It is a normal evening in 1978 and 12-year-old Davey (Joey Cramer) goes searching for his younger brother in the woods. He sees a mysterious light shining among the trees, but when he goes to investigate, he stumbles down a ravine and loses consciousness. When Davey wakes up, he runs home to discover that he has somehow travelled forward in time. He’s still in his 12-year-old body, but it’s now 1985. Davey’s parents (Veronica Cartwright, Cliff De Young) and younger brother (Matt Adler) have all aged and are shocked that Davey has turned up again, not a day older, after being missing for so many years.
It’s no coincidence that on the same day that Davey reappears, a sleek and mysterious UFO is discovered in the woods.
Davey is taken to hospital, where doctors try to work out what has happened to him using electric probes attached to his head. The probes communicate with the laboratory computers, which show an image of the UFO. NASA quickly takes over and Davey is whisked away to a top-secret laboratory so that NASA officials can get as much information from him as possible.
Davey is confused and lonely, and he keeps hearing a mysterious voice calling to him. Although Davey wants to return to his family more than anything, he’s also drawn to the UFO and knows he must escape the NASA facility and find the ship.
Time travel; aliens; UFOs; space travel; incarceration; government surveillance; family
Although there’s no explicit violence in Flight of the Navigator, Davey is locked in a room and under government and police control and observation. This feels mildly menacing.
Flight of the Navigator has some mild romantic references. For example:
- Davey has a crush on a girl in his neighbourhood. In one scene, he looks at her through a telescope in his bedroom. His father comes in and notices what Davey is doing and talks to Davey about how to approach the girl.
- The housekeeper at NASA tells Davey that he’s cute and asks him whether any girl has told him that before. He’s coy and says that only his mother has.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Nudity and sexual activity
The following products are displayed or used in Flight of the Navigator: Coca-Cola, McDonalds and NASA.
There is mild some coarse language and name-calling in this movie, including ‘bastard’, ‘stupid’, ‘butt-face’ and ‘nerd’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Flight of the Navigator is a fantastic introduction to the science fiction genre for children and a good all-round family movie. It has exactly the right balance of tension, fun and fantasy.
Although the movie was released in 1986, it resonates strongly with the lockdown experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Children might relate to Davey’s feelings of being ‘trapped’, held captive and powerless. In the end Davey takes his freedom into his own hands and escapes. Some children might find this movie quite exhilarating and empowering as a result.
The movie isn’t suitable for children under 6 years, and we recommend parental guidance for children aged 6-9 years because the movie taps into things that children fear the most, like being separated from parents and getting lost. But it resolves these fears in a way that’s filled with fun and gentle humour.
These are the main messages from this movie:
- You can take control of your own destiny and make your own choices.
- There are unexplained mysteries in the universe.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include children’s rights to control the way they’re treated.
This movie could also give the chance to talk with your children about real-life questions like whether government officials or police have the right to restrict our actions or conduct surveillance.