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Film / Revenge of the Nerds

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Ogre, when he first spots Gilbert and Lewis at Adams College

Revenge of the Nerds (1984) is a classic '80s teen sex comedy, one of the rarer breed that takes place in college instead of High School. After the football team accidentally burns down their shared house in an ill-conceived 'fire breathing' stunt, they commandeer the freshman dorms as their own. The Freshmen are allowed to pledge fraternities earlier than usual so they'll have a place to live, but your typical frats' well-known aversion to scholarly types leaves the nine nerdiest new students out in the cold.

Not to be discouraged, the nerds decide to start their own frat, and through an oversight are given permission to set up a branch of the normally all-black fraternity Lambda Lambda Lambda (ΛΛΛ). But all is not well; the existing frats, not to mention the resident jocks, don't appreciate nerds horning in on their territory, and so begins a war of attrition that involves vandalism, nude photos, the liberal application of 'liquid heat' to jockstraps, and various other wacky hijinks.

Was followed by three more sequels, one a theatrical film and the last two Made For TV Movies:

  • Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise (1987). The second movie sends the nerds to a national fraternity conference in Florida where they once again have to put up with a Jerk Jock fraternity that gives them no end of grief.
  • Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation (1992). The third movie focuses on a new batch of nerds going to the same college as the first, which has become a paradise for geeks, nerds and outcasts. However, an alumnus of the college isn't happy with this and, teaming with a former nemesis from the first movie, proceeds to try to change the pecking order of the school. The new cast, of course, goes on the offensive.
  • Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love (1994). The fourth and final movie finds one of the original nerds getting married, but the father of the bride objects to the union and tries to break them up. It's up to the original cast to keep the wedding going as scheduled.

A remake began production in late 2006, but was canceled before completion.

"Tropes of the Nerds"

