Scanners (1981) - Rotten Tomatoes

Scanners (1981)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

The title of this David Cronenberg sci-fi horror film refers to a group of people who have telekinetic powers that allow them to read minds and give them the ability to make other people's heads explode. The children of a group of women who took an experimental tranquilizer during their pregnancies, the scanners are now adults and have become outcasts from society. But Darryl (Michael Ironside) decides to create an army of scanners to take over the world. The only person who can stop him is his brother Cameron (Stephen Lack), who wants to forget that he was ever a scanner. Winner of the International Fantasy Film Award at the 1983 Fantasporto Film Festival, Scanners was followed by a pair of sequels, neither of which involved Cronenberg. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovimore
Rating: R
Genre: Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 28, 2001
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


Patrick McGoohan
as Dr. Paul Ruth
Adam Ludwig
as Crostic
Victor Désy
as Dr. Gatineau
Mavor Moore
as Trevellyan
Lee Broker
as Security One
Lee Murray
as Programmer 1
Geza Kovacs
as Killer in Record sto...
Sonny Forbes
as Killer in Attic
Jerome Tiberghien
as Killer in Attic
Denis Lacroix
as Killer in Barn
Louis Del Grande
as First Scanner
Anthony Sherwood
as Scanner in Attic
Ken Umland
as Scanner in Attic
Anne Anglin
as Scanner in Attic
Jack Messinger
as Scanner at Door
Victor Knight
as Dr. Frane
Terry Coady
as Security 1 Car Passe...
Steve Michaels
as Security 1 Car Drive...
Malcolm Nelthorpe
as Security 2 Car Drive...
Nicholas Kilbertus
as Security 2 Car Passe...
Robert Boyd
as Hallucinating Guard
Alex Stevens
as Programmer 3
Neil Affleck
as Medical Student in H...
Fred Doederlein
as Dieter Tautz
Dean Hagopian
as Programmer 2
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Scanners

Critic Reviews for Scanners

All Critics (30) | Top Critics (5)

Like Tod Browning, Cronenberg doesn't have the stylistic resources to match the forcefulness of his ideas, but his movies remain in the mind for the pull of their private obsessions.

Full Review… | June 5, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

All this should give fans of David Cronenberg's previous pix their money's worth, although lack of any rooting interest vitiates any possible suspense and highly elegant visual style works against much shock value.

Full Review… | June 5, 2007
Top Critic

Part conspiracy thriller, part political tract, it is Cronenberg's most coherent movie to date, drawing a dark (but bland) world in which corporate executives engineer human conception to produce ever more powerful mental samurai.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Scanners is so lockstep that we are basically reduced to watching the special effects, which are good but curiously abstract, because we don't much care about the people they're happening around.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

The quality of the film's inventiveness is not always of the first order, which is too bad because Mr. Cronenberg does seem to be a director-writer of some style.

Full Review… | August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

Cronenberg's deadpan techno-thriller lampoon

Full Review… | August 13, 2015

Audience Reviews for Scanners


A scientist trains a young man with deadly psychic powers (a "scanner") to infiltrate a group of fellow telepaths bent on world domination. A well-made, uniquely conceived horror thriller, although it lacks the psychological subtexts that make director David Cronenberg's best work dig under your skin.

Greg S

Super Reviewer

A special-effects driven mixed bag of a movie about a group of special people called "scanners" who have the ability to read peoples minds, or if they decide they do not like them or need to make a point, make their heads explode. However, when one ruthless, murdering man named Revok (Michael Ironside) threatens to use his powers to attempt to take over the world, another scanner, Vale (Stephen Lack) makes it his mission to stop him at any cost. The plot is fairly cliché and predictable to a point, with Ironside outshining Lack's performance by a mile thanks to the great intensity and ferocity he gives whenever he is on the screen. It is a largely entertaining movie but it could have used more fleshing out of the story line, one that attempted to throw out at least some surprises once in a while. Far from director David Cronenberg's best works, but ironically, this is the movie that put him on the map so to speak.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

In this sci-fi horror action film from David Cronenberg, the Scanners of the title refer to a group of humans who possess extraordinary and immensely powerful telepathic and telekinetic abilities which essentially sees them becoming social outcasts.

When one of them, Darryl Revok goes rogue and plans to create a scanner army to take over the world, another, Cameron Vale is recruited by a shady corporation named ConSec to bring Revok down.

This film is all over the place. I described it as sci-fi horror action, and while it has some of those qualities, it also kind of exists in its own unique unclassifiable bubble. It's also got mixings of class warfare, prejudice against the superior-abled, and a sense of psychedelia combined with anti-authoritarianism. It's definitely a Cronenberg film alright.

It's a very dated film, but in a pretty cool way. I liked that it reeked of the early 80s, as it gives the proceedings a unique vibe and atmosphere, and a sense of style that you don't really see today. I think we need a lot more chrome and stuff that's blood red in color.

The film does have an eerie and unnerving atmosphere and tone that really help enhance the ridiculous and nutty plot. This is further helped by the set design, cinematography, effects, and Howard Shore's creepy score.

The acting from the lead is admittedly pretty bland and distracting, but Michael Ironside is wonderfully batty and menacing as Revok.

All in all, a weird film, and a bit of a mess. But it's got some cool ideas, is technically well made, and is pretty entertaining, so yeah, give it a watch.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Scanners Quotes

Revok: There's a whole generation of scanners soldiers just a few months away from being born. We'll find them. Train them to be like us. Not like Obrist and their band of cripples. We'll bring the world of normals to their knees. We'll build an empire so brilliant, so glorious. We'll be the envy of the whole planet.
– Submitted by David E (3 years ago)
Revok: This was a test campaign used in 1947 to market a new product. The product was a drug, a tranquilizer called 'Ephemerol'. It was aimed at pregnant women. If it had worked, it would have been marketed all over North America. But the campaign failed and the drug failed, because it had a side effect on the unborn children. An invisible side effect.
Vale: It created scanners.
– Submitted by David E (3 years ago)
Vale: Ephemerol. Ephemerol is creating new scanners.
– Submitted by David E (3 years ago)
Vale: [sees that Kim has had a nosebleed] What happened?
Kim: I was scanned. The woman in the waiting room...
Vale: She scanned you??
Kim: No, not her. Her child. Her unborn child scanned me.
– Submitted by David E (3 years ago)

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