Short Circuit (1986) - Rotten Tomatoes

Short Circuit1986

Short Circuit (1986)



Critic Consensus: Amiable and good-natured but also shallow and predictable, Short Circuit is hardly as deep or emotionally resonant as E.T. -- though Johnny Five makes for a charming robot protagonist.

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Movie Info

An intelligent, lovable robot known as "Number 5" escapes from a secret research facility and learns to interact with the world at large in this successful comedy. The project's chief technician attempts to track down the slapstick-prone robot before it is destroyed by the military.

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Ally Sheedy
as Stephanie Speck
Steve Guttenberg
as Newton Crosby
G.W. Bailey
as Skroeder
Tim Blaney
as Voice of No. 5
Penny Stanton
as Mrs. Cepeda
Vernon Weddle
as Gen. Washburne
Barbara Tarbuck
as Sen. Mills
Tom Lawrence
as Mr. Marner's aide
Penny Santon
as Mrs. Cepeda
Robert Krantz
as Reporter
Jan Speck
as Reporter
Marjorie Card Hughes
as Farmer's Wife
Herb Smith
as Gate Guard
Jack Thompson
as Party Guest
William Striglos
as Party Guest
Mary Reckley
as Party Guest
Lisa McLean
as Party Guest
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Critic Reviews for Short Circuit

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (9)

Folks who like tweaking the Army or those with a special fondness for adorable robots may enjoy this harmless, reasonably funny film.

October 27, 2021 | Rating: 5/10 | Full Review…

The film has nowhere to go except to give us a predictable initial confrontation between Guttenberg and Sheedy over military weapons.

April 2, 2014 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

One of the stranger ironies to be found in Hollywood these days is that some of its most resourceful directors use high-tech wizardry and state-of- the-art movie technology to make films that rail against the tyranny of science.

April 2, 2014 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

A film that demands emotional connections with a robot whose voice is one of the most annoying ever produced. Give us Hal, R2-D2 or a barber shop quartet of Daleks any day.

April 2, 2014 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Scripters get credit for some terrific dialog that would have been a lot less disarming if not for the winsome robot and Sheedy's affection for it. Guttenberg plays his best goofy self.

July 6, 2010 | Full Review…

A message film to please all ages.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Short Circuit