  • Absurdly Powerful School Jurisdiction: The municipal police have zero authority on Adams College campus. It's implied the school is so powerful that the local police leaves it completely alone.
  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council: When the Nerds are victims of vandalism and property damage the local police inform them that civil authorities are powerless to oppose a fraternity and if they want justice they need to talk to the Greek Council (who apparently can out-vote the Dean of Students).
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted with Betty Childs.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Played With. The haughty Pi cheerleaders are certainly considered hot, but the plain jane Omega Mus (ΩΜ) seem to get just as much tail.
  • Alpha Bitch: Betty, though unusually she is only seen picking on boys, not other girls.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Alpha-Betas
  • Ambulance Chaser: Dudley "Booger" Dawson from the first film is an attorney by the third film, and when they call him for legal help, he is tailgating an ambulance.
    Booger: I'm on my way to meet a client.
  • And Starring: John Goodman as Coach Harris.
  • Badass Bookworms: The Nerds, especially when the Jocks decide they haven't had enough.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Partially subverted in that Betty and Stan eventually have Heel Face Turns, but played straight for the most part.
  • Bed Trick: Lewis engages in covert seduction via a Darth Vader mask. She finds out it's not her boyfriend when he unmasks halfway through, and is briefly upset - but then decides he's a great lover and is in heat for him thereafter.
    Lewis: All jocks ever think about is sports. All we [nerds] ever think about is sex.
  • Beef Bandage: In Part IV Booger's fiancee's mother faints when she meets him and bangs her head, so he gets her a steak to put on the wound.
  • Blowing Smoke Rings: During the ΛΛΛ party, one of the Mus coaxes Lewis up to his room to have sex. Later, he's seen at the top of the stairs wearing a red Hugh Hefner robe, smoking a pipe and blowing smoke rings.
  • Brains Versus Brawn: The entire film is a conflict between the traditional frats run by football players and the Stereotypical Nerd freshmen who have decided to start their own frat after being rejected from all the rest. The two sides eventually compete officially in the Greek Games, in which the nerds upset the athletically superior Jerk Jocks by using their quick thinking.
  • Brick Joke: Booger demands to see "bush" after the nerds plant hidden cameras in the girls dorm. In the second movie Booger comes across a giant marijuana plant and drops to his knees in awe, exclaiming, "Bush...."
  • Broken Aesop: A major theme in the first movie is to be true to one's self. Ironically, the subsequent movies promote the idea that a person has to dress and act a certain way (like a "nerd") to be considered a good person. Two of the series' relevant jock characters end up undergoing a Heel–Face Turn that utterly changes their personalities.
  • The Brute: Ogre in the first movie, though he becomes The Big Guy and even levels up to Genius Bruiser in the second film.
  • Burping Contest: Dudley "Booger" Dawson vs. Ogre. Point goes to Booger, thanks to a belch that lasts a full twelve seconds.
  • Captain Ersatz: Snotty in the second film is a pretty obvious parody of Mr. Miyagi.
  • Carload of Cool Kids: The Alpha Beta fraternity let loose a bunch of pigs at the ΛΛΛ house. When the ΛΛΛ run outside to see what's going on, the ΑΒs moon them from the back of the pig truck and then drive off.
  • The Cavalry: The ΛΛΛ Scary Black Man backup frat brothers.
  • Chekhov's Skill : Wormser's aerodynamic "hobby," which is mentioned early in the film and comes in handy during the carnival.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Gilbert in the third movie. In all of sequels, Coach Harris, Burke, and all the other Alpha Betas aside from Stan and Ogre are never seen again.
    • Lampshaded in the 4th film when Ogre asks where the hell is Gilbert during that party early in the film.
  • College Is "High School, Part 2": Played straight until the third film, where it's inverted at first.
  • Comedic Sociopathy : The establishing "character moment" for Ogre: he drops someone head first off the roof.
  • Cozy Catastrophe: In a small-scale example, the Alpha Betas seem remarkably cheerful about having just lost everything but the clothes on their backs to a fire their own recklessness started.
    • They were probably very, very drunk when they were watching the dorms burn.
  • Creepy Crossdressers: The Alpha Betas dress like cheerleaders for their Greek Games musical skit, and are still in drag when their coach chews them out for the "unmanliness" of losing to nerds.
  • Death Glare: U.N. Jefferson's 'reinforcement ΛΛΛ's look ready, willing and eager to rip apart any Alpha Beta dumb enough to step up. The Alpha Betas want no part of these guys, despite outnumbering them significantly.
  • Demoted to Extra: Gilbert is a protagonist of the first movie, a supporting character in the second, makes a cameo in the third, and is entirely absent from the fourth.
    • All of the returning nerds (save Lewis and Booger) only make cameos in the third movie. Those that came back for the fourth movie got more screen-time, except for Stan (possibly due to Ted McGinley being busy on Married... with Children).
    • Gilbert's decline in screen time in each movie can be attributed to Anthony Edwards becoming a bigger star in magnitude. By the time Nerds In Love comes around, Edwards is starring in a major role on ER.
