The ’80s Sci-Fi Adventure Epic Only A Few Will Even Remember, Stream Without Netflix Now

By Brian Myers | Published

The 1980s brought a slew of films that were loved by a generation of Gen X and Millennials that have stood the test of time. For those who grew up in that era, it’s difficult to imagine a childhood where The Goonies, Weird Science, or The Breakfast Club didn’t exist, showing just how much of an impact these entries had on the young audiences who couldn’t get enough of them. The 1985 film, Explorers, was a film from that era that had many of the same ingredients of the successful movies of that time period, but was overlooked by audiences.

Ethan Hawke In Explorers

Explorers is the story of three young teenage boys who receive instructions from beyond the stars for building a spacecraft. This begins from the vivid dreams that Ben Crandall (Ethan Hawke) experiences where he is flying through the air over what he believes is a giant circuit board. Unable to shake the dream off, Ben makes a detailed sketch of the circuit board and confides in his friend, Wolfgang Muller (River Phoenix), about his visions.

Wolfgang is a computer genius and puts his skills to use constructing a microchip based on the specifications presented in Ben’s drawing. After activating the microchip, it is revealed that it casts an electromagnetic bubble in a small area around it. This bubble can be controlled and take those inside of it into the air and fly them at great speeds.

From Scraps To Spaceship

Explorers sees Ben and Wolfgang team up with another classmate, Darren Woods (Jason Presson), who is able to secure them parts from a local junkyard. As mechanically adept as Wolfgang is electronically, Darren is able to lend his skills to the trio as they build a small spaceship out of an old amusement park car from a tilt-a-whirl ride. After additional dreams reveal plans that lead to the boys developing limitless oxygen aboard their spacecraft, the trio sets out to explore the galaxy.

Explorers takes a fantastic twist when their spacecraft is approached by an alien ship and they are beamed aboard. They are greeted by two aliens who reveal to them the purpose behind Ben’s dreams and how alien technology wound up in their hands.

Helmed By Legendary Gremlins Director


Explorers captures the very essence of a child’s imagination and puts it into hyper-drive, resulting in a light and fun film that never stalls along its journey. Director Joe Dante (Gremlins) gives audiences one of his best films as he somehow makes a fantastic concept seem plausible.

Dante brings with him many of the familiar faces from past endeavors, including Robert Picardo (The ‘Burbs) and Dick Miller (Gremlins). Adding to Dante’s tested formula for great cinema was the choice to have Academy Award-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith produce the score for Explorers. The unforgettable musical contributions add wonderful and fun layers to many of the movie’s sequences, particularly when the boys are taking flight.

A Dream Team Of Young Talent

Hawke, Phoenix, and Presson each do a remarkable job, particularly when you consider that it was the former two actors’ film debuts. The young stars certainly helped make Explorers an underappreciated experience that rivals anything in that era that John Landis, Richard Donner, or John Hughes conjured.

Stream Explorers Without Netflix


Explorers is worth a look for anyone wanting a solid storytelling experience from the 1980s. You can catch Explorers streaming on Kanopy and Pluto or rent it On Demand through Vudu, Google Play, AppleTV, and Amazon Prime Video.