They are the explorers, researchers, and geniuses of cinema. They study space, time, and beyond. Be it retrieving ancient artifacts or dissecting alien species, these scientists are eccentric, offbeat, or just downright mad. Over the decades, film has had no shortage of its take on any and every facet of science, the asking and answering of “what”, “how”, and “why”.
Everything from robotics to cloning to time travel, cinema’s portrayal of the men and women who dedicate their life to understanding the world around us has been anything but bland. They can be a comical parody or a serious commentary on humankind, film has a long list of those who discover more about the past, present, and future.
Sometimes with good intentions gone bad, or evil all along, I present 15 of film’s most off-kilter and unconventional scientists, be it in their research or personality, and some of those who just deserve some attention because of the ordeals they have been forced into.
Since this topic has been tackled a few times around the net, I aim to broaden the definition of scientist that goes beyond the stereotypical chemistry set and lab coat. Fields such as technology, archeology, and more will be included.
Additionally, at times I will stretch the definition of film, meaning that if a TV show has made a feature film that includes a particular character, they count. Also, made for TV movies are fair game here in my definition.
So put on your safety goggles and grab your microscopes as we research 15 of cinema’s most unusual scientists.
I want to note that I will be avoiding comic books adaptations. There are just so many and they would dominate this list. So here is a nod to Bruce Banner, Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, and more. Furthermore, to make room for others, I want to give an honorable mention to both Doctor Victor Frankenstein and Dr. Strangelove. I know most would not accept this list without their inclusion. So here they are.
15. Doctor Wayne Szalinski (Honey, I Shrunk The Kids And Sequels)
The gawky and clownish Rick Moranis brings to life Wayne Szalinski, the do-it-yourself inventor who creates a shrink ray in his attic. Finding it difficult at first to find funding to further the seemingly failing project, Wayne’s kids and neighbor’s children find themselves accidently shrunk to ¼ of an inch when searching the attic for a baseball.
In no manner does Wayne appear not nutty and wacky, but he is a good natured husband and father who has found objects and people zapped to sizes they did not belong. Following shrinking his children, Wayne accidently blows his infant son up to the size of over 100 feet tall, followed by a stuffed bunny. And if that were not enough, Wayne eventually shrinks himself, wife, and others to ¼ of an inch.
With a knack for inventing, Wayne Szalinski sure knows how to retro fit a home with funny riggings that makes even the most mundane task simpler-ish. I can confidently say that living in the Szalinski house with a shrink ray in your attic sounds like a fun idea.
14. Doctor Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters I & II)
With PhDs in both psychology and parapsychology, it seems that the Ghostbusters’s resident bad boy’s greatest achievement is that “the flowers are still standing”.
This coarse and cheeky scientist is a listless cynic who more or less humors the idea of being serious and rather instead makes the business of ghost catching a profitable asset rather than a scientific endeavor. In fact, it is hard to believe that this slacker made it through grad school, but he did somehow.
What bit of interest he appears to hold in his research seems to be focused in the study of ESP which helps him immensely in the industry of ghost busting, although he ironically did not believe in ghost at first.
On screen, Venkman is portrayed by the great comic legend, Bill Murray. Bringing this sarcastic and irreverent character to life, Murray makes Venkman the down-to-Earth member of the otherwise preoccupied and nerdy group of Ghostbusters.
Always at the ready for a quick joke or snide remark, Peter Venkman bends all the rules of the stereotypical nerdy and socially-awkward scientist in a field that only seems all too crazy for any other sane human being.
13. Flint Lockwood (Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs)
Residing in the fictional town of Swallow Falls, Flint Lockwood is an inventor looking for his big break. I know he is not one of the most famous scientists in film history, or if he will even make an impact that people will remember years to come, but I cannot not ignore the laughable situation Flint causes with his first successful invention.
The only animated character included on this list, Flint Lockwood gives the family target audience a lively scientist with outrageous inventions. In hopes of helping his economically hurting town, Flint invents a machine that turns water into food. Well, that sounds simple enough right?
Well, that is until the machine malfunctions, launching into the atmosphere and remaining there as it turns the town’s weather into actual food where it can rain burgers, sweets, fruits, anything the town people would like. The concept is absurd but what more can you expect for an animated feature that goes for laughs with exaggerated shenanigans?
12. Professor Julius Kelp/Sherman Klump (The Nutty Professor—1963/1996)
Whether he is portrayed by Jerry Lewis as the nerd turned jock or portrayed by Eddie Murphy as the obese professor transformed into the arrogant, yet confident jerk, it is impossible to ignore the scientific mind of either adaptation of this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde comedic parody.
Both Kelp and Klump are socially rejected, clumsy professors that have no reason to be satisfied with their awkward personalities and lack of luck with romance. Tired of being nobodies, these scientists invent formulas to make themselves the cool, suave, handsome men they always wanted to be.
Unfortunately these formulas have their downsides as their alternative forms are vain and pompous jerks that do more harm than good. The Nutty Professor makes this list due to memorable comedic situations and self-revealing results of their scientific research. Both men are fine examples of the madder side of science but more in a light-hearted tone.
Read more at WhatCulture!
From filling an empty stomach to sleeping in until noon, Chris Combs ensures to enjoy all of life’s simple pleasures. Poet, explorer, and all around gentlemen. This scholar is a pop-culture melting pot of useless information that would win any game of trivial pursuit. Follow him on Twitter to get inside his mind @OrganicChris23
from WhatCulture! http://whatculture.com/film/15-maddest-scientists-movie-history.php
- Exclusive: Activate the MONSTER MACHINE and Know Terror (nerdist.com)
- Great Character: Dana Barrett (“Ghostbusters”) (gointothestory.blcklst.com)
- Ghostbusters…Remembered (falconmovies.wordpress.com)
- Ghostbusters #9 (comicvine.com)
- Ghostbusters: call me anytime – TV recap (theguardian.com)
- The Villains of Marvel Comics (costumediscounters.com)