Scanners (1981) - Rotten Tomatoes


Scanners (1981)



Critic Consensus: Scanners is a dark sci-fi story with special effects that'll make your head explode.

Scanners Photos

Movie Info

The title of this David Cronenberg sci-fi horror film refers to a group of people who have telekinetic powers that allow them to read minds and give them the ability to make other people's heads explode. The children of a group of women who took an experimental tranquilizer during their pregnancies, the scanners are now adults and have become outcasts from society. But Darryl (Michael Ironside) decides to create an army of scanners to take over the world. The only person who can stop him is his brother Cameron (Stephen Lack), who wants to forget that he was ever a scanner. Winner of the International Fantasy Film Award at the 1983 Fantasporto Film Festival, Scanners was followed by a pair of sequels, neither of which involved Cronenberg. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovi

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Patrick McGoohan
as Dr. Paul Ruth
Adam Ludwig
as Crostic
Victor Désy
as Dr. Gatineau
Mavor Moore
as Trevellyan
Lee Broker
as Security One
Lee Murray
as Programmer 1
Geza Kovacs
as Killer in Record store
Sonny Forbes
as Killer in Attic
Jerome Tiberghien
as Killer in Attic
Denis Lacroix
as Killer in Barn
Louis Del Grande
as First Scanner
Anthony Sherwood
as Scanner in Attic
Ken Umland
as Scanner in Attic
Anne Anglin
as Scanner in Attic
Jack Messinger
as Scanner at Door
Victor Knight
as Dr. Frane
Terry Coady
as Security 1 Car Passenger
Steve Michaels
as Security 1 Car Driver
Malcolm Nelthorpe
as Security 2 Car Driver
Nicholas Kilbertus
as Security 2 Car Passenger
Robert Boyd
as Hallucinating Guard
Alex Stevens
as Programmer 3
Neil Affleck
as Medical Student in Hall
Fred Doederlein
as Dieter Tautz
Dean Hagopian
as Programmer 2
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News & Interviews for Scanners

Critic Reviews for Scanners

All Critics (37) | Top Critics (9)

Scanners, according to David Cronenberg's new film, are people who can control others with their thoughts...The idea has a certain cachet. But Scanners doesn't pay off on it.

April 28, 2018 | Full Review…

The generous selection of bonus features includes vintage elements, like a trailer made up almost entirely of the exploding-head scene, a handful of radio spots, and a 1981 talk-show appearance in which Cronenberg discusses his work up to that point.

July 14, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Scanners consolidates the ruling problematic of the Cronenberg project from the sex slugs of Shivers to the financial abstractions of Cosmopolis: what are the effects of signals on an organism?

July 7, 2014 | Full Review…

Like Tod Browning, Cronenberg doesn't have the stylistic resources to match the forcefulness of his ideas, but his movies remain in the mind for the pull of their private obsessions.

June 5, 2007 | Full Review…

All this should give fans of David Cronenberg's previous pix their money's worth, although lack of any rooting interest vitiates any possible suspense and highly elegant visual style works against much shock value.

June 5, 2007 | Full Review…

Part conspiracy thriller, part political tract, it is Cronenberg's most coherent movie to date, drawing a dark (but bland) world in which corporate executives engineer human conception to produce ever more powerful mental samurai.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Scanners

Watching this I try to imagine Cronenberg's directing his lead actors: "I need you to look as if you're trying to blow somebody's head off ... by only thinking about it." I try to imagine his actors processing that direction: "What exactly does THAT look like? What does this guy want?" All about big government conspiracy, and the rebellion against that, this is some big fun if you can get over the age of the work.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


A scientist trains a young man with deadly psychic powers (a "scanner") to infiltrate a group of fellow telepaths bent on world domination. A well-made, uniquely conceived horror thriller, although it lacks the psychological subtexts that make director David Cronenberg's best work dig under your skin.

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

A special-effects driven mixed bag of a movie about a group of special people called "scanners" who have the ability to read peoples minds, or if they decide they do not like them or need to make a point, make their heads explode. However, when one ruthless, murdering man named Revok (Michael Ironside) threatens to use his powers to attempt to take over the world, another scanner, Vale (Stephen Lack) makes it his mission to stop him at any cost. The plot is fairly cliché and predictable to a point, with Ironside outshining Lack's performance by a mile thanks to the great intensity and ferocity he gives whenever he is on the screen. It is a largely entertaining movie but it could have used more fleshing out of the story line, one that attempted to throw out at least some surprises once in a while. Far from director David Cronenberg's best works, but ironically, this is the movie that put him on the map so to speak.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

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