The Last Starfighter

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The Last Starfighter was directed by Nick castle and released in 1984. 

This movie is about a boy named Alex who lives in a trailer park with dreams of making a name for himself in the world outside of his small hometown.  His dreams of going to a university instead of a community college are crushed when he gets a letter saying his loan has been denied.  However, he would find he would not need to go to community college after all.  He would soon be going on a journey he had been secretly training for.  

Not just a game

It is revealed in this next clip that the arcade game Alex had been playing was actually a realistic spaceship gunner simulation. This clip also reveals that the game was being used to find those on earth with the reflexes and instinct required to be a starfighter. 

game apparatus and audience

In this movie, the game requires a cabinet, screen and flight controls.  The flight controls in the cabinet represent a spaceship’s gunner controls.  The screen display in the cabinet is based on a spaceship’s hud that we see later in the movie.  

This movie is well rounded in age groups and references.   Based on the movie’s content I would argue this is a family movie ages 8+, but with the playboy references I could also easily see it being ages 17+.  Based on the movies rating of PG, the audience is inclusive of the whole family.  I would argue the target audience is those who play video games because it is about a boy who becomes a hero based on his video game prowess and skill in a particular game.  


During the beginning of the movie and most scenes on Earth, the technology is the movie is realistic.  As soon as Alex finds himself in space the technology turns futuristic; some technological artifacts can be argued as utopian like the translators and other devices that let so many races co-exist with understanding over conflict.  However, the technology focused on in the movie is used for war.


Two of the easiest tropes to point out are the arcade game and strategy game tropes.  Alex plays the arcade game “Starfighter” which is a strategy game about destroying and surviving an onslaught of enemy ships till you have a chance to destroy the command center and win the game.  Another trope we see in this movie is the Ambiguously Absent Parent trope, his father is missing and the fathers’ absence is never explained.  An interesting trope that appears in the movie is the Artificial Family Member trope.  The Artificial Family Member trope happens when a robot or artificial being is treated like a real family member.  In this case, it was the beta unit sent to replace Alex in his absence.  It is interesting because it is unbeknownst to the mother till the end of the movie. The brother does not know about the robot until Alex returns and talks to it.    This movie also exhibits the small town trope, our hero comes from a small trailer park.  


I would like to point out the two very similar moments in this movie. First when he beats the high score in “Starfighter” and when he returns to the foreign planet after his mission in space.  When he beats the high score on the only arcade game mentioned in town, his family, friends, and neighbors all come to cheer him on and congratulate him when he finally destroys the command ship. This exact moment is almost replicated with the alien races he saves.  After he destroys the command ship in real life and lands on the base planet he his greeted with roars of cheers by millions.   

General Thoughts

The Last Starfighter is all and all a good movie for being released in the 80’s.  The animation and 3D modeling separate from practical effects are pretty bad but it does not ruin the movie. 

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