The Boy Who Could Fly

  • Review Date: January 11, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Release Year: 1986
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

Common Sense Media says

A charming fantasy with a lot of heart.
  • Review Date: January 11, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Release Year: 1986
  • Running Time: 114 minutes





What parents need to know

Violence & scariness

Some mildly scary moments.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable

Mild schoolyard terms.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Milly and her friend Geneva experiment with liquor. Milly has a bad hangover. Eric's uncle is an alcoholic.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a fine family film with no objectionable content. It's a gentle fantasy about an autistic boy who has a strong positive affect on his neighbors, not an action-packed fantasy.

Parents say

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

Milly (Lucy Deakins), her mother, Charlene (Bonnie Bedelia), and her brother, Louis (Fred Savage), move into a new home, still feeling bereft over the loss of the father of the family. Milly sees a mysterious boy (Jay Underwood) on the roof next door. She learns that Eric is autistic, has never spoken, and ever since his parents were killed when he was five, he's believed that he's an airplane. Adjustment to the new environment is difficult. Charlene is overwhelmed by the computers at her new job. Louis is terrorized by bullies and dog Max by a Doberman. At school, Milly befriends Eric and a teacher asks her to work with him, telling her that he doesn't need a doctor as much as he needs a friend. After a near fall from a bridge, Milly tells her psychiatrist that Eric really can fly, and a series of events lead to the pair being chased up to the roof of the high school. Eric and Milly float off together, as the astonished community watches. Eric speaks at last, telling Milly he loves her, and flying away forever. She realizes why he had to leave when the scientists and journalists arrive the next day.

Is it any good?


THE BOY WHO COULD FLY is a charming fantasy with a lot of heart and outstanding performances by three terrific kids who keep up with some of the finest adult actors in movies. Eric and Milly heal each other by responding to each other. For him, she provides the first reason he has ever had to try to make contact with another person. For her, he provides a reason to feel, and to give to another person, especially important after the loss of her father.

Eric's character reminds us, among other things, that anything is possible. "He made us believe in ourselves again...We're all special. We're all a little like Eric. Maybe we can't soar off into the clouds. But somewhere, deep inside, we can all fly." There are strong themes of faith in oneself, and bravery, and Eric's influence continues. Charlene masters the computer. Louis triumphs over the bullies. Max even scares away the Doberman.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Eric was so important to Milly. What did Eric teach Milly's family? Where do you think he will go next? Why did Louis get so upset about his action figures being out in the rain?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 15, 1986
DVD release date:July 8, 2003
Cast:Fred Savage, Jay Underwood, Lucy Deakins
Director:Nick Castle
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Friendship, High school
Run time:114 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

This review of The Boy Who Could Fly was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent Written byeam4603 July 22, 2012

Avoid this movie

This was really disappointing and I am very surprised with the Common Sense Media rating. I would stay away from this movie entirely, as the positive aspects do not outweigh the negative aspects (which include glorifying sneaking alcohol when parents are out, with no negative repercussions). In fact I was horrified by this movie and struggled with when to cut it off that wouldn't leave the children (ages 8.5 and 11) either more scared or more intrigued. By consensus, we stopped before the end.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educator Written byVReyes October 14, 2011


