->''Scanning is not mind-reading. It is the merging of two nervous systems, separated by space.''
-->-- '''Dr. Paul Ruth'''

A drifter is arrested at a train station for, somehow, putting a woman into convulsions.

A conference attendee evades arrest for [[YourHeadASplode blowing up the speaker's head]].

The drifter, Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), is delivered into the custody of Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick [=McGoohan=] of ''Series/ThePrisoner'' fame), who informs him that he is a scanner. A scanner is a person born with a derangement of their brain, giving them {{telepathy}}. They can 'scan' you. Unfortunately, this telepathy is very much of the BlessedWithSuck variety: most scanners can hear your thoughts, [[PowerIncontinence and can't block them out]]. They get {{Psychic Nosebleed}}s. They can alter your bodily functions. A particularly powerful one, like BigBad Darryl Revok (MichaelIronside) can [[YourHeadAsplode blow up your head]].

Revok is a psychotic [[SmugSuper scanner-supremacist]] who wants to TakeOverTheWorld (reportedly, some of the later characterization for {{Magneto}} was based on him), and, with his terrorist sect of scanners, probably could. Now the question remains: Is Vale a badder dude than Revok?

'''''Scanners''''' is Creator/DavidCronenberg's 1981 sci-fi thriller outing, full of the standard Cronenberg trademarks: brilliant special effects, a great HowardShore score, constant unease, the battle between mind and body, and of course, generous helpings of BodyHorror. By his own account (see ''Cronenberg on Cronenberg''), the movie was a nightmare to work on however: due to the oddities of the Canadian film industry at the time he only had a few weeks of pre-production before he had to start shooting without a finished script. His daily schedule consisted of waking up early in the morning to [[WritingByTheSeatOfYourPants write a few pages]], and then film that for the rest of the day, ''all of it completely out of order''. It's quite a miracle that the resulting story holds together as well as it does.

The movie was followed by a number of DirectToVideo continuations: two sequels and two spin-offs. None of these involved Cronenberg or anyone else involved in the production of the first film, or follow on from its story (other than a passing reference in the second).
* ''Film/ScannersIITheNewOrder'' (1991)
* ''Film/ScannersIIITheTakeover'' (1992)
* ''Film/ScannerCop'' (1994)
* ''Film/ScannerCopII'' (1995), also known as ''Scanners: The Showdown''.

!!The first film provide examples of:

