Starman (film)

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Starman film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Carpenter
Produced byLarry J. Franco
Written by
Music byJack Nitzsche
CinematographyDonald M. Morgan
Edited byMarion Rothman
Color processMetrocolor
Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)
Delphi II Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • December 14, 1984 (1984-12-14)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$24 million[1]
Box office$28.7 million (US only)

Starman is a 1984 American romance science fiction film directed by John Carpenter that tells the story of an alien who has come to Earth and cloned a humanoid body (portrayed by Jeff Bridges) 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 making 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.


Launched in 1977, the Voyager 2 space probe carried a gold phonographic disk with a message of peace, inviting alien civilizations to visit Earth. The probe is intercepted by an alien ship which then sends a small scout vessel to establish first contact with Earth. Instead of greeting the alien craft, the U.S. government shoots it down. Crashing in Chequamegon Bay, Wisconsin, the lone alien occupant, looking like a floating ball of glowing energy, finds the home of recently widowed Jenny Hayden. While there, the alien uses a lock of hair from her deceased husband, Scott, to clone a new body for himself as a terrified Jenny watches. The alien "Starman" has seven small silver spheres with him which provide energy to perform miraculous feats. He uses the first to send a message to his people stating that Earth is hostile and his spacecraft has been destroyed. He arranges to rendezvous with them 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 the rendezvous point in Arizona.

Jenny is initially both hostile and frightened of him and attempts to escape. Having a very basic understanding of the English language which has come from the Voyager 2 disk, the Starman learns to communicate with Jenny and assures her that he means no harm. He explains that if he does not reach the rendezvous point, Arizona's Barringer Crater, in three days, he will die. Sympathetic but still wary, Jenny teaches him how to drive a car and use credit cards so he can continue the journey alone, but when she witnesses him miraculously resurrect a dead deer, she is deeply moved and decides to stay with him. They are pursued across the country by the authorities and, after nearly being caught, Jenny is shot and critically wounded by a police officer. In order to escape, the Starman crashes their car into a gas tanker and uses another sphere to protect the two of them from the explosion. They take refuge in a mobile home that is being towed. He uses another silver sphere to heal Jenny. After being assured that Jenny will recover, the Starman proceeds to hitchhike towards Arizona without her, but Jenny manages to catch up to him while he and his driver are stopped at a roadblock. Reunited, the two of them hitchhike together, resuming their journey towards the crater.

Later, while stowing away on a boxcar train, the couple makes love. The Starman tells Jenny "I gave you a baby tonight." Jenny explains that she is infertile and cannot have children, but he assures her she is now pregnant. He explains that the baby will be the son of her dead husband, because he (Starman) is a clone of Scott, but as a child of Starman as well, their son will possess all of the Starman's knowledge and will grow up to be a teacher. Starman offers to stop the pregnancy 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. Jenny realizes she has lost her wallet. The Starman uses one of their last quarters in a slot machine, which he manipulates in order to win the $500,000 jackpot. They then buy a new car to complete their journey to Arizona.

Meanwhile, National Security Agency director George Fox learns that the Starman's flight trajectory, prior to being shot down, was to the Barringer Crater. Fox arranges to have the Starman captured by the Army, dead or alive. SETI scientist Mark Shermin, another government official involved in the case, criticizes Fox's heavy-handed approach and reminds him that the Starman was invited to Earth. Appalled to learn that Fox is planning to vivisect the alien, Shermin then resolves to help the Starman escape rather than allow Fox to capture him.

Jenny and the now slowly dying Starman reach the crater as Army helicopters pursue them. Just as they are surrounded, a large, spherical spaceship appears and descends into the crater. Light surrounds the couple, and the Starman is instantly restored to health. As he prepares to leave, he tells Jenny he will never see her again. Jenny asks 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. Jenny watches as the ship departs.



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,[2] which became the highest-grossing film of its time,[3][4] 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.[2]

Parts of the film were shot in Monument Valley, Utah.[5]

Release and reception[edit]

Starman grossed $2,872,022 in its opening weekend, debuting at number 6.[6] It was released the same week as David Lynch's film Dune and a week after the release of Peter Hyams' film 2010: The Year We Make Contact. The film grossed a total of $28,744,356 from its domestic (US and Canada) run.

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that Starman gained an 85% approval rating based on 33 reviews from critics, with the consensus reading: "What initially begins as sci-fi transforms into a surprisingly sweet, offbeat drama, courtesy of John Carpenter's careful direction."[7] The aggregator Metacritic gives the film a score of 71% based on 7 reviews.[8] Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four and wrote "Starman contains the potential to be a very silly movie, but the two actors have so much sympathy for their characters that the movie, advertised as space fiction, turns into one of 1984's more touching love stories."[9] In a highly positive review praising the film along with its actors and director, critic Janet Maslin stated "If Starman doesn't make a major difference in Jeff Bridges' career, Mr. Bridges is operating in the wrong galaxy."[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

Jeff Bridges was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, making Starman 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.[11]

The film was nominated for, but does not appear on the following lists:


Starman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Jack Nitzsche
ReleasedDecember 14, 1984
LabelVarèse Sarabande
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[14]

The soundtrack to Starman was released on December 14, 1984.[15][16] The album also contains a rendition of "All I Have to Do Is Dream" performed by stars Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen.

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

1."Jenny Shot"1:30
2."Here Come the Helicopters"5:04
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
14."Starman Leaves"7:04

Home media[edit]

The film was released Blu-ray on August 11, 2009.


In April 2016, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Shawn Levy will direct and produce a remake written by Arash Amel. Michael Douglas, who was a producer of the original, is also on board to produce, while Dan Cohen and Robert Mitas are executive producing, and Matt Milam and Adam North are overseeing the project for Columbia.[17]

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 to the manner in which the Starman from the film departs Earth.[18] The music video itself contains scenes which pay homage to several Jeff Bridges films, including Tron and King Kong.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "John Carpenter's Starman". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b "'Starman' stirs up a storm from sci-fi fans and experts". Chicago Tribune. January 18, 1985. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  3. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Top Films of All-Time: Part 1 – Box-Office Blockbusters". Retrieved 2012-03-04.
  4. ^ "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial — Weekend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-04-18.
  5. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  6. ^ "Box Office Information for Starman". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  7. ^ "Starman Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  8. ^ "Starman Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  9. ^ "Starman Movie Review". Chicago Sun Times. 1984. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  10. ^ "Movie Review - Starman". New York Times. December 14, 1984. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  11. ^ "Golden Globe Awards 1985 Winners and Nominees". Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  12. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  13. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Starman Album Information". SoundtrackNet. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  16. ^ "Starman Album Information". Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  17. ^ Kit, Borys (April 1, 2016). "'Starman' Remake In the Works With Director Shawn Levy (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter.
  18. ^ "Dan Black - Symphonies music video". Polydor Ltd. Retrieved 25 September 2010.

External links[edit]