Starman (film)

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Starman film poster.jpg
Starman theatrical poster
Directed by John Carpenter
Produced by Larry J. Franco
Michael Douglas
Written by Bruce A. Evans
Raynold Gideon
Dean Riesner
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Cinematography Donald M. Morgan
Edited by Marion Rothman
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • December 14, 1984 (1984-12-14)
Running time
115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $24 million
Box office $28,744,356

Starman is a 1984 American romantic science fiction film, directed by John Carpenter, that tells the story of an alien (Jeff Bridges) who has come to Earth in response to the invitation found on the gold phonograph record installed on the Voyager 2 space probe.

The original screenplay was written by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon, with Dean Riesner doing uncredited re-writes. Bridges was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role. The film inspired a short-lived television series of the same name in 1986 which starred Robert Hays, Christopher Daniel Barnes and Michael Cavanaugh.


Launched in 1977, the Voyager 2 space probe carried a gold phonographic disk with a message of peace, inviting visitors to visit planet Earth. The Voyager 2 probe is intercepted by an alien ship. Responding to the invitation, they send a small scout vessel to establish first contact with Earth. But instead of greeting the craft, the government shoots the alien down. Crashing in Chequamegon Bay, Wisconsin, the alien, looking like a blue ball of energy, finds the home of recently widowed Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen). While there, the alien uses a lock of hair from her deceased husband, a house-painter named Scott Hayden, to clone a new body which a stunned Jenny witnesses. The Starman (Jeff Bridges) has seven small silver spheres which provide energy to perform miraculous feats. He uses the first to send a message to his people about his craft being destroyed and that the environment is hostile. He arranges to rendezvous with them at "landing area one" in three days' time. He then uses the second sphere to create a holographic map of the United States, coercing Jenny into taking him to Arizona.

As the shock wears off, Jenny turns both hostile and frightened of him. After repeatedly attempting to escape, she finally implores the Starman to shoot her with her pistol. But instead he releases the pistol's magazine and tells her he means no harm. As they continue on their journey, the Starman, who had a rough understanding of English syntax from the Voyager 2 disk, learns to communicate with Jenny, who in turn teaches him that humanity is not completely savage.

He explains to Jenny that he has three days to get to the rendezvous point, Arizona's Barringer Crater, or he will die. She teaches him how to drive a car and use credit cards, intending on escaping so he can continue his journey alone. However, as she is about to make her escape, she witnesses him miraculously resurrect a dead deer. Deeply moved, she resolves to help him at whatever cost.

Arranging a distraction, the two fugitives escape, but one of the officers shoots Jenny, critically wounding her. During the escape, the Starman crashes the car into a gas tanker and uses a sphere to protect the two of them from the explosion. They escape the area by taking refuge in a mobile home that is being towed. Down to his last two silver spheres, the Starman uses one to heal Jenny. While stowing away on a boxcar train, the couple have sex. Later that night, the Starman tells Jenny "I gave you a baby tonight." Jenny attempts to explain to him that she is infertile and cannot conceive a child, but the Starman insists, saying, "Believe what I tell you." He explains to the stunned Jenny that the baby will also be the son of her dead husband, because he is a clone of Scott. He also explains that the baby will know all that the Starman knows and when he grows up he will become a teacher. He tells her that he will stop the gestation from going further if she wishes, but the joyful Jenny embraces him, accepting the gift.

The couple mistakenly travel too far on the train and arrive in Las Vegas. To make matters worse, Jenny has lost her wallet. The Starman uses one of their last quarters in a slot machine, which he manipulates in order to win the jackpot. The couple use their winnings to buy a new car to complete the drive to Winslow, Arizona, which is near Barringer Crater.

Meanwhile, Fox learns from NORAD that the Starman's flight trajectory, prior to being shot down, was to Barringer Crater. He figures out that the Starman would show up there in the next day or so. To Shermin's dismay, he orders the Army helicopters to carry live ammunition and announces his intention to capture the alien alive or dead. This is made horribly clear when Shermin sees pathology equipment being unloaded, along with an operating table with straps; Shermin's protests to Fox that Earth had invited the Starman are curtly dismissed.

The couple reach the crater as Army helicopters pursue them. Just as they are surrounded, a large, spherical landing craft appears and descends into the crater. Light surrounds the couple, and the Starman is instantly restored to health. He tells Jenny he will never see her again. Jenny confesses her love and begs him to take her with him, but he says she would die on his world. He then gives her his last silver sphere, telling her that their son will know what to do with it. As she watches in silence, the ship rises, carrying the Starman away.



