Firestarter (film)


Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark L. Lester
Produced by
Screenplay by Stanley Mann
Based on Firestarter
by Stephen King
Music by Tangerine Dream
Cinematography Giuseppe Ruzzolini
Edited by
  • David Rawlins
  • Ronald Sanders
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • May 11, 1984 (1984-05-11)
Running time
114 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million
Box office $17.1 million[2]

Firestarter is a 1984 American science fiction supernatural thriller film based on Stephen King's 1980 novel Firestarter.[3] The plot concerns a young girl who develops pyrokinesis and the secret government agency known as The Shop which seeks to control her. The film was directed by Mark L. Lester, and stars David Keith, Drew Barrymore, Martin Sheen and George C. Scott. The film was shot in and around Wilmington, Chimney Rock, and Lake Lure, North Carolina.

A miniseries follow-up to the film, entitled Rekindled, was released in 2002 on the Sci-Fi Channel.


Andy McGee (David Keith) met his future wife, Vicky Tomlinson (Heather Locklear), in college while they were earning money by participating in an experiment in which they were given a dose of a low-grade hallucinogen called LOT-6. The experiment grants them telepathic abilities; Vicky has the ability to read minds, and Andy can take over minds and make others do and believe what he wants, but the effort gives him nosebleeds (the novel revealing them to be "pinprick" hemorrhages). Andy and Vicky went on to get married, and they now have a nine-year-old daughter named Charlene "Charlie" McGee (Drew Barrymore), who has pyrokinetic abilities (can start fires with the mind). Charlie can also see the near future.

Andy comes home from work one day to find that Vicky has been murdered and Charlie abducted; the family had already suspected that the government agency that sponsored the experiment, the Department of Scientific Intelligence (aka "the Shop"), was checking on them. The government wants Charlie to harness her powerful ability as a weapon. Andy rescues Charlie from abduction by agents of the Shop by making the agents blind and for the next year, they are on the run.

To protect themselves, Andy writes letters to major newspapers, but mailing them reveals their location. They need to rest and end up taken in by a farmer and his wife. Andy tells the farmer the truth so when the Shop arrives, he is ready to stand with them. However, he soon sees that there is no need since Charlie makes quick work of the agents who have invaded the quiet refuge they have found. They again are on the run, but Andy is weak from the use of his gift. They go to their secluded cabin to rest and prepare to finally go public with their story. Unfortunately, the head of the Shop, Captain Hollister (Martin Sheen), sends Agent John Rainbird (George C. Scott) to capture them and stop the release of information. After capture, father and daughter are kept separated. Andy is medicated and subjected to tests, which show his powers have decreased. Meanwhile, Rainbird takes on the role of "John the friendly orderly" to befriend Charlie and gain her trust to encourage her to submit to the tests.

Charlie's powers increase exponentially, and she continually demands to see her father as they promised. Andy is revealed to be faking the acceptance of his drugs, meaning that his powers have never decreased and it was all a ruse to make Hollister drop his guard. Then once alone on a walk far from the house, he uses his power to get information from Hollister (such as John's true identity) and arrange to leave with Charlie that night. He slips Charlie a note and she immediately tells "John" about the escape. He's wanted to kill Charlie since first hearing about her and hides in the barn so he can kill her father as well. Charlie enters the barn first and "John" succeeds in convincing her to begin the climb up the ladder to him. His plan is put to an end once Andy enters and Charlie instead runs to her father. She tells him that John is present and asks if they can take him with them. She is saddened and angered to find out the truth, yet believes John when he states that he will not kill her father if she comes to him. To save his daughter, Andy instructs Hollister to shoot at Rainbird. However, Rainbird kills Hollister and fatally wounds Andy and after he causes Rainbird to leap to the ground, breaking his leg. Charlie then kills Rainbird and cries at her father's wound. He pleads with her to use her powers to bring the facility down after he takes his last breath. The entire security team arrives and she dispatches them all one by one to make her way off of the property.

Charlie returns by hitchhiking back to the farm. Without a word, she reveals what has happened since she left with her father and is welcomed back. Shortly afterwards, Charlie and the farmer head to New York City to tell her story to the media.



In 1982, Universal Pictures hired John Carpenter to direct the film. Carpenter had his The Thing collaborator Bill Lancaster write the script. Stephen King approved of the script but after Carpenter's The Thing flopped at the box office Universal fired Carpenter and abandoned Lancaster's script.[4]


Firestarter received mixed reviews from critics. It has a 39% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[5] Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four and wrote that "the most astonishing thing" about it was "how boring it is." Ebert wrote that "there's not a character in this movie that is convincing, even for a moment, nor a line in this movie that even experienced performers can make real," and "we don't feel sorry for Barrymore because she's never developed as a believable little girl -- just a plot gimmick."[6]


Soundtrack album by Tangerine Dream
Released 1984
Recorded 1984
Genre Electronic music
Length 41:39
Label MCA
Tangerine Dream chronology

Firestarter is the fifth soundtrack album and 22nd overall by Tangerine Dream.

Allmusic rated the soundtrack four out of five stars.[7] The score is composed by electronic music group Tangerine Dream.

No. Title Length
1. "Crystal Voice"   3:07
2. "The Run"   4:50
3. "Testlab"   4:00
4. "Charly the Kid"   3:51
5. "Escaping Point"   5:10
6. "Rainbirds Move"   2:31
7. "Burning Force"   4:17
8. "Between Realities"   2:53
9. "Shop Territory"   3:15
10. "Flash Final"   5:15
11. "Out of the Heat"   2:30



  1. "FIRESTARTER (15)". British Board of Film Classification. May 15, 1984. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
  2. "Firestarter (1984)|". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
  3. Canby, Vincent (1984). "Firestarter". The New York Times.
  4. Maddrey, Joe (February 15, 2016). "5 Stephen King Adaptations That Died In Development Hell". Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  5. Rotten Tomatoes page: "Firestarter."
  6. Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1984). "Firestarter Movie Review". Retrieved October 29, 2016.
  7. Allmusic review
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