Nikola Tesla in popular culture

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Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 - 7 January 1943) is portrayed in multiple forms of popular culture. The Serbian-American engineer has particularly been depicted in science fiction, which genre is well-suited to address his inventions; while often exaggerated, the fictionalized variants build mostly upon his own alleged claims or ideas. A popular, growing fixation among science fiction, comic book, and speculative history storytellers is to portray Tesla as a member of a secret society, along with other luminaries of science.[citation needed] The impacts of the technologies invented by Nikola Tesla are a recurring theme in the steampunk genre of alternate technology science-fiction.

Tesla was known to have become reclusive in the later years of his life. Consequently, although he lived until 1943, audio or film footage of Tesla himself is scant.[1]

Board games[edit]

  • In the alternate World War I setting in the board game Tannhäuser, Nikola Tesla is a major figure in the Russian Matriarchy faction, where his inventions have not only been used to create deadly weaponry but also harness the power of other worldly forces.



  • J. Weldon Cobb's novel To Mars With Tesla; or, the Mystery of the Hidden World (1901) is an adventure where Tesla, aided by Young Edison (Thomas Edison's fictional nephew) and a couple of scientists, seeks to communicate with Mars.[3]
  • Tesla is one of the main characters in The Tesla Legacy, a novel by Australian author Robert G. Barrett (2006).[6] In the novel, Tesla builds a 'doomsday machine' hidden in the Hunter Valley area of New South Wales that could disrupt all wireless communication on Earth.
  • The novel Goliath by Scott Westerfeld depicts Tesla when the crew of the airship Leviathan come across the blast zone of the Tunguska event. Tesla had come to the site to research the blast and claims it was caused by a weapon created by him, the Goliath. Towards the end of the book it is revealed that the event was caused by a meteor after all, but Tesla was too unhinged to believe it.


Comics and graphic novels[edit]


  • In the eight-issue Serbian comic book series Generation Tesla (1995), created by writer Milan Konjević, and artists Siniša Radović and Zdravko Zupan, Tesla evades his own death by transferring himself to another plane of existence. In 2020, he resurrects a number of humans slain by the evil Kobalt, transforming them into superhumans who can counter the threats of such villains. He is founder and mentor of super-hero team Generation Tesla.[9]
  • In Jeff Smith's comic book series Rasl, Tesla's ideas are prominently featured as the foundation of travel between alternate realities. The story also features an alternate take on Tesla's biography and uses his journals as a plot device.[citation needed]
  • Red Giant Entertainment's comic book series Tesla features Nikola Tesla as he uses his greatest inventions to battle against a shadowy organization of the planet's most brilliant minds, who are bent on world domination.[13]

Events and holidays[edit]

Nikola Tesla Day[edit]

Tesla's birthday, 10 July, has been suggested by some to be World Tesla Day, Nikola Tesla Day, or simply, Tesla Day.[14] Some organizations celebrate Tesla Day informally on 10 July.[15] However, The Tesla Memorial Society wrote letters to several officials asking to commemorate 10 July as international Nikola Tesla Day.[16]

Google honored Tesla on his birthday on 10 July 2009 by displaying a Google Doodle in the Google search home page, that showed the G as a Tesla coil.[17][18]



  • David Bowie portrayed Tesla in the movie The Prestige (2006), in which one of the main characters gets Tesla to develop a remarkable electro replicating device for him.
  • An independent Tesla film, 'Fragments from Olympus-The Vision of Nikola Tesla', producers of the film made news by using part of their budget to make a $33,333 donation[24] to help save Tesla's Wardenclyffe lab during a crowd-funding campaign started by the popular internet comic known as the Oatmeal.[25][26][citation needed] The story of Wardenclyffe and the effort to save it was the subject of a documentary from the same filmmakers called "Tower to the People - Tesla's Dream at Wardenclyffe Continues."[27]


  • Disney's Tomorrowland depicts Nikola Tesla as one of four members (with Thomas Edison, Gustave Eiffel, and Jules Verne) of a group of inventors called Plus Ultra, dedicated to finding dreamers and inventors who wanted to create a better future. Plus Ultra later discovers an alternate dimension in which the titular City of Tomorrow is constructed.



  • Tesla is the subject of The Handsome Family's song "Tesla's Hotel Room". The song is featured on the duo's 2006 album Last Days of Wonder.[29]
  • The electronic dance album RISE (2013) by electro-pop band Renaiszance is themed after The Inventor: The Story of Tesla graphic novel created by Ravé Mehta. The first single and "I Will Rise" are written to Tesla's story and use edgy electronic Tesla coil sounds and dubstep in the production. RISE is produced by Ravé Mehta and co-written with his sister and Renaiszance lead singer Radha Mehta.[30][31]
  • Tesla is the last album the polish band Silver Rocket, whose main theme is the inclusion of an underrated scientist's genius (2008).[citation needed]
  • Tesla featured in the official "My Demons" music video by the electronic rock group Starset.
  • Russian synthpop band Tesla Boy, is named after Tesla.




