[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/last-starfighter.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:300:[[AndYouThoughtItWasAGame So all this time it was really a recruiting tool?]]]]
->''"Greetings, Starfighter! You have been recruited by [[TheFederation the Star League]] to defend the Frontier against [[BigBad Xur]] and [[TheEmpire the Ko-Dan Armada]]."''

What if you got a really high score in a video game, and the game came to life? Well that's sort of what happens in '''''The Last Starfighter''''', which serves as both an exploration and a {{deconstruction}} of wish fulfillment.

Alex Rogan has spent his whole life stuck in his family's trailer park, but his wish to leave it turns into more than he bargained for when the space-shooter arcade game he manages to beat turns out to have been a test to find the best space pilots in the universe. When Alex discovers that the actual Star League chose him to fight against the very real Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada, he refuses to go along with it. When Alex demands to return home, he finds an android duplicate of himself, Beta, having a tough time playing the role of Alex in the trailer park. After he reluctantly returns to space, the fun really begins.

''The Last Starfighter'' created all of its spaceship effects shots using only computer-generated images (one of the first films to do so), but since it did so during the very early days of CGI, [[ConspicuousCG said effects stand out as such]]. A Cray X-MP rendered all of the film's CGI; as a bit of perspective, the 800 [=MHz=] Pentium III processor available to consumers fifteen years later -- or the average smartphone of 2012 -- matches the processor power of what was then the most powerful supercomputer in the world.
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!!Tropes:
* TwoDSpace: The at-the-time brand new CGI effects allowed for a rare aversion of this trope; the battles are fought in a very noticeable 3D environment.
* ActualPacifist: The novelization features the League as such. They had some real trouble recruiting soldiers - and finding a politician to read them a speech.
* AndYouThoughtItWasAGame: Alex (and everyone else in his town) thinks the Starfighter video game is just that. He's quite surprised to learn that it's a recruitment tool.
* ArcWords: "Greetings, Starfighter! You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada!"
* ArchnemesisDad: An InvertedTrope here -- the BigBad's father is the BigGood.
* AsYouKnow: Ambassador Enduran uses this trope almost by name -- "as you all know" -- as he mentions to the Starfighters what the Frontier is, why it's important, and how, because of a dark betrayal (he means Xur), the Frontier will soon collapse. Naturally, the audience and Alex are hearing this for the first time.
* AscendedFanboy: Alex goes from being the best at a video game to being the best (and only) Starfighter.
* BattleChant: When Ambassador Enduran gives a pep talk to the personnel of the Starfighter base, he concludes by saying "Victory or death!". They all start chanting "Victory or death!" in unison.
* BeamSpam: The Death Blossom attack fires both beams and missiles in all directions to take out the enemy fleet.
* BizarreAlienBiology: It's telling that Grig, a purple lizard-like humanoid, is perhaps the most normal-looking of all the aliens in the film. And then, of course, there's the Bogati whose tentacle-thing Alex accidentally steps on.
--> '''Alex''': I'm sorry. It was an accident, I didn't mean to step on your... whatever that is.
* TheCaligula: It's implied that Xur's treachery and megalomaniacal tendencies are the result of something being very messed up in his head.
* TheCallKnowsWhereYouLive: After Alex initially refuses TheCall, Xur sends an assassin after him. Beta's sacrifice and Centauri's [[spoiler:near-sacrifice]] show him that his only chance of survival is with the Star League.
--> '''Beta''': At least up there, you have a fighting chance in a Gunstar.
* CardCarryingVillain: Xur. And everyone knows it. The only reason the bad guys even listen to him is because he holds vital information. [[spoiler: Once they use it, they get him off the bridge so they don't have to listen to his raving anymore.]]
* CastingGag: In either this or a very weird case of timing, Catherine Mary Stewart played a video game-obsessed girl in ''Film/NightOfTheComet'', which was made and released around the same time.
* Catch22Dilemma: A tactical variant, lampshaded by Alex when Grig explains the plan of attack against the Ko-Dan Armada.
--> '''Alex''': Wait a second. We knock out the turret to get the fighters. But to get the turret, we've gotta get ''through'' the fighters. We're dead.
* ChewTheScenery: Not one moment of Xur's onscreen time is wasted without a chunk of scenery getting toothmarks.
* ChristmasRushed: Gets an InUniverse mention.
