Who knew that two films released in August of 1985 that centered around scientific high school shenanigans would both stand the test of time? Maybe everyone. In anticipation of this anniversary coming up this summer, we present a toe-to-toe battle royale blog feature and see just who will be named BEST SUMMER GEEK MOVIE OF 1985 (Apologies to our third place runner up, My Science Project).
(Full disclosure: We knew we couldn’t have been the first to do this, and we were right. Moviefone.com did a similar competition for these films’ 25th anniversary, so we really tried to get creative and dig deeper)
BEST REVIEWS: Siskel & Ebert reviewed the two movies on the exact same night! Two thumbs up on Real Genius, split on Weird Science.
BEST DIRECTOR: Real Genius‘s director Martha Coolidge does her homework with inside tech jokes & a script filled with great one-liners, and Kilmer & Jarrett make a great team. Weird Science‘s writer/director John Hughes, the voice and soul of the 1980s high school student, unfortunately traded in the heartfelt for the zany on this one. Ilan Mitchell-Smith’s voice is hard to take, and this is Anthony Michael Hall’s least likeable teen role, if you don’t count Edward Scissorhands.
BEST PARTY: Real Genius does host the Tanning Invitational, but Weird Science had biker crashers from another movie dimension. Also, it’s hard to beat a party where you shoot a couch out of the chimney & turn a kitchen blue.
BIGGEST BULLSHIT SCIENCE MOMENT: Turning a doll into a woman with a computer & lightning, or creating a house-exploding batch of popcorn with a laser? Well, since lasers actually can pop popcorn and the best we’ve got on the girl thing is Siri, we’ll say Weird Science is bigger bullshit.
BEST QUOTES: Gary coins the phrase “float an air biscuit,” Lisa throws “chips dips chains & whips” in there, and Chet’s entire performance is one long quote (’cause he gets off on it). In any other competition, that would be enough to win, but Real Genius is just smarter, with quote after quote after quote.
BEST HAIRCUT: Val Kilmer’s surfer style & Mitch Taylor’s butt-cut curlback win, well, by a hair. Wyatt & Gary actually clean up nice, and Lisa’s full blowout goes great with her heavy-metal outfits.
BEST BREAKTHROUGH ROLE FOR A GREAT ACTOR: John “Lazlo Hollyfeld” Gries says you can borrow his pajamas and he did become Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite, but Paxton took Chet into the stratosphere the same way he did with Private “Game Over, Man” Hudson in Aliens. And he’d really like to butter your muffin.
MOST EVIL VILLAIN: Chet might be a wanker, and the Road Warriors might be threatening, but Real Genius has the best 80s asshole this side of Cobra Kai in William Atherton as Professor Jerry Hathaway . Atherton made his name earlier as the dickless EPA guy in Ghostbusters and later as the unscrupulous TV reporter in Die Hard. He built his house from embezzled military funds to build a lethal laser, for crying out loud. And what kind of an egomaniac calls his show “Everything” anyway?
BEST USE OF PENIS TALK: Gary swears he never tossed off, Mom (”I thought you were combing your hair!”), but Deborah “Valley Girl” Foreman gets the best line in the whole movie, because a girl’s gotta have her standards.
BEST SIDE EFFECT: Real Genius had evaporating ice in the halls & liquid nitrogen soda machine slugs, but Weird Science wins by mile with Lisa’s Jedi mind tricks that make the grandparents comatose but upright, Gary’s dad have no memory of Gary, and Chet into an alien blob.
BEST MORAL OF THE STORY: It’s a tie. You can’t have a relationship with a woman by making a woman. And you shouldn’t make a laser for killing people. And you shouldn’t breed velociraptors in capitivity to replace soldiers.
BEST GEEK HUMILIATION TACTIC: Mitch’s parents’ phone call on a loudspeaker is full humiliation, in fact the worst new kid prank since Rob Lowe got Andrew McCarthy to wear a bikini in Class, and the full Icee off the mall balcony onto Wyatt and Gary tells us everything we need to know. That one’s a tie.
THE WINNER (BY A POPCORN BALL) IS REAL GENIUS.
Here’s some additional trivia you should print out on a dot matrix or daisy wheel printer:
The two films were released within five days of each other. Real Genius grossed nearly $13 million in its U.S. release, but Weird Science grossed nearly $39 million worldwide.
Real Genius actor Gabe Jarrett’s name is misspelled in the opening credits as Gabe Jarret.
Judie Aronson, who plays Wyatt’s love interest Tilly, also appeared as the main actress in Nelson’s “Love and Affection” music video.
On Inside the Actor’s Studio, Robert Downey Jr. said that “you do a John Hughes movie, and five minutes after the movie comes out, you go to a mall, and someone says ‘Ian’ [and does the move].”
Gabe Jarrett’s two screen kisses in Real Genius were his first screen kisses, as well as his first real kisses. His first was with actress Patti D’Arbanville, who was Don Johnson’s girlfriend at the time.
Bill Paxton (Chet) and Gabe Jarrett (Mitch Taylor) both appear in the film Apollo 13, Paxton as astronaut Fred Haise, Jarrett as one of the technicians (“GNC white shirt”) on the floor at Mission Control.
Ilan Mitchell-Smith, who also appeared in the films The Wild Life and The Chocolate War, currently holds a PhD in Medieval Studies from Texas A&M University, and wrote a chapter called “Racial Determinism in the Interlocking Economies of Power and Violence in Dungeons & Dragons” for the book Coopting Culture.