"Number Five... is Alive!"
— Number Five
"Life is NOT a malfunction!"Short Circuit is a pair of films about a bleeding edge military robot who becomes self-aware. Dubbed "Number Five", his first instinct as a sentient being is to invert the Killer Robot genre: he doesn't want to kill, and is hunted by the weapons manufacturer that made him. It doesn't slot easily into any one genre, instead toying with hard sci-fi, romantic comedy, tragedy, revenge drama, and slapstick (Number Five ignoring his laser cannon to sling mud at people).In the first film (1986), Number Five short-circuits during a routine maintenance check and flees his birthplace of NOVA Robotics. With mobile tank treads, hair-trigger tactile response, dodgy AI and packing serious heat, Five is the grandaddy of corporate liability. In a panic, NOVA deploys its private security force to recapture and/or destroy the robot while his original programmers (Steve Guttenberg and Fisher Stevens) try to stall them. Sure enough, Number Five pulls into a nearby town and befriends a Granola Girl named Stephanie Speck (Ally Sheedy), who mistakes him for an extra-terrestrial and NOVA for an evil government agency. Meanwhile, Number Five is adapting... learning... and willfully ignoring commands.The second film (Short Circuit 2, 1988) centers on Benjamin Jabituya (now inexplicably called Benjamin "Jahrvi"), who helped program Number Five and was blackballed as a result. Living out of a truck, Ben now hustles little NOVA-inspired toys in Manhattan, but he's having problems getting production up to speed. So, Stephanie sends Number Five, now calling himself Johnny Five, who is a one robot production line. Unfortunately, Ben's business partner Fred Ritter sees other opportunities. But all this takes a back seat to Johnny being manipulated by thieves to help in a bank heist, which shatters Johnny's naiveté and leaves him wanting revenge.A third film was in talks afterwards, but was eventually canned due to scripts not meeting expectations. Johnny 5 did return in a TV short Hot Cars, Cold Facts however, revolved around the robot, now a proper civilian with his own home, suffering a car theft. Though primarily an educational film regarding vehicle ownership and insuring, the comedy of the two movies remains.Pixar stated that Johnny Five provided some (unintended) inspiration for WALL•E, both in appearance and personality. A remake is being planned, but it is in the very early stages.
— Stephanie Speck
The movies contain examples of:
- Absentee Actor: Newton and Stephanie, despite being the main human actors of the first film, do not appear with Johnny 5 in the sequel (though Ally Sheedy gets a voice cameo reading a letter as the latter).
- Accidental Misnaming: Ben keeps calling Johnny "Number Johnny Five". He doesn't really seem to mind though.
- Adaptation Explanation Extrication: When Short Circuit 2 plays on television, it cuts a lot of scenes for time. Many of the cut scenes are the ones where Johnny wanders around New York observing things for himself, including a scene where he trashes a bookstore. This is jarring because he refers to visiting a bookstore at least twice in later scenes.
- Adorkable: Just about everyone, admit it. Most notably: Ben, Newton and Johnny.
- A.I. is a Crapshoot: Inverted. There's nothing wrong with the AI until lightning gets involved. Even then, the AI is incredibly amicable and nonviolent, and takes some serious pushing (a major betrayal and very serious and brutal attempt on its life) just to move it from an Actual Pacifist to a Technical Pacifist.
- Arc Words: Number Five maintains throughout the film that he is "alive". It takes quite a bit of persuading before everyone else agrees with him. The word is given special significance in all of his lines.
- Armies Are Evil: Strictly speaking, the "soldiers" are NOVA's security team and not proper military, but close enough. It's also implied that the actual army would happily use the robots as a new and better way to commit as many war crimes as possible. That was the marketing pitch, anyway; the army never actually bought them.
- Award Bait Song: The first movie has Come and Follow Me by Max Carl and Marcy Levy.
- Badass Boast: From the second movie:Los Locos: Los Locos kick your ass! Los Locos kick your face! Los Locos kick your balls into outer space!note
- Badass Unintentional: Johnny Five, in the second movie, since he's a Technical Pacifist.
- Bank Robbery: Oscar's scheme in the sequel.
- Become a Real Boy: One of the plot points of the second movie is Johnny Five's quest to be recognized as sentient. He eventually is, and becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen alongside Ben at the end.
