Flight of the Navigator

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Film poster.

Flight of the Navigator is a science fiction children's film directed by Randal Kleiser, written by Michael Burton and Matt MacManus and released on 1986-08-01.

In the film, a 12-year-old boy suddenly finds himself transported eight years into the future to 1986 having no idea how it happened. NASA researchers, who have discovered a crashed alien ship, are very interested in the boy because his brain is somehow linked to the ship.


I first saw the film after it was released to home video in 1987. I found it quite enjoyable, loving the Pee Wee Herman sound of Max, and puppet aliens, but I didn't really understand the time dilation aspect of it, or that all the data was kept in David's brain which is why he was the navigator. After seeing Captain Disillusion describe all the impressive special effects in the film, it rekindled my interest in it, and I re-watched it in 2022 with my daughters who, being only four-years-old, were even more confused by it.


Actor Character
Joey Cramer David Freeman
Paul Reubens (as Paul Mall) Max (voice)
Cliff De Young Bill Freeman
Veronica Cartwright Helen Freeman
Sarah Jessica Parker Carolyn McAdams
Albie Whitaker Jeff (8 years)
Matt Adler Jeff (16 years)
Howard Hesseman Dr. Louis Faraday
Robert Small Troy
Jonathan Sanger Dr. Carr
Iris Acker Mrs. Howard
Richard Liberty Mr. Howard
Raymond Forchion Detective Banks
Cynthia Caquelin Woman Officer




— This section contains spoilers! —


  • The story is pretty fun. Even though David is terrified for much of it, the ability to fly around in a spaceship that you control is every kid's dream come true.
  • The special effects used are top-notch at the time. The melting liquid metal, the hovering steps, the floating ship, etc.
  • The bulk of the acting, even for the children, is believable.
  • Paul Reubens does a great job adding character to the voice of Max.
  • The several teases of UFOs (Frisbee, water tower, etc.) are clever.


  • For much of the film, David's "problem" is simply directing an alien ship to his parent's house in Florida which is a bit underwhelming.
  • I know it doesn't really matter since he goes back in time and everything is magically fixed, but the film doesn't really say what happened to Carolyn after she's caught helping David escape.
  • The excuse that humans are too fragile to go back in time to return them to when they were abducted is made flimsy after Max is able to do it without even the slightest effect on David.
  • Much of Reubens's voice is nearly identical to the one he uses of Pee Wee Herman, which doesn't make sense thematically as David, being abducted in 1978, wouldn't know who he was.
  • That fat-shaming of the gas station attendant is a reminder of how acceptable this form of bullying was in 1986.
  • The scenes where David crosses the train tracks at night were clearly shot during the day then artificially darkened.
  • The film repeats the misconception that humans only using 10% of our brain.


  • Nothing.





Captain Disillusion.


Strong female character?FailAlthough David's mother is close, she's not that important and doesn't grow.
Bechdel test?FailNone of the women talk to each other.
Strong person of color character?FailThe police officer is close, but isn't that important.
Queer character?FailNone of the characters appear to be queer.


  • "How about a Big Mac, large fries, and a Coke? They're still around, I hope." "Well, now, that all depends. Do you want New Coke, Classic Coke, Cherry Coke, Diet Coke, or caffeine-free Coke?"
  • "Compliance!"
  • "Will this thing leak?" "Navigator, I do not leak, you leak, remember?"
  • "So you need ME and my INFERIOR brain to fly that thing?" "Correction, I need the SUPERIOR information in your INFERIOR brain to fly this... thing."


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