One of my favorite movies from the 1980s is The Last Starfighter, an underrated gem that got lost amid the heyday of the Indiana Jones, ET, and Back to the Future years. I didn't see it in the theater but started catching bits of if on TV sometime afterwards. The scenes I saw were really fun so I rented it and immediately loved it.
The story is a retelling of the legend of King Arthur, but instead of a sword in a stone, a space combat video game, placed mistakenly in a trailer park by a hustling alien, recruits a young man to fight in a galactic war. It's Star Wars if Luke Skywalker had been conned into joining the rebellion by the Music Man's Harold Hill.
The Last Starfighter was one of the first movies to make extensive use of computer imaging as all of its space and space combat scenes were computer generated. For the time, the effects were groundbreaking, but today they have a little bit of a video-gamey look. That doesn't detract from the movie in the least, however.
But it's not the effects that make it great. The film is filled with wonderful performances, especially Robert Preston as the alien "Harold Hill" in his last ever role, Centauri, and Dan O'Herlihy as the hero's alien co-pilot, Grig. Both are obviously having a lot of fun with their roles and they elevate every scene they're in. They're just fantastic; honestly, these are two of my favorite performances ever.
What's more, the script is smart and fun. This movie has nearly as many quotable lines as The Princess Bride and several bits of dialogue make me smile just to read them.
Alex Rogan: And where were the Starfighters?
Grig: In the hangar!
Alex Rogan: You mean they're dead?
Grig: [scoffs] Death is a primitive concept. I prefer to think of them as battling evil . . . in another dimension.
Alex Rogan: In another dimension? How many are left?
Grig: Including yourself?
Alex Rogan: Yeah.
I love this movie. I just ordered it on Blu-Ray from Amazon ($7.50 baby!) and will try to get Ben to watch it. I can't wait.
This post was inspired by a recently posted article on io9 about the movie. Check it out here: Everything You Never Knew About the Making of The Last Starfighter.