Explorers (1985)


Ben Crandall (Ethan Hawke), Wolfgang Müller (River Phoenix) and Darren Woods (Jason Presson) receive other-worldly instruction to build a device from their dreams, not knowing what the device is or its purpose. At the start of the film Ben is the only one that is having the dreams about the device but later on the rest of his friends start having the same dreams. With the help of Wolfgang’s scientific skills and Darren’s access to some supplies they build a space ship named the Thunder Road. During their first flight around town they attract the attention of the local police and a helicopter pilot – Charlie Drake (Dick Miller). Drawn in by their dreams of something more in their lives and being chased by Charlie Drake, they are left with no choice to take the Thunder Road and find the source of their dreams. Not all is as it appears when the find out whom was sending the signals. Ben is the most affected by the reasons as it wasn’t what he was expecting. With their time up they take the Thunder Road back to Earth.


  • Wolfgang is caught in the sphere and is accidently taken for a trip along the countryside then taken down into the earth before being dropped in a tree,
  • A montage of the boys building their space ship and naming it the Thunder Road.
  • On their first test flight they freak out the attendance at a local Drive-in before wrecking it the place.
  • A cameo of the actor who played the Doctor (Robert Picardo) from Star Trek Voyager playing a captain on cheesy sci-fi flick at the local Drive-in.


The movie has a message about following your dreams at any cost. And to put all your heart into them, knowing that anything is possible. It doesn’t shy away from that the fact that not all dreams are what they are cracked up to be, shown by the small subplot of Charlie Drake. Charlie too once had the same dreams when he was younger, and if you wait you can miss the opportunity to fulfill them.

Design and visuals:

The sets are alien in design and look great, the sets also have a child like quirkiness to them that lightens the tone. It subverts your expectations, which it does well. It plays on the idea of what kind of intelligence is out there. Are they like us? Are they hostile? Who are the ones that are actually hostile, us or them? The visuals and design help express the tone while it appears contradictory in tone they do work to make the point it is making.

EXPLORERS, Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, 1985


Eighties cinema was a time of wonder and fantasy where imagination flourished in quality of craftsmanship within the medium. A film such as Explorers isn’t without is flaws as all films are. Ethan Hawke even young was the best young actors out of the three, second comes River Phoenix and Darren Woods last. Although that is hard to measure since Darren Wood wasn’t given much to work with since his dialogue is so limited; his factual expression serves the film well as all three of them are able to expression quite well, the audience are able to get into their head. The film isn’t complex with its themes and messages but they are good messages never the less. Not all messages have to be profound, being relatable is more central to the viewers than a message that is unrelatable. Explorers is a slightly flawed gem, and yet one of the many gems of the eighties, and it still holds up. Its simple but constructed well. A good representation of eighties cinema.

Score: 4/5

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