Nikola Tesla in popular culture

Nikola Tesla in popular culture

Nikola Tesla, inventor and engineer, has appeared in popular culture as a character in books, films, comics and video games. The lack of recognition received by Tesla during his own lifetime has made him a tragic and inspirational character well suited to dramatic fiction. Tesla has particularly been seen in science fiction where his inventions are well suited. The impact of the technologies invented by Nikola Tesla are a recurring theme in the steampunk genre of alternate technology science-fiction.

Tesla's achievements and personality have inspired many authors to include him as character in their works or create characters inspired by him.




  • Tesla is one of the main characters in the 2010 novel Čovek koji je ubio Teslu ("Man Who Killed Tesla") written by the acclaimed Serbian author of SF and Horror Goran Skrobonja. In this mixture of alternative history/steampunk and SF, Tesla is a version of Bill Gates for the early 1920s, living and working in Belgrade in a world that has not yet known WW1. Many famous period true-life characters appear as well - Buffalo Bill, Mata Hari, Henry Ford - in this fast-paced thriller with Tesla that might have been. The novel is available only in Serbian, published by Laguna.
  • To Mars With Tesla; or, the Mystery of the Hidden World by J. Weldon Cobb (1901) is an adventure where Tesla, aided by Young Edison (Thomas Edison's fictional nephew) and a couple of scientists, has a number of encounters with Martians.
  • Tesla is mentioned in H.G. Wells' 1901 book The First Men in the Moon as being the inspiration to the character of Julius Wendigee, who picks up the broadcasts of the main character's exploits on the Moon.
  • An immortalized version of Nikola Tesla is a recurring character in Spider Robinson's Callahan's book series (1977–2004).
  • Generation Tesla (1995), published in Serbia. 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.[3]
  • Tesla is one of the main characters in The Tesla Legacy, a novel by Australian author Robert G. Barrett (2006).[5] 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 Invention of Everything Else, by Samantha Hunt (2008), is a novel blending fact with fiction. It centers on the relationship between Nikola Tesla and a maid at the New Yorker Hotel.
  • Tesla had an appearance in the denouement of Jack Du Brul's 2006 novel Havoc.
  • Tesla and his inventions play a large role in the novel Ghost Dancer by John Case.
  • Tesla plays a significant role in the alternate history novel The Kingdom of Ohio (2009) by Matthew Flaming.
  • French writer Jean Echenoz retraces in his book Des éclairs (2010) the life of Nikola Tesla, pictured under the name of "Gregor".


  • There is a mission in the 39 Clues website that involves the War of Currents between Tesla and Edison. In it, they say that Tesla was a member of the Ekaterina branch and that the War of Currents was just a cover-up for something big - possibly connected to the hunt for the 39 Clues.
  • Tesla is briefly mentioned in Book 2 of Southland Tales (2006) in which a large group of neo-Marxists achieve his dream of wireless electricity. An outdated version of the Wikipedia article on Tesla is also featured at the end of the book.
  • An improvised Tesla machine, as well as a few Tesla references, are used in Jack Henderson's novel Circumference of Darkness.
  • In the Area 51 novels Tesla is said to have used his Death Ray to knock down a hostile alien space craft.
  • In her book, Addition, Toni Jordan's main character, Grace, keeps a photo of her hero Nikola Tesla by her bed.
  • In the second book of the Leviathan trilogy Behemoth by Scott Westerfield, Tesla's famous death ray makes an appearance in the form of a cannon that shoots lightning at the "Leviathan" from the previous book. The cannon is stationed on the German ship "Goeben," but is ultimately destroyed by Great Britain's most destructive creature: the Behemoth.
  • In John Case's 2006 thriller "Ghost Dancer", an evil genius tries to harness research by Nikola Tesla to build an ultimate weapon. Following his trail, the main protagonist comes to Belgrade and pays a visit to the Nikola Tesla Museum.



  • JLA: Age of Wonder (2003) is a two-issue mini-series from DC Comics' Elseworlds line, in which Superman lands in Kansas in the 1850s and emerges on the world stage at the 1876 Centennial Exposition. He teams up with Edison but ends up working with Tesla, who eventually deploys a death ray during World War I.[7]
  • In the comic book series Rasl by Jeff Smith, the ideas of Tesla 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.
  • Tesla appears in the webcomic Thinkin' Lincoln[8] by Miles Grover.
  • Tesla also appears in DC Comics, Assassin's Creed : The Fall volume 2. He prepares a teleforce weapon to help brotherhood of Russian assassins to destroy staff of eden that used by Russian templars 's machine in Tunguska.
  • In the comic series Atomic Robo Tesla was responsible for building the protagonist.




