Flight of the Navigator

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Flight of the Navigator
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Randal Kleiser
Produced by Dimitri Villard
Robert Wald
Screenplay by Michael Burton
Matt MacManus
Story by Mark H. Baker
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography James Glennon
Eric McGraw
Edited by Jeff Gourson
Janice Parker
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates
July 30, 1986[2]
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9 million[3]
Box office $18,564,613

Flight of the Navigator is a 1986 comic science fiction film directed by Randal Kleiser and written by Mark H. Baker and Michael Burton, about David Freeman, a 12-year-old boy who is abducted by an alien spaceship and finds himself caught in a world that has changed around him.

The film's producers initially sent the project to Walt Disney Pictures in 1984, but the studio was unable to approve it and it was sent to Producers Sales Organization, which made a deal with Disney to distribute it in the United States.[4] It was partially shot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Norway, it being a co-production with Norwegian company Viking Film.[5]


The film follows David Scott Freeman (Joey Cramer), a 12-year-old boy living in Florida in 1978. On the night of July 4, David walks through the woods to escort his younger brother home. On the way, his dog alerts him to something down in a ravine. When David goes to investigate, he falls into the ravine and is knocked unconscious.

When he wakes up, he returns to his house and finds that his family no longer lives there. After the new owners call the police, they find a missing person report made about David by his parents. The police review their database and find that David was declared legally dead. The police reunite him with his family, who have aged substantially. When they greet David, he faints.

Elsewhere, an alien spaceship crashes into an electrical tower and is rendered inert. NASA agents confiscate it and explain to police that it is a human experimental space laboratory. They bring it to their own hangar, but is inaccessible from the outside.

Meanwhile, David is taken to the hospital for observation, and he learns that he has fast-forward eight years in the future and it is now the year 1986; his parents are middle-aged, and his younger brother, Jeff, is now 16. Testing to determine what happened to him in the ravine reveals mental images of the alien spaceship and communication in a foreign language. The lead doctor alerts NASA. David is taken to a research facility is and locked away as a "national security risk". In confinement, he befriends Carolyn McAdams (Sarah Jessica Parker), the charming intern in charge of his upkeep, as well as a robotic assistant named R.A.L.F.

Faraday runs his own memory tests on David and finds his mind full with alien technical manuals and star charts covering expanses of the galaxy far exceeding anything humans have recorded. His subconscious mind tells the scientists that he was taken to a planet called Phaelon, 560 light-years away, in just over a 4.4 solar-hour (2.2 Earth-hour) journey. They realize that David has experienced time dilation as a result of having travelled at the speed of light, explaining why eight years have passed on Earth, but not for him. David is unable to comprehend what Faraday is telling him and flees the room, leaving Faraday muttering that 48 hours will be insufficient to finish his investigation. Carolyn informs him about the schedule for him to stay all week, and he tells her to alert his family.

The next morning, the ship telepathically contacts David, and tells him to hide in the R.A.L.F robot sent to his room, which takes him to the hangar where it is being held. He boards the ship, and its robotic commander, (voiced by Paul Reubens, credited as Paul Mall), referring to David as "Navigator," evades NASA pursuit. He takes the ship about 20 miles away from the NASA hangar, where the ship transforms into a less conspicuous object to hide.

The ship's artificial intelligence, who refers to himself as a "Trimaxion Drone Ship" ("Max" for short), tells him that his mission was to travel the galaxy, collect biological specimens, take them to Phaelon for analysis, and then return them to their homes. Phaelon's scientists discovered humans only use 10% of their brain and, as an experiment, filled the remainder of his with miscellaneous information, including all of the star charts discovered by Phaelon's astronomers, including the information that leaked from his brain. Max then returned him to Earth, but didn't take him back to his own time, knowing that a human could be vaporized in the process. Before leaving Earth, Max accidentally crashed the ship, erasing all the computer's star charts and data. He therefore needs the information in David's brain to return home. When Faraday's agents try to retrieve the ship and David, Max transforms the ship again and hides in the ocean. Realizing David doesn't know instructions to guide the ship with a star chart, Max programs the ship for a mind transfer, and David is shown the eight remaining alien specimens on board, and bonds with a "Puckmaren", a tiny bat-like alien. Puckmaren is the last of his kind after a comet destroyed his planet.

