Phenomenon (1996) - Rotten Tomatoes


Phenomenon (1996)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Phenomenon Photos

Movie Info

A small-town auto mechanic of average intelligence suffers a mysterious mishap and suddenly becomes the world's smartest man in this touching, some say, Capra-esque drama. George Malley is the mechanic. He is well liked in his community but no one would ever mistake him for a genius. For a long time he has secretly loved Lace, an attractive single mother who pays him little heed. George's extraordinary change happens when he steps outside during his 37 birthday party and gets zapped by a brilliant flash of heavenly light that may or may not have been caused by a UFO. He returns to the festivities a brilliant, curious fellow who is able to use nearly all of his brain's potential rather than the measly 10% most of us use. Not only can he learn and retain knowledge at an unbelievable rate, he also has psycho-kinetic powers to move things with his will. He can even predict earthquakes. Much of the movie centers on the ways in which people react to the new and improved George. Most people are unable to deal with his intelligence and avoid him. The FBI comes to suspiciously investigate him. Fortunately, George's best friend Nate remains loyal as does the town doctor. Lace also comes round and begins falling in love with him. But then the doctor discovers something about George's condition and the story takes a tragic turn.

Watch it now


John Travolta
as George Malley
Kyra Sedgwick
as Lace Pennamin
Forest Whitaker
as Nate Pope
Jeffrey DeMunn
as Professor Ringold
Richard Kiley
as Dr. Wellin
Brent Spiner
as Niedorf
Vyto Ruginis
as Ted Rhome
Bruce A. Young
as Jack Hatch
Mark Valim
as Alberto
Ellen Geer
as Bonnie
Tony A. Mattos
as Ella's Father
Anni Long
as Major Benz
Mark Soper
as Reporter
Daniel Zacapa
as Sick Boy's Father
Justin DiPego
as Intense Man at Library Fair
Cab Covay
as Taunting Man at Library Fair
Carl Parker
as Man in Orchard
Richard Gross
as Customer at Malley's
Mariann V. Carothers
as Furniture Store Owner
Isaac Reiswig
as Man in Crowd
Claudia Crespin
as Woman in Crowd
Michael Forner
as Man at Bar No. 1
Joseph A. Nicosia
as Man at Bar No. 2
Dan Partain
as Man at Bar No. 3
Betsy Berryhill
as Woman at Bar
Jack Chouchanian
as Technician No. 1
Sage Callaway
as Female Officer
Eric G. Tignini
as Agent No. 2
Will Prater
as Helicopter Pilot
View All

Critic Reviews for Phenomenon

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (10)

Travolta is terrific! And in a movie season dominated by brainless action flicks and big explosions, Phenomenon is something magically different.

January 5, 2018 | Full Review…

This so-so Capra-esque fable with undertones of L. Ron Hubbard takes a turn for the worse after the first hour.

November 22, 2017 | Full Review…


July 26, 2003 | Rating: 4/5
Top Critic

Works best if you can switch off your brain. Those who can will reach weepy nirvana. Those who can't will find this sticky-sweet wallow a bit, well, dumb.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 2.5/4

This is a good role for Travolta, who has an underlying sweetness and enthusiasm that is well used here.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

For a movie that's ostensibly about intelligence, Phenomenon proves to be rather simple-minded.

July 13, 2012 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Phenomenon

John Travolta, Forest Whitaker, Kyra Sedgwick and Robert Duvall head up one of the more heartwarming of this genre (just short of Flowers for Algeron) wherein a regular guy suddenly finds himself invested with superior mental prowess. It gets slow right before the end but damned if I didn't forgive it for doing so due to the excellent handling of the material by all involved.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


An average American man working as a mechanic in a California town finds himself granted supernatural abilities on his 37th birthday in this whimsical dramedy starring John Travolta. There was speculation that this film had ties to Scientology, but I really wouldn't know, nor do I care to get involved in that discussion. I just remember my dad saying (sometime back in the 90s), that this was the only Travolta film (at that time at least), that he thought was any good. I didn't, and still don't agree with that, but it is a pretty good film nonetheless. I liked that this regular guy gets powers just out of happenstance, and how the film concerns him and everyone else around him, having to deal with the positive and negative consequences of this situation. It's been forever since I've seen this, so my memory of it is hazy, but I seem to recall that, while it does have fun with him messing around with his powers, it actually takes the situation seriously too, and mostly does so without being too heavy handed. The performances are good, the concept quite nice, and in the end it makes you all warm and fuzzy, and all that mushy stuff, so if that sounds good to you, then give it a shot.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

There are a few movies out there where something out-of-the-ordinary causes the hero to become a genius. It always seems to be a temporary phenomenon. This movie is no exception to the rule. I did not mind it - somehow it is a satisfying movie - perhaps the wish that one can solve all the world's ills.

Red Lats
Red Lats

Super Reviewer

Phenomenon Quotes

News & Features