Flash of Genius Movie Poster Image

Flash of Genius

Inventor fights for recognition in feel-good film.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 119 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A large company betrays a man who decides to fight obsessively to get the credit he thinks is rightfully his. To a certain extent, he sacrifices his family life in doing so. Nevertheless, the family is portrayed as supportive and encouraging, even in times of great difficulty.


A man shows up unannounced at a company event and makes a scene; he's ushered out by security. A man throws a drink at a car. Otherwise, the battles are largely in the courtroom.


A little bit of kissing and sexual innuendo.


Some use -- at times by children -- of the words "bastard," "damn," and "s--t." One use of "f--k."


Since the film is set in Detroit, there are many mentions of the big American automotive companies: Ford, Chrysler, GM. Car decals and logos are displayed, as is signage for dealerships and manufacturers. Some mention of Case Western University and Pepsi.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some social drinking; some smoking by minor characters (accurate for the time period).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this fact-based "feel good" drama focuses on a determined man's unflagging quest to receive credit for his invention. Ultimately, it's heartening to see how far he gets, though some scenes may be overwhelming for very young children (for example, when the main character has a nervous breakdown). At times, the protagonist seems neglectful of his marriage and kids, but overall they're close and supportive. There's some swearing (including "s--t" and one use of "f--k"), social drinking, and smoking, but there's no violence or age-inappropriate sexual content.

Kids say

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What's the story?

The phrase "flash of genius" refers to that moment of epiphany when an inventor discerns a crucial connection that -- hopefully -- leads to an important discovery. In FLASH OF GENIUS, Robert "Bob" Kearns' (Greg Kinnear) moment comes while driving with his family in the rain in the 1960s. Wondering why his windshield wipers, which had only one speed, couldn't work more like an eyelid -- blinking fast or slow as necessary -- the engineering professor and father of six sets out to solve the problem, eventually building an intermittent wiper. He and his friend Gil (Dermot Mulroney) try to sell the invention to Ford Motor Company, and a deal seems imminent. But at the last minute -- after Kearns gives them some valuable information about his gadget -- they decline. Then one day Kearns spies Ford's newest cars shimmying down the road, intermittent wipers working full-time. Kearns is convinced the behemoth company stole his idea and sets out to right the wrong. But at what cost?

Is it any good?


Inspired by real-life events, Flash of Genius is -- like its lead actor -- amiable and likable. Its populist tug at the heart is hard to resist (big kudos for making windshield wipers interesting). Kearns is anti-establishment in the purest sense of the word; he doesn't even want the money. He just wants people to know that Ford stole his idea and that he deserves the credit (or so the movie goes). For this, Kinnear -- who appears to be gunning for James Stewart's good-guy-makes-good mantle -- is more than able.

But the film lacks, well, genius. As David-and-Goliath tales go, it's no Rocky. The characters feel flimsy and one-dimensional; had they been rendered more fully and less after school-special-like, the movie would have been far more compelling. (Kearns, after all, did neglect his family; why are they so forgiving? Were they in real life?) As it is, Flash of Genius, while it scores high on the feel-good factor, is a little flat and a lot unsurprising.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Robert Kearns' story made a good subject for a movie. How accurate do you think the film is? Why might filmmakers bend the truth when making a movie based on real life? How could you find out more about Kearns if you wanted to? Also, why do you think his struggle took over his life? Why was it so important to him to get credit? Did he go too far? What were the consequences of his obsession? What makes someone an inventor? Was his idea stolen, or are the facts of the case not cut and dried?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 3, 2008
DVD/Streaming release date:February 17, 2009
Cast:Dermot Mulroney, Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham
Director:Marc Abraham
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:119 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:brief strong language.

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Adult Written bywonder dove June 18, 2009

I liked it...a lot.

This was a refreshing movie. It was nice to learn something about an inventor, something I never knew. There is a good message to be learned here, and also a not-so-good message. The good one is that you should never give up your dream, no matter what anyone thinks of it. For the bad, choosing your dream over family is not such a great thing, but hey that's life! And that was his life! He chose it. Having someone come along and rip your heart out of your sleeve will hurt bad, and that's what Ford did. I understood his pain. Young kids wont understand this movie, I think it will be too slow for them. I say 4/5 stars, especially Kinnear's acting, I love him!!
Adult Written bysan anselmo January 25, 2009


this movie was ok i thought it was a little boring in some parts. not my kind of movie. -christian, 10 yrs.
Parent of a 11 and 12 year old Written bygokuro March 1, 2009

Nice business story, not a good family lesson

The movie has a good David vs Goliath story in the business sense but unfortunately David pretty much looses his entire family in order to defeat Goliath. Not exactly what I would want young kids to learn. Older children may be able to understand that part of the story is not exactly a good life lesson. There is some bad language but it is brief and is rare.