  • In episode #11 ("Die Hindenburg") of the German radio play series Offenbarung 23, which deals with conspiracy theories, Tesla, the circumstances of his death and his work with "death ray" weapons play a role.[citation needed]

Stage productions[edit]

A number of live theatrical plays based on Tesla's life have been produced and staged worldwide.


  • The Austin, Texas based theatrical collective Rude Mechanicals created and then produced Kirk Lynn's Requiem For Tesla in January–February 2001, and then presented again at the Fresh Terrain Festival in February 2003
  • In 2009, Lee August Praley's The Last Ninety Minutes in the Life of Nikola Tesla premiered at the University of Chicago's University Theatre. The play was directed by Phoebe Holtzman
  • In 2010, Jim Jarmusch and the composer Phil Klein began preparing a non-traditional opera about Tesla.[35]
  • In 2013, the Nimbus Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota, staged an original play about Telsa's life, titled Tesla. The play was written by Josh Cragun.[37]




  • Nikola Tesla (1977), Yugoslav TV series about the life of Nikola Tesla, in 10 episodes. Tesla was played by Rade Šerbedžija.[38]
  • Phenomenon: The Lost Archives (1998), a television series hosted by Dean Stockwell, Season 1 Episode 14 is an N. Tesla alternative-science documentary titled Lost Lightning: The Missing Secrets of Nicola(sic) Tesla (Apr 1998)
  • PBS television documentary Master of Lightning, (2000), with accompanying book by Cheney/Uth, and PBS website with historical timelines, teacher lesson plans, etc.
  • In Sanctuary, a fictional version of Tesla is revealed to have been transformed into a semi-vampire as a result of being injected with vampire blood. He appears to be one of the primary antagonists of the series' first season, but becomes more friendly later on. He is played by actor Jonathon Young.
  • In a segment of the HBO series Funny Or Die, called "Drunk History", Duncan Trussell while intoxicated tells a story of Nikola Tesla's life and his encounters with Thomas Edison. Tesla is portrayed in the reenactment by John C. Reilly while Thomas Edison is portrayed by Crispin Glover.
  • On Season 9 Episode 15 of Family Guy Nikola Tesla was portrayed in cartoon form along with Thomas Edison.


Video games[edit]

Tesla's proposal of teleforce weapons and the destructive possibilities of massive electric arcs created by tesla coils have inspired many video game designers to create Tesla weapons and armors.


  • In the Command & Conquer Red Alert series of video games, Nikola Tesla is a scientist working for the USSR, and "Tesla" is the name of the technology the Soviets use to generate power and for their lightning-based weapons. Perhaps the most widely known example is the Tesla Coil defense structure, capable of sending short electric arcs towards oncoming units, also in their arsenal are Tesla troopers, who carry portable tesla coil based weaponry and tesla tanks, which have a large glowing blue sphere that ejects great bolts of electricity (Red Alert 2 version is a small tracked vehicle with a pair of forward-facing,miniature Tesla coils mounted on a turret).
  • Tesla features in The Order: 1886, and aids the main character in the game set in an alternate history 1886.
  • Tesla is one of the main characters in the game Dark Void, where he is kept in an alternate universe, like a 'skin' between universes, to which one can travel through the Bermuda Triangle. He uses his great intelligence to create a huge spaceship called the Ark, kept in another, tropical, Earth-like universe called the Void. The Ark can be used by others stranded in the alternate universe to defeat the post-singularity robotic AI that manifests itself as an army of anthropomorphic robots. After defeating the robotic menace, Tesla and the other protagonists return to the 'skin' universe, where Tesla stays to keep his youth and his inventions.


  • The 2014 adventure game Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure deals with many of Tesla's inventions such as the Spirit Radio, Tesla's Egg, the Death Ray, and a recreation of the Wardenclyffe Tower. It also includes an organization called the "Tesla Legacy Society" dedicated to solving the problems of humanity through the works and inspiration of Tesla.
  • The historical background of the Fallout series of computer games is based on Tesla's inventions all working as expected and as if his physical theories were correct. Tesla Armor has high resistance to laser and plasma weapons.
    • The book within the game, entitled Nikola Tesla and You, raises the player's Energy Weapons skill.
    • In Fallout 3 Tesla armor is some of the strongest armor in the game and is designed with Tesla Coils and a field of electricity around the character.[citation needed]


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