- Berserk Button: Do not mistreat Johnny Five's friends, and do not treat him like a mere machine. He WILL find you, and he WILL deal the most humiliating yet nonviolent punishment imaginable. Stephanie's ex-boyfriend and Oscar both found that out firsthand."You will not get away! I am really pissed off!!"
- Beware the Nice Ones: Johnny and Ben. You do not want to be around Ben if something's happened to Johnny on your watch. Just see Berserk Button above to see why it's an equally bad idea to take Johnny lightly.
- Big, Stupid Doodoo-Head: "I've got an error message for you! I'll scramble your RAM!!" Quoted by Saunders, apparently unsure of how to properly insult a robot. Johnny is understandably less than impressed.
- Blank Slate: Number 5 is a fast learner though.
- Bloodless Carnage: The attack against Johnny 5 in the second movie.
- Bollywood Nerd: Ben.
- Break the Cutie: Quite literally, in the second movie.
- Brick Joke: One of the phrases that Johnny passes to Ben during his date with Sandy is translated by Sandy as "Your mother sleeps (makes love with) with my dog". At the movie's climax, Johnny uses the same phrase to taunt a crook.
- Bus Full of Innocents: Howard is scared that the malfunctioning Number 5 might attack one.Howard: What if it goes out and melts down a busload of nuns? How'd you like to write the headline on that one?!
Ben: Nun soup?
- But I Read a Book About It:
- Newton's response when Ben asks if he's ever seen a woman naked.
- Standard fare for Johnny-Five. With most of his fairly shortnote life spent interacting with only about a half-dozen humans in any significant way, the majority of his experience and knowledge comes from the piles upon piles of books he's read.
- Call Back: Number Five's "Today, Crosby, today!" line in the first movie is a call back to two previous scenes in the same movie, where Skroeder ordered his men using a similar line ("Today, gentlemen, today!").
- The Cameo: Ally Sheedy has an uncredited vocal one in the second one when Number Five reads the letter Stephanie sends Ben in her voice.
- Candlelit Bath: Parodied.Number Five: "Stephanie... change color? Attractive! Nice software!"
- Changing of the Guard: From Newton Crosby and Stephanie as the main human protagonists to Ben and (eventually) Fred.
- Characterization Marches On: Ben graduates from a Chivalrous Pervert Funny Foreigner to a three-dimensional protagonist Funny Foreigner between films.
- Chekhov's Skill: Too many to list, most notably Johnny's magnet and remote control.
- Chrome Champion: Johnny's makeover in the epilogue of Short Circuit 2. He looks like R.O.B. mated with an Academy Award.
- Colonel Bogey March: As Number Five reprograms the robots at the roadhouse, he's whistling it.
- Confessional: At one point in the sequel, Johnny rolls his way into a church confessional. He gets chased away by the priest, who assumes he's a telepresence device, and tells the "person on the other end" to come to church personally if he wishes to confess.
- Couldn't Find a Pen: With his voice box damaged, Johnny uses a rock to scrape out an S.O.S. on a brick wall.
- Creative Closing Credits: The first movie has a recap of the story behind the end credits, including several Deleted Scenes (like the one with Number Five and a coffee-cup bearing robot).
- Cute Machines: Number/Johnny Five is intended as this, of course, but the little Johnny Five toys take the cake.
- Notable in that Johnny's appearance changes shortly after his accident, to differentiate him from the other four prototypes and make him look slightly less sinister. He loses an apparently-useless box on the top of his head and an armored cowling over the little blinky-light thing that he uses to talk. He also keeps his "eyelids" open, giving him an innocent, wide-eyed look in contrast to the other robots, who keep their eyelids closed, leaving only a slit to see out of, which makes them look like they're scowling or frowning.
- Darker and Edgier: Part II had some pure nightmare fuel moments. Such as Oscar and his gang destroying Johnny 5 and leaving him for dead. Then there is the fact that Part II was the one movie where it looked like his life was really in danger.
- Decoy Getaway: Dr. Crosby's NOVA van happens to have enough spare parts for SAINT robots that Number Five builds a decoy. NOVA blows it up at the end of the first film, with everyone thinking it's the real Number Five.
- Determinator: Johnny 5 takes a lot of abuse in both movies, but always dispenses justice and emerges with a nonsensical catch-phrase and good attitude. He may not be indestructible, but his optimism is.