  • The Secret of Nikola Tesla (Serbo-Croatian: Tajna Nikole Tesle) a 1980 Yugoslav film directed by Krsto Papić, notable for its inclusion of Orson Welles as banking baron J.P. Morgan, touches on Tesla's psychic powers and lost vision of the future.[10]
  • In 2006 David Bowie portrayed Tesla in the movie The Prestige in which one of the protagonists of the film who is a magician gets Tesla to develop a remarkable device for him.


  • In Craig Baldwin's agitprop film Spectres of the Spectrum (1999), a group of media revolutionaries broadcast underground transmissions under the moniker "TV Tesla". The film also incorporates Tesla's story into its plot.
  • In Hot Wheels Highway 35 World Race (2003) Dr. Tesla ( a scientist with the same last name, not the actual Nikola Tesla) discovers inter-dimensional racetracks named Highway 35.[11]
  • In the film, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, there is a painting/mural of Tesla shown at least twice during the Tucker trial.[12]
  • In the Disney animated film Meet the Robinsons, a picture of Tesla hangs in Lewis' room in the orphanage. Later, in the future sequences, some Tesla coil like devices are among the inventions kept in the lab of Lewis' future self.
  • In the 2010 Disney film "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", the main character (David Stutler) is a physics student who experiments with Tesla Coils. At the end of the film, he uses a Tesla Coil to defeat the main villain.



  • Nikola Tesla (1977), Yugoslav TV series about the life of Nikola Tesla, in 10 episodes. Tesla was played by Rade Šerbedžija.[13]
  • Tesla was a crucial character in the pilot episode, "Power", of Murdoch Mysteries, and appeared in the last episode of the third season, entitled "The Tesla Effect".
  • 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 Funny Or Die's HBO series, in a segment 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 15 Episode 9 of Family Guy Nikola Tesla was portrayed in cartoon form along with Thomas Edison. Peter made a reference to "bum deal(s)", which led to a cutscene where a man determines that Edison's light bulb will be used "to power the world," while Tesla's Tesla Coil will be used "in the background of Frankenstein movies."[14]


  • An amusement park is named after Nikola Tesla in the Saturday morning cartoon series The Weekenders, when it briefly mentions the debate over credit for inventing radio.
  • On the series House Season 4, Episode 2: "Tesla was robbed" is written on the board.
  • The background of the character Janos Bartok in the TV series Legend was heavily inspired by Tesla. The picture of Tesla sitting and reading underneath the Magnifying Transmitter was portrayed in the first episode.
  • On the series Eureka, Eureka's community school is called the Tesla School. The school's athletic team name is "The Coils".
  • In Warehouse 13, the characters use a prototype stun-gun said to have been invented by Tesla. Also, much of the electric and steam-punk designs throughout the warehouse have been credited to Tesla.
  • Nikola Tesla is a starting point and an inspiration in experimental animated interactive documentary Mechanical Figures by Helena Bulaja. The film presents technological and social development initiated by some of major Tesla’s inventions, from alternating current to radio, and includes interviews with some of the well known artists, scientists and writers who were inspired by Tesla in their work, such as Laurie Anderson, Terry Gilliam, Marina Abramovic, Andy Serkis, Douglas Rushkoff, and Christopher Priest, who share their ideas and thoughts about Tesla and creativity.



  • 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.
  • The Firesign Theatre includes Nikola Tesla in a list of extinct species and lost things in one of their radio sketches on Dear Friends.



