On August 2, 1985, the John Hughes movie 'Weird Science' hit theaters with stars Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith as Garry and Wyatt -- two high school losers who use their computer to build Lisa, the perfect woman (Kelly LeBrock). Just five days later on August 7, the very nerdy 'Real Genius' also premiered on movie screens across the country, with Val Kilmer starring as Chris Knight, the smartest and most sarcastic student at Pacific Tech. When he finds out his senior project is being covertly used as a military weapon, he and the other students team up to exact revenge.
Yes, two of the 1980s' most memorable portrayals of geek culture arrived at the same time to fight for your attention. 25 years later, the debate rages on over which is the superior geek movie. With the Geek Awards fast approaching, we thought now was the perfect time to finally answer this conundrum -- with a series of very scientific analyses. What is the better geek film? Read on and find out.
The 5-Megawatt Laser ('Real Genius') vs. Lisa, the Living Barbie Doll ('Weird Science')
The project at the heart of 'Real Genius' -- the development of a five-megawatt laser -- brings Chris together with freshman prodigy Mitch Taylor (Gabriel Jarret). They don't know it will be used as a weapon of destruction, but the laser is the perfect demonstration of why they are the two smartest students in school. And that's just the tip of the iceberg: Chris also builds a remote-controlled flying gyroscope, while the fast-talking Jordan creates an oxygen-retrieving scuba system and an automatic page turner for convenient study purposes, and turns Kent's braces into a messianic radio transceiver. Not to mention whatever Lazlo was working on in the basement. Lastly, we can't forget Ick, who develops rapid-evaporating ice -- perfect for an impromptu hallway skating party.
Meanwhile, Garry and Wyatt hook up a Barbie doll to a computer that's loaded with information and statistics on the ideal woman. After a lightning bolt strikes the house in 'Frankenstein'-like fashion, the doll is transformed into Lisa, an insanely beautiful woman gifted with magical powers.
WINNER: 'Real Genius.' Scientifically speaking, Garry and Wyatt lose control of their experiment almost immediately. On those grounds, we have to give this to the genius students of 'Real Genius,' who have taken their talents and devoted them to an important cause -- throwing awesome parties.
THE BAD GUYS
Dr. Hathaway and Kent ('Real Genius') vs. Chet, Ian, and Max ('Weird Science')
At the head of the laser project is Dr. Jerry Hathaway, played by William Atherton. If you don't remember him from this film, perhaps you remember him as the arrogant news reporter from 'Die Hard' or the dreaded Walter Peck from 'Ghostbusters' -- roles that made Atherton the king of '80s blowhards. Right behind Hathaway is the sniveling Kent (Robert Prescott), who embarrasses Mitch, tries to steal Chris's job, sabotages their experiment, and will gladly pick up Dr. Hathaway's dry cleaning for him.
In 'Weird Science,' the boys get abuse on two fronts. At home, they deal with Wyatt's older brother Chet, who has just returned from military school and plans to abuse and blackmail them while the parents are out of town. At school, Garry and Wyatt are troubled by Ian and Max, who embarass our protagonists in the first minutes of the movie. They proceed to further humiliate them in front of an entire shopping mall, and then try to trade their girlfriends in exchange for a date with Lisa.
WINNER: 'Real Genius.' It goes God, then Jerry, then Kent.
MOST OUTLANDISH MOMENT
Jesus Lives in Kent's Braces ('Real Genius') vs. Mutants, Missiles, and a Monster ('Weird Science')
In their path of revenge against Hathaway, the students of 'Real Genius' turn Kent's braces into a radio transceiver/voice of Jesus. The poor henchman is driven insane following the voice until it leads him to a rapture-like explosion of popcorn.
As for 'Weird Science' ... where to begin? Even if we accept Lisa and her digital origins, there's still the matter of Wyatt's frozen grandparents in the closet, Garry's father's sudden amnesia and the nuclear missile that grows out of the kitchen. Not to mention, their party is crashed by a band of mutant outlaw bikers who only back down when Gary threatens them with a
Oh, and this happens to Chet, too.
WINNER: 'Weird Science' The whole movie is a freak show.
Val Kilmer and Jon Gries ('Real Genius') vs. Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Downey Jr. and Bill Paxton ('Weird Science')
After 'Real Genius,' Kilmer went on to become one of the biggest stars of the '90s, in films like 'The Doors' and 'Heat'; he even played the Caped Crusader in 'Batman Forever.' He still appears in many memorable character roles, but has also earned a reputation as one of Hollywood's most intense -- and sometimes difficult -- actors. Outside of Val, the film's most notable cast member is Jon Gries, a.k.a. Lazlo Hollyfield, a.k.a. Uncle Rico in 'Napoleon Dynamite.'
'Weird Science' was another feather in the cap for Anthony Michael Hall on his quest to become king of the '80s geeks. The bullying Chet is played by none other than Bill Paxton, and of course, the jerky Ian is mega-star Robert Downey Jr.
WINNER: 'Weird Science.' As if having Iron Man in the cast weren't enough, 'Weird Science' has Bill Paxton, the only man in Hollywood to be killed by an Alien, a Predator and a Terminator.
Spastic Scientist ('Real Genius') vs. The Perfect Woman ('Weird Science')
Young Mitch gets with the older Jordan (Michelle Meyrink), who seems like the perfect fit -- 19, brilliant, hyper-kinetic. She just needs to remember to knock first.
Lisa was designed to be the perfect woman, and who better to portray her than international supermodel Kelly LeBrock?
WINNER: 'Weird Science.' This is a tough one to call; it's down to super-model versus girl-next-door. But ultimately, we have to give it to Lisa, for her genie-like talents.
Prestigious Sci-Tech School ('Real Genius') vs. Sex-Obsessed Teens ('Weird Science')
'Real Genius' director Martha Coolidge researched laser technology and the practices of the CIA for months before filming, and she interviewed students at Cal Tech. TriStar Pictures also held what they claim was the first "computer press conference,' when Coolidge answered press questions, relayed over the CompuServe network. In 2009, 'Mythbusters' devoted an episode to finding out if the popcorn finale was scientifically possible. They did determine that it is possible to pop corn with a laser, but not on the scale used in the film.
''Weird Science,' the film, was inspired by 'Weird Science,' the old E.C. Comics magazine of the 1950s; and it's the last of John Hughes' 'National Lampoon'-style comedies before he moved into teen dramedies and holiday family films. Accuracy was sacrificed in the name of pulp sci-fi fun. But we did learn one important laboratory lesson: if you ever decide to build a woman using a lightning storm and a computer, you must never forget to hook up the doll.
WINNER: 'Real Genius' Any movie where we have to replay what they just explained must be smart.
Popcorn Revenge ('Real Genius') vs. Shedding the Loser Image ('Weird Science')
Chris and Mitch break into an Air Force base, re-program the laser's tracking co-ordinates and get Hathaway to fire the weaponized laser at his own newly, re-furnished house which explodes in an avalanche of popcorn.
Garry and Wyatt save the partygoers from mutant destruction and are no longer social misfits. More importantly, Lisa manages to instill them with the confidence they need to finally snag their real-life dream girls, Deb and Hilly.
WINNER: 'Real Genius.' Sure, Garry and Wyatt improve their self-esteem, and that's a great lesson. But on the other hand -- popcorn explosion. 'Real Genius' takes it.
Kent: "You're all a bunch of degenerates.
Chris: "We are? What about that time I found you naked with that bowl of Jell-O?"
Kent: "You did not."
Chris: "This is true."
Kent: "Look, it was hot and I was hungry, OK?"
Bodie: "He said he didn't feel like it. And I said, you'd better! And he said, or what? And I said, or else you're gonna be in trouble. And he said jam it."
Professor Hathaway: "That's a wonderful story, Bodie. I noticed you've stopped stuttering."
Bodie: "I've been giving myself shock treatments."
Professor Hathaway: "Up the voltage."
Chris Knight: "So, if there's anything I can do for you, or, more to the point, to you, you just let me know."
Susan: "Can you hammer a six-inch spike through a board with your penis?"
Chris Knight: "Not right now."
Susan: "A girl's gotta have her standards."
Student: "Dr. Hathaway? Are you wearing makeup?"
Chris: "Kent puts his name on his license plate."
Mitch: "My mom does the same thing to my underwear."
Chris: "Your mom puts license plates in your underwear? How do you sit?"
Mitch (as Jesus): "And Kent -- stop playing with yourself."
Kent: "It is Jesus!"
Chris: "You get even with Kent. It's a moral imperative."
Lisa: "So, what would you little maniacs like to do first?"
Chet: "You're stewed, buttwad!"
Garry: "It can't be a dream! How can 2 people have the same dream? OK, let's analyze this. In the middle of the night ... did I get up ... and yak in your sink? Didn't throw up? No? Maybe it was a dream then, you know ... a very weird ... bizarre ... vivid ... erotic ... wet ... detailed dream. Maybe we had malaria."
Lisa: "You know, there's going to be sex, drugs, rock-n-roll ... chips, dips, chains, whips ... You know, your basic high school orgy type of thing. I mean, uh, I'm not talking candle wax on the nipples, or witchcraft or anything like that, no, no, no. Just a couple of hundred kids running around in their underwear, acting like complete animals."
Garry: "Mom, I never toss off to anything!"
Garry's Mom: "You told me you were combing your hair!"
Garry: "But I was! I was!"
Chet: "How 'bout a nice greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?"
Garry: "You know, I can't believe this, Wyatt. I'm so disappointed in us. I mean, all our lives we've been saying how great it would be if we went to parties, right? And now it's our party and we're in the john. We're in the john!"
Mutant Biker: "Can we keep this ... between us? I'd hate to lose my teaching job ..."
WINNER: 'Real Genius.' While it's hard to pass up Hughes, he wrote more memorable dialogue in other movies. Meanwhile, few movies remain as quotable as 'Real Genius.'
CONCLUSION: After a 25 years of debate, it has been decided -- according to our tests, with a score of 5 to 3, 'Real Genius' is the superior geek film.
More Geeks: Top 25 Geeks in Movies
Celebrate 25 years of Geekdom by adding these movies to your collection.
'Real Genius' (Rent | Buy) | 'Weird Science' (Rent | Buy)
The Geek Awards happen live on Wednesday, August 18, at 8PM from the Conga Room in Los Angeles, CA, with a live stream of the pre-show at 7PM, on PopEater. Featuring a surprise host, celebrity guests, and a special musical performance, the ceremony will celebrate the super-fans of culture. Tune into PopEater, Spinner, StyleList, Urlesque and Asylum for your music, fashion, and Internet geekdom.