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
Edited by
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • August 1, 1986 (1986-08-01)
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 American science fiction adventure film directed by Randal Kleiser and written by Mark H. Baker, Michael Burton and Matt MacManus. The film stars Joey Cramer as 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]


On the night of July 4, 1978 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 12-year-old David Scott Freeman walks through the woods to pick up his 8-year-old younger brother Jeff from a friend's house when he accidentally falls into a ravine and is knocked unconscious. When he comes to, he discovers that 8 years have passed and the year is now 1986; while he has not aged at all, his parents are now middle-aged and Jeff is 16 years old. Meanwhile, an alien spaceship crashes through power lines and is promptly confiscated by NASA. David is taken to a hospital for tests where his brainwaves reveal images of the spaceship. Dr. Louis Faraday, who has been studying the spaceship since its arrival, persuades David to come a NASA research facility for just 48 hours for extra tests, promising him that they can help him learn the truth about what happened to him. There, Faraday discovers that David's mind is filled with alien technical manuals and star charts covering expanses of the galaxy far exceeding anything humans have recorded. David's subconscious mind tells the scientists that he was taken to a planet called Phaelon, 560 light years away, in just over 4.4 hours. They realize that David has experienced severe time dilation as a result of having traveled faster than the speed of light, explaining why eight years have passed on Earth, but not for him. David is unable to comprehend what Faraday tells him and flees the room, leaving Faraday muttering that 48 hours will be insufficient to finish his investigation.

The next morning, following a telepathic communication from the ship, David secretly boards it and meets its robotic commander called "Trimaxion Drone Ship" (or "Max" for short), which refers to David as the "Navigator". After they escape from the facility, Max tells David that its mission was to travel across 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 David's with miscellaneous information. This includes all of the star charts discovered by Phaelon's astronomers, some of which were shown to the NASA scientists during David's interrogation. Max then returned him to Earth, but did not take him back to his own time, having determined that a human would be unlikely to survive a trip back in time. Before leaving Earth, Max accidentally crashed the ship, erasing all the computer's star charts and data. Therefore, Max needs the information in David's brain to return home.

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 and sub-species of the Siyi genus, that is the last of his kind after a comet destroyed its planet. Max performs the mind transfer on David to reacquire the star charts, but in the process also contracts human emotional attributes, resulting in eccentric behavior. Max and David start bickering while their antics trigger several UFO reports in Tokyo and other cities. Meanwhile, NASA intern Carolyn McAdams contacts David's family and tells them about his escape in the ship; as a result, Faraday has the family confined to the house and Carolyn is sent back to the facility.

When the ship stops at a gas station in the Florida Keys, David calls Jeff and asks him to send a signal to locate the family's new home. Jeff sets off fireworks on the rooftop. David and Max arrive near the house, but NASA agents, having tracked the ship's every move, get there first. Fearing that he would be institutionalized for life if he remains in 1986, he orders Max to return him to 1978, regardless of the risk to his life. After the journey back in time, David wakes up in the ravine, walks home, and finds everything as he left it. During the Fourth of July celebration, he watches Max flash across the sky against the backdrop of fireworks while Jeff is surprised to see the Puckmaren in David's backpack.


  • Albie Whitaker plays eight-year-old Jeff Freeman


The Trimaxion Drone Ship was rendered in CGI by Omnibus Computer Animation, under the supervision of Jeff Kleiser, the brother of director Randal Kleiser.[6]


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,[7] one of the first digital multi-track recorders 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"
  12. "Star Dancing"

Critical reception[edit]

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."[8] The New York Times described it as "definitely a film most children can enjoy."[9] People declared it "out-of-this-world fun."[10] Empire gave it 3/5 stars, saying it was "well-made enough to keep the family happy, but it certainly won’t challenge them."[11] 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."[12] Dave Kehr gave it 3 stars and described it as "a new high for Disney."[1]


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.[13] In November 2012, Disney hired Safety Not Guaranteed's director Colin Trevorrow and writer/producer Derek Connolly to rewrite the script.[14] Colin Trevorrow has since directed Jurassic World and is set to direct Star Wars Episode IX.


  1. ^ a b Dave Kehr (July 30, 1986). "'Flight Of Navigator' A New High For Disney". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Flight of the Navigator - 1986 - Joey Cramer, Randal Kleiser - Variety Profiles". Variety.com. July 30, 1986. Retrieved December 20, 2009. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Flight of the Navigator (1986)". The Powergrid. Wrap News inc. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  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. ^ Anderson, Martin (2009-07-15). "Jeff Kleiser Discusses the Early CGI of Flight of the Navigator". Den of Geek!. Retrieved 2016-01-15. 
  7. ^ Film's end credits
  8. ^ Kevin Thomas (1986-07-31). "Movie Review : 'Flight Of Navigator' Offers A Family Outing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  9. ^ Caryn James (1986-07-30). "The Screen: 'Flight Of The Navigator'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  10. ^ Scot Haller; Tom Cunneff; Ira Hellman (1986-08-18). "Picks and Pans Review: Flight of the Navigator". People (magazine). Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  11. ^ "Flight of the Navigator". Empire. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  12. ^ "Review:"Flight of the Navigator"". Variety. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  13. ^ Borys Kit (2009-05-26). "Disney, Mandeville file new 'Flight' plan". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  14. ^ Trumbore, Dave (2012-11-27). "Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly to Rewrite FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR Remake; Trevorrow May Direct". Collider. Retrieved 2017-04-23. 

External links[edit]