- Disney Death: Lampshaded, then averted.
- Dissimile: Fred explaining that he didn't "lose" Johnny Five. He just "misplaced him, y'know? Like your car keys."Ben: HOW ARE YOU MISPLACING A 700 POUND CAR KEY?!
- Do-Anything Robot: Let's see... Johnny has a parachute, "multi-frequency remote control" that allows him to control anything electric (within range), and a Swiss Army Weapon that extends to cut through solid steel bank vault walls, unlock cars and unscrew their radios, and help build little toy robots.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: Johnny, in the second movie. When he wants to push past someone (usually Fred) he tends to toss him halfway across the room. Not to mention the trouble he gives the two police officers when they arrest him for trashing the bookstore.Johnny Five: I am NOT stolen goods! (slams fists on the table, yanking the police officers down)
- Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Although the helicopter that chases down and destroys the decoy Number Five is not a Huey, but a JetRanger, this trope is lampshaded:Skroeder: ...and I'm going to need some Hueys.
Howard: Some what?
Skroeder: HELICOPTERS, Howard. Jesus Christ!
Howard: I thought they were choppers.
Skroeder: Well, now they're called Hueys.
Howard: Well, why wasn't I notified?
- This is likely Skroeder's mistake, as "Huey" is a specific model of helicopter, not the catch-all term for helicopters Skroeder seems to think it is.
- Everyone Knows Morse: Subverted in the sequel; when Ben and Fred are locked in a freezer and rig a calculator to send a message to Sandy's answering machine, they discover that neither of them know Morse code. Instead, they send directions to their location using the tunes of popular songs.
- Everything Is Online: Johnny Five can access any electronics remotely with a transmitter in his head. He can also control cars, cranes and other things that (at the time the films were made) didn't even have any electronics controlling them.
- Evil Old Folks: Oscar Baldwin.
- Exact Time to Failure: Johnny Five's battery.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Number 5 makes the connection between a dead grasshopper and NOVA's intent to dismantle him:Five: Error: grasshopper disassemble... re-assemble!
Stephanie: I can't reassemble him; you squashed him. He's dead.
Five: 'Dead'? ...Reassemble, Stephanie, reassemble!
Stephanie: ...When you're dead, you're dead. Dead is forever.
Five: Squash... dead. Disassemble... dead. Disassemble, DEAD?!
- Eyepatch of Power: Johnny during his quest for vengeance.
- Eye Scream: In this case: Robotic eye, meet axe. Ouch. See Family-Unfriendly Violence.
- Failing a Taxi: Johnny launches a grapple magnet to capture a taxi for Ben.
- False Friend: Oscar. You really ought to see it coming, but he's so jolly that many viewers don't.
- Family-Unfriendly Violence: Johnny Five's ridiculously graphic maiming at the hands of the bank robbers.
- Fantastic Racism: Johnny seems to believe this is the reason Oscar tried to kill Johnny, but only locked Ben and Fred in a freezer. See Lock and Load Montage for the result.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Fred treats Johnny like he's his personal butler (partly because Ben kept him in the dark about Johnny's AI), then tries to sell him to some corporate bigwigs, prompting Johnny to unleash the white hot rage: "He is NOT my friend!" However, after Johnny is nearly killed by Oscar's mooks, Fred scavenges the city for him and later repairs him single-handedly. By the end of the movie, they've become an Adventure Duo.
- Flipping the Bird: In the first movie, Newton Crosby does this to his co-worker Benjamin Jabituya with his robotic hand. Benjamin asks Newton if he's showing the number of his IQ with that finger.
- Oscar's goons destroying the Johnny 5 replica early in the second film.
- Specifically, that it was done with an axe.
- And at the police station:
- Oscar's goons destroying the Johnny 5 replica early in the second film.
- Freudian Slip: In the first film, when Stephanie Speck calls Nova Laboratories on the phone, saying that she would want to speak to "one of your head warmongers", the person receiving the phone call calls Dr. Marner "Dr. Warmonger" before correcting himself and handing Dr. Marner the phone.
- Freud Was Right:Johnny Five: "Doctor Ruth says, 'Violence is ze expression of sexual frustration.'"
- Frickin' Laser Beams: All the military robots. In the sequel, Johnny replaces his with a Utility Pack.
- Friend to All Living Things: Stephanie, and later, Johnny Five.
