Ben Crandall (Ethan Hawke) keeps having a dream about traveling over a circuit board. He then draws it and shows it to his brainy friend [[{{Geek}} Wolfgang]], who builds the board which is able to create a force field bubble. The two boys, along with help from their new tough friend Darren, decide to build a spaceship out of old amusement park ride parts that when used with their new found technology gives them the ability to travel into space.

They create a spaceship and call it the "Thunderroad", and they fly into space. Not long afterwards, they explore an alien spacecraft that they get sucked into.

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!!The movie contains examples of the following tropes:
* ActingForTwo: Well, five. The film is basically one huge showcase for Robert Picardo's comedic talents[[note]]he played Starkiller, Wak and served as the suit performer for his and Neek's father[[/note]].
* AliensSpeakingEnglish: Justified, they mostly speak in pop-culture references.
* AliensStealCable: And quote it relentlessly.
* AscendedFanboy: All three boys count.
* BizarreAlienBiology: And how.
* BoldExplorer: All three protagonists fit the bill, as they boldly set off to hunt for aliens in their new ship.
* TheCastShowoff: Robert Picardo. He just cuts loose with his impersonations and comic beats.
* CoolSpaceShip: The Thunderroad, sorta.
* ConspicuousCG: The dream sequences.
* CrazyCulturalComparison: The aliens can only talk human using television quotes.
* TheEighties
* IComeInPeace: One of the kids greets an alien with this, because it seems like the right thing to say. The alien, in turn, replies, "[[Characters/BugsBunny Ehhh, what's up, doc?]]"
* InterspeciesRomance: Neek and Wolfgang seem to have some cross-species PuppyLove going.
* JerkAss: The [[spoiler: father alien]].
* LargeHam: The father alien.
* TheMothership
* MythologyGag: There's one to Kingston Falls, the setting of Creator/JoeDante's previous film ''{{Gremlins}}''.
* PowerPerversionPotential: The first thing Ben uses the force field they made to is spy on a girl he loves.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: Ben's reponse to [[spoiler: The father alien's refusal to let the kids stay. And for being an all around jerk]].
* RealityIsUnrealistic: An in-universe example. The Thunder Road, actually flying around, passes in front of a drive-in screen showing a cheesy sci-fi movie, prompting a moviegoer to snark "That looks so fake!"
* ReCut: Joe Dante hated the theatrical cut and was allowed to re-edit the movie for home video release by deleting a few sequences (one of which explains why River Phoenix's character skipped school to work in his lab) while restoring a few small snippets (the video version is three minutes shorter than the theatrical cut as a result). Some of the deleted sequences appear as extras on the DVD.
* ShoutOut: The film was directed by Joe Dante, so it's expected. Examples that haven't already been mentioned include:
** The toy monkey from ''Film/CloseEncountersOfTheThirdKind'' can be seen in Wolfgang's basement.
** The rat, Heinlein, is named after ScienceFiction author Creator/RobertAHeinlein.
** Sound effects from ''YarsRevenge'' can be heard in the [[ShowWithinAShow drive-in movie]].
** [[CitizenKane Rosebud]] can be seen at the top of a junk pile when the boys build the Thunderroad.
** Charles M. Jones Junior High School is named after, [[CaptainObvious unsurprisingly]], Creator/ChuckJones.
*** There's other LooneyTunes references throughout the movie. Including the hole the sphere at the beginning makes being shaped like Bugs Bunny's head.
* ShowWithinAShow: See the "Stylistic Suck" entry.
** A few other movies like ''Film/TheCrawlingEye'', ''Film/TheDayTheEarthStoodStill1951'', ''Film/EarthVsTheFlyingSaucers'', ''Film/ThisIslandEarth'', and 1953 version of ''Film/{{The War Of The Worlds|1953}}'' are also featured.
* SpeaksInShoutOuts: The aliens, courtesy of EnglishFromWatchingTelevision.
* StylisticSuck: The [[ShowWithinAShow Movie]] at the drive-in is pretty much this.
* TheGenieKnowsJackNicholson: As a side effect of learning all earth languages and culture [[AliensStealCable from television]], Wak's dialog consists mainly of celebrity impersonations and pop culture jokes. Neek is a little more subtle, but also does clear impersonations of MarilynMonroe and Creator/IngridBergman.
* TheUnintelligible: The father alien. You can barely make out a few lines though.
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