The Last Starfighter (PG)
IMDb; Lost Highway; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Universal; Wikipedia
This came out in 1984, but I couldn't possibly have seen it in a theater... so I'm not sure when exactly I did see it. Probably it aired on TV sometime. But it was still when I was fairly young that I saw it, so probably in the 80s. Which makes it nostalgic, for me. I finally watched it again on DVD in 2012, and it holds up fairly well, I think. I mean, the CGI parts are pretty obvious, and it's not a great movie, but it's still fairly cool, in its way. It reminds me of various things that came both before and after it, I won't even try to list them. But I think it's safe to say the movie was influenced by other movies and that it influenced subsequent movies and TV shows, itself.
Anyway, there's this teenager named Alex Rogan, who lives in a trailer park. He plans to go to a decent college, but his loan application is rejected, which means he can only afford to go to city college (like his friends, who have no interest in anything better than that). He seems to think that means he'll be stuck in the trailer park his whole life, which I think isn't an entirely valid assumption, though I do understand his frustration. I think the college thing kind of parallels the more immediate concern of rarely getting to go out and have fun with his friends, because he's always stuck at home helping the other residents of the park (since he's a pretty handy guy). But he also has a girlfriend named Maggie (who we like), and he expects to be with her forever... he wants the both of them to eventually leave the trailer park, though she seems a bit more reluctant than he. Still, she obviously loves him.
Meanwhile, just about the only fun Alex seems to have is playing an arcade game. One day, he breaks the record, and everyone shows up to watch him do it, and they all see it as a majorly exciting accomplishment. Which goes to show you how boring life is in the trailer park for everyone. It was actually later that night that he gets the news about his loan being rejected, which is a total buzz-harshing moment. So he goes out to lament this cruel twist of fate, when suddenly a guy shows up in a car, claiming to be the inventor of the arcade game, and wants to talk to Alex. His name is Centauri, and he takes Alex for a ride... and soon his car transforms for space flight. He takes Alex to the planet Rylos, to become a starfighter for the Star League, which is at war with the Ko-Dan Empire. The Ko-Dan Armada is being commanded by Xur, a Rylan traitor. Alex is understandably shocked to find out that the video game was actually a test to recruit gunners for the Gunstars (fighter ships), and demands to be taken home.
After Centauri takes him back to Earth, Alex finds that a "Beta unit" has taken on his appearance, to take his place so no one will know he's gone. He calls Centauri, wanting him to take the Beta unit away, but before Centauri arrives, Alex is attacked by an alien hitman sent to kill him. So he decides to go back to Rylos, to help fight Xur's forces, so that he could stop worrying about assassins. However, when they get back to Rylos, Alex and Centauri find that the base has been attacked and all the other starfighters were killed. So Alex is now the last starfighter (along with his Gunstar's navigator, a reptilian alien named Grig). Once again, Alex becomes reluctant to do battle, a single fighter against an entire armada. But he has little choice.
And... I don't want to say how it all ends. But it's fairly fun. And it has some amusing bits. Alex's little brother, Louis, was definitely funny (and he swears fairly often, and looks at Playboy magazines; surprising for a kid his age to do stuff like that in a relatively family-friendly movie like this). The Beta unit was funny, too. And Grig. And Centauri. And the Ko-Dan captain, Kril, was a much better villain than Xur. (I definitely enjoyed his last line.) Not sure what else to say. The movie's not very credible, in general, and it can be kind of corny, but it has some moments of realism and drama. I guess.