Movie review by
Teresa Talerico, Common Sense Media
Explorers Movie Poster Image
Kids' sci-fi adventure never fully blasts off.
  • PG
  • 1985
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Although they neglect their schoolwork (which causes their grades to suffer), the movie's young characters are depicted as smart, curious kids who team up to build and pilot their own spaceship.

Violence & Scariness

A bully punches a boy in the face; the two briefly fight in the schoolyard. Some use of dangerous tools (welding torch, electric saw) as the ship is constructed. In one scene, a giant mechanical "spider" frisks the boys. A parent's death is mentioned.

Sexy Stuff

A boy kisses a girl. A boy fantasizes about an alien species of "Amazon women" who want to breed a new race; his friend calls him a "pervert." A boy has a crush on a girl in his junior high class. Discussion about removing a woman's clothes.


Kids use several curse words, including "ass," "pissed," and "go to hell."


The boys affix a NASA sticker to their homemade spaceship.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Three young boys share some swigs from a bottle of beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, overall, Explorers depicts smart, curious junior high kids who stumble upon a way to make their dreams of space flight a reality. But there's a scene in which they drink beer, and they work unsupervised with a welding torch and an electric saw as they construct their spaceship. One boy mentions his dead mother; another, preparing for a trip to outer space, writes his will as a precautionary measure. There's also some lower level cursing by kids ("ass," "hell," "pissed") and some sexuality. Younger kids may be scared by a suspenseful scene in which a giant mechanical "spider" frisks the boys after they arrive on the alien spaceship.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byNobobby September 6, 2020

Great for the first 75%, then falls apart.

I remembered really enjoying this movie when I was a kid but I don’t remember how old I was at the time. I really enjoyed the mysteriousness of it all as thes... Continue reading
Parent of a 10-year-old Written byScott J. August 19, 2016

A classic story with real-world themes

I read some of the other reviews here and am stunned with some of the negative opinions. This movie is appropriate for kids in grade school and it deals with is... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bySun Always Shin... December 29, 2020

That was something that exists

Well...I can't attack this film as much as some might. You have to understand where everything was coming from. Behind the scenes, there are plenty of stor... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byGToonsReviews May 6, 2012



What's the story?

Driven by the blueprints he sees in a dream, junior high science fiction junkie Ben (Ethan Hawke), sketches his vision and gives it to best friend and budding scientist Wolfgang (River Phoenix). Before long, Wolfgang and Ben realize they have the design for a computer-controlled force-field bubble which defies gravity and moves at 100 miles an hour. The boys -- joined by tough-guy peer Darren (Jason Presson) -- eagerly construct their own homemade spaceship from scrap parts. Soon, the trio takes their first voyage to the local drive-in. But it turns out that the spaceship isn't entirely under their control: A pirate signal takes over their force field and spirits them away to an alien ship. There they meet two friendly aliens who've learned everything about earthlings and their language from watching television.

Is it any good?

The young stars in this movie give earnest, enthusiastic, and believable performances. EXPLORERS is most notable as the film debut of Ethan Hawke and the late River Phoenix, who were just kids when they starred in this movie. The film certainly has its moments -- like when the young adventurers achieve liftoff in their homemade spaceship, or when a clever twist is revealed after they encounter a couple of extraterrestrials. But too often the movie feels sluggish and somewhat superficial

The premise leads to a few amusing exchanges between the aliens and the wide-eyed boys. But these scenes feel too long and rather unstructured -- which is a shame, since they should be the highlight of the film. The movie also never quite resolves a subplot involving a sheriff's department helicopter pilot who's investigating the kids and their ship. Still, the young actors turn in fine performances.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether movies with older special effects are still entertaining. Can you suspend your disbelief enough to enjoy the story?

  • Families can also discuss the realities of space flight and the boys' three distinct personalities. How are imaginative "dreamer" Ben, cautious scientist Wolfgang, and practical Darren different from one another? Why do you think they become friends?

  • What do you think of the fact that the aliens base their opinion of humans on television? What kind of impression would you get of people based just on TV shows?

Movie details

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