Starman spent five years in development at Columbia. The original script by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon was purchased by the studio at the urging of executive producer Michael Douglas, shortly before it optioned Steven Spielberg's Night Skies. Screenwriter Dean Riesner came onto the project in late 1981 after director Mark Rydell left the project due to artistic differences with Douglas. Riesner worked on seven rewrites of Starman with six different directors, but did not receive screen credit because, according to him, "the Writers Guild, in their infinite wisdom, decided I didn't contribute 50 percent of the screenplay." Other uncredited writers who worked on the script were Edward Zwick and Diane Thomas. Columbia decided to abandon Night Skies, which was similar in plot to Starman, on the grounds that the former story was a more Disney-like story geared towards children, whereas Starman was for a more mature audience. Night Skies was eventually retitled E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,[1] which became the highest-grossing film of all time,[2][3] upon which Riesner commented, "Goes to show how wrong you can be in this business." According to Riesner, producers at Columbia were concerned at the initial box office returns for E.T., feeling that Starman (on whose second rewrite Riesner was working at the time) was too similar. Adrian Lyne had briefly worked on the project before departing to direct Flashdance for Paramount. He was replaced by John Badham, who then left to direct WarGames as soon as he saw E.T., and concurred that the two projects were too similar. Riesner was charged with keeping Starman essentially the same while simultaneously making it distinct from E.T, and would work with three subsequent directors: Tony Scott, Peter Hyams and finally, John Carpenter. Whereas Scott was more interested in style than narrative drive and wanted to cast Philip Anglim, and Hyams pushed for a more conventional science fiction approach, Carpenter, who was eager to shed his image as a maker of exploitative thrillers, wished to emphasize the cross-country rapport that develops between the two leads à la The Defiant Ones, The 39 Steps, and It Happened One Night over special effects. Riesner dropped the "heavy political implications" from the script in order to comply with this.[1]

Release and reception[edit]

Starman grossed $2,872,022 in its opening weekend, debuting at number 6.[4] The film grossed a total of $28,744,356 from its domestic (US and Canada) run.

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that Starman gained an 80% approval rating based on 25 reviews from critics.[5]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Jeff Bridges was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, marking the only film by John Carpenter to receive an Academy Award nomination. Bridges was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Drama and was awarded the Saturn Award for Best Actor. Karen Allen also received a nod for Best Actress from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. The film itself was nominated Best Science Fiction Film. Jack Nitzsche received a Golden Globe nomination for his score.[6]


Starman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Jack Nitzsche
Released December 14, 1984
Genre Soundtrack
Length 33:05
Label Varèse Sarabande
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars link

The soundtrack to Starman was released on December 14, 1984.[8][9] The album also contains a rendition of "All I Have to Do Is Dream" performed by stars Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen.

All music composed by Jack Nitzsche (except "All I Have to Do Is Dream," written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant).

No. Title Length
1. "Jenny Shot"   1:30
2. "Here Come the Helicopters"   5:04
3. "Honeymoon"   0:56
4. "Road Block"   1:38
5. "Do You Have Somebody?"   1:18
6. "Pickup Truck"   3:01
7. "What's It Like up There?"   1:46
8. "All I Have to Do Is Dream"   3:29
9. "Lifting Ship"   1:22
10. "I Gave You a Baby"   2:11
11. "Morning Military"   1:04
12. "Define Love"   1:33
13. "Balls"   1:10
14. "Starman Leaves"   7:04

In popular culture[edit]

The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra covered "Starman Leaves (End Title)" for their 2005 cover compilation album, The Science Fiction Album. The 2010 single "Symphonies" by Dan Black, and its remix featuring Kid Cudi, sampled CoPPO's cover of the song. At the end of the music video the lead character is beamed away by a bright circular spaceship, similar in the manner in which the Starman from the film departs Earth.[10] The music video itself contains scenes which pay homage to several Jeff Bridges films, including Tron and King Kong.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "'Starman' stirs up a storm from sci-fi fans and experts". Chicago Tribune. January 18, 1985. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  2. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Top Films of All-Time: Part 1 – Box-Office Blockbusters". Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  3. ^ "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial — Weekend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  4. ^ "Box Office Information for Starman". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 5, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Starman Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 5, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Golden Globe Awards 1985 Winners and Nominees". Retrieved August 20, 2014. 
  7. ^ AFI's "100 Years...100 Passions Nominees". American Film Institute. Retrieved August 23, 2012.
  8. ^ "Starman Album Information". SoundtrackNet. Retrieved August 5, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Starman Album Information". Retrieved August 5, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Dan Black - Symphonies music video". Polydor Ltd. Retrieved 25 September 2010. 

External links[edit]