Short Circuit (1986)


Short Circuit is a 1986 comedy science fiction film starring Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg and directed by John Badham. Fisher Stevens, Austin Pendleton, and G. W. Bailey co-star, with Tim Blaney providing the voice of robot "Number 5." The story revolves around a sentient robot labeled "SAINT Number 5." The acronym SAINT stands for "Strategic Artificially Intelligent Nuclear Transport." The robot later takes the name "Johnny 5". A sequel, Short Circuit 2, was released in 1988.


Number 5 (voiced by Tim Blaney) is one of five prototype robots proposed for Cold War use by the U.S. military, although the scientist mainly responsible for creating them, Newton Graham Crosby, Ph.D. (Steve Guttenberg) and his partner Ben Jabituya (Fisher Stevens), are more interested in peaceful uses of their artificial intelligence, like playing musical instruments. While a demonstration takes place on the grounds of the developer's company, Nova Laboratories in Damon, Washington, a lightning storm forces an end to the presentation. A power surge hits Number 5 while it is recharging and alters its program, causing a malfunction. An associated accident causes it to be taken off company grounds and it wanders away, unable to communicate and not knowing where it is. Number 5 finds itself at the home of animal-lover Stephanie Speck (Ally Sheedy) in Astoria, Oregon, who initially thinks the robot is an extraterrestrial visitor, but then determines that the robot was built by Nova. After she helps it satisfy its cravings for "input" (due to its malfunction), and explains the nature of life and death to it, Stephanie and the robot realize the power surge has brought the robot to life. The robot subsequently gains a respect for life, rejecting the destructive nature of its military programming, as well as a fear of the disassembly that awaits it back at Nova, believing it to be akin to death. After several narrow escapes from a troop of soldiers led by Nova's security head Captain Skroeder (G. W. Bailey) — who in his attempt to destroy the wayward robot disobeys orders from Howard Marner (Austin Pendleton), the director of Nova — as well as from Stephanie's unscrupulous ex-boyfriend Frank, Stephanie and the robot finally convince Newton of the robot's sentience, but are cornered by the full weight of Nova's security and the Army, who seemingly destroy the robot. Unbeknownst to the soldiers, the robot they destroyed was a copy built by Number 5 from spare parts, and with the robot's "destruction," the project that spawned it is ruined and Skroeder is fired. Number 5 (who renames himself "Johnny 5" after hearing the song "Who's Johnny?" throughout the movie) leaves for Montana with Stephanie and Newton, who has subsequently quit his job after siding with the robot.