Short Circuit



Funny, bullet-proof robot might charm older kids.
  • Review Date: June 8, 2008
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1986
  • Running Time: 98 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

An East Indian scientist's stereotypical speech and struggles with the English language provides much of the humor.

Positive role models

Heroes are kind to animals, people, and robots. Villains (military and industrial types) are stupid, violent, and hard-hearted.


All cartoon/fantasy violence. Cars, equipment, mannequins blow up; lots of gunfire, though no one is hit or injured except robots, who almost always bounce back; physical scuffles on two occasions between young woman and ex-boyfriend; Three Stooges hits and slaps in several video excerpts; runaway truck causes cartoon mayhem; machine gun and laser attacks on robots.


One gentle kiss. Some mild sexual innuendo with one character's continued misuse of words and expressions.


Frequent cursing: "hell" "damnit," "God damn," "pissed off," "Jesus," "fart," "red-ass," "son-of-a-bitch," "bulls--t," "bastard," "dips--t," "holy s--t," "a--hole."


Product placement is pervasive: Dr. Pepper, Brawny, MacIntosh, Pemco, Colgate, Alaska Air, Oreida, Volkswagen, Texaco, Campbell Soups. Some humor is derived from robot regurgitating familiar 1980s commercials.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Robots are shown preparing and serving cocktails at party. Elderly couple at police roadblock briefly refer to the "grass in the glove compartment."

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that from the opening scene -- which shows robots attacking and blowing up mannequins and heavy war machinery -- to the closing moments -- when bad guy-soldiers are trying to destroy the beloved robot-hero -- guns, rifles, lasers, and automatic weaponry are fired at regular intervals. No one is injured or killed, but the lovable robot character is in danger throughout. Also expect frequent angry and/or frustrated swearing in many sequences.

What's the story?

Five robots have been developed to be used in wartime. They're powerful fighting machines. During a storm, lightning strikes one of the robots. "Number 5" malfunctions and escapes from the compound. Hiding out with Stephanie (Ally Sheedy), the robot surprisingly begins to take on the characteristics of a human being. While the security team from the company sets out to find and destroy Number 5 before it blows anything up, Newton (Steve Guttenberg) and Ben (Fisher Stevens), the scientists who created the robot, try to find him first and save him.

Is it any good?


It doesn't get much more simplistic than this. The good guys are good; the bad guys are bad; nobody changes much. But the ride has its message and its moments. The message: it's wrong to kill. The moments come when Number 5 meets '80s culture, particularly TV, movies, and commercialism.

The highlight is when the robot mimics what he takes in around him, imitating John Wayne, The Three Stooges, George Raft, and John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. This movie is fun and harmless if viewers can get past the skin-deep characters (and performances), unnecessarily fiery battle sequences, and the lighter-than-air, obligatory romance.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the fighting in Short Circuit looks less than real. Why does no one get hurt in all the gunfire?

  • What makes Number 5 think he's alive? What human feelings does he begin to have?

  • How does the movie show that Stephanie is a caring person? Why is Ben funny? Do people from India really sound like Ben?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 9, 1986
DVD release date:March 23, 2004
Cast:Ally Sheedy, Fisher Stevens, Steve Guttenberg
Director:John Badham
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Topics:Adventures, Friendship, Robots
Run time:98 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 5 and 9 year old Written byAshwin.K. May 30, 2010

Too much bad language for our taste; otherwise great movie.

The movie itself is very good, but has a lot of foul language like "sh*t" and "a**hole". Quite unnecessary for such a wonderful story. Without this it would be quite the classic. Someone should make an edited version of it.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Parent of a 5, 7, and 9 year old Written bykboulia November 26, 2010
This movie has very inappropriate language throughout the entire movie. If it were one or two times, I would overlook it, but the variety of curse words combined with the frequency make this movie inappropriate for children under 12, and even then I'm not sure I want my 12 year old hearing some of this language.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Parent of a 3, 7, and 8 year old Written bydawnmbowers January 15, 2011

Not good for kids (and the acting is poor anyway)

I guess I forgot how much swearing and sexual references were in this movie, not to mention that the acting (especially by Ally Sheedy) is just poor. There is a lot of swearing and even an actor saying he is "sporting a woody." Too bad as the story plot is kind of cute but I would say this movie is really not appropriate for kids at all.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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