  • Guitar group Acoustic Alchemy's 1998 album Positive Thinking... uses a colored version of the photograph of the “Magnifying Transmitter” taken at Tesla’s Colorado Springs laboratory c1900 for the album cover.
  • "Tesla" is the title of the last album the polish band Silver Rocket, whose main theme is the inclusion of an underrated scientist's genius (2008).
  • Recent performances of "National Grid" and "Circuit Blasting" by Disinformation vs Strange Attractor - see Disinformation (art and music project), use small Tesla coils as live performance tools (aka "instruments") for sound art and electronic music. Earlier versions of "National Grid" by Disinformation (solo) use amplified VLF radio noise from AC electricity and line-outputs from AC mains transformers as the basis of sound-art installations and live music performances.
  • The Handsome Family features Tesla in the song "Tesla's Hotel Room". The song is featured on the album Last Days of Wonder.
  • The White Stripes song "Astro" mentions Tesla in the line "Maybe Tesla does the Astro".
  • Grindcore band Discordance Axis have a song on their Jouhou album titled "Nikola Tesla".
  • Punk band Disarm reference Tesla in the song "Sirens & Machines" in the line, "Hey baby what's your malfunction? I got my body from Nikola Tesla".
  • Hard 'n Phirm's song "Trace Elements" includes the line "Tesla's coil thangs".
  • The rock band Piebald refer to him in their song "A Friend of Mine".
  • Dr. Steel, a musician with a Mad Scientist motif, gives Nikola Tesla a special thanks in the credits of his "Dr. Steel Show".
  • Russian synthpop band Tesla Boy, is named after Tesla.
  • The album Electric and Benevolent by The Extraordinaires is loosely based on the life and achievements of Tesla.
  • Rapper Jay Electronica has used a picture of Tesla with the Tesla Coil in his Colorado Springs Laboratory for both of his official iTunes releases Exhibit A (Transformations) and Exhibit C. Jay Electronica has also been known to reference Tesla in his songs, even doing so in the previously mentioned release Exhibit C.
  • The Abney Park song "The Secret Life of Dr. Calgori" includes the lines "Test tubes and Tesla coils" and "Played poker with Theremin, Tesla, and Poe."
  • In September 2011, the Israeli rock musician Rami Fortis released the concept album Ha'Haver Ani (The Friend Me), inspired by Tesla.
  • Post-Industrial group Electric Caves has cited Tesla as a major influence in their work. Their 2011 album Solace Furnace Transformation features the song Who Knocked Down Tesla's Towers? and he is featured in their video Unified Field.[16]

Video games

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).
  • Nikola Tesla is also one of the characters in the game Martian Dreams, by Origin, which is part of the Worlds of Ultima series.
  • Tesla is one of the main characters in the game "Darkvoid", 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 in anthropomorphic robots, similar to those in the move I, Robot. 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.


