Nineteen eighty-five was a great year film wise. In addition to Back to the Future (and, ahem, Teen Wolf, both starring Michael J. Fox), moviegoers in 1985 could pick from any number of soon-to-be classics, near-classics, or soon-to-be cable fodder at movie theaters, including Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rocky IV, Jewel of the Nile, Out of Africa (a multiple Academy Award winner), Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, The Goonies, Year of the Dragon, Young Sherlock Holmes, and for the horror-oriented, George A. Romero's Day of the Dead, and Return of the Living Dead, a horror-parody of Romero's contributions to the undead sub-genre. For me, Martha Coolidge's Real Genius, a Reagan-era, geek comedy-satire loaded with quotable lines, memorable scenes, a synth-pop score by a who's who of 80s' one-hit wonders, and Val Kilmer, giving one of his all-time best performances, deserves to be at or near the top of any 80s-related list.

Real Genius focuses on Mitch Taylor (Gabriel Jarret), a 15-year old science prodigy. A professor (and dean), a Carl Sagan-inspired professor, Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton), recruits Mitch to attend the Pacific Institute of Science and Technology. Hathaway is eager to exploit Mitch's laser-related research for a defense-funded laser project. If completed, the project would allow the U.S. to kill a human target from outer space, but Hathaway doesn't mention the project's intended use to Mitch. Hathaway and his college team, however, are at least 18 months away from success. His CIA superiors and the military want a successful test of the laser in four months. That explains Mitch's unusual mid-year acceptance to Pacific Tech.