-->'''Rylan Bursar''': Return the money, Centauri.\\
'''Centauri''': Return the money! Are you delirious? Do you know how long it took to invent the games? To merchandise them? To get them in the stores by Christmas?
* ColonyDrop: The Ko-Dan command ship destroys Starfighter Command by firing a volley of small asteroids at it with a mass accelerator.
* CoolCar[=/=]CoolStarship[=/=]FlyingCar[=/=]TransformingMecha: Centauri's, which took the angular wedge design of the [=DeLorean=], turned it UpToEleven, then made it a transforming starship.
* CoolOldGuy:
** It's not made clear how old Centauri is, but he's definitely SeenItAll and has copious advice for Alex.
** Otis gives Alex advice about making something of his life and helps give him the motivation to accept TheCall when it [[TheCallKnowsWhereYouLive makes its return trip]].
* CoolOldLady: Maggie's grandma.
* CoolSpaceship: As the first sci-fi film to have all its space scenes rendered in CGI, all the ships are fairly cool. Alex's Gunstar is the top of the line, however: a SuperPrototype with advanced weapons and shielding systems that can take out an armada all by itself.
* CosyCatastrophe: Louis is not afraid at all when Alex's Gunstar lands; he thinks it's awesome.
-->'''Louis''': Woooo! All right, we're being invaded!
* CranialProcessingUnit: When the Beta unit (robot) impersonating Alex takes off its head, the head can continue to talk normally.
* CrazyCulturalComparison: As Alex and Grig fly through the tunnels of an asteroid, Grig mentions that it reminds him of home. That leads to a chat comparing their species' differences in families, dwellings, and games... which inspires Alex to suggest [[spoiler:hiding as the Ko-Dan Armada goes by, then make a surprise attack on them.]]
--> '''Grig''': Your plan might really have worked. What a pity there are no Starfighters left to carry it out.
* CurseCutShort: Alex, when Centauri's Star Car first takes off.
--> '''Alex''': Ohhhh, Shh- ''(Engine Roars)''
* DareToBeBadass: Centauri's reponse to Alex's RefusalOfTheCall:
--> '''Alex''': Listen, Centauri. I'm not any of those guys, I'm just a kid from a trailer park...
--> '''Centauri''': If that's what you think, then that's all you'll ever be!
* DeadpanSnarker: Beta, surprisingly - the ''clone'' is snarkier than the original.
-->'''Beta:''' ''(rolling his eyes)'' Oh. Save the whales but not the universe.
* {{Defictionalized}}: A fan game that attempts to recreate the arcade game depicted in the film [[http://www.roguesynapse.com/games/last_starfighter.php was released 23 years after the movie]]. The [[LicensedGame Atari release]] planned along with the movie never materialized, despite being mentioned in the credits.
* DescriptionCut: Happens right after Xur shows the execution of the master spy for all of the Starfighters to see.
--> '''Centauri''': Heh... so! You still wanna go... and miss all the excitement?\\
''[Cut to Centauri and Alex in the car, returning to Earth]''\\
'''Centauri''': Little brat.
* DiesWideOpen: [[spoiler: Centauri, after his [[HeroicSacrifice heroic sacrifice]] to save Alex from an assassination attempt.]]
* DisappearedDad:
** When Alex shows Grig a family photo, it is of himself, Louis, Maggie, and ''both'' of his parents, but his dad never appears elsewhere in the movie and his mom is obviously working to support the family. It is unclear if he left or died.
** Maggie appears to have nobody but Granny, with no mention of her [[DisappearedDad dad]] ''or'' her [[MissingMom mom]].
* DisneyDeath: [[spoiler: Centauri]]
-->[[spoiler: "Me, die? Miss all of the excitement? Oh, no. I was merely dormant while my body repaired itself."]]
* DoNotAdjustYourSet: Xur's introduction at the Starfighter base, when he takes over all their communications.
* TheEighties: Primarily the video gaming culture that had spawned that decade.
* EverybodysDeadDave: Alex returns to the Starfighter base to find it in ruins, with the majority of the personnel dead and all but one of the Gunstars destroyed.
* EvilIsHammy: Xur, oh so very much. It's amazing the hull of his command ship was able to withstand his vast [[ChewingTheScenery scenery chewing]].