Title: The Boy Who Could Fly Year 1986 Summary: The movie is about a teenage boy named Eric. He is considered social awkward and while the movie did not state that he had a diagnosis of autism he displayed certain characteristic of autism. Some of the characteristics displayed by Eric are social withdrawal, poor communication and repetitive behaviors. The author of the film appears to be under the impression that autism occurs to a child when they experience a severely traumatic experience. In the case of Eric, his ‘autism’ began at the age of 5 when his parents died in a plane crash. The accident caused him to develop an obsession with flying. Generally speaking a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder would have begun to display characteristics of autism by the age of 3. The author of the film also seems to be under the impression that Eric can ‘snap out of it’ and will be able to be like everyone else with the help of Milly (his next-door neighbor). ASD Behaviors: Communication: He shows limited verbal and non-verbal communication with a lack of true two-way conversational skills, he fails to understand the emotions gestures. Eric displays receptive language but with little expressive language skills. Throughout the movie Eric did not speak, he showed an interest in his next-door neighbor Milly and nonverbally communicated with her. However, the communication that occurred between them generally had to do Eric’s interest/fixation on flying. He showed her how to make a paper airplane and said her name once in the movie. He non-verbally expressed his interest and sometimes he would express his feeling by either smiling, or looking sad but this rarely occurred and one would have to read his expressions or interpret his responses. At one point in the movie Eric was taken to a hospital, he was meant to be institutionalized because his uncle was unfit to care for him. Eric did not seem to mind being in the hospital until Milly visited him and was denied seeing him. Because he was unable to request or verbally communicate with others he expressed his frustration by having an outburst. However, no one understood why he suddenly became aggressive and difficult. This is often the case for children who have difficulty expressing their needs or wants. Social & Emotional: Eric is socially withdrawn from his peers and family (uncle). He displays little interest in the people around him. A scene in the film shows Eric in the classroom, in the scene he is not even facing the front of the room, he is in his own world isolated from everyone else. He does not appear to be bothered or even aware of the lack of social interactions. Everyone in school seems to treat him as if he were just odd or as if he did not exist. The only person to interact with him and show an interest in him is Milly and a teacher. The only person Eric shows any interest in is Milly, however he has a hard time finding a way to approach and be social with her. Instead of introducing himself to her, he would engage in odd/socially inappropriate behavior such as staring at her from his bedroom window and following her. He began to mimic her actions while in school. Repetitive Behavior: Eric engages in repetitive/fixated behavior on the subject of flying. He habitually sits on the edge of his bedroom window, with his arms stretched out pretending to fly. He would also pretend to fly while standing on the top of his roof completely unaware of the danger he was putting himself in. He is also somewhat fixated on Milly. Teaching Strategies: Eric’s teacher has Milly work with him, she believe all he needs is additional support and a friend. In order to reach Eric and to hopefully get him to talk Milly takes on the role of a one-to-one, she works with Eric during school hours and at home. Milly acts as a sort of tutor; she keeps journals to monitor his progress. She works with him for about an hour during class and works with him during gym. She practices turn taking during gym. She shows him facial expressions and has him mimic them. She attempts to include him in all of her activities. She has lunch with him and treats him as if her were like anyone else. To work on his communication skills she reads books and watches movies with him that of interest to him, they are all about flying. She tries to tap into his interest and relate to him. Film Rating: I enjoyed the film and was able to see some characteristics of a child with autism. However, the idea that a child with autism will suddenly ‘snap-out of it’ or is some sort of magical being is pretty inaccurate and gives parents false hope, while some children will improve or adopt certain skills this does not mean that autism will disappear. The message that the child needs someone to work with them in order for there to be improvement is however accurate. If a person did not have knowledge of autism and the characteristics one would just think Eric is just strange and awkward.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 6, 9, and 11 year old Written bykareilly3 August 31, 2010

Perfect for the entire family, although younger kids may be bored.

This is one of the finest movies I have seen in a long time- the kids are great, and instead of giving us a perfectly happy ending we are treated to something that is wonderfully bittersweet. The performances by all the actors are great- everyone is believable, realistic...especially the two at the center of the story. Jay Underwood's Eric is completely spot on as a boy with autism, and Lucy Deakins' Milly is perfect as a girl with a good heart who nonetheless wonders about the wisdom of befriending someone who is so hard to reach. I'm so glad that she decides to keep trying! I have a boy with autism and what I really loved about this movie is that it doesn't produce an improbable miracle (the actual flying nonwithstanding!) in terms of how far Eric progresses in coming out of his shell- but it uses the flying to highlight the fact that anything is possible, given the right combination of love, encouragement, and faith. The gentle, dignified pacing is so refreshing- I forgot what it is like to watch a movie that actually has a story to tell and tells it with an unrushed, intelligent narrative. Today's movies are over the top with their CGI, FX, and frenetic editing.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Common Sense Kids Action