  • Deus ex Machina: Jefferson and several national ΛΛΛ brothers arrive when Gilbert is about to get the crap beat out of him by the Alpha Betas in the Moment of Awesome.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: What kicks off the whole conflict when the jocks burn down their frat house then take over the dorms the nerds were staying at. And even then, when the nerds find a place of their own and are living peacefully, the jocks still won't quit.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The ΩΜ's to the ΛΛΛ guys. The Pis are this to the Alphas as well, being the cheerleaders to their jocks.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Lewis smokes one after having sex with one of the Mus during their party.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: ΛΛΛ has been a historically all-black fraternity. Without even realising this, the jocks leave a burning sign on their lawn and send pigs in to their party, all because they are nerds. It's implied UN Jefferson was thinking along the same lines.
    • Also somewhat reminiscent the way the nerdy characters are initially treated by just about everyone they come across.
  • The Dog Bites Back: You can only pick on a nerd so much...
  • Dork Horse Candidate: The heroes want to take over the school council and get revenge on the jocks.
  • Drugs Are Good: Booger brings pot to the ΛΛΛ party, and the weed gives the party the kickstart it so desperately needed.
  • Fiction Isn't Fair: When the Alpha Betas stupidly burn down their fraternity mansion during a party, the school kicks the nerds out of their dorms and lets the Alpha Betas move in. This would never happen in real life. Most likely, all the Alpha Betas would be expelled, and the individuals responsible for buring down the mansion would be charged with arson.
  • For the Evulz: When the Nerds move into their own off-campus house, the Alpha Betas continue to try to force them out for its own sake.
  • Foreshadowing: Anyone who noticed which Talking Heads song ( "Burning Down the House") was playing at the start of the Gargle Blaster scene wasn't surprised at all by how the Alpha Beta House party ended.
  • Gargle Blaster: The "fireball" liquor, which is ridiculously high proof. Stan can't get through a single shot of it without spewing it out in a cloud of liquor vapor. Another brother then starts doing fire blowing tricks with it which ends up burning down the AB house.
  • Groin Attack: Whilst on their revenge quest, the nerds collect the Alpha Betas' jock straps and soak them with liquid heat muscle rub. The next time they take the field for practice, the jocks end up screaming in pain.
  • Hachimaki: Takashi dons the Kamikaze headband before going on the panty raid.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Betty, after Lewis pulls the Bed Trick on her. (In her case, it's more a Sex–Face Turn.)
    • And Ogre in the sequel.
    • Stan himself does it in the third movie.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • The antagonists commit various crimes against the "Nerds," but are told by police that it's "out of their jurisdiction;" since it's "college pranks—" even outright crimes like assault, battery, terrorism, and malicious destruction of property; in response, the Nerds commit other crimes against the jocks in "revenge—" including one "Nerd," Lewis, having sex with a cheerleader by posing as her boyfriend (which is fraud of various sorts). In reality, college campus police do have jurisdiction over "Frat Pranks" and so do the regular police! That's because state laws do not recognize college campuses as sovereign boundaries or "no-man's lands". So both sides of this feud could have gotten in serious legal trouble. A Robot Chicken Deconstructive Parody even showed this to be true and LegalEagle did a video breaking down the various crimes that were committed.
    • And the parents could and should have sued Adams College for evicting their sons from the double dorm rooms they'd paid considerable money for, considering that the eviction proceedings involved the residents and their possessions being bodily flung out doors and windows by the jocks.
    • In the third movie, when the nerds claim their basic human rights, the judge replies "Nerds don't have rights!". Turns out they do, Chester. How he managed to keep his job is a mystery.
    • The only thing that Coach Harris would really get from punching the dean in the face in front of a large crowd would be a prison term for assault.
  • Informed Deformity: The movie would have you believe the Nerds and Omega Moos are hideously deformed, but many of the same actors have heart throb roles in other movies. Give them bad hair, glasses, and dorky close, and suddenly they become Hollywood Homely.
  • Innocently Insensitive: When the nerds' party seems to be bombing and U.N. Jefferson doesn't seem to be enjoying himself, Lewis, thinking U.N. doesn't like the music, has the brilliant inspiration to play something he would like, and slaps "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" (an old Negro spiritual) on the turntable. La Maar is quick to toss sand on that dumpster fire.
  • Insult Backfire: From "Nerds In Paradise (Part II)":
    Booger: This room is a pigsty!
    Snotty: Thank you.
  • Jerk Jock: Alpha Beta is a frat composed of the football team who takes glee in ostracizing and bullying nerdy students. The film starts with them stupidly burning down their own frat house just to go to the freshman dorms, ''literally' toss the students in the street, and take over their living spaces.