* EvilLaugh: Xur at the end of his speech to the Starfighter base personnel. He also does it in the faces of the Ko-Dan commanders and the First Officer is all for throwing him out the airlock right there and then.
* EvilWearsBlack: Xur wears a black outfit.
* FaceDeathWithDignity / FacingTheBulletsOneLiner: By one of the villains.
-->'''Ko-Dan Officer''': We're locked into the moon's gravitational pull! What do we do?\\
'''Commander Kril''': We die.
* FacePalm: A rather unusual one by Beta when he sees a Zandozan landing on Earth, since his ''head'' is on the desk. It's sort of a third-person face palm.
* TheFaceless: Beta before shaking hands with Alex. This apparently is some sort of DNA extraction / analyzer, as Beta is growing a new face - Alex's - that night.
* FamousFamousFictional:
-->'''Centauri:''' Alex! Alex! You're walking away from history! ''History!'' Did Chris Columbus say he wanted to stay home? Nooooo. What if the Wright Brothers thought that only birds should fly? And did Galoka think that the Ulus were too ugly to save?
-->'''Alex''': Who's Galoka?
* FatalFamilyPhoto: One might expect Grig showing Alex the photos of his family to lead to this, but instead it helps Alex realize what he's fighting for.
* FictionalVideoGame[=/=]LicensedGame: Atari Inc. was originally slated to develop arcade and home video games based on the movie (the game(s) were even mention in the closing credits). They were cancelled for various reasons, including the sale/division of Atari Inc. into Atari Games and Atari Corp. The home computer game was eventually released (with minor changes) as ''StarRaiders 2''.
* FinalSpeech: Centauri's big death scene. [[spoiler:Or so we think.]]
* FollowTheLeader: ''Franchise/StarWars'', which director Nick Castle admits in the DVDCommentary, and that there was some work to try to distance the movie from both those movies and movies by Creator/StevenSpielberg.
* TheGameComeToLife
* GoodColorsEvilColors: Rylos and the Ko-Dan sets were set up this way, as told in the DVDCommentary.
* TheGreys: What Centauri looks like without his human mask.
* GuyInBack: {{Inverted}} and {{Deconstructed}}. The hero is a gunner, not a pilot, which would traditionally be the rear position. However, the Gunstars are so sophisticated that the rear position is for navigation rather than piloting; the ship pretty much flies itself.
* HandWave: "Oh, I won't bore you with the details." Complete with a literal hand wave.
* HeroicSacrifice: [[spoiler:Beta]]. Centauri, [[spoiler:who gets better]].
* HologramProjectionImperfection: While Xur's HugeHolographicHead is appearing in the Starfighter base, it flickers and distorts.
* IChooseToStay: [[spoiler:After saving the galaxy, Alex and Maggie leave Earth to seek their future in the stars.]]
* IHaveNoSon: Xur's father disowns him for his monstrous crimes.
* IKnowMortalKombat: The movie is an explicit justification of this trope; the video game is designed to be a training and recruitment tool.
* ILikeThoseOdds: One Gunstar against the entire Ko-Dan armada. Grig likes the idea, but subverts the trope in that he thinks it'll be a BolivianArmyEnding.
* InsignificantLittleBluePlanet: Earth isn't advanced enough to even know about the Star League, much less participate. Centauri retorts that it's irrelevant.
-->'''Centauri:''' Earth's in danger too, isn't it?
* IWishItWereReal: Except that when it does turn out to be real all Alex wants is to go home again.
* KeystoneArmy: The Ko-Dan mothership coordinates all of its fighter craft via a single communication turret. This allows them to act with unparalleled efficiency and coordination, but if taken out, reduces them to near helplessness.
* KillAndReplace: Zandozan assassins do this to a local cop and a hitchhiker.
* LargeHam: Xur, to the point that even his Ko-Dan allies find him annoying.
* LosingYourHead: The Beta unit can remove (and replace) its [[CranialProcessingUnit head]], which can still remotely control the body.
* MacrossMissileMassacre: Coupled with BeamSpam, Death Blossom is a DesperationAttack that fires all of the Gunstar's weaponry at once.
* MeaningfulEcho: When Alex repeats the attraction line from the video game, just before readying to attack the actual armada.
* TheMothership: The Ko-Dan mothership is the home of their fleet and also serves the role of TheBattlestar.