* AdaptationExpansion: The film is inspired by a few paragraphs of the book ''Literature/NakedLunch'' (which Cronenberg went on to [[Film/NakedLunch adapt into its own film]]), detailing a group of telepaths called 'senders', one of the many factions of [[WretchedHive Interzone]].
* AllOfTheOtherReindeer: A rare example where the lack of communication is mostly the fault of the minority: scanners are mostly very socially maladjusted, if not outright diabolical.
* AntiHero: In the thought-provoking sense, rather than the LovableRogue sense. Sure, Cameron is a stone cold BadAss who can put his enemies into cardiac arrest without lifting a finger, but due to being BlessedWithSuck, he's also just generally [[CreepyMonotone stone cold]]. He has no outside interests, no real motivation of his own, and not a whole lot of personality, being described by Kim as "barely even human." During his downtime, he simply sits in his hotel room, stares at the wall, and waits for the next plot point to happen. So yes, he's a BadAss, but not the sort of BadAss you would ever daydream about being. See WhatCouldHaveBeen on the Trivia tab for how Cronenberg had originally intended to play this trope. This motif of the protagonist-as-a-pawn was one that Cronenberg later returned to in ''Film/{{Videodrome}}'', where the manipulation is a good deal more explicitly sinister.
* AppealToForce: [[spoiler:Breadon Keller]] orders a [=ConSec=] technician to do a blank swipe of the [=ConSec=] computer system in an attempt to hurt Cameron while he's mentally connected to it through the telephone system. The technician refuses to do so because that would wipe out all stored computer files, something he couldn't do without the written authorization of the [=ConSec=] leadership. [[spoiler:Keller]]'s response is to shove a gun in the guy's face.
-->Mister, ''this'' is your authorization.
* AuthorityEqualsAssKicking: The scanner terrorists' leader is one of the most powerful scanners around.
* BadassLongcoat: Cameron Vale.
* BerserkButton: Revok becomes absolutely livid when Vale tells him that he's no different from Ruth. [[spoiler:Revok utterly despises the father who abandoned both his sons and threw Revok in a mental asylum.]]
* BigBad: Darryl Revok.
* BioPunk
* BizarreBabyBoom: The plot is about a wave o' babies ([[WaveOfBabies not literally]]) with BodyHorror-tastic psychic powers. Revok, one of the children of the original boom, is plotting to start a second one, and then create an army of evil scanners and TakeOverTheWorld. And he probably ''could'' do it. [[LeftHanging Maybe he does.]] [[WordOfGod Cronenberg says]] that [[CanonDiscontinuity the sequels aren't considered canon]].
* BlessedWithSuck: It's no fun being a Scanner, mostly because of all that PowerIncontinence. Also, hearing the thoughts of everyone around you gets noisy and distracting.
* BillingDisplacement: Top-billed Jennifer O'Neill doesn't appear until the 37 minute mark and is more of a supporting character to Stephen Lack's character. Michael Ironside is billed fifth despite arguably playing the most memorable character of the film.
* BodyHorror: It's a Creator/DavidCronenberg film; what did you expect? Specifically, the final face-off between Revok and Vale.
* BrainBleach: Revok tried to drill a hole in his skull to let the voices out. [[ReferencedBy This is referenced]] in ''[[Film/X2XMenUnited X-Men 2]]'' when Col. Stryker explains how his wife was telepathically DrivenToSuicide.
* BrokenPedestal: The Ripe Program [[spoiler:brings out some rather bad memories for Dr. Ruth right before Keller kills him]].
* CallingTheOldManOut: "That was Daddy."
* CanadaEh: Pierce lives in a cabin in the woods, and Revok and [[spoiler: Keller]] can be seen meeting at what is clearly the Yorkdale subway station in Toronto. You can see the sign and everything. Both Cronenberg and MichaelIronside are Torontonians, and Stephen Lack has a quite pronounced Canadian accent. The [=ConSec=] helicopter also has a Canadian registration.
* CreateYourOwnVillain: [[spoiler:Dr. Paul Ruth is largely responsible for turning Revok into an evil scanner in the first place. He gave his children psychic powers to begin with by experimenting on his own family with untested drugs, and subsequently abandoned both his children. He let Revok be locked up in an insane asylum rather than help him, causing him to develop a supremacist complex and wanting scanners to rule the world. The plot starts as Ruth tries to use the other child he rejected as a weapon against Revok.]]
* CreepyMonotone: Vale. Holy shit, Vale.
* DeconstructorFleet: Analyzes and subverts many of the tropes relating to the classic Hero's Journey, including {{Mentors}}, the LoveInterest, and the BigBad being [[APupilOfMineUntilHeTurnedToEvil a former student of the mentor]].