  • Jumped the Shark: In the third film Stan Gable is a policeman and is then appointed Dean of Students. As a two-time All-American college quarterback it is inconceivable that he would not have been drafted by an NFL team.
  • Large Ham: Both Coach Harris and Ogre in the first movie. Ogre: "NERDS!!!"
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Happens to the Alpha Betas after they trash the ΛΛΛ frat house following Gilbert's and Lewis's speech inviting others to stand with them:
    Burke: You know, Coach. I'm going to let the ΛΛΛ live over at the Alpha Beta house while you and your boys rebuild theirs!
    Alphas: Where the hell are we supposed to live?
    Ogre: Yeah, what about us?
    Burke: You're jocks! Go live in the gym!
  • Let X Be the Unknown: Spoofed in the third movie. A white nerd meets a black nerd wearing an X hat:
    Black nerd: Don't you know what this writing on my hat means?
    White nerd: Malcolm ten?
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Parodied in the third film, where Lewis re-embraces his nerd persona. He puts on his nerd clothes, puts a pocket protector in his shirt pocket, and pulls out a water pistol.
  • Long-Lost Relative: In Part IV Booger is accused of having a 12 year old daughter out of wedlock in order to scuttle his upcoming wedding. It isn't true, and ultimately doesn't work.
  • Loophole Abuse: When the nerds are first applying to different national fraternities to open a chapter in their college, they are rejected by all outright except for ΛΛΛ, an all-black fraternity. Even then, the chairman tells them that they're very unlikely to get approved (not because only one of them is black but because they're nerds), until Poindexter points out that, according to the ΛΛΛ bylaws, they are required to give any petitioning group probational membership.
  • Masquerade Ball: Lewis takes a page from Judge Turpin's Creative Uses For Awesome Costumes manual. See Bed Trick above.
  • Mook Carryover: The character Ogre from the first movie shows up in the sequel in a different chapter of the Alpha Beta fraternity. The brothers he had in the original film are all gone, apparently defeated.
    • Or graduated, as they're upper-classmen in the first film, while the nerds are all freshmen.
  • Mooning: The Alpha Betas. All of them at the same time. Ogre also does this in the fourth movie to announce his arrival.
  • My Eyes Are Up Here: While discussing his academic pursuits with two tall and busty ΩΜ's, Wormser talks to their breasts. Humorously justified in that the mammaries are at his eye level: he even smirks at the camera to lampshade his getting away with it.
  • Nerds Are Pervs: The members of the all nerd frat at war with the jocks from the other frats are all sex-obsessed. They place spy cams in all of the bedrooms and showers at the sororities and spend hours watching the girls sleep. Lewis even commits Rape by Fraud, pretending to be head cheerleader Betty's boyfriend while wearing a mask to have sex with her. As the protagonists of a teen sex comedy though, they're portrayed as nothing worse than Lovable Sex Maniacs and even Betty allows Lewis to continue after finding out about the Bed Trick because he's so good in bed.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Played with. Some of the nerds are virgins, but others are clearly more "experienced."
  • Nerd in Evil's Helmet: Ogre is revealed to be one at the end of the second movie.
  • Never My Fault: The jocks burn down their house with alcohol-induced fireballs and Stan, who egged them on it to do so, concludes it must've been the "faulty wiring".
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Lewis commits Rape by Fraud against head-cheerleader Betty by disguising himself as her mean boyfriend, Stan (the quarterback). He reveals himself to her immediately after, she is so overwhelmed by Lewis's sexual expertise that she falls in love with him.
  • N-Word Privileges:
    • When used by non-nerds, the word "nerd" is generally offensive.
    • In Part IV Nouveau Riche is considered offensive to the Nouveau Riche father of the bride. At the end of the film he embraces it.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: In the second movie, the Nerds advertise their party by altering the neon sign of "Hotel Coral Essex" to read "Hot Oral Sex".
  • The Peeping Tom: The ΛΛΛ in Revenge of the Nerds take this trope to an extreme by installing surveillance cameras in all the bedrooms and showers of the sorority house. They literally stay awake all night, just watching women sleep.
  • Police Are Useless: AND HOW! The jocks do things like drop people off buildings (likely killing them) and commit various acts of assault without facing any punishment. While the nerds' actions would be considered illegal in Real Life, the jocks would have gotten arrested long before then. Even the Coach doesn't face the punishment he would have in real life, which would at least include him being fired.
  • The Power of Friendship: In the third movie, Lewis is framed for embezzlement and put on trial. In addition to Lewis's father, the old ΛΛΛ crew and U.N. drop by as a show of support. Stan (who had been so certain no one has any real friends) is so moved that he reveals the truth.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    Booger: This room is a pigsty!
    Snotty: Thank you.
    Booger: You should be ashamed of yourself!
    Snotty: Fuck you. Who died and made you God?
  • Proud to Be a Geek: The epiphany speech at the end of the movie, given to an audience entirely composed of jocks.
  • Queer People Are Funny: Lamaar's sexuality is often played for laughs.
