The Forgotten Ethan Hawke Sci-Fi Gem On Streaming

By Douglas Helm | Published

Explorers (1985)

Ethan Hawke has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most reliable actors, starring in amazing films like Training Day and Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, but everyone starts somewhere. If you’ve missed Hawke’s forgotten film debut, the sci-fi Explorers, now is a great time to check it out. The film is currently streaming on the Paramount+ platform.

Ethan Hawke is a star today, but he started out in Explorers, a fun 80s film streaming on Paramount+.

Along with being Ethan Hawke’s film debut, it was also the film debut of the late, great River Phoenix. Explorers starred Hawke, Phoenix, and Jason Presson as three teenagers who work together to build a ship that can go to outer space. The 1985 film also features special effects from George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic along with makeup by frequent John Carpenter and Paul Verhoeven collaborator Rob Bottin.

Ethan Hawke’s Explorers has some interesting details about the production process of the film, as it was actually released in a semi-unfinished state due to the studio rushing the editing process for a July release.

Unfortunately, this would be a fatal mistake for the film’s financial prospects, as the Live Aid benefit concert was held the day after the film’s release and took over the population’s attention. Along with that massive historical music event, Explorers was also competing with the smash hit Back to the Future, which had been released the previous week.

Explorers (1985)

Of course, that doesn’t mean Explorers isn’t a film worth checking out, as the film has become something of a cult classic over the years, and the lead performances from the young Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, and Jason Presson are strong. Joe Dante, best known for Gremlins, directed the film, and Eric Luke wrote it. Along with the main trio, the film also starred Amanda Peterson, Bobby Fite, Dana Ivey, Taliesin Jaffe, James Cromwell, Robert Picardo, Karen Mayo-Chandler, Dick Miller, Meshach Taylor, Mary Kay Place, Brooke Bundy, and Leslie Rickert.

As you might expect from the Live Aid and Back to the Future factors pulling audience members away from going to see Explorers, the film was undeniably a box office bust. By the time the film left theaters, it had only pulled in about $9.8 million at the box office. With Ethan Hawke and most of the other cast not being as well known as they are today, it was hard to get people to go and see the film.

Through no fault of Ethan Hawke or River Phoenix, Explorers suffered from a rushed post-production that resulted in only $9 million at the box office.

Not to mention the fact that director Joe Dante has said that roughly an hour-and-a-half of footage was left on the cutting room floor due to the rushed post-production process.

While Explorers is still a solid movie that evokes the Stephen Spielberg-like 80s films of the era, it didn’t quite come together in the way it could have. Still, seeing the earliest film roles of Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix, along with cool special effects and makeup, is enough to make Explorers worth recommending.

Explorers (1985)

It’s also a great time to check out Explorers if you’ve been wondering where Ethan Hawke has been this year. While Hawke had a ton of new projects released in 2022, his 2023 has been relatively quiet, and it’s been a while since audiences have seen a new performance from him. Fortunately, that will be changing soon when he co-stars in the upcoming film Leave the World Behind, which is set for a December 2023 release date.

Ethan Hawke’s Upcoming Projects

Leave the World Behind is directed and co-written by Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail and is adapted from the upcoming novel by Rumaan Alam. The film has quite a star-studded cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Kevin Bacon, Myha’la Herrold, Vanessa Aspillaga, Farrah Mackenzie, and Charlie Evans. Make sure to watch out for this film when it comes out on December 7.

Unfortunately, Ethan Hawke doesn’t have any set release dates for any of his other upcoming projects, but you could always revisit some of his projects from 2022 if you haven’t seen them already. Some of his biggest roles included the antagonist of the Disney+ Marvel series Moon Knight, his role in the Robert Eggers film The Northman, and his co-starring role with Ewan McGregor in the Apple Original film Raymond & Ray.

Also, make sure to check out his earliest film role in Explorers on Paramount+ if you’re looking for a sci-fi to watch this weekend.