Retro Review: Starman (1984)

An alien takes the form of a young Wisconsin widow's husband and makes her drive him to his departure point in Arizona.

Synopsis: In Starman, an alien takes the form of a young Wisconsin widow’s husband and makes her drive him to his departure point in Arizona.


The Story

When the USA launches the Voyager 2 probe with a friendship message. A race of aliens sees fit to offer a response and send a single manned ship to Earth to investigate. However, the ship gets a far from friendly response when it is shot down by US Armed Forces. Escaping from the ship is an alien who takes the form of a floating ball. Eventually, the Alien finds itself at the home of recently widowed Jenny Hayden where it takes on the form of her deceased husband. Jenny’s initial response is fear, but as the starman slowly learns our language and shows a few acts of compassion she gradually agrees to help him find a meeting site in Arizona where he can reconnect with his race.

Over the course of the story. Jenny and the Starman run into several obstacles while being chased by Seti representative Mark Sherman and the US Military.


The Acting

Starman offers up some fantastic acting performances from both Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen who pull off convincing chemistry as Starman and Jenny bond with each other despite their differences. In fact, Jeff Bridges got an Academy Award nomination for this role and it was much deserved too given that he plays a real convincing alien. Aside from the drama and action elements of the plot. We get some rather gentle comedic scenes throughout the film. A favorite moment is Starman’s gift for winning big on slot machines.

We also get some strong supporting performances from Charles Martin Smith who plays Seti representative Mark Sherman who has been given the task of hunting down Starman. While the late Richard Jaeckel plays Sherman’s commanding officer George Fox. These two characters have an interesting relationship throughout the film given that Sherman and Fox’s philosophy regarding first contact situations are at odds.



Directed by John Carpenter. Starman was never really a huge success at the cinema, but enjoyed success later on with its home video released and has somewhat of a cult following. The film is more of a lighthearted science fiction romance and at the time of being made. There were not really many movies like it. The visual effects while somewhat dated now were pretty good for the time. I still crack a smile when starman brings up an entire map of America upon the windscreen of Jenny’s car. Also, the scene in which we see Starman get picked up by his people at the close of the film still looks pretty epic.

Overall. Starman is a fun watch and well worth checking out if you are up for a light drama with a nice blend of science fiction and romance.

A spin-off series to the movie got made in 1986, which starred Airplane’s Robert Hays as Starman who returns to Earth to meet his son. Sadly, the series didn’t last beyond a single season, but it still has its fans.

Starman (1984)
  • Story
  • Acting
  • VFX & Stunts
  • Incidental Music

Ian Cullen is the founder of and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: When he is not writing for Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of You can contact ian at:
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