Retro Review: Runaway (1984)

In the near future, a police officer (Tom Selleck) specializes in malfunctioning robots. When he discovers a robot programmed to kill, he begins to uncover a deep homicidal plot.

Synopsis: In the near future, a police officer (Tom Selleck) specializes in malfunctioning robots. When he discovers a robot programmed to kill, he begins to uncover a deep homicidal plot… and his son becomes a target.

Review: While once again sifting through the available films to stream on Amazon Prime. I came across this 1984 sci-fi in which Tom Selleck not only takes on killer robots but also has to take on a psychotic criminal called Luther.

‘Runaway’ was a film that was both written and directed by the late Michael Crichtonand was shown often on BBC One during the late 80’s and early 90’s. The film’s story was very much based around the writer’s fascination with the dangers of future technology, but at its heart, we have a very human character in Selleck’s cop Jack Ramsey.

The Story

To be honest. This story felt very much like it could well have been lifted from a comic book, which is probably one of the reasons I enjoyed the film when first seen in the 1980’s and still quite enjoyed it after revisiting it.

The story is fairly straightforward. Jack Ramsey, who specializes in disarming malfunctioning robots that are known as runaways finds himself partnered with rookie cop Thompson who is played by Cynthia Rhodes, who is best known for her roles in ‘Staying Alive’, Flash Dance’, and ‘Dirty Dancing’.

When their investigation into a homicidal robot leads them to the psychotic Luther. They must race against time to catch him before he does any more damage.

The film, which is set in a near future has a few interesting ideas such as robotic spiders that stab you with a syringe filled with acid before blowing up and smart bullets, which can be programmed to track human heat signatures. But the tech is second fiddle to Gene Simmons who plays the evil Luther and probably doesn’t have to act that much to pull it off.

While the visual effects are primitive by today’s standards. They still hold up fairly well, but when you watch. You can just picture what those spiders and smart bullets would be like if modern effects were used. For example, the smart bullets would probably use bullet time or something similar.

The thing that dates this movie the most aside from the tight perms and so forth is the soundtrack, which used a lot of synths and still annoys the shit out of me to this day.

The Acting

Tom Selleck puts in a thoughtful performance as your average cop with a great knowledge of robotics and Cynthia Rhodes is fairly convincing as rookie cop Thompson. But the film belongs to the spider robots and Gene Simmons.

We get other big names from the 80’s in the form of Kirstie Ally and G.W. Bailey who would go on to be best known for the ‘Police Academy’ movies.


Admittedly. This movie is very cheesy and was cheesy back when it was made, but at the same time, it is still entertaining if watched with both an appreciation of the absurd and because it stars Tom ‘, Freakin’ Selleck.

It’s a fun film and a good way to spend an hour and 40 minutes if you are at a loose end and feel nostalgic.

Runaway (1984)
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Visual Effects
  • Incidental Music

Ian Cullen is the founder of and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: When he is not writing for Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of You can contact ian at:
3 Comments on this post.
  • Adam J. Whitlatch
    26 September 2018 at 9:14 pm -

    Oh, man! I love this one! Been a while since I’ve watched it. Netflix used to have it. I’ll have to check and see if they still do. I’m a total Michael Crichton junkie.

    I remember being terrified of the robot spiders when I was a kid.

    • Ian Cullen
      26 September 2018 at 9:37 pm -

      Yeah. Those spiders were kind of cool. You found them scary. 14 year old me when I first saw the film thought cool. I just loved the notion of robotic spiders attacking people. I’d love to see what they’d do with that today and how much more sinister a good CG artist could make them.

  • Adam J. Whitlatch
    26 September 2018 at 10:54 pm -

    To be fair, I was three when it came out, so I was probably no more than 7 or so when I actually saw it for the first time. lol

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