- Funny Foreigner: Benjamin Jabituya. In the first movie, he was more of a Plucky Comic Relief character. In the second movie, they gave him the last name Jahrvi and tried to give him a more serious story, while still keeping him funny.
- Fun with Acronyms: S.A.I.N.T. Touches on nightmare fuel, given the root is Strategic Artificially Intelligent Nuclear Transport.. The SAINT series are nuke delivery platforms, designed (as explained at the start of the first film) to be para-dropped into enemy cities, use their maneuverability, intelligence, and weaponry to safely deliver their nuclear payload to their target, and then blow themselves up.
- Gang Bangers"Los Locos kick your ass!"
"Los Locos kick your face!"
"Los Locos kick your balls into outer SPAAAAAACE!"
- Geek Physiques: Ben and his bank robber counterpart, Saunders, are both portrayed as weaklings.
- General Ripper: Skroeder decides (without bothering to listen to the guy who built it) that recovering Number Five requires loads and loads of military firepower aimed in the general direction of the robot regardless of the presence of innocent bystanders.
- Genius Ditz: Newton Crosby ("Ph. Dork"). But he's Tony Stark when compared to his sidekick, an squirrely Indian man who thinks of nothing but sex. Number Five also qualifies, being that he's technically the youngest member of the cast.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Quite a bit for what is a fairly family-friendly series.
Number 5: Niiiiice software.
- In the first film, upon entering Stephanie's home while she's taking a bath, Number 5 has this to say...
- In one scene in the second film (when Fred is getting his loan from the Loan Shark in a bar), it is very obvious that it is a stripper bar, and the woman dancing in the background, while somewhat out of focus, bares her breasts and jiggles them to her audience.
- Good Costume Switch: In the first movie, Number Five loses the plate covering his "mouth" during his escape, making him look much less intimidating than the other SAINT prototypes.
- Granola Girl: Stephanie. Takes in all manner of poor and homeless animals (and one sentient robot), runs a truck that she sells natural food out of, and expresses her deep displeasure with the military and their weapons.
- G-Rated Drug: Apparently, knowledge is this to a newly sentient robot. Played for Laughs, of course.Number Five: Need! More! Input!
- Grow Beyond Their Programming: Number Five, after being shocked by lighting, spontaneously develops the ability to learn at an accelerated pace, eventually becoming fully sapient.
- Hero Antagonist: Captain Skroeder and Howard Marner.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Newton and Ben. (Ben lampshades this a couple of times.)
- Hilarious Outtakes: The first film's credits play over snippets of various scenes, including scenes that were cut from the final movie, including Number Five playing with a model airplane, escaping a car crusher in a junkyard, and encountering an Omnibot 2000 (a toy robot that was made during that time) trying to serve him orange juice.
- Hollywood Nerd: Newton isn't exactly smooth with the ladies.
- Honest Corporate Executive: Howard Marner, as he only sent out his military forces to capture Number Five as he believed him to be a dangerous robot with a laser cannon. Howard also overlaps with Corrupt Corporate Executive in a downplayed sense, for viewing the sentient Number Five as another robot of his assembly line that has gone rogue and needs to be recaptured to reprogram and that fact he is Only in It for the Money.
- Hope Spot: During the first film's finale. Until the helicopter shows up. Fortunately, it isn't the real Number Five they blew up.
- Human Mail: Though not technically a human, Johnny Five mails himself to Benjamin in the city (with the help of Newton and Stephanie), after being rejected as an airplane passenger.
- Humiliation Conga: How Number Five deals with Frank. First, he reduces his Pontiac Firebird into its components. Then, he effortlessly deflects a volley of shots from Frank's hunting rifle with his own hubcap. Then, he uses his laser to melt Frank's boots, hat, and belt buckle into molten slag.
- Also befalls the other S.A.I.N.T. robots and the bank robbers in the second film multiple times. Basically anyone who goes up against Johnny Five is doomed to suffer one of these.
- I Am Not a Gun: In the second movie, Johnny has his laser weapon removed in favor of a Batman-esque utility pack.
- Implausible Deniability: The "Department of Car Stereo Repair".
- Incredibly Obvious Bug: On Number Five. At least in this case they weren't expecting the robots to try to get rid of them.
- Inkblot Test: Administered to Number Five by Crosby as part of a Turing test.