* MouthStitchedShut: True for Ko-Dan mooks, who speak with a synthesized voice. Formerly true for high-ranking Ko-Dan officers, where it's readily apparent where the stitches used to be.
* TheMusical: This was adapted into an off-Broadway musical. Seriously, this exists. (If you're curious, the Death Blossom is simulated using a swiveling rolling chair.)
* NiceGuy: Alex, who's sick of being selfless. He's constantly helping the hapless trailer park residents with their problems, but never has any sort of time for himself. When he gets rejected for a college tuition at a university he was interested in (possibly forcing him to go to the local city college), he suffers a HeroicBSOD.
* NiceJobFixingItVillain: Alex is convinced to return to Rylos and be a Starfighter only because Xur and the Ko-Dan send an assassin to Earth to kill him and prevent him from returning to Rylos and being a Starfighter.
** Then there's this:
--->'''Commander Kril:''' ''(reading the incoming message)'' The last Starfighter [[KilledMidSentence is...]]
--->'''Xur:''' Dead! The last Starfighter is dead! Nothing can stop us now![[note]]If that were true, why was the message cut off?[[/note]]
* NoodleIncident:
** Grig mentioning Centauri's "old Excalibur (Test) tricks"[[note]](Which Centauri points out that he didn't use)[[/note]] when he finds out how Alex was recruited.
** Centauri's FamousFamousFictional mention of Galoka and the Ulus.
* {{Novelization}}: Written by Creator/AlanDeanFoster. Most noted for a ''vastly'' expanded showdown against the Ko-Dan, including "refueling" the Gunstar by flying it near the surface of a star.
* OhMyGods: Centauri tells Alex Rogan, "May the luck of the Seven Pillars of Gulu be with you at all times."
* OnlyMostlyDead: [[spoiler:Centauri was just going into a deep sleep while his HealingFactor kicked in.]]
* TheOnlyOne:
** Alex Rogan escaped the Ko-Dan Armada's destruction of Starfighter Command by ColonyDrop because he was off-planet at the time, having refused to become a Starfighter in the first place.
** The Gunstar he ends up piloting was in a separate hangar because it was an [[SuperPrototype advanced prototype]].
* ParentalObliviousness: There is no sign that Alex's mother notices anything wrong with Beta, who's pretending to be him.
* PassingTheTorch: As Alex and Maggie head into space, his younger brother, Louis steps up to the Starfighter video game, and watches as the Gunstar flies into the stars. It's implied that Louis might join his brother among the stars.
* PerfectPacifistPeople: The Star League, who had to recruit from hundreds of member planets to find a roomful of warriors who "possess[ed] the...gift". The novelization even describes the League President as turning queasy at hearing their BattleCry.
* PhotoprotoneutronTorpedo: The checklist that Alex runs down with Grig while they ready their Gunstar for battle includes "particle beams" and something called "proton poles". In the novelization, Grig says that the real names involve science too advanced to translate, so he uses the game terms for the sake of convenience.
* PoorCommunicationKills: A key difference between Xur and the DangerouslyGenreSavvy Ko-Dan is their reaction to a partial transmission.
* PornStash: "Back to sleep, Louis, or I'm telling Mom about your [[Magazine/{{Playboy}} Playboys]]!" (Followed by...)
* PrecisionFStrike.
-->'''Louis:''' What the ''shit''?!\\
'''Beta:''' I ''said'' back to sleep, Louis, or I'm telling Mom about your Playboys!
* PresentPeeking: Referenced by Centauri.
--> '''Centauri:''' ''(to Alex)'' Hey, are you kind of kid who reads the last page of a mystery first? Who pesters the magician to tell you his tricks? Who sneaks downstairs to peek at his Christmas presents? Noooo, of course you're not.
* ProudWarriorRaceGuy: Most of the Starfighters are from a race of [[{{Cthulhumanoid}} Cthulhumanoids]] that are noted for their love of fighting. Given their still tiny number, this is only relative to the rest of the pacifist Star League.
* RaceForYourLove
* RammingAlwaysWorks: Combined with TakingYouWithMe in both cases.
** [[spoiler: Beta crashes his borrowed truck into the assassin's spaceship.]]
** [[spoiler: Commander Kril gives the obligatory order of "Ramming speed!" in an attempt to run over Alex's stationary Gunstar.]]
* RedEyesTakeWarning: Averted with Centauri's true form, which has red eyes but is not evil.