The Last Starfighter (1984)

last starfighter poster 1984 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

Early computer animation, video game theme


Movie Info

Movie Name: The Last Starfighter

Studio: Warner Bros.

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s): July 13, 1984

MPAA Rating: PG

last starfighter video game lance guest

At least he didn’t end up in the sewers fighting crabs and turtles…

Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) dreams of leaving his small trailer park home and seeing the world.  When he gets the highest score on the video game called Starfighter, he gets the chance to see the world…from space.  Alex is contacted by an interstellar agent named Centauri (Robert Preston) and forced into Star League to fight the evil Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada.  Meanwhile on Earth, a Beta robot fills in for Alex leaving his girlfriend Maggie Gordon (Catherine Mary Stewart) questioning his behavior.  When a raid by the Xur destroys the Star League, Alex and his co-pilot Grig (Dan O’Herlihy) are the last hope against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada.

Directed by Nick Castle, The Last Starfighter is a video game action-adventure movie.  The film was originally released with another video game film Cloak & Dagger as a double feature in 1984. Relatively low budget, it was a big hit and was an early hit in the VHS market.  The film gained a cult following over the years.

last starfighter dan oherlihy grig

I’m no Chewbacca

The Last Starfighter was one of those generic “let’s rent something for a party, sleepover, etc.” type movie when I was growing up, and it feels like I saw the movie over and over again.  With nostalgia, it can be hard to separate good and bad, but The Last Starfighter is one of the better “kid” movies from the period.

The story has a lot of Star Wars, but it also borrows from the idea of King Arthur.  Alex is the “everyman” and finds himself the leader of a great adventure.  The movie sometimes fumbles on pacing and speed, but in general, the movie keeps up for kids’ viewing attention.  The relationship between Maggie and Alex is a little intense in that the two teens decide to run off to space to spend their lives together on a whim, but it is also the type of relationship you would expect in an ’80s movie.

last starfighter robert preston centauri

The Music Man to The Last Starfighter…it is a living

The Last Starfighter had a strong cast.  Lance Guest and Catherine Mary Stewart might not have been the best actors at the time, but Robert Preston (in his last film role) and Dan O’Herlihy as the alien Grig really help propel the movie by adding needed comic relief to the space storyline which gets a bit heavy handed.  Guest does do a nice dual role performance by playing his own robot on Earth which also provides more humor to the somewhat generic story (the scenes with Lance as the Beta unit screened well and more were shot).  They also have a nice group of supporting actors at the trailer park including cameos by a young Wil Wheaton (though most of his appearances were cut or are small).

last starfighter ship death blossom

Death Blossom time!

What made The Last Starfighter stand out was early video game ties and the visuals that came with them.  Like Tron, The Last Starfighter was a big step in computer animation.  With completely computer rendered battle scenes, the movie really stepped up what could be done with computer animation.  The animation is very basic, but it has held up ok.  Yeah, it isn’t great, but all things considered, it also isn’t bad.  Unfortunately the script relies kind of heavily on it.  The movie is also very 1980s PG with some kind of terrifying moments like the half-formed Alex Beta unit and some of the deaths.

The Last Starfighter feels like it was the set up for something more with sequels.  With its success, it is rather surprising that a quick sequel didn’t quickly follow.  It has the basic ideas of classic movies that can endure years even if the effects don’t, so kids might (stress might) still like it because it makes the idea that they can be a hero real.  Revisit the movie…You can still be Luke Skywalker…I mean Alex Rogan.  “Greetings, Starfighter! You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada”.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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