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler:Revok forces Security One to shoot himself.]]
* DuelToTheDeath: A BodyHorror version of this happens at the end of the film and a pretty awesome one, too. "Awesome" in both the slang and literal senses of the word. This would not be the last time [[Film/TheLordOfTheRings a supernatural duel was fought with mind powers]] while the music of HowardShore played.
* DullSurprise: Cameron has no personality whatever, which makes Stephen Lack's performance easily mistaken for simple bad acting. His acting performances normally have a somewhat [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0k0vKC2hUBk&feature=related wider range of emotion]] to them.
* EstablishingCharacterMoment: Revok's famous [[YourHeadASplode opening scene]].
* ExplosiveInstrumentation: Justified, kind of. If Revok can blow up people's heads, Vale can blow up computers.
* EyeScream: Exploding eyeballs.
* FantasticRacism: Revok seem to have developed a hatred for normal humans due to his experiences, seeing scanners as inherently superior to them.
* FetusTerrible: A major clue in unraveling the mystery.
* TheGenerationGap: [[http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Lefties+and+Hippies+and+Yuppies,+Oh+My!+David+Cronenberg%27s+Scanners...-a0305562549 One reviewer]] has noted that the movie is a fairly good examination of the post-World War 2 generational conflict: Obrist representing the hippies, Revok representing the yuppies, and Ruth the "Greatest Generation" (especially as he is [[spoiler:Revok and Vale's father]]). The ending is particularly interesting; [[spoiler:Revok kills Vale, but in the process Vale is able to imprint his consciousness onto Revok, the combined entity inheriting their father's company and power - resulting in a weirdly-prescient portrayal of the internet generation; prewar power and yuppie greed tempered by hippie communalism.]]
* GreyAndGrayMorality: Revok's cult of telepathic madmen vs. a sketchy weapons manufacturer run by crotchety old men and their creepy, maladjusted top enforcer
* GuineaPigFamily: [[spoiler:Dr. Ruth's great crime.]]
* HeroicBSOD / VillainousBSOD: Some kinda BSOD, anyway, is suffered by Dr. Ruth. Which type depends on how ready you are to forgive him.
* TheHerosJourney: Deliberately set up by Dr. Ruth. The whole movie is a very uncomfortable take on this plot structure.
* LeftHanging: [[spoiler: Vale and Revok merge into a single being (though not in a BodyHorror sense), but there's still some ambiguity about which consciousness is more in control. GrandTheftMe of Revok by Vale would be the nicer possibility.]]
** [[spoiler: The novelization implies Vale's in control.]]
* MadArtist: Inverted by Benjamin Pierce, whose art keeps him sane. Well, sane-ish. Although his art is pretty friggin' weird.
* MagicAntidote: Ephemerol, which temporarily shuts down a scanner's powers but has no effect whatsoever on normal humans. Except that [[spoiler: when used on pregnant women, it mutates their unborn children into scanners.]]
* MasterOfIllusion: Obrist briefly causes a security guard to collapse in tears by [[EvenBadMenLoveTheirMamas appearing to be his mother.]]
* MasterOfYourDomain: Dieter Tautz, a yoga master, is said to be capable of controlling his heart rate and several other usually uncontrollable body functions.
* MegaCorp: [=ConSec=], a rare sympathetic, if somewhat morally dubious, example. They fill much the same role in the story as TheKingdom would in standard fantasy.
* MindRape: Repeatedly happens. The movie starts with the hero ''[[PowerIncontinence accidentally]]'' doing this to somebody.
* TheMole: [[spoiler: Braedon Keller.]]
* MysticalWhiteHair: Kim Obrist is a scanner with prematurely grey hair.
* TheNameIsBondJamesBond: "Revok! Darryl Revok!"
* NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast: Darryl Revok. Probably deliberate. After all, he likely chose the name himself. To a lesser extent, naming the mysterious antihero 'Vale'.
* NotSoDifferent: Early in the film, Dr. Ruth says that scanners have a potential to bring "a brilliance and a glory" to the world. Toward the end, Revok [[WeCanRuleTogether asks Cameron to help him]] create a "an empire so brilliant, so glorious, it'll be the envy of the world."
-->'''Cameron:''' You sound just like him.
* PresentDay: Unusually for a film about super-psychics, this doesn't take place in the future (although the original script treatment ''Telepathy 2000'' did, [[TurnOfTheMillennium as you might have guessed from the title]]). Of course, this film's PresentDay is the early [[TheEighties '80s]].
* PsychicAssistedSuicide: Revok makes one [=ConSec=] agent crash his car into a wall (where it [[EveryCarIsAPinto promptly explodes]]) and another shoot two allies and then himself.
