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Everything You Can Do With the Other 90 Percent of Your Brain (in Movies)

The last time the plot of a major Hollywood movie was built around the oft-repeated but utterly nonsensical myth that humans only use a tiny percentage of their brains, we talked to a professor of neurology to debunk it. Hollywood wasn’t listening. Three years after Limitless, the myth is back in Luc Besson’s Lucy, which has Scarlett Johansson controlling matter when she commands 40 percent of her brain, controlling other people at 80 percent, and potentially unlocking “secrets that go beyond our universe” at 100 percent. As far as manifestations of the old “unlocking the brain” trope go, Lucy’s are among the most powerful. We looked back at a slew of movies built around this myth to find out all the things a human can do when full (fake) brain potential is achieved. Here's what you can accomplish: 

  • Finish writing a long-gestating book in four days. —Limitless
  • Develop algorithms to manipulate the stock market. —Limitless
  • Solve puzzles that previously vexed you. —Charly
  • Easily learn languages. —Limitless; Phenomenon; The Lawnmower Man; Lucy
  • Recall and execute Bruce Lee moves you watched on TV as a kid. —Limitless
  • Move sunglasses and pens around without touching them. —Phenomenon
  • Move people around without touching them. —Lucy
  • Speed read. —Phenomenon
  • Predict the future. —Phenomenon, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Read minds. —The Lawnmower Man, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Lucy
  • Instantly change your hair color (without dye). —Lucy
  • Turn people into swirling balls of molecular mass. —The Lawnmower Man
  • Fight like a ninja. —Lucy
  • Realize the childishness of comic books. —The Lawnmower Man
  • Squeeze toothpaste with your mind. —The Lawnmower Man
  • Hack into people's cell-phone calls and other magnetic wave disruptions. —Lucy
  • Retain knowledge of how to navigate all of space. —The Flight of the Navigator
  • Levitate. —Lucy
  • Stay awake forever.  —Defending Your Life
  • Manipulate your senses so food that taste like “horseshit” to dumb people, tastes good to you. —Defending Your Life
  • Throw blue balls of energy and fire, along with other general wizardry skills. —The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Teleport. —Lucy
  • Travel through time. —Lucy
  • See any person’s past, present, and future by touching them. —The Dead Zone
  • Find the error in the science that made you so smart and predict your own demise. —Charly
  • Feel everything. —Lucy
Photo: Jessica Forde/Universal Pictures, John Baer/Dark Fields Production, Disney, Double Negative/Universal Studios, Geffen/Getty Images