Max performs a mind transfer on David to reacquire the star charts, but in the process also contracts human emotional attributes, which results in him speaking just like Pee-Wee Herman, he even laughs like him. He and David start bickering, like David and Jeff always did, and when David calls him a geek, he shuts down, and allows the ship to fall from the sky, taunting David as he struggles to gain control. Eventually controlling the ship, David wanders Earth looking for Fort Lauderdale, triggering several UFO reports in many cities, including Tokyo. In the meantime, Carolyn has made contact with his family and told them about his escape in the ship; as a result, Faraday has them put under house arrest and has Carolyn transported to the facility.

David arrives in the Florida Keys, and asks the owner of a gas station for money, and telephones Jeff to ask for a signal from their new house so that he can find it, while the owner stares at the ship and the children of a family observe it. When the ship leaves, the whole family looks up at the ship. The owner remarks, "He just said he wanted to phone home," an homage to the film E.T.. David reaches Fort Lauderdale and Jeff sets off fireworks to signal his brother. David hones in on them, but NASA agents, having tracked the ship's every move, are there first. David, fearing that he would remain in the facility for his life if he remained in 1986, orders Max to return him to 1978, regardless of the risk to his life. Through space-time travel, he soon reaches the ravine.

David wakes up, walks home, and finds everything as he left it. David watches Max flash the sky against the backdrop of fireworks, with the specimens and Max laughing. Max says "See you later, Navigator!" telepathically to David and the film closes.



The film received mainly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes rated it a fresh rating of 81% based on 27 reviews with the consensus: "Bolstered by impressive special effects and a charming performance from its young star, Flight of the Navigator holds up as a solidly entertaining bit of family-friendly sci-fi."

Kevin Thomas of the LA Times said its biggest plus was "its entirely believable, normal American family."[6] The New York Times described it as "definitely a film most children can enjoy."[7] People declared it "out-of-this-world fun."[8] Empire gave it 3/5 stars, saying it was "well-made enough to keep the family happy, but it certainly won’t challenge them."[9] Variety was more critical, announcing that "instead of creating an eye-opening panorama, Flight of the Navigator looks through the small end of the telescope."[10] Dave Kehr gave it 3 stars and described it as "a new high for Disney."[1]


The music score for the film was composed by Alan Silvestri. It is distinct from his other scores in being entirely electronically generated, using the Synclavier,[11] one of the first digital synthesisers and samplers.

  1. Theme from "Flight of the Navigator"
  2. "Main Title"
  3. "The Ship Beckons"
  4. "David in the Woods"
  5. "Robot Romp"
  6. "Transporting the Ship"
  7. "Ship Drop"
  8. "Have to Help a Friend"
  9. "The Shadow Universe"
  10. "Flight"
  11. "Finale"


In May 2009, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Disney was readying a remake of the film. Brad Copeland was writing the script and Mandeville partners David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman would serve as producers.[12] In November 2012, Disney hired Safety Not Guaranteed's director Colin Trevorrow and writer/producer Derek Connolly to rewrite it.[13]


  1. ^ a b Dave Kehr (1986-07-30). "'Flight Of Navigator' A New High For Disney". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  2. ^ "Flight of the Navigator - 1986 - Joey Cramer, Randal Kleiser - Variety Profiles". Variety.com. 1986-07-30. Retrieved 2009-12-20. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Flight of the Navigator (1986)". The Powergrid. Wrap News inc. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  4. ^ Mark Damon; Linda Schreyer (2008). From Cowboy to Mogul to Monster: The Neverending Story of Film Pioneer Mark Damon. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. p. 376. ISBN 978-1-4343-7737-1. 
  5. ^ Charles Solomon (1987-08-01). "Commentary : Computer Graphics Shows Its Stuff". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  6. ^ Kevin Thomas (1986-07-31). "Movie Review : 'Flight Of Navigator' Offers A Family Outing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  7. ^ Caryn James (1986-07-30). "The Screen: 'Flight Of The Navigator'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  8. ^ Scot Haller; Tom Cunneff; Ira Hellman (1986-08-18). "Picks and Pans Review: Flight of the Navigator". People (magazine). Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  9. ^ "Flight of the Navigator". Empire. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  10. ^ "Review:"Flight of the Navigator"". Variety. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  11. ^ Film's end credits
  12. ^ Borys Kit (2009-05-26). "Disney, Mandeville file new 'Flight' plan". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  13. ^ Jeff Sneider (2012-11-27). "Disney taps 'Safety' duo for 'Navigator' rewrite". Variety. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 

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