Flight of the Navigator



    Correction, I need the SUPERIOR information in your INFERIOR brain

          to fly this... thing.


David Scott Freeman (Joey Cramer) is an average, twelve-year-old American boy living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1978. On the night of July 4, his parents (Veronica Cartwright and Cliff DeYoung) ask him to go retrieve his younger brother Jeff (Albie Whitaker) from a friend's house, which is located on the other side of the woods that are behind his house. While in the woods, David falls down an embankment into a ravine and is knocked unconscious. He awakes after what seems like a few moments, only to find that he is now in the year 1986 and that everything has changed but himself. His childhood home has been sold to a married couple, who believe David is a missing child and report him to the local police. The police do not understand why David, who has been declared legally dead after being missing for so long, still looks the same as when he was last sighted. They are further puzzled when they start asking David questions and when asked who is the current President of the United States, he answers with Jimmy Carter. The police take David to a house where he is reunited with his family, now aged by 8 years.

Meanwhile, an extraterrestrial spacecraft has crashed into some power lines. NASA agents convince the police that the craft is theirs and take it to their base, intending to study it. The NASA workers find the ship seamless and impenetrable.

David is taken to the hospital to determine where he has been for the last eight years and to discover the reason for which he has not aged. The scientists have begun performing tests on his brain and find it to contain accurate information pertinent to the alien spacecraft that is at the NASA base; further scans reveal that his brain contains alien data and star charts leading to the planet of "Phaelon", which is such a great distance away NASA had not charted it. This planet is described as being exactly 560 light-years away from Earth. The travel time used by the spacecraft to reach it is 2.2 solar hours, implying a speed of approximately 2.25 million times the speed of light. The concept of time dilation is therefore theorized to explain the fact that David has not aged and is unaware of more than a few hours' passage.

David befriends an intern named Carolyn McAdams (Sarah Jessica Parker), telling her to let his parents know that the institute plans to keep him longer than the promised 48 hours. David hears the ship calling to him telepathically. He escapes the room by hiding in a service robot called RALF. Ignored by security, this robot takes David to the hangar where the ship is stored. As if made of liquid metal, an opening and stairway appear on the underside of the hovering spacecraft and David climbs inside. Once inside the ship, he meets its robotic pilot. It is revealed the ship is automated ship from Phaelon called a Trimaxian Drone Ship, whom he subsequently nicknames Max (voiced by Paul Reubens). Referring to David as "Navigator", Max accepts David's command to escape the base and take him somewhere to think.

The ship takes off from the NASA facility and hides on the ocean floor of the Gulf of Mexico. To travel more quickly, Max causes the spaceship to morph into a streamlined, point-nosed form designed to penetrate thicker atmosphere than that of Phaelon. The craft has the ability to hover, accelerate at high G, travel at tremendous speeds (up to Mach 10, ten times the speed of sound), become transparent, travel underwater and to move in virtually any direction without any discernible engine or power source.

Max informs David that his mission was to travel the galaxy, collect biological specimens and take them back to his home planet of Phaelon for analysis before returning them to the place and time from which they were taken. Max's sensors had discovered that humans only use 10% of their brain and as an experiment, David's brain was filled with information. During this procedure, David's brain inexplicably "leaked". Max then returned David to Earth, but did not take him back to his proper time, fearing that humans were too delicate to survive time travel. When trying to leave Earth and return to Phaelon, Max accidentally crashed the ship into a power line, erasing all the star charts and data necessary for returning home from the ship's computer. Max needs the information placed in David's brain to complete his mission and return to Phaelon.

Max performs a painless scan of David's brain to extract the information. Max's personality and voice immediately change, becoming less robotic and more human and erratic (similar to Reubens' Pee-wee Herman persona), which Max says is a result of having extracted information irrelevant to his mission from David's brain.

David and Max bicker as to their next course of action, to which Max's response is to shut down and allow the ship to fall from its orbit, taunting David as to his inability to fly the ship. David finds the button that activates the manual controls for the ship and takes control. They travel the Earth trying to decide what to do next, tracked and chased by NASA all the way.

To find the way to his family, David uses a gas station payphone and calls home. David talks to his brother Jeff, asking him to find a way to send a signal so that he can find his family's new house. Jeff successfully signals the flying saucer by lighting David's old bottle rockets and other fireworks. David is initially thrilled that he will soon return home, but becomes despondent upon realizing that he has lost 8 years of his life. Upon returning to his home and seeing the NASA people waiting for him, David decides that he does not belong in 1986 as a preteen and cannot stay, believing that the NASA scientists will treat him like a guinea pig for the rest of his life.

David bids his family goodbye and tells Max that he must return to his own time, regardless of the risks. At David's insistance, Max reluctantly travels back in time with David and successfully returns him to his own time unharmed and at the same moment he left. After the return to July 4, 1978, he makes his way home and finds everything the way he left it before he was abducted. David and his family take off to see the fireworks and David makes up with his brother. David discovers he has retained one memento from his experience: the Puckmaren, a peaceful extraterrestrial specimen collected by Max whose entire race has been destroyed by a comet's collision with his native planet who David adopted during his adventure. The only other one to know of this is Jeff who agrees to keep it a secret. The film ends with Max flying back to Phaelon as fireworks are being lit to celebrate the 4th of July, while he sends a message to David "See you later, Navigator!"



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Directed by Randal Kleiser
Produced by Dimitri Villard
Robert Wald
Written by Mark H. Baker
Michael Burton
Matt MacManus
Starring Joey Cramer
Music by John Farrar
Alan Silvestri
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date(s) 30 July 1986
Running time 90 minutes
Language English