The Vast of Night

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Vast of Night Movie Poster Image
Innovative filmmaking, great story in 1950s-set sci-fi tale.
  • PG-13
  • 2020
  • 89 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Since this is a movie mainly about aliens, there aren't any clear messages, except for possibly the usual one about governments trying to cover things up from the general public and a general disdain for dishonesty. Underneath, there's commentary about inequality.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Everett is a little pushy and intense, but he's a confident, knowledgeable person who seems to know exactly what to do. He's almost leader material. Fay is energetic and unflappable, willing to jump into the adventure with both feet. She seems to dream about moving beyond the limitations of what would be available for women in the 1950s. That said, sometimes their behavior is a little iffy, as when Everett steals a car (and smokes a lot) and Fay steals a bicycle.


Suggestions/descriptions of somewhat violent events. Moments of fear.


Dialogue about a woman getting pregnant out of wedlock.


A use of "f--k," plus "damn," "goddamn," "jerk," "shut up."


1950s-era Pepsi-Cola bottle on view in one long sequence.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent teen cigarette smoking (main character is practically a chain-smoker).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Vast of Night is a low-budget sci-fi movie set in the 1950s about a mysterious sound broadcast that could indicate an alien visit. Teens -- especially main character Everett (Jake Horowitz) -- smoke cigarettes throughout. No violence is really shown, but there are hints and suggestions of it, as well as spoken stories about vaguely scary/threatening things. Sex isn't an issue, except for a story about a woman getting pregnant out of wedlock. Language is infrequent but does include single uses of "f--k" and "goddamn." This is an exciting debut feature, and it's highly recommended for adventurous movie fans 13 and up.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written bycagey11 August 11, 2020

Had promise but fell short for me

I really wanted to love this movie (it got stellar reviews, and it is clean enough for my whole family), but it was just too slow to develop for me and was a bi... Continue reading
Adult Written byJimleithliter June 7, 2020

Really well made, great characters

I love era depicted in the movie. The innocence of the character fits well with the setting. It’s the 50’s, so there is a lot of smoking, but there isn’t any vi... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old December 28, 2020

Scarred Me For Life

This movie is NOT for kids. I watched this movie with my family, and it was the scariest thing I have seen in a long time.

It involves stories about creepy no... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byLukeCon July 11, 2020

Impressive filmmaking, some language; not your typical sci-fi movie

The Vast of Night is not your normal sci-fi movie. If you are expecting an action-packed story with explosions and shooting, this film does not contain the typi... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE VAST OF NIGHT, it's the 1950s in a small town in New Mexico. Fast-talking Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz) helps set up the sound equipment for the big high school basketball game before starting his shift as a radio DJ. Fellow student Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) -- who works as a telephone switchboard operator -- walks a bit with him, enlisting his help in operating her new tape recorder. At work, Fay hears a weird sound over the phone and asks Everett for his opinion. He plays the sound on the air and gets a call from an ex-military man named Billy (Bruce Davis), who claims he heard the same sound once before. Billy hints that something out of the ordinary is going on and that there may be a tape at the home of Mabel Blanche (Gail Cronauer) that will provide further clues. So Everett and Fay race there, where Mabel tells them a harrowing story. And time may be running short.

Is it any good?

An incredible debut feature, this micro-budget sci-fi movie boasts innovative, exhilarating filmmaking; clever, spooky storytelling; and layers of relevant themes. Written by James Montague and Craig W. Sanger and directed by Andrew Patterson (all first-timers), The Vast of Night is inspired in part by The Twilight Zone. It even includes a Rod Serling-like opening narration, as well as certain shots presented as if on a badly tuned, fuzzy black-and-white TV screen. Other scenes consist of impressively long traveling shots filled with rapid-fire dialogue; other long, deceptively complex takes simply resting on an actor's face; and pulse-pounding sequences of racing from one place to another as time ticks away.

The filmmakers' technical prowess and creativity in suggesting a sci-fi story using mainly sound and dialogue recalls other landmark debuts, specifically Reservoir Dogs, Pi, Following, and Primer. But the characters in The Vast of Night are also appealing and memorable. Everett is a rapid-patter, chain-smoking nerd; he's an outcast, but he's cool with that. And Fay is energetic and breathless, dreaming of her own bright future, even though -- as a woman in the '50s -- her choices are limited. The movie even manages a subtle comment on race via the phone call from Billy, a Black character who's never seen. Smarts and technical wizardry aside, the movie also tells an amazing story at just the right pace, with just the right punch. Don't miss it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Vast of Night depicts smoking. Is it glamorized? Are there consequences for smoking? Does it matter that the movie is set in the 1950s, when smoking was common?

  • Even though we never see them, are the aliens in this movie scary? Friendly? Why do you think movies about aliens are so appealing/interesting?

  • Why do you think cover-ups (or lying and dishonesty) are so often a big part of alien stories? Is it ever right to tell a lie?

  • What kind of job does Fay hope to get later in life? What opportunities would a woman in the 1950s have? How have things changed since then?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

Themes & Topics

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