Firestarter (film)

Firestarter is a 1984 American science fiction horror film based on Stephen King's 1980 novel of the same name.[4] 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.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark L. Lester
Produced by
Screenplay byStanley Mann
Based onFirestarter
by Stephen King
Music byTangerine Dream
CinematographyGiuseppe Ruzzolini
Edited by
  • David Rawlins
  • Ronald Sanders
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
(United States)
Thorn-EMI Films
(Non-USA current distribution)
Release date
  • May 11, 1984 (1984-05-11)
Running time
114 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million[2]
Box office$17.1 million[3] or $18.9 million[2]

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


Andy McGee (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), as well as facing limitations with this power. Andy and Vicky went on to get married, and they now have a nine-year-old daughter named Charlene "Charlie" McGee (Barrymore), who has pyrokinetic abilities and 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 ("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 unintentionally reveals their location. Needing to rest, the two end up taken in by a farmer named Irv Manders (Carney) and his wife Norma (Fletcher). Andy tells Mr. Manders the truth so that 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 (Sheen), sends Agent John Rainbird (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 arranges to leave with Charlie that night. He slips Charlie a note and she immediately tells "John" about the escape. He has 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, after which Andy causes Rainbird to leap to the ground, breaking his leg. Rainbird shoots Andy, fatally wounding him. 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 Mr. Manders head to New York City to tell her story to the media.



During filming of The Thing, Universal offered John Carpenter the chance to direct the film. Carpenter hired Bill Lancaster to adapt the novel into a screenplay. Stephen King approved of the Lancaster screenplay.[5] Months later, Carpenter had hired Bill Phillips to write another version with Richard Dreyfuss as the role of Andy, but when The Thing was a financial disappointment, Universal replaced Carpenter with Mark L. Lester. When Lester was hired, he brought Stanley Mann to write a screenplay. Mann's screenplay stayed a lot closer to the novel than the abandoned screenplays that Carpenter had commissioned.

Lancaster's father, Burt Lancaster, was originally going to portray Captain Hollister, but had to withdraw following heart surgery, instead Martin Sheen replaces Burt.[6][7]

It was the first film shot in Wilmington, North Carolina after the commission of the North Carolina Film Office, and is regarded as launching what is now a burgeoning hub of film and television production.[8]


It received a 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 26 reviews. The critical consensus reads, "Firestarter's concept hews too closely to other known Stephen King adaptations, though it's got nice special effects (including scenery-chewing George C. Scott)."[9] 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, "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."[10] In 2012, King described the film as one of the worst made from his books, describing it as "flavorless; it's like cafeteria mashed potatoes".[11]


Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJuly 1984
GenreElectronic music
Tangerine Dream chronology
Risky Business

Firestarter is the fifth soundtrack album and 22nd overall by the German electronic music group Tangerine Dream.

AllMusic rated the soundtrack four out of five stars.[12]

1."Crystal Voice"3:07
2."The Run"4:50
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
Total length:41:39



  1. "FIRESTARTER (15)". British Board of Film Classification. May 15, 1984. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
  2. De Laurentiis PRODUCER'S PICTURE DARKENS: KNOEDELSEDER, WILLIAM K, Jr. Los Angeles Times 30 Aug 1987: 1.
  3. "Firestarter (1984)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
  4. Canby, Vincent (1984). "Firestarter". The New York Times.
  5. Maddrey, Joe (February 15, 2016). "5 Stephen King Adaptations That Died In Development Hell". Archived from the original on October 30, 2016. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  6. Mell, Eila (2005). Casting Might-Have-Beens: A Film by Film Directory of Actors Considered for Roles Given to Others. McFarland. ISBN 9780786420179.
  7. "Burt Lancaster Plans To Undergo Surgery". The New York Times. August 16, 1983. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
  8. "Cape Fear Museum showcases Wilmington's rich film history". WRAL. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  9. "Firestarter (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  10. Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1984). "Firestarter Movie Review". Retrieved October 29, 2016.
  11. Ewing, Darrel & Myers, Dennis (June 1986). ""King of The Road"". American Film. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  12. Allmusic review
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