The Last Starfighter

 
Lighthearted space adventure has a fun '80s feel.
  • Review Date: January 11, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 1984
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

At the trailer park where Alex and Maggie live, people help one another to fix things and act like a community. Because of his amazing video game skills, Alex is recruited to go to another planet in order to help the people of Rylos defeat their enemy. He agrees, grudgingly, and works with other alien species to achieve a common goal.

Positive role models

Alex is a stern older brother who watches out for his younger sibling. Maggie takes care of her grandmother. They work toward their goals and are committed to being with each other. Alex's mom works hard, and Alex helps her around the trailer park.

Violence

Lasers, rockets, bad aliens with scary faces. This is a movie about an alien race who wants to take over the universe, and as the title suggests, there are shootouts and fight scenes. Because of the lighthearted humor, the violence is not gory. There are explosions though, and Alex's skills as a starfighter are highlighted. Younger viewers might find some of the aliens to be scary.

Sex

Teenage make-out sessions are standard, and Alex's mom watches he and Maggie share a long smooch goodnight. Kid brother Louis has a collection of Playboy magazines, which he peruses, though the audience sees no nudity. One teenage girl asks her boyfriend to "talk dirty to me." No body parts are shown, though Maggie complains when Alex's double does not share her sensual enthusiasm.

Language

Louis, the kid brother, cusses more than anybody. Profanity includes "s--t," "crapola," "hell," and "Oh my God."

Consumerism

Budweiser beer sign and beer in hand of trailer park dweller. And yes, Playboy magazine.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Alex implies that his friends "get drunk and throw up every Saturday night." Viewers do not see this, but the friends do drive around rowdily and make out at the lake. An old man smokes a pipe and a beer can is seen in an older man's hand.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Alex is recruited to fight aliens, and there are explosions and moments where aliens die. But besides some slightly scary alien faces, there is not much gore. Teenagers on Earth are shown making out by the lake in very '80s hair and makeup. There is some mild profanity as well.

What's the story?

Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) is tied to the trailer park where his family lives. He wants to go to away to college, in order make something of his life. But when his application for a student loan is turned down, his hopes crumble. The only thing -- other than his girlfriend Maggie -- that brings him joy is playing the video game called the Last Starfighter. In fact, he is so good at the game that he breaks the machine's record, attracting admiration from all of the community. What he doesn't realize is that the video game is a recruiting device designed by a fast-talking alien named Centauri (Robert Preston.) Centauri comes to Earth to take Alex to the planet Rylos to fight on his planet's behalf. Alex is unwilling to take on the challenge, but changes his mind once he returns to Earth to find that real danger lurks outside his trailer window.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

THE LAST STARFIGHTER isn't the absolute best outer space action film ever made, but it has heart, and older kids will enjoy the weird aliens and video game themes. Parents might enjoy remembering when one video game machine was all it took to make a Saturday night memorable.

Though Star Wars fans might notice some musical and special effects similarities, these rip-offs don't detract too much from the movie's positive qualities. One of these pluses is the presence of Robert Preston, who plays Centauri, a fly-by-night recruiter of star-fighting talent. Without Preston, the movie could be a pass, but his big-tent voice and charisma gives this movie a memorable lift. Overall, a decent watch for sci-fi fans.

Families can talk about...

  • Parents can talk about older movies. Does this one feel too dated to be relevant? Do the old-fashioned styles distract from the action? Could you see this movie being remade? If so, how could it be updated, and what actors would you like to see playing the main roles?

  • Discuss the role of video games and their cultural role. There's a scene where Alex breaks the record on the video game. Everyone in the trailer park comes to watch him do this and to celebrate his victory. Is this a realistic scenario in this day and age? Why not?

  • Alex is not sure that he wants to be a starfighter. What changes his mind? Do you agree with this decision?

  • Maggie and Alex decide to be together "forever." What does forever mean to you? Can a teenager know what forever means? Why or why not?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 1, 1984
DVD release date:June 8, 1999
Cast:Catherine Mary Stewart, Dan O'Herlihy, Lance Guest
Director:Nick Castle
Studio:Universal Pictures
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Adventures, Space and aliens
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

This review of The Last Starfighter was written by

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 7, 9, and 11 year old Written byrubberboots December 25, 2013
age 10+
 

Was not OK for our kids.

We started to watch this movie with our kids. My husband remembered it as a great movie from his childhood. We were uncomfortable with the heavy teen making out in the beginning of the movie and the scene showing and then repeated references to a boy's Playboy magazine collection.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byDsim64 February 23, 2014
age 11+
 

Awesome movie from the 80s, but be careful!

One of the few good Star Wars clones from the sci-fi boom, this movie is a classic movie in many 80's kids hearts. For the parents: Alex's little brother has an extensive Playboy collection. He also says the S-word. A teen girl says "Talk dirty to me." Critical: The soundtrack is the prime: one of the best soundtracks ever. I was also entertained by the graphics. They were high polygon counts. IN NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. The characters are very good, you can connect to them well. The acting is decent also. Overall good, but not for the young ones.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Parent of a 11 and 13 year old Written bywilliamjacobs December 4, 2011
age 7+
 

The Best Starfighter

Ludicrous special effects (the meteor gun) combined with terrific ones (death blossom) make for a funny technological dichotomy This story has the feel of the entire Star Wars movie wrapped up into one film. Humble hero is discovered and steered towards his destiny of savior. Alex has a more thoughtful, take charge attitude. He has a hero's heart where Luke Skywalker more or less must be nudged throughout most of his journey. One of Alex's decisions is rejecting his role knowing full well he's far too sensible a person to be a hero deliberately. He becomes a hero when he's needed, not for glory. It's a simple story done well. Nice touches that take into account his uncertainty and unprepared condition demonstrate a script that took the time to get science fiction right. Memorable supporting characters, dialog and villains make The Last Starfighter a surefire hit with the younger crowd that may harbor dreams of being Gunstar pilots themselves.

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