Short Circuit

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Short Circuit Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Funny, bullet-proof robot might charm older kids.
  • PG
  • 1986
  • 98 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 19 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 10 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

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

Positive Role Models & Representations

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."

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJoseph Z. January 13, 2018

Great Movie, Childhood Classic. However.....

This is just my two cents on 'Short Circuit'.

If you're an 80s kid (Like I am), then of course, you're going to want to show this movie to... Continue reading
Parent Written bylefthandedink March 23, 2016

10? What are you thinking??

I can usually trust Common Sense Media for ratings and reviews, but this time I think you got it VERY WRONG. There was way too much sexual conversation--the Ind... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byLoranikas303 July 5, 2019

Another WALL-E movie!!!

Johnny 5 reminds me of WALL-E and strongly resembles our favorite Pixar robot. I recommend kids under tween age because there is some big swearing, naked woman... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old May 3, 2014

short circuit

this movie is really funny but there is some cussing

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.

Talk to your kids 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

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Themes & Topics

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