Way way before the likes of Wall-E and the recent Chappie there was Johnny 5 (Number 5), a prototype military robot built for use in the Cold War against the Ruskies (not really of course). This all sounds really serious and high-tech but in wasn't, no this movie starred the ever lovable Steve Guttenberg and the wholly 80's Ally Sheedy. It comes as no surprise that much of this idea came from the success of Star Wars and the vast array of droids featured all over its universe. I do recall this movie coming out and it was quite a big deal, very popular, quite an original idea and following on well from things like 'Flight of the Navigator' and of course 'E.T.' This was possibly one of the first movies to use this concept where a robot featured as the main character with humans mainly as secondary characters. The plot follow the creation of Number 5 at NOVA laboratories along with four other robots. Whilst being prepped for a demonstration Number 5 is hit by lighting and is suddenly...alive! (Frankenstein's monster homage noted). Naturally Number 5 is curious of his new surroundings and runs (drives) off leaving the military base getting lost in Astoria, Oregon. The happy little robot finds his way to Ally Sheedy who eventually takes care of him whilst convincing Guttenberg (another scientist from NOVA who is after 5) Number 5 is indeed a living errrm...entity? creature? Together the brave pair must battle off the other naughty scientists from NOVA who want to recapture Number 5 and reset him or shut him down and fix him. One thing is clear from the outset and that's the fact that all the budget went on the robot. The entire production does look cheap accept for Number 5, as if they shot most of it in and around the local area quickly without permission. But considering this movie is pretty darn old nowadays Number 5 does still look really very good and totally holds up. The fact that Pixar clearly copied this classic design for their own creation shows the overall concept was still looked upon favourably. Obviously 5 was designed to look appealing and kinda cute for kids to enjoy, hence the easy to recognise simple binocular eye design, eyebrow type flaps for basic emotions, an E.T. like alien body, cool looking caterpillar tracks and his bubbly chirpy voice. It all still looks quite authentic to this day really, maybe the support coaster at the rear being rather impractical but the simple eyebrow flap emotions work nicely. Matter of fact if you look at 5 from the side he bares a striking resemblance to the Hunter Killer tanks from 'The Terminator' which came out two years earlier. Number 5 is clearly the movies selling point because without him it has virtually nothing else going for it. There is literately nothing of interest to look at or get stuck into in this movie other than Number 5. The military base is your typical 80's military base with hordes of military police running around all packing. At least I assume they are military police of some sort, I actually think they were just company security guards that had their own arsenal of weapons, jeeps and min tanks! It made me chuckle when 5 escapes and this security force span out to find him in various vehicles, 5 must be moving at less than 5mph yet they still can't catch him up. Of course all the company men wanna destroy Number 5 naturally, typical Americans wanting to kill kill KILL! Although admittedly the main scientist played by Austin Pendleton wants 5 in one piece, head of security played G.W. Bailey wants to nuke it. In fact Guttenberg and Bailey pretty much resume their roles from 'Police Academy' with Bailey virtually repeating all his old lines to boot! The whole chase aspect in this movie is really ludicrous frankly as I'm pretty sure they would have caught little Number 5 in about ten minutes, all the goofiness is so very 80's. Sheedy plays the same type of accepting kind-hearted character that we saw in so many 80's flicks and beyond. We the audience are meant to connect with her and root for her (same with Guttenberg in time, we all know he always played a goodie) but its all so vomit inducing and infantile...these days anyway. She lives in a very large house typical of Astoria (which also kinda reminds you of 'The Goonies'), its probably the best bit of background eye candy in the movie really. Lastly we then have Fisher Stevens playing an Indian scientist and sidekick of Guttenberg. He actually plays this character extremely well because I always thought this character was actually an Indian actor. Not sure why Indian though, I kinda get the impression it might be for cheap laughs at the accent? hmmm. Gotta be honest, most of this film is kinda dull now, not in a bad way but more of a very dated and unfunny way. Essentially its all about the silly antics of Number 5 and how he interacts with the world like a young child, he is a young child basically, learning for the first time. In that you do feel for him and you can relate to him which gives the film a lot of heart, but watching these days it really is very very mushy and cheesy. The whole sequence where Sheedy and 5 are getting closer and end up dancing is pretty corny to the max, laughably so. On the other hand when Number 5 learns of morality and what will happen to him if NOVA capture him, shows a much deeper side that does tug at your heartstrings. I will say that Tim Blaney does do a terrific job with Number 5's voice, he's so innocent, naive and trusting whilst at the same time starry-eyed with wonder and pure untroubled joy with everything he learns. It really is a superbly moving little performance that actually really came into its own with the sequel. Its all very predictable and horrendously hammy these days, all the visual tomfoolery as Number 5 larks around getting into mischief whilst being oddly adorable at the same time. You do actually forget this character is a robot, by the end of the movie you do look at him as a real person, a little bug-eyed alien that you don't wanna see get harmed. Anywho its a by the numbers science fiction yarn with ample amounts of sweet doughy charm littered with lots of sickly good-natured visuals, dialog and humour. I don't think there is anything here that could upset, fun for all...mainly the kids.

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer


Amusing, creative and memorable Sci Fi comedy, Short Circuit is a well crafted picture with some good effects, fun performance by its well chosen cast, and it is a terrific genre film that is worth seeing if you enjoy these types of movies. The film is entertaining for what it is, and it's one of those 80's films that really stand out due to a good story, wonderful performances and great effects. I very much enjoyed the film, and I felt that it was among the best genre films of that decade. Ally Sheedy is quite good here, and she really brings out the best out of the film. Short Circuit is well worth seeing if you enjoy the genre, and it's an entertaining film from start to finish that boasts a good story and fun performances. Short Circuit is a good film for what it is, and it's one of the more memorable comedies of the 80's. Although the film is not perfect, for the most part, I thought that the film's weaknesses were not prominent due to the good ideas displayed on-screen. If you enjoy a good 80's comedy with Sci Fi elements, give Short Circuit a shot, it is an entertaining picture from start to finish. With great effects, memorable performances and a good story, Short Circuit is an engaging picture that is worth seeing if you enjoy 80's cinema. The cast here are well chosen in the parts they play and with effective direction, the film becomes a worthwhile viewing experience that is lots of fun from start to finish. Due to its ideas and concept. Watching the film, you can forget about the weak aspects of the film, and it's a movie that still looks quite good by today's standards.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

a great character Johnny 5 and great comedy, and a great plot, with lovable characters, and great acting

Michael Edwards
Michael Edwards

Super Reviewer

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