Critics Consensus

With a terrific young cast (including Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix) and some typically energetic work from director Joe Dante, Explorers soars past its '80s kiddie flick competitors with wit, good-looking effects, and tons of charm.



Total Count: 26


Audience Score

User Ratings: 14,448
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Movie Info

Filled with classic Industrial Light & Magic special effects, Explorers is an adventure for the whole family. The story centers on a trio of boys who adore science fiction and dream of traveling to space. One of them is a computer whiz and it is he who gives them the chance to go on the outerspace adventures of a lifetime.

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Ethan Hawke
as Ben Crandall
River Phoenix
as Wolfgang Muller
Jason Presson
as Darren Woods
Amanda Peterson
as Lori Swenson
Bobby Fite
as Steve Jackson
Danny Nucci
as Nasty Kid at School
Dana Ivey
as Mrs. Muller
Taliesin Jaffe
as Ludwig Muller
James Cromwell
as Mr. Muller
Brooke Bundy
as Science Teacher
Mary Kay Place
as Mrs. Crandall
Dick Miller
as Charles Drake
Robert Picardo
as Starkiller/Wak/Father of Wak and Neek
Meshach Taylor
as Gordon Miller
John P. Navin Jr.
as Couple at Drive-In
Mary Hillstead
as Couple at Drive-In
Bradley Gregg
as Steve Jackson's Gang
Georg Olden
as Steve Jackson's Gang
Chance Schwass
as Steve Jackson's Gang
Tricia Bartholome
as Girl in Classroom
Eric Luke
as Darren's Teacher
Karen Mayo-Chandler
as Starkiller's Girl Friend
Robert F. Boyle
as Starkiller's Girl Friend's Father
Simone Blue
as Snack Bar Girl
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News & Interviews for Explorers

Critic Reviews for Explorers

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (6)

Audience Reviews for Explorers

  • Aug 19, 2015
    I was actually enjoying this movie for the most part. And then they went to the alien spaceship and it all fell apart. Perhaps that's a little strong, but considering that the film pretty much spent all its time building up to the moment when they make contact with an alien species, the execution of it definitely left a lot to be desired, at least in my view. It just felt way too forced and contrived to be effective. It's like, supposedly, meant to be this life-changing experience for these three boys, but it just doesn't feel like it. The comedy is also not very good in this segment. In all, as the climax to the film, it just didn't do anything for me at all and it actually brought the movie down a lot, to me. It actually detracted from the film instead of adding to it and, of course, you want the opposite to be the case. You don't want something in your film to detract from everything that came prior to it, but that's exactly what this movie does. With that said, I was enjoying the film prior to the boys meeting the aliens. I just think there's a certain charm about it that carries a lot of it, it's also a pretty entertaining film. I think the chemistry between the leads is actually quite good and, surprisingly, antagonistic. Not like Charles Grodin and Robert De Niro in Midnight Run where they insulted the shit out of each other, but they were pretty much in each other's cases for the majority of the film, so I thought that was pretty fun. Like I mentioned, everything leading to the meeting was good and entertaining. The acting is real good, particularly considering that both River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke would've been in their mid-teens by this point in time and they were already really good. Jason Presson is also good, but he didn't really do much of note after this film, his most high profile role after this would've been Gremlins 2. I mean he was still good, but Ethan and River, unsurprisingly, stole the show. So the issues I have with the film have absolutely nothing to do with the cast, the cast is great. But, and I've already outlined my issues with the film, so I won't get into that again, but those flaws, at least they were to me, dragged the movie down tremendously. There will, obviously, be some people that'll enjoy this third act more than I did, but the movie just lost a lot with the third act honestly. It benefited no one. With that said, everything else leading to that third act is quite good and entertaining. So I recommend watching this movie until the boys make it clear that they're going to visit the aliens. You'll thank me later, for sure.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Feb 16, 2013
    Ben Crandall: We come in peace. "The adventure begins in your own back yard." Explorers is a pretty good little sci-fi children's movie, and like most Joe Dante films; it has a feeling of nostalgia all over it. The movie has its problems, but nonetheless it was a nice little watch. Most of the problems come in the second part of the movie. The first half of the movie is great though.  Three friends come together to try to create a spaceship after one of the boys has a crazy dream. They soon find out that the things from his dream works and that they have created a spaceship. After a test run where they take it out for a spin around town, they decide to work out the bugs and go looking for whatever it is that is relaying these ideas to them. The first half is mostly the kids figuring out how to make this thing work, and it's extremely well done. The second half is where they actually try to go into space, and this doesn't quite work as well as it needed to. It's an interesting movie by all means, especially with young actors that would go onto do bigger and better things like Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix. Phoenix shows of his prodigy skills with a phenomenal performance, and the movie is worth a look if only for Phoenix himself.  Explorers is one to watch when you want a movie that reminds you of being a kid. I didn't expect anything to spectacular as I've noticed that most of Dante's films are missing a key ingredient that would make them more than just slightly above average. In this one, that missing ingredient is the space sequence. The aliens were lame and overall the whole space sequence was just dull. Still, the first half and the cast more then make up for it.
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • May 06, 2011
    An extremely fun little movie, even it is hampered a bit by the knowledge of "what could have been." I personally would love to see Paramount do a branching version of the film on Blu-ray with all of the known versions of the film (US theatrical, UK theatrical, TV version, DVD version, VHS version), but one can only dream about that I suppose. I also wouldn't mind seeing some additional material to go with it, too.
    Tim S Super Reviewer
  • Jun 12, 2010
    A kooky 80s classic about kid space exploration and aliens. Sure it makes little sense from a logistical standpoint, but it doesn't matter when it's such a great story. Both Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix are unmatched when it comes to child stars in that they're just too smart and intelligent for their own good. This had some strange effects and creatures to say the least, in many ways it is the opposite premise of ET. Instead of aliens coming to earth, humans were going to space and meeting aliens. It's sort've dark and mature for a kid's movie, but one of the best.
    Conner R Super Reviewer

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