  • In World of Warcraft, two Tesla Coils are used to power Thaddius, an abomination.
  • In Assassin's Creed 2, images and quotes from Nikola Tesla are hidden in the files left in the Animus by Subject 16. They insinuate that he used a "Piece of Eden" (powerful artifacts in the Assassin's Creed conspiracy-inspired mythology) to create his inventions. There is also an enciphered message in one image that reads "He used it to develop a bottomless source of energy, Telefunken wireless station."
  • The Tesla Gun in the computer game Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a weapon that projects lightning-like electrical arcs, as part of the secret Nazi-Germany weapons that the main character finds through the game. The gun returns in the newest installment to the franchise, Wolfenstein, where it can be picked up in the "Hospital" level.
  • The Tesla Cannon in the computer game Blood and its sequel Blood II: The Chosen; it fires bursts of electrical energy, and can also be charged to release a devastating lightning blast.
  • Quake II Mission Pack: Ground Zero has landmines called Tesla that can be set on the ground, and enemies nearby get attacked by electric discharges.
  • Three weapons in the Ratchet & Clank video game series, the Tesla Claw, Tesla Spikes, and Tesla Barrier (the upgraded version of the Shield Charger), use electricity discharges to attack enemies.
  • In Tomb Raider: Legend, Lara Croft has to investigate a research facility in Kazakhstan in order to uncover an ancient artifact which is powering the plant's main weapons array. The technology is supposedly based on Tesla's work.
  • Nikola Tesla is mentioned in several accounts throughout the world of Crimson Skies.
  • In the Destroy All Humans series, Tesla coils are used to shoot waves of electricity that disrupts the player's powers.
  • In the popular Massive Multi-player Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) City of Heroes, the hero class Blaster has an ability under its power set "Electrical Blast" called Tesla Cage, in which the player creates a cage of electricity to surround an enemy and shock him.
  • The historical background of the Fallout series of computer games is based around Tesla's inventions all working as expected and his physical theories were correct. Tesla Armor has high resistance to laser and plasma weapons. Also, there is a book within the game entitled Nikola Tesla and You, which 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.
  • The Fallout 3 downloadable content Broken Steel features a weapon called the Tesla Cannon. Building the cannon requires you to find a Tesla Coil in an old power station. The game also features Tesla Armor, a special type of powered armor that increases damage done with energy weapons. Additionally, one of the load screens is a poster for "Nikola Tesla and You," which is an in-game skill book which raises your proficiency with energy weapons.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the Tesla Cannon's unique variation, the Tesla-Beaton prototype, refers to Tesla and Kate Beaton, who has featured Tesla in her webcomic, Hark! A Vagrant.
  • The Tesla Coil in the game "Goblin Commander: Unleash the Horde" shoots lightning bolts at approaching enemies.
  • In the MMORPG Asheron's Call the most powerful lightning bolt spell is named "Alset's Coil", which is merely Tesla backwards.
  • Troika Games' Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura includes a Tesla Rod as the most technologically-advanced pure electrical weapon achievable in-game, as well as a Tesla Gun.
  • In Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation and Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 2, the Tesla Drive is an enhanced engine which makes personal troopers flight capable.
  • In the webgames Strategy Defense 3 and Strategy Defense 4, the Tesla Cannon, Tesla Helicopter, and Tesla Tower are powerful assets that can be purchased.
  • The electricity-wielding Tekno character Tesla in the PlayStation game "The Unholy War" is a reference to the scientist as well.
  • In the WiiWare game "Gyrostarr" a weapon that can be obtained is called the "Tesla Shot". It appears to be a ball of electricity.
  • In the FPS Tremulous, the Tesla Turret is a human construction which arcs electricity to nearby aliens.
  • In the PlayStation 2 game Persona 4, there is an item dubbed the "Tesla Coil" which deals 50 points of Electrical damage to foes.
  • In the PSN game PixelJunk Monsters, one can research and use a "Tesla Tower". This tower emits electrical arcs at nearby, ground-based enemies. This charge can then transfer between adjacent enemies in a wave.
  • In the recently[when?] released PSN game "Zen Pinball", there is a table called 'Tesla', involving experiments which act as the table goals and various features relating to electricity.
  • In the game Dark Void, Nikola Tesla builds the jetpack and weapons used by Will.
  • In the game Borderlands, there is a challenge worth 2000 XP called "Nikola is My Friend" for getting 250 kills with Shock damage.
  • In the Kongregate hosted platformer-RPG Remnants of Skystone, there is a character named "Otto Von Tesla", who asks you to do many tasks involving energy minerals.
  • In the RPG Final Fantasy XIII, the Tesla Turbine is a component that can be used to upgrade weapons.
  • In the tower defense game Fieldrunners, the Tesla Tower shoots electrical arcs at nearby enemies.
  • In Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, a character named, Echo Tesla, is possibly named after Nikola Tesla. The said character also is a technical person. She turns on a set of her stage that contains some things that appear to be Tesla coils.
  • Nikolaj Taslow in ParaWorld seems to have been based on Tesla.
  • In Atom Zombie Smasher, Asa Willingdon's portrait looks very similar to Nikola Tesla

Live theatre and opera

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 at the University of Chicago's University Theatre, Lee August Praley's "The Last Ninety Minutes in the Life of Nikola Tesla" premiered. The play was directed by Phoebe Holtzman
  • In 2010, Jim Jarmusch and the composer Phil Klein began preparing a non-traditional opera about Tesla.[18]
  • The 2011 opera, Light and Power by American composer Isaac Schankler and librettist Jillian Burcar deals with Tesla's conflicts with Thomas Edison -- specifically, their rivalry over AC vs DC power.[19]



  • Tesla was a recurring minor character in the actual play podcast "Of Steam, Steel and Murder", often giving the player characters assignments.
  • 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.
  • In the Rooster Teeth Short "Conspiracy Weary" episode, Matt, a conspiracy theorist, calls Tesla the greatest inventor and tells of how he invented MP3 and the electric car, and developed a prototype Time Machine.
  • There is an annual Steampunk convention in Madison, WI named Teslacon.

See also


External links

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