  • Record Needle Scratch: When Lewis obliviously slaps "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" on the record player, La Maar does the (literal) honors.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Downplayed. The nerds after suffering the antics of the jocks spend the whole film getting back at them.
  • Rock Bottom: In the second movie, the ΛΛΛ are framed by the Alpha Betas for stealing a car and get arrested. Though bailed out, they're then kidnapped and taken to a deserted island. The absolute rock bottom, though, is Ogre being stranded with them. As Lewis lampshades, they're trapped on a deserted island and still have someone insulting them for being nerds.
  • Sadistic Teacher: The coach actively encourages the jocks to assault the nerds, berates them when they fail to beat them, strong arms and bullies the dean into giving him what he wants and actually threatens to punch him in the face in front of a large crowd of people when the Dean remembers that as his boss the Coach must do what 'he' says and stands up to the brute.
  • Scary Black Man: The 'reinforcements' that accompany U. N. Jefferson when he comes to the aid of the Adams College ΛΛΛ.
  • Sequel Non-Entity: Each of the three sequels.
    • The second movie is the only one in which Betty note , Stan Gable, Takashi, and U.N. Jefferson do not appear. The various other Alpha Betas (save Ogre) are also replaced with new characters.
    • In the third movie, Lewis's old friends show up at the trial, except for Ogre and Poindexter.
    • In the fourth movie, not only does Poindexter not return, but same for Wormser and Gilbert.
  • Serious Business: School politics and fraternities are portrayed this way.
  • Sexual Karma: Lewis is apparently good enough to win Betty over after one tumble; Stan is shown on several occasions to not care for sex at all, being too busy with football. The way Lewis describes the difference to Betty thusly:
    Lewis: All jocks ever think about is sports. All we [nerds] ever think about is sex.
  • Shamed by a Mob/Shaming the Mob: Gilbert and Lewis give a speech to the Alpha Betas at the end of the film, encouraging anyone who's been picked on to stand with them. A huge chunk of the alumni, numerous cheerleaders, and the entirety of the marching band join them. The entire football team looks abashed, with Gable himself looking horrified at what he's done.
  • Shoddy Shindig: The main characters have a party and invite the sorority girls from ΩΜ. It has all the trappings of a Sad Party (including a wheezing accordion sing-a-long). Until Booger breaks out the weed, that is.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: At the end of the 2nd film, Roger tells Lewis that he'll always be a pathetic loser just for being a nerd and that there's nothing he can say or do about it. Lewis admits he's only half right. There's nothing he can say about it, but there is something he can DO about it. Cue Lewis punching the arrogant asshole into the pool.
  • Signs of Disrepair: In the second movie, a little creative vandalism turns "HOTEL CORAL ESSEX" into "HOT ORAL SEX". Cue the stampede.
  • Skewed Priorities: During the Panty Raid sequence, Booger and Takashi break into an Alpha Pi's (played by Colleen Madden) room while she is sitting in a chair topless and wearing only panties, and she is only upset about them trying to steal her panties, not the fact that they are seeing her topless.
  • Stacy's Mom: The sister of the father of the bride in Part IV gets it on with a college-aged Next Generation nerd.
  • Start My Own: Fraternity in this case, the premise of the entire movie.
  • Stereotypical Nerd: Unsurprisingly, the "nerds" in the title, showcased best by leads Lewis and Gilbert, are walking stereotypes: poorly dressed in button downs, khakis, loafers, with Nerd Glasses; unpopular as shown by their inability to get accepted by any of the frats; constantly bullied by the popular Jerk Jocks who run those frats; computer science majors who use their wits to outplay and outhink the Alpha Betas, etc.
  • Suddenly Shouting: "You boys got your asses whipped... by a bunch of goddamn nerds. NEEEERDS!!"
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The Alphas in the second film. Except Ogre, of course.
  • Tar and Feathers: Lewis and Gilbert are tarred and feathered by the Alpha Betas in response to their attempt to seek admittance to the fraternity.
  • Teeny Weenie: Tiny from the second film, which is likely where his nickname comes from (which he tries to pass off as an Ironic Nickname). Later in the film, he tries to take on the nickname of "The Meat", which is met with laughs of derision by all the delegates.
  • Three-Dimensional Episode: Part IV, which was also presented in Smell-O-Vision using Scratch-and-Sniff cards.
  • Title Theme Tune: Revenge of the Nerds! (NERDS!) Revenge of the Nerds! (NERDS!)
    Won't be long, mark my words! The time has come for Revenge of the Nerds!
  • Troll: Gilbert and Lewis' phony "initiation" to the Alpha Betas is one long, humiliating farce.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Lamar - the only gay nerd, the only black nerd, and the only nerd with a date to the dance!
  • Two-Teacher School- The entire staff seems to consist of the Coach and the Dean.
    • And nobody is ever shown in a classroom. The closest they get is when Gilbert meets Judy in a computer lab.
  • Vader Breath: Louis, when wearing Stan's helmet and gas mask disguise.
  • Vanity License Plate: In Part IV Lewis rolls up in an 18-wheeler with the plate "NERD MAN".
    • He had one in the third film that said "LEWSTER" as well.
  • Wacky Fratboy Hijinx


Video Example(s):


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Main / ValuesDissonance

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