The best '80s movies where kids go to outer space

The best '80s movies where kids go to outer space // Copyright by Universal Studios, Warner Bros. and other relevant production studios and distributors.

In the 1980s, outer space went from an impossibly unbreakable barrier that was going to be taken over by the commies if we didn't reach the moon first to something much more accessible. With the space shuttle program kicking off in 1981, space became something we could reach over and over again.

From MTV's astronaut logos to synth-heavy pop music to every child being forced to wear moon boots anytime a hint of snow was in the forecast, the '80s were definitely a decade when space was on the mind.

But with all the cool technology and exploration came risk — no, we're not talking about the Challenger disaster or anything like that, we're talking about the danger that kids would randomly end up somewhere out there beyond the atmosphere.

Apparently, we were pretty concerned about this because it kept happening over and over, at least onscreen. These are the best movies from the '80s where kids go to outer space.

Flight of the Navigator (1986)

Let's say an alien spaceship shows up and essentially invites you in — oh, and you're only 12. Despite all the stranger danger you were taught, hell yeah you're going to get in there.

David Freeman (played by Joey Cramer in his most notable role) does just that. One problem: he enters the ship in 1978, passes out, and when he comes to it's 1986. While everyone else has aged, he's the same — and his brain also has a bunch of alien technology and star charts in it now.

It's actually kind of a messed up plot for a Disney movie, but it's a good one, earning status as a cult classic these days. It also features an early film appearance from future star Sarah Jessica Parker.

SpaceCamp (1986)

You cannot tell me that as soon as you found out that there's a real thing called Space Camp you didn't immediately beg your parents to go. You also can't tell me that if you had gone you would have hoped and prayed that the plot in this movie would have happened to you.

This one's pretty straightforward — four teens and a tween get to go to the official U.S. Space Camp, make friends with a robot, and accidentally get launched into space along with their instructor.

I'm pretty sure most of the time at real Space Camp you don't just receive unabated access to the launchpad and shuttle, but hey, it's a movie. It's also a movie that performed pretty terribly at the box office, probably because it came out just months after the Challenger disaster. Lea Thompson and Kelly Preston couldn't even save it, but as a kid I still thought was pretty awesome.

Explorers (1985)

We've already covered this one pretty extensively, so we'll keep it short and sweet here, but it's worth rewatching if for no other reason than it features both Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix (plus some other kid). And you guessed it, plenty of space.

The Last Starfighter (1984)

Hey, a movie about a kid going to space from the '80s that actually did well at the box office!

The Last Starfighter basically tells the story of every kid's dream, especially if you grew up in the '80s — that video game you've been playing for hours on end is actually a training program and it's up to you to become a space pilot and save the universe.

Alongside Tron, this is also one of the first movies to utilize extensive CGI, and boy does it work.

Alex Rogan (played by Lance Guest) plays a teenager thrust into an intergalactic war. In fairness, he's the only kid who makes it to space until the very end, when he asks his girlfriend to come with him to rebuild the Star League. Seems like kind of a big step for a teen relationship, but I'm sure it worked out fine.

Aliens (1986)

While not exactly a movie for children in any possible way, lots of kids watched this movie way before they probably should have. And hey, there's a kid in it!

Newt is the only survivor from LV-426, a space colony. And she gets back on a spaceship at the end, so hell, we're counting it. Plus, this is one of the best movies of all time, and if there's an excuse to include it on a best of list, we're taking the hell out of it.

From here we'd really have to start stretching things. For example, you could arguably include 1987's Masters of the Universe, as teenagers travel from Earth to Eternia, but it's hard to say whether that counts as going into space or it's more of an interdimensional travel kind of thing.

There's also Ewoks: The Battle for Endor from 1985, in which kiddo Cindel leaves on a starship after helping to save Wicket and the Ewoks.

But there's probably something we missed — shout at us if you can think of anything.