- Innocent Blue Eyes: Johnny 5, naturally. Unless they turn red.
- Insane Proprietor: Manic Mike.
- Inspector Javert: Captain Skroeder stops at nothing to capture and destroy a rogue piece of military equipment armed with a laser capable of blowing up a tank. But since Number Five "is alive" this makes him the bad guy. Even the creators admit that Skroeder was doing the right thing.
- Instant A.I., Just Add Water: Lightning in this case, but the effect is much the same.
- Instant Expert: Number Five assimilates information at an insane speed, going through every volume of an encyclopedia within seconds. Notably, this doesn't help him learn morality; he's still got the mentality of a five-year old, just a very smart one.
- Jerkass: Stephanie's ex-boyfriend from the first movie.
- Johnny McCoolname: Number Five gives himself the name "Johnny Five."
- Just Think of the Potential: When asked by a Senator about the SAINT project's origins, Crosby lets slip the fact that he intended them as a marital aid. (Then again, he might've been trying to make a fool of Howard.)
- Lampshade Hanging: In the first movie Newton asks Ben where the hell he's from, since he's clearly not ethnically Indian despite the exaggerated accent. He claims he's from Bakersfield and his family is from Pittsburgh. This could be read as an admission that he's a white guy who's just eccentric, but the ending of the second movie shows he isn't an American citizen up to that point.
- Large Ham: Skroeder is quite the ham, played with a side of grits by G.W. Bailey:Skroeder: "Crosby, I'm tellin' you right now: this fart of a robot is beginning to give me the red-ass!"Skroeder: "What the hell is the matter with you, your four-eyed idiot!?"
Newton: [muttering, tending to Number Five] "What an asshole..."
Skroeder: "I HEARD THAT!"
- Law Enforcement, Inc.: NOVA's private military.
- Let's Get Dangerous!: Two examples from the second film:
- The first time Oscar's goons try to beat him up, Johnny grabs the pipes they are using and shouts, "Bad humans!" before swinging them around and launching them out of the warehouse door.
- After the goons successfully beat him up and Fred repairs him, Johnny fixes a mohawk to his head and growls, "All right, let's party!" before going out for revenge.
- Lightning Can Do Anything: A single bolt is all that stands between a sufficiently advanced robot and sentience.
- Limited Wardrobe: Fred seemingly owns only one — admittedly expensive — shirt, which he wears on a daily basis. This makes it all the more poignant when Fred tears his sleeve off without hesitation, applying it to Johnny's leaking battery.
- Johnny: Not your shilk sirt — silk shirt.
- Loan Shark: Fred uses one to sponsor his business with Ben, with thirty days to pay up. When the jewel thieves first confront Fred and Ben with ski masks, Fred first thinks it's the loan shark's henchmen.
- Lock and Load Montage / Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Johnny Five goes through this after being beaten and left for dead by the villains, out of sheer anger that they merely kidnapped his friends, but flat out tried to KILL him. He even dons a mohawk-like set of spikes for the occasion.Johnny Five: Oh sure, kidnap the humans, (angrily) destroy the machine!
- Locked in a Freezer: Ben and Fred in the second movie.
- Magical Defibrillator: One such is used to recharge Johnny Five's dying battery.
- Malaproper: Ben, constantly.
- Miraculous Malfunction: The lightning strike that gives Number Five sentience.
- Missed Him by That Much: Searching for the dying Johnny, Ben and the cops arrive at Radio Shack at the exact moment that Fred and Johnny exit the frame. This happens twice more during this sequence, though the final time Fred remained behind for Ben and the cops to find instead.
- Mood Whiplash: Like the first film, Short Circuit 2 is a light comedy. That is, till the scene where Oscar has his goons brutally smash up Johnny 5 in near slow-motion. There's even a scene where one of the attackers is hit in the ass with a toy RC plane and goofily hobbles away, then the movie immediately cuts back to Johnny 5 dying on the sidewalk.
- Mythology Gag: The movie playing on the TV (in the scene where Number Five and Stephanie dance) is Saturday Night Fever, one of John Badham's previous movies.
- No Sympathy: Crosby taking No. 2 (without permission) on his hunt for No. 5, causing Howard to wet his drawers some more.Howard: Great! So instead of $11 million on the loose, we're going to have twenty-two!