* PsychicNosebleed: The TropeMaker, in fact. It's used throughout all the subsequent movies.
* PsychicPowers
* PsychoSerum: [[spoiler:Ephemerol is originally introduced as a scanner suppressant. It's later revealed that Dr. Ruth originally developed it as a tranquilizer for pregnant women, and that unborn children who are exposed to it become scanners.]]
* PubertySuperpower: Averted altogether. [[FreudianExcuse Quite]] [[FetusTerrible creepily]].
* ReclusiveArtist: Benjamin Pierce is an artist who lives alone in a secluded barn to make his artwork. As a psychic pariah he outright refuses to see his public.
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: Mr. Trevelyan, chairman of the [=ConSec=] board, seems to be a fairly responsible guy, giving Dr. Ruth a reasonable amount of leeway to deal with the Revok menace.
* RedRightHand: Revok's scar. Notably, it's gone after [[spoiler: [[GrandTheftMe Cameron switches bodies with him.]]]]
* TheReveal: [[spoiler: At the end, Revok [[LukeIAmYourFather reveals]] that [[CainAndAbel both he and Vale]] are the [[LongLostSibling sons]] of Dr. Ruth.]]
* SelfMadeOrphan:
** Benjamin Pierce tried to kill his family in his backstory.
** [[spoiler:Revok also orders Keller to kill Ruth.]]
* SmokyGentlemensClub: Dr. Ruth is relaxing in a comfy leather chair in such an establishment when Vale calls him over the phone to report back to him.
* StuffBlowingUp: When Vale is disconnected from the computer, both the computer and the gas station from where Vale hacked into it. Of course, that's not [[YourHeadASplode the only thing]] that blows up.
* TakeOverTheWorld: Revok plans to do this by [[spoiler:initiating a country-wide scheme of covertly prescribing pregnant women with a dangerous drug that will turn their unborn children into scanners, who he will then convert to his cause - being one himself with a deep hatred for normal humans]].
* {{Technopath}}: Vale psychically hacks a computer.
* {{Telepathy}}: Pretty much the core point of the plot.
* TokenRomance: Averted. Nothing romantic ever develops between Vale and Obrist. It's doubtful whether Vale has the capacity to love.
* TurnOutLikeHisFather: [[spoiler:Revok's greatest fear.]]
* TrueArtIsIncomprehensible: Invoked - Pierce's art at first looks like this, but if you know he's a scanner, it all makes sense.
* UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans: Both Revok and Ruth seem to believe this. Dr. Ruth wants to create some sort of peaceful co-existence of humans and scanners where the latter's unique gifts are explored for the good of mankind. Revok wants to create nothing but a scanner supremacy ruled by his 'superior' kind.
* VillainousValor: Revok plots a daring infiltration of and escape from the [=ConSec=] headquarters to [[YourHeadASplode assassinate]] their last scanner. As the head of a major scanner underground he could have sent in underlings, but he decided this was something he had to do himself. Also, toward the end of the movie, it's TheHero who pulls the NotSoDifferent card instead of the villain.
* WeCanRuleTogether: Revok offers this to Vale [[spoiler:so they can rule their new empire as brothers]]. He seems to feel genuinely hurt and betrayed when the offer is refused.
* WickedCultured: A moderate example. Revok has a nice, tasteful apartment with some interesting modern art, where he is seen drinking Scotch toward the end.
* WithGreatPowerComesGreatInsanity
* WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds: As we learn more of Darryl Revok's backstory, it becomes increasingly apparent that he became a psychic supremacist with ambitions of world conquest due to all the abuse he suffered because of his supernatural abilities. He tranformed his inferiority complex into a superiority complex to cope with being called a freak and locked up in a mental asylum for years, as pointed out by Dr. Paul Ruth:
-->'''Dr. Ruth:''' At the age of 22 he was extremely self-destructive; now at the age of 35 he is ''simply'' destructive.
* YourHeadASplode: One of [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HY-03vYYAjA the most infamous examples]]; a particularly bitchin' KickTheDog moment for villain Darryl Revok. Made even more awesome when you know how they did it: nothing fancy at all -- just a fake head and a twelve gauge shotgun aimed at the back of its neck! So [[TheMoreYouKnow now you know exactly what happens to a human head when hit point blank by a sawed-off shotgun...]]\\
[[http://i73.photobucket.com/albums/i212/Kerrah_photos/Exploding-head.gif Here's a gif]]. Warning: [[CaptainObvious it's messy]]. [[http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/uncyclopedia/images/b/be/Daeh-gnidolpxE.gif And here's a gif of it in reverse!]]