Revenge of the Nerds


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

"We've got bush."

Revenge of the Nerds was one of the more significant offerings from the golden age of youthploitation comedies, 1982-86. There was at least one memorable entry in this genre in every year during that period, listed below with IMDb scores

  • Ferris Beuhler's Day Off (1986) 7.8

  • The Breakfast Club (1985) 7.7

  • Better Off Dead (1985) 7.1

  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) 7.1

  • Sixteen Candles (1984) 6.9

  • Risky Business (1983) 6.5

  • Revenge of the Nerds (1984) 6.0

  • One Crazy Summer (1986) 5.9

  • Porky's (1982) 5.5

The IMDb scores don't necessarily reflect the cultural impact of the films. Porky's, for example, not only kicked off an entire genre, but defined the frontiers of raunchy 80s comedies, and has been chosen on many all-time favorite comedy polls. It remains to this day as the highest-grossing Canadian film of all time in terms of total world-wide revenues.

Some of these films hold up better than others, of course. I just watched Revenge of the Nerds for the first time in twenty years, and it wasn't really as good as I remembered. The jokes are mediocre, the characters are too broad, and there really isn't much on paper at all. You could probably cut it to 45 minutes without missing anything important. A lot of it is padded out with a Campus Olympics event which seems to be in real time and isn't really that amusing, followed by a talent competition which is moderately entertaining at best. Having said that, though, I'm forced to admit that the film had some real icon-building power in its day. After 20 years I still remembered the names of many of the characters, and in at least two cases, I've always called these actors by the names of their characters in this film. That big dude will always be Ogre. I'm sure Ogre must have a real name as well, but I have no idea what it is. And Curtis Armstrong, who delivered the film's best comic performance, is and always will be the cynical, defiant, horny, slovenly Booger.

Armstrong was kind of the Gabby Hayes of youthploitation comedies, in that he always seemed to be the comical sidekick of the leading character. He did this in seven different genre films. He played John Cusack's sidekick in both of the Savage Steve Holland films (One Crazy Summer and Better Off Dead), and he also played Tom Cruise's little buddy in Risky Business. In addition to his faux-Booger roles, he also played the honest-to-goodness authentic Booger in a total of four Revenge of the Nerds films (he was 41 years old in the final one).

When it comes to this genre, Booger, you are the man.

There are a few small pleasures in the film as well. Hidden in the nooks and crannies of the cast are some very fine performers playing small roles before they would achieve fame. James Cromwell plays the equally nerdy father of one of the nerds, and John Goodman plays a bullying football coach.

The DVD features are a mixed bag:

  • There is a widescreen anamorphic version of the film, but the transfer is not especially impressive.

  • The deleted scenes were wisely deleted. Because I know what you're wondering, I'll add that they do not include any additional flesh. (And yes, it's always the first thing I check.)

  • There is a long-forgotten pilot for a Nerds TV sitcom with none of the original cast. It demonstrates that TV executives are occasionally capable of exercising good judgment, as they did when they redlighted this project.

  • There is one marvelous feature. There's a featurette in which the director and key cast members look back on the film from today. They are men remembering one of the best times they ever had in their lives, and it's impossible to remain aloof from their enthusiasm and passion. The eyes of every single one of them lit up with nostalgia when he or she started reminiscing, and they laughed almost non-stop through their recollections. I got carried away listening to them, and wished I could have been there as part of that experience

  • There's also a full-length commentary by Booger and others, including the director, but I didn't take the time to listen to that because ... well ... because this isn't Casafuckingblanca, after all.

  • There's an booklet with additional insights into the film. Here's an interesting tidbit from the essay:

"To prepare for his role as head nerd Louis Skolnick, Robert Carradine arrived two weeks early to the campus to live the life of a real college student. He even went though the real fraternity rush week to get a feel for it, and in a hilarious case of life imitating art, not a single fraternity chose him. With a laugh, Carradine just shrugs, 'I didn't realize until we started this picture that I really am a nerd.'"


* widescreen anamorphic

* featurette: on-camera interviews with performers and director looking back from today

* deleted scenes

* full-length commentary

* TV pilot for a sitcom version


It was nominated for an Oscar for cinematography.

74 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)


6.0 IMDB summary (of 10)


Box Office Mojo. It exhibited a pattern seldom scene in recent years. In its first three weeks it finished 11-13-12, but showed sore good word of mouth, so the studio doubled the number of theaters and it shot up to #4 in its fourth week and stayed right about there for the following five weeks! It ended up grossing $40 million, making it the 16th best grosser of 1984, and the 5th best among R-rated films! (16th place is worth about double that amount in modern terms.)


  • Julie (Julia) Montgomery showed her breasts.
  • An unnamed extra showed her breasts and ... well, the famous quote is "we've got bush."


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


It's not one of the great genre offerings like Bueller or Better Off Dead, but it's a pleasant watch, and a film that left an impression on me for two decades.