Ben: And plus we are needing gas money.
- Oblivious to Love: Sandy, the woman representing the toy company Ben had a deal with, doesn't even notice his (poor) attempts at romancing her until Johnny bungles their date.
- Oh Crap!:
- Johnny 5's realization that disassemble equals death in the first film.
- Fred's reaction in the sequel when Johnny realizes he is in a city, and Fred again when Johnny finds a bookstore.
- Fred and Ben realizing that neither one of them knows Morse code.
- Oscar's face right before Johnny runs his car off the road, somersaulting it into a parked van.
- Odd Couple: Mild-mannered, scrupulous Ben and slovenly, amoral Fred.
- An Odd Place to Sleep: Ben inherited the NOVA truck from the first movie and drove it to NYC. It doubles as his toy factory and living space. Even after Fred leases a warehouse, Ben continues to nap in a hammock in the truck (which is now parked indoors).
- Operation: [Blank]: An army general at NOVA's launch party is already fantasizing about deploying SAINT robots to nuke Moscow. "We call it Operation Gotcha Last."
- Our Souls Are Different
- Parental Bonus: When stopped due to a tracking device in their truck the old couple immediately think about the "grass" they may or may not have in their glove compartment.
- Pick Your Human Half: Johnny looks very machine like but acts very human.
- Pig Latin: Used by the sequel's villains to fool Johnny — the one language he doesn't know how to translate. He's managed to work it out by the second time they try this trick on him.Johnny 5: Ew-scray ou-yay, ozo-bay.
- Pinocchio Syndrome: He even picked a copy of the novel of Pinocchio while at a bookstore, determining that it required a more careful read.
- Along with Frankenstein. Doubles as sort of a Brick Joke. . . the two books aren't revealed until Johnny is rescued from Police impound by Ben, where he was seen very slowly (for him, at least) reading them. Used to highlight how out-of-place he suddenly feels in the human world, and that not all humans are as understanding as Stephanie, Newton, and Ben have been.
- Playing Cyrano: Johnny Five to Ben during the latter's date.
- Porn Stash: Ben's "schematic drawings" that he offers to share with Newton.
- Product Placement:
- "Wouldn't You Like To Be a Pepper Too?"
- Radio Shack doesn't just sell electronics. It SAVES LIVES.
- Race Against the Clock: Fred, when repairing Johnny in Radio Shack.Fred: I can't do this, I'm no good at this stuff!Johnny: F-fifteen minutes you have to get good.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Probably originally meant for combat mode, Johnny's back-lit red "eyes" are usually a telltale sign you've managed to tick off the normally happy-go-lucky pacifist robot.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Fred and Ben.
- Reference Overdosed: Johnny doesn't really know when to hold back. Then again, being as young as he is, he doesn't really have his own experiences to know anything beyond references.
- Ridiculously Human Robots: Personality-wise, not appearance-wise.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: A relatively-nonviolent one being a good summation of the climax of the second film, with Johnny Five hunting down Oscar.
- Robosexual: Number 5 hitting on Stephanie in the tub.
- Rock Beats Laser: Johnny outwits his evil twins by deflecting their lasers with rocks and blinding them with mud. $11 million well spent, Pentagon.
- Run for the Border: Oscar and his cronies devise a clever plot to smuggle the jewels into South America. Each one is hidden inside a cheap, plastic toy dinosaur; "Our gift to the Brazilian National Orphanage."
- Running Gag: Skroeder seems rather obsessed with food...Skroeder: What I've got is trouble, which I don't need because my wife is at home cooking a steak that's going to be dried out by the time I get there!
Skroeder: They're cooking something up, I can smell it. We've got to fry 'em now, Howard!
Skroeder: How many kids you got, Doctor?
Skroeder: Well let me tell you I've got three of them. Three dandy little Skroeders, and I want them to be adults, not barbeques.
- He also mistakes Number 5 for a coffee machine.
- Secret Underground Passage: The tunnel connecting Ben's warehouse with a high-security bank vault.
- Shout-Out: Johnny Five's character basically runs on this and his innocence.
- Shell Game: Johnny Five learns it from a street performer in Short Circuit 2.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Rosy idealism.
- Speaks in Shout-Outs: Johnny Five.
- Spiritual Successor: To WarGames, also directly by John Badham and starring Ally Sheedy. In both films, Ally Sheedy's character comes across a military AI that learns the value of life.
- Starring Special Effects: Despite the films' relatively low budget, the animatronics used for Johnny Five were top of the line and very impressive for the time. He was designed by Blade Runner legend Syd Mead.
- Strange-Syntax Speaker: Johnny after getting mutilated by Oscar's mooks.
- Suicidal Overconfidence: Johnny heatedly goes after Oscar, ignoring the fatal gash in his battery. He doesn't bleed to death, but he cuts it pretty close.Fred: Come on now, man, these are serious guys! You're not in top form a-and your back-up battery's used up!?
Johnny: Derf, a life-form's gotta do what a life-form's gotta do. Stand aside.
- Super Prototype
- Super-Speed Reading: Johnny can breeze through books at a frightening rate, though apparently he's not programmed to re-shelve them. Set him loose in a bookstore and, well...
- Symbolic Blood: Battery fluid.
- Technical Pacifist: Johnny Five was created as a military robot, but decides that killing is wrong. He's not above throwing thugs around, so long as they don't die.Number 5: Is wrong. Incorrect. Newton Crosby, Ph.D., not know this?
Crosby: Well, of course I know it's wrong to kill, but who told you?
Number 5: I told me.
- Then Let Me Be Evil: Not evil of course, but Johnny 5 spends a large part of the second movie trying to be human. After Oscar's henchmen smash him up and leave him for dead, Johnny finally decides he's had enough of that fruitless project because, if humans are going to mistreat him that badly, he doesn't need to be human.Johnny: Am not human, but am a life form!
- They Would Cut You Up: "NO DISASSEMBLE!"
- Tinman Typist: Justified. One of Newton's side projects is teaching robots to play piano. And give the finger.
- Trail of Blood: While it's not technically blood, near the end of the second film, Johnny 5 suffers damage to his battery before going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, forcing the rest of the protagonists to follow the trail of battery acid and help him.
- Trampled Underfoot:
- The opening shot shows a tank running over flowers.
- Johnny learns about death when he accidentally tramples a grasshopper.
- Unwitting Pawn: Johnny, in the second movie. Twice. In the beginning he steals just about a dozen car radios after being deceived by a gang to believe that he was helping them do their jobs as the "Department of Car Stereo Repair"; and later when Oscar tricks him into digging into the bank vault, thinking it was to create a safe place for Ben. Don't worry, he fixes it.
- Verbal Tic: Johnny Five likes to list synonyms of words.
- Violently Protective Girl Friend: Maybe not violent, but Sandy takes a level in badass when she believes Ben is in trouble, impressively decoding his voiceless-phone messages to use as directions, and demanding that the taxi driver break the law to move faster.Sandy: If we get a ticket, I'll pay for it!
- Voice Changeling: Johnny, like most self-aware robots from the Eighties, can mimic anyone's voice.
- We Used to Be Friends: Newton calls out Howard Marner on this, claiming that back when they were both scientists, Howard would have realized the value of Johnny Five's sentience. Howard bluntly replies, "I'm a businessman. I'm not a scientist anymore."
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: It takes a lot of convincing before the human leads will concede that Number Five is alive and not Just a Machine. This is the main moral premise of both films, leading to the end of the second movie in which Johnny is publicly declared a sentient being and made a citizen of the United States.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: Lampshaded when Newton asks Ben where he's from, and when he finds out it's Bakersfield asks where his parents are from. "Pittsburgh."
- Wild Goose Chase: Number 5 notices his Tracking Device and throws it into the pick up truck of an elderly couple. The soldiers in pursuit of him find the couple instead.Wife: (gasps as dozens of soldiers aim their guns at them) I hope you took the grass out of the glove compartment!
Husband: (as a very puzzled Skroeder walks up to the driver's side window) ... anything wrong, officer?
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Skroeder's actions and attitude throughout the original movie would all be completely within reason - if this were a sci-fi thriller, rather than a family comedy.
- You Are Number Five: He starts as just a number, but gives himself the name Johnny Five. Ben calls him "Number Johnny Five".
- Your Mom:
- Invoked in the first movie as a taunt to Number Five's pursuers.Number Five: Hey, laser lips! Your momma was a snowblower! (makes a digital Bronx cheer)
- And in the second:
- Invoked in the first movie as a taunt to Number Five's pursuers.