"Starfighter" - The Last Starfighter
“Starfighter” – The Last Starfighter
Might as well get this one out of the way. Along with Tron, The Last Starfighter was one of the first Hollywood movies that took games (and game culture) seriously. The movie tells the story of Alex Rogan (Lance Guest), a teenager who spends his free time at the arcade playing Starfighter. He soon learns that the space battle simulator is in fact a recruitment tool, and is whisked across the galaxy to pilot a real Starfighter in a heated interplanetary conflict.
The Last Starfighter has gone on to have an outsized influence that belies its meager box office. Alex’s trailer park residence is a direct precursor to Wade’s home in Ready Player One, while numerous films and TV shows (including the next entry on this list) have borrowed various aspects of the plot over the years. It’s easy to see the appeal. Instead of perpetrating the usual basement-dwelling stereotypes, The Last Starfighter suggested that the quick reflexes needed to succeed at the arcade would translate directly to the cockpit of an actual spaceship, attributing positive social values to what was (and is) viewed as an anti-social pastime.
Atari was working on a tie-in Starfighter arcade cabinet while the film was in production, but it was scrapped when executives decided that the movie wouldn’t be a hit (a home console adaptation was similarly abandoned). The Last Starfighter has since become a relic, a movie more frequently discussed than seen. That’s why Starfighter would find more traction now if some intrepid studio ever manages to get it done. Space battles have always been entertaining, and the pull is even stronger when that video game will save the galaxy.