When a character needs to be shown as a genius without devoting an entire scene to backstory or problem-solving to demonstrate this, the creator will have them solve or play around with a Rubik's cube. This is done to quickly establish the character's intelligence in as little time as possible so that the plot can start as quickly as possible. The quicker and more casually the character manages to solve the puzzle, the more intelligent they are meant to benote
. This trope can be employed in any genre and has been around for nearly as long as Rubik's cubes.
This trope was named by Matt Sloan
and Craig Johnson, of Chad Vader
fame, in their online movie review show, Welcome To The Basement
See also Smart People Play Chess
and Genius Book Club
- Batman. The villain The Calculator has been known to carry a Rubik's cube around to occupy his time, as he's apparently so smart that he gets bored easily.
- The Amazing Spider-Man: Peter Parker begins solving a freshly scrambled cube his uncle handed him. Because of how casually it is done, it is implied that Peter has solved the cube before and this is something that Uncle Ben does regularly.
- Armageddon: In an interview, a few main characters are asked to solve a Rubik's cube. Rockhound solves a Rubik's cube. Upon completion he says that it was a "piece of cake".
- Being John Malkovich: Charlie just fiddles around a bit with a Rubik's Cube for a few seconds. A cuber's habit is to toy around with Cubes while not solving them. Charlie throws up the Cube while it spins in the air, and then catches it.
- Donnie Darko: While Donnie is lying down in bed, thinking, he is playing with a Rubik's cube. Notably the Rubik's cube is a black and white one, quite possibly with M.C. Escher paintings on each side of the cube, instead of the regular white-blue-red-green-orange-yellow ones.
- Dude Wheres My Car?: Inverted. Over the course of the movie Chester solves a Rubik's cube, which is revealed to be the Continuum Transfunctioner the aliens are looking for. This is done despite the fact that Chester and Jesse are shown to be complete idiots.
- Hellboy: Subverted. Abe Sapien is recovering in his aquarium and tries to solve a Rubik's Cube. He talks with Liz Sherman and complains about his inability to solve the Rubik's Cube despite being indicated as highly intelligent as a member of the Genius Book Club. Furthermore, he claims to have only solved two sides over the course of three decades.
- Let the Right One In and its American remake Let Me In: Eli/Abby is shown to have solved a Rubik's cube prompting Oskar/Owen to inquire how she solved it.
- The Pursuit of Happyness: During a taxi ride with Mr Twistle, Chris says that he is able to solve a cube after Mr Twistle states that it is impossible Chris solves the whole cube. This opens Mr Twistle's eyes, and Chris is later invited for an interview.
- Barney Miller. Made shortly after the Cube became a national phenomenon, Wojo has one he's playing with. A Perp of the Week is a Mensa member who is a professional thief who had broken into the Mensa offices to steal. He doesn't particularly want to be smart, he always wanted to be one of the guys. Just before he's taken away to Manhattan South for processing he picks up the cube and solves it quickly. "Sorry, force of habit."
- On one episode of The Daily Show, Neil deGrasse Tyson walked onstage with a solved Rubik's cube. Once he'd done his bit, John Stewart tells the audience that they'd given Tyson the cube thirty seconds ago.
- An episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had Will impress an Ivy League college interviewer by solving a Rubik's Cube in a few seconds like it was nothing. The trick does not work when Carlton tries to adopt the same laid back attitude as Will for the interview, and fumbles around with the Cube without actually solving anything.
- MythBusters. Deconstructed. One of the Tropes Examined By The Myth Busters. Exploited, although not exactly "busted" by the MythBusters. They demonstrated that there are numerous ways for a not-particularly-smart person to succeed at solving a Rubik's cube just for appearances.
- Channel Four TV clips show Rude Tube gathers together Internet clips of note. One was of an American muscle-builder displaying proficiency at one-handed push-ups - whilst solving the Rubik's Cube one-handed with his free hand. He performed the feat in about thirty seconds.
- In Zeno Clash Golem carries around a Rubik's cube. It helps mark him out as very different from the Zenos. Firstly because it shows he's more intellectual (as opposed to their Might Makes Right form of government). Secondly because it completely clashes with the Stone Punk aesthetic of every other piece of technology. Zeno Clash 2 reveals it's also a sign he's incredibly bored (from standing guard to make sure none of the Zenos leave Zenozoik).
- In The Sims 2, Knowledge Sims will sometimes play with a Rubik's Cube when idle.
- Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Subverted. Albert Einstein is seen playing with a Rubik's cube. He appears to have solved it, but finds one tile out of place and smashes the whole thing in frustration.
- Note that a single tile being out of place is a sure sign that someone has sabotaged the cube. It's impossible to get from a 1 tile switched around cube to a solved cube, and vice versa, without either taking the cube partially apart or switching the stickers. Maybe he just doesn't like cheaters?
- WALL•E. After EVE has arrived on Earth, WALL·E takes her to his 'house' and shows her the (unsolved) Rubik's cube. The camera moves away following WALL·E and when it returns only a few seconds later, EVE has solved the Rubik's cube.
- The Dating Guy. VJ shows his simultaneous smarts and lack of social skills by solving a miniature Rubik's Cube inside his throat.
- In one episode of Jimmy Neutron, Jimmy uses a device that turns Sheen into a genius. One of the things Sheen did after that was solving a Rubik cube in about 5 seconds. While blindfolded...
- The Simpsons. When Homer becomes of above-average intelligence, he solves several cubes while not even thinking about them particularly hard.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Parodied. In one episode, Sandy makes a Rubik's cube that solves itself.
- In Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones?, Robot Jones (being a superintelligent robot) is the front runner in a Rubik's Cube competition. His rivals the Yogman twins cheat by switching two of the tile labels of Jones' cube to make it unsolvable.