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'Real Genius,' the Val Kilmer Classic, Was the Best Movie of 1985. Disagree? I'll See You in Hell.

By Kate Hudson | Film | June 3, 2019 |

By Kate Hudson | Film | June 3, 2019 |


Friends, the world is a wacky, wonderful tapestry of opinions and taste. However, there is one universal truth that I must insist we all acknowledge: Real Genius is the best movie of 1985. If you disagree, I’ll see you in hell.

You, for besmirching the classic tale of teen geniuses and lasers, me, for, uh, personal reasons.

Anyway, sit back, relax, put on “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and let’s revisit a world where you can communicate through someone’s braces, and ice can turn immediately into a gas, but in the interim, you can sled and skate indoors on it.


Picture this. The year is 1985, Val Kilmer is smoking hot (fresh off the success of Top Secret! which is another classic movie,) and there’s a hi-larious movie about smart teens (and yes, early twenty-somethings) unwittingly being used to create a killer laser that can blast anyone from space, and of course the project is being helmed by the a-hole from Die Hard.

No, you didn’t die and go to movie heaven, pal, you’re just watching Real Genius.


So what is it about Real Genius that makes it the best movie of 1985? There are so many reasons, gentle reader.

First, it was directed by Martha Coolidge, who is awesome and who also directed Valley Girl. That means a lot of the actors from that classic (which is definitely one of the 10 best movies of 1983) got cast in Real Genius. Including the hyperkinetic (her own words, not mine) love interest, Jordan, played by Michelle Meyrink (you’ll recall she was the one who hooked up with her crush after she got out of the shower, in Valley Girl, only to have her step-mom walk in on them. I l-o-v-e Valley Girl.) That also means we got a memorable cameo from the titular Valley Girl herself, Deborah Foreman.

(FYI, this clip is slightly NSFW because of language. This is a PG-13 movie from 1985, after all.)

Point is, the cast is, as you can tell, stellar.

You know what else is stellar? The plot. In particular, the plot point where the smartest man in America lives in the closet of a dorm at the school for smart kids because he realized that his own work on lasers, in the ’70s, was used to kill people. This is made even better by the fact that he’s played by Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.

…but I’m leaving out, by far, the best part of this movie: “Jesus” talking to Kent, the d-bag, blonde, killjoy “villain” who supports the Die Hard dirtbag. See, for plot reasons, our plucky band of geniuses must find a way to extract information out of Kent in order to stop their laser from becoming fully operational. And since they’re, well, geniuses, they come up with a pretty awesome plan: implant a speaker into Kent’s braces so that only he can hear them, and make him think that it’s Jesus talking to him.

It works, and as a bonus, Jesus repeatedly tells Kent to stop playing with himself, as a way to demonstrate that it is, in fact, Jesus talking to Kent. This is what convinced Kent it’s Jesus. Kent is dumb, but this movie is not.

Anyway, the grand culmination of all of this is that they thwart the laser from working properly, and as an added bonus, redirect it to the Die Hard douche’s house, which they’ve filled with unpopped popcorn. Guess what happens to unpopped popcorn when a super cool laser beams onto it?


Naturally, the movie ends with Val and co. dancing in the street in a downpour of popcorn while Tears for Fears plays. Truly, I’ve spent my entire adult life chasing that high because I doubt I’ll ever be able to do the same as them.



So clearly, Real Genius is the best movie of 1985, and if you dare try to make a case for Back to the Future, well, friend, all I can do is repeat myself: I’ll see you in hell, where they’ll probably show Back to the Future… Pt 3 on an infinite loop, and not Real Genius, which is how you know it’s hell.


Kate is a staff contributor. You can follow her on Twitter.

Header Image Source: YouTube/TriStar Pictures