The ’90s Sci-Fi Action Comedy On Max For Everyone Who Hates Barbie

By TeeJay Small | Updated

small soldiers

Last year, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie released in theaters to massive success, centering on a plastic plaything who comes to life and interfaces directly with the real, horrific world around her. In 1998, Gremlins filmmaker Joe Dante directed a film called Small Soldiers, centering on a group of plastic playthings who come to life and interface directly with the real, horrific world around them. If you were one of the rowdy kids who spent time pulling on pigtails and popping the heads off of your sister’s Barbies in your youth, you can stream the latter film today on Max.

Small Soldiers

Small Soldiers was a film far ahead of its time. It offered a number of interesting themes and ideas while telling a wacky, bada** story about a bite-sized war breaking out in the middle of a suburban community.

The film touts a massive ensemble of A-list stars, including Kirsten Dunst, Tommy Lee Jones, Bruce Dern, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Frank Langella, David Cross, and Veep‘s Kevin Dunn. Phil Hartman also appears in his final on-screen role, as he was killed just a few months after the movie wrapped production.

The Plot

The plot of Small Soldiers is a bonkers concept that could only have been cooked up in the late 1990s. The film opens as a government-affiliated defense contractor called GloboTech Industries acquires a small-town toy company, and offers a few high-tech tweaks to make interactive toys with advanced call-and-response capability.

Through a series of oversights and incompetence, one of the toy makers equips a line of dolls with advanced microprocessing chips that were designed for the Department of Defense.

The Commandos And The Gorgonites

small soldiers

As a result, the two toy lines outfitted with this technology, the “Gorgonites” and the “Commando Elite” ship out to stores across the country, with the ability to come to life and wage war against one another, or any human who gets in their path.

The Commandos are an outfit of small military soldiers, similar to a G.I. Joe doll, while the Gorgonites are a race of bizarre mythological monsters, designed to be peaceful and in tune with the natural world. While manning his parents’ local toy store, a young teen named Alan opens up a few of these toys, and unknowingly activates their sentient response abilities.

The Conflict

The following day Alan returns to see that his store has been completely trashed, as Commando Elite leader Chip Hazard has activated each of his associates, and begun hunting down the Gorgonites with extreme prejudice.

Alan rescues the toys after he discovers them alive and calling for help inside a dumpster, and vows to help them find a path to their home, which they believe to be Yosemite National Park. Meanwhile, the small soldiers begin engaging in increasingly hazardous forms of warfare, including tapping phone lines, drugging adults to knock them out, and even tying up and kidnapping human children from across the neighborhood.

As the plot of Small Soldiers progresses, the Commando Elite launch an all-out war on the Gorgonites, with the assistance of an army of terrifying deformed Barbie doll stand-ins, called “Gwendy’s. Small Soldiers received mixed reviews upon release, but has since gone on to become a cult classic, with endless replay value.

The film also sparked controversy, as the studio couldn’t decide whether they wanted it to be edgy and geared at teens, or toned down for an audience of children and families.

Stream It Now

small soldiers


For those interested in checking the movie out themselves, Small Soldiers is available to stream on Max. Just bear in mind, the movie operates on the same “the toys are alive” principle as Toy Story, so box up your dolls before you go to sleep if you don’t want to suffer from horrible nightmares.