it's like lasing a stick of dynamite."
* CallBack:
** "It's a moral imperative," used first by Chris to inspire Mitch; later Mitch returns the favor.
** Mitch, having fallen asleep while studying, has a nightmare. "No, not the mailbox again!"
* TheCastShowoff: WordOfGod says that Val Kilmer insisted his trick walking coins along the backs of his knuckles make it into the film at some point. It's shown in the first montage.
* ChekhovsGun: Popcorn.
* CloudCuckoolander: Lazlo, who lives in underground steam tunnels accessed via Chris and Mitch's closet.
* ClosetSublet: Lazlo, as described above, appears at first to live in the closet.
* ComicallyMissingThePoint: A frequent source of zingers for Chris.
* ComingOfAgeStory: A major theme of the film -- Mitch is the primary example, but Chris, Jordan, and Lazlo get to do some growing up by the end.
* CoolAndUnusualPunishment: Kent winds up in a house being filled to the breaking point with laser-popped popcorn...and has an absolute blast. In fact it seems to give him a better disposition in the end.
* DawsonCasting: While Gabe Jarret was indeed 15 at the time of filming, Val Kilmer was 26.
* DeadpanSnarker: Chris
* DisastrousDemonstration: Invoked by the heroes to ensure the space-laser will never be deployed.
* DoesNotLikeSpam: Hathaway hates popcorn, and dogs. No points for guessing what his HumiliationConga involves.
* FictionalCounterpart: Pacific Tech for [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Institute_of_Technology Caltech]]. What's really cool about it is that at first, Caltech was eager to help make the movie... at least until they learned it was critical of the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Defense_Initiative Strategic Defense Initiative]] in general and [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Teller Edward Teller]] in particular; as Caltech operates and manages NASA's neighboring Jet Propulsion Laboratory, they couldn't afford to critique the man, let alone be involved in a movie which cast Creator/WilliamAtherton as his counterpart. But it all turned out perfectly anyway, as a Caltech alumni came out of the woodwork to provide assistance - and [[http://alumnus.caltech.edu/~erich/real_genius_refs.html load the film]] with {{Easter Egg}}s.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: At the beginning of the movie, Kent tells Mitch that orders go "...from God, to Jerry, to me." Later on, "Jesus" talks directly to Kent, changing the middleman as it were.
* FrickinLaserBeams: The plot centers around building a big one, for use in a KillSat. It behaves like a real laser, though.
* FriendlyAddressPrivileges: As the star pupil of the school, Chris is allowed to call Jerry by his first name. Kent isn't.
* GeniusSlob: Chris dresses like a beach bum and his room is a complete dump.
* GenkiGirl: Jordan is hyperactive to the point of not sleeping, never stops talking, and glomps Mitch almost as soon as he shows up.
* GiantFood: Mitch is offered a cherry the size of a baseball by another student. "I grow them myself."
* GodGuise: Jordan implants a radio transceiver in Kent's braces, whereupon Mitch pretends to be Jesus to learn what Hathaway plans to do with the laser.
-->'''Mitch''': "And from now on, stop playing with yourself."\\
'''Kent''': "It ''is'' God!"
* HardWorkMontage: Several, including Mitch settling in at the college and Mitch and Chris working on the laser.
* HeroicBSOD: Chris has one once he learns the laser's true purpose.
* HighlyVisiblePassword: Lazlo's attempts to hack into the military computer are masked while typing, but then subsequently displayed anyways. PASSWORD: ###### (trying "AAAAAD"). This would likely be normal behavior for a brute-force script, as it would produce such comments as local notifications. However, it was shown that Lazlo was typing the entries by hand.
* HighSchoolHustler: Chris Knight, although this is in a university.
* HollywoodNerd: Chris, Mitch, Jordan, Ick... practically the entire student cast.
* HumiliationConga: At the end, for Hathaway. His project is ruined and likely going to be audited, which will uncover his skimming off the top to pay for renovations on his home. Said house has been destroyed... by popcorn, which he hates. And finally the dog that he can't stand [[LickedByTheDog shows up to commiserate]].
* IAteWhat: The {{Trope Namer|s}}, though the actual example isn't related; Chris talks Mitch into tasting something, and when Mitch asks what it is, Chris says, "I don't know, I found it in one of the labs," then, after [[SpitTake a lot of spitting]], lets on he was joking; it's just yogurt. The actual Trope Namer comes from something Chris says later in the movie "I was thinking of the immortal last words of Socrates who said, 'I drank what?'"
* TheInsomniac: Jordan
-->'''Jordan:''' I never sleep, I don't know why. I had a roommate and I drove her nuts, I mean really nuts, they had to take her away in an ambulance and everything. But she's okay now, but she had to transfer to an easier school, but I don't know if that had anything to do with being my fault. But listen, if you ever need to talk or you need help studying just let me know, 'cause I'm just a couple doors down from you guys and I never sleep, okay?
* IntelligenceEqualsIsolation: Mitch is fairly disconnected from the social scene due to his high intelligence being off-putting to others. Chris talks to Mitch about being much the same when younger.
* JailBaitWait: Sherry Nugil attempts to seduce Mitch upon his sixteenth birthday. Her advances repulse him, however, because he's much more interested in Jordan.
* JerkAss: Kent, Dr. Hathaway, Chris ([[JerkWithAHeartOfGold though the latter restricts these tendencies to the uncool characters]]). Decker, who casually orders one of his colleagues murdered at the beginning of the film, and is implied he might do the same to Hathaway if he doesn't produce a working laser.
* JerkJock: Kent is the closest you'll find at a school full of nerds.
* KickTheDog: Kent records Mitch's teary phone conversation with his parents and later plays it over the cafeteria loudspeakers to humiliate Mitch.
* KidsAreCruel: "They stuffed me into a mailbox -- did I ever tell you that?"
* KillSat: The film opens with a CIA mockup presentation of a laser beam used to conduct precise orbital assassinations. Hathaway has the contract to build the genuine article. However, the plan is not to put the laser on a satellite but aboard a shuttle that would launch, conduct an assassination, and then land.
* LickedByTheDog: Hathaway. Naturally, he can't stand dogs.
* ManicPixieDreamGirl: Jordan, who bursts in on Mitch while [[MaleRestroomEtiquette he's in the bathroom]] and all but glomps him -- entirely innocently; she wants to give him a sweater she knitted for him overnight. Part of ''her'' CharacterDevelopment occurs when Mitch starts paying serious attention to her; she calms down and develops a personality other than "hyperactive girl".
* AManIsNotAVirgin: {{Subverted}} by Mitch when he resists Sherry Nugil's advances, but promptly DoubleSubverted when he then proceeds to make out with Jordan, with the implication that they had sex or are at least now dating.
* MenCantKeepHouse: Chris Knight's half of the dorm is an unabashed disaster area, even in comparison to the rest of the dorm.
* MotorMouth: Jordan tends to talk in long strings of sentences, with just barely enough of a pause to catch her breath when necessary.
* NerdsAreSexy: Sherry Nugil seems to think so, as she sets out to seduce the ten smartest men in the world, and despite Mitch turning her down, eventually ends up with [[spoiler:Lazlo]].
* NoodleIncident:
** We never do find out much about Lazlo's big project in TheSeventies, aside from Chris mentioning that it hurt people and drove Lazlo into a HeroicBSOD.
*** Given the timing, as well as the theme of the movie (being able to kill selected targets with unstoppable DeathFromAbove and our heroes not liking that), its likely that Lazlo helped invent the 'smart bomb'. The mid-70s and the Linebacker-II bombing program is when precision-guided munitions came into their own.
** There was apparently an incident where Chris found Kent naked with a bowl of Jell-O.
--->'''Kent:''' I was hot, and I was hungry!
* NoOSHACompliance: While the laser lab appears up to spec on the surface, some of the kids' practices while utilizing it are anything but. At one point, Chris handles supercooled materials with oven mitts and tongs, and is seen using a welder's mask in place of safety goggles. Most horrifyingly, when the five megawatt laser is fired, it goes through the cinder blocks, the wall, and halfway across town -- it's a miracle nobody was killed.
* OutWithABang: Poor Professor Hostetler...
* PositiveDiscrimination: The only member of the shadowy government agency that objects to the assassination laser plan is also the sole black guy. And then they "[[BlackDudeDiesFirst Liberate]]" him. Or is that "[[NeverSayDie Liquidate]]"?
* RunningGag: Mitch's classmates for one lecture keep disappearing, leaving recording devices in the room so they can skip class. Eventually Mitch is the only one remaining, as even the ''instructor'' has ditched class and left a tape playing in his stead.
* SatelliteLoveInterest: Sherry Nugil is a variation. Out of the three scenes total that she appears in, two of them are spent as a willing love interest for a main character.
* ScienceMarchesOn: The plot would be rather different if the attempt to hack the laser's targeting computer didn't require Chris and Mitch to actually go to the site and switch out its (very large) chips. Also, Lazlo's elaborate setup so he can fill out contest entry cards looks a bit silly now that you can go down and buy a fast, cheap printer at almost any store.
* ShoutOut: "Drain Experts, Inc." and "Darlington Electronic Instruments" are references to... [[ThingsManWasNotMeantToKnow well, let's just say they're references and leave it at that]]. [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_System_at_the_California_Institute_of_Technology#Dabney_House Enter if you dare]].
* TechnologicalPacifist: Lazlo (and also Chris and Mitch to some extent)
* TechnologyMarchesOn:
** When this film was made, a weapon that could precisely pinpoint an enemy's vehicle or residence by remote control still seemed like scifi. Today its experimental space-to-ground laser, although still very advanced, would be an over-built boondoggle in comparison to drones, which can do the same job far more cheaply.
** The ice-in-the-vending-machine trick would never work today, as modern vending machines in the U.S. check incoming coins' magnetic signature to ensure they're not slugs or Canadian currency.
* TheThreeFacesOfAdam: Mitch Taylor is [[DesperatelyLookingForAPurposeInLife the Hunter]], Chris Knight is [[TheAce the Lord]], and Lazlo Hollyfeld is [[MentorArchetype the Prophet]].
* JustForFun/TropesExaminedByTheMythBusters: You ''can'' pop popcorn with a laser. Popped popcorn ''doesn't'' exert enough pressure to destroy a house from the inside.
* TVGenius: Averted, most of the kids, minus some hyperactivity disorders, speak rather like normal humans. Notable in the ice scene when Ick says that the ice is going to go from solid to gas and doesn't use the actual word for this process, sublimation.
* UnderdressedForTheOccasion: At a job interview, no less. This is deliberate on Chris' part, however; he is trying his hardest ''not'' to be taken seriously, at least until Hathaway threatens to throw him out.
* UnintentionalPeriodPiece: This movie could only have been made in [[TheEighties the 80s]], when the Strategic Defense Initiative was a pressing concern. Not to mention that [[TechnologyMarchesOn computer technology has marched along]] quite significantly since then.
* UnusuallyUninterestingSight: Pacific Tech seems to run on this, but it's most egregious in one scene when a student walks down the hall, right past Chris and co. wearing gas masks while gassing Kent's room, and merely says "hi."
* VanillaEdition: The sole DVD release doesn't have any deleted scenes, cast/crew commentary, or trailers and/or TV spots for the movie itself. But it ''does'' have trailers for ''Film/{{Hook}}'' and ''Film/{{Jumanji}}''.
* TheVoice: Invoked. Jordan, Chris, Ick and Mitch stick a transmitter in Kent's braces to make him ''think'' God is talking to him.
* YouRemindMeOfX:
** Chris sees himself in young Mitch.
--->'''Chris''': ''You see Mitch, I used to be you. And lately I've been missing me so I asked Dr. Hathaway if I could room with me again and he said sure.''
** Later on, he [[SincerityMode sincerely]] expands on this; IntelligenceEqualsIsolation.
--->'''Chris''': ''When I was three years old, I balanced my father's checkbook. They sent me to school and fired their accountant. My father was so intimidated, he stopped speaking to me. My teachers disliked me because I was smarter than they were. My classmates hated me because I broke the bell curve. Sound familiar? My mother dressed me in white shirts, hush puppies and a briefcase, guaranteeing that no girl would ever talk to me.''
* YourPrincessIsInAnotherCastle: The second to last laser prototype that was successful [[spoiler: until Kent sabotaged it]].

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