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Ben Crandall, an alien-obsessed kid, dreams one night of a circuit board. Drawing out the circuit, he and his friends Wolfgang and Darren set it up…

Release Year: 1985

Rating: 6.3/10 (7,064 voted)

Joe Dante

Stars: Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Bobby Fite

Ben Crandall, an alien-obsessed kid, dreams one night of a circuit board. Drawing out the circuit, he and his friends Wolfgang and Darren set it up, and discover they have been given the basis for a starship. Setting off in the ThunderRoad, as they name their ship, they find the aliens Ben hopes they would find… but are they what they seem?


Ethan Hawke

Ben Crandall

River Phoenix

Wolfgang Müller

Bobby Fite

Steve Jackson

Bradley Gregg

Steve Jackson's Gang

Georg Olden

Steve Jackson's Gang

Chance Schwass

Steve Jackson's Gang

Amanda Peterson

Lori Swenson

Danny Nucci

Nasty Kid at School

Jason Presson

Darren Woods

Dana Ivey

Mrs. Müller

Taliesin Jaffe

Ludwig Müller

James Cromwell

Mr. Müller

Brooke Bundy

Science Teacher

Tricia Bartholome

Girl in Classroom

Eric Luke

Darren's Teacher

The adventure begins in your own back yard.

Release Date: 12 July 1985

Filming Locations: 1616 Wabasso Way, Glendale, California, USA

Opening Weekend: $3,607,340
(14 July 1985)

Gross: $9,873,044

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


Feature film debut for both Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix.


Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers):
When Darren puts the headphones on Wak's head, he puts them on the side of his eyes. His ears are much lower on his head.


Ben Crandall:
[stuttering, astounded at the violent film footage]
But thi – see, this isn't real! A-a-and we don't really kill people! Well, we do, b-but n-not aliens, 'cause we haven't met any!

User Review

Classic kids' adventure, hugely underrated


All kids should watch this – between the ages of 6 and 13. I saw this when
it came out on video – I was 8 – don't know how I missed it at the cinema –
it couldn't have had a big release in the UK.
I loved the detail and imagination within this movie – like the one dream
that the three boys all share, the sphere they create from their computer,
the guard dog they give bubble gum to, the amusement ride seat they turn
into their spaceship, with windows made from the fronts of washing-machines
and TVs. And our three heroes make a great team. They are all very different
in character, yet share that same dream of escape and adventure.
Ethan Hawke is the main hero – the one that most viewers will relate to –
the average 80's kid hooked on television, daydreaming during school lessons
and a huge crush on the girl next door.
River Phoenix is his nerdy computer-whiz friend with an Einstein-like crazy
father (played by James Cromwell) and Jason Presson is the mature, yet weird
kid with a troubled home-life.
The magic of this movie is in its innocence and the dreams that the kids are
able to turn into reality. The first half is pure 80's kids' adventure
movie. The second half becomes pure "Dante", as it dives into 50's-style
B-movie sci-fi – exactly what Dante is referencing and sending up, yet
paying homage to at the same time.
What our heroes find out in space is certainly not what they expect or what
we expect. They feel let down by their discovery and in some way, we do
But there are so many great scenes in this film – the chemistry between the
3 main actors is great – they really bond well together and we get drawn
into the film because of Dante's attention to detail in these characters.
It's a funny combination of child adventure and B-movie sci-fi but kids will
love it, and as you grow up, you learn to see (like many great kids' films)
many new details that pass you by as a kid but keep you entertained all over
again from a different perspective.
A highly overlooked 80's adventure movie, almost as good as The Goonies, but
far less commercial, due to Dante's unique approach.
Go and see it now, or see it again or watch it with your kids – you will all
love it.