Real Genius is a 1985 American science fiction comedy film directed by Martha Coolidge, written by Neal Israel, Pat Proft, and Peter Torokvei, and starring Val Kilmer and Gabriel Jarret. The film is set on the campus of Pacific Tech, a science and engineering university similar to Caltech. Chris Knight (Kilmer) is a genius in his senior year working on a chemical laser. Mitch Taylor (Jarret) is a new student on campus who is paired up with Knight to work on the project.


The CIA is secretly developing "Crossbow", a space shuttle-mounted laser weapon precise enough to incinerate a single target from outer space, planning to use it for illegal political assassinations. However, they struggle with its power source, and have covertly hired Professor Jerry Hathaway at Pacific Technical University to develop this. Hathaway has assembled a group of brilliant physics students to do the work for him, though, outside of his graduate student Kent, purposely does not tell them the reason for their research. Hathaway is also embezzling the CIA provided funds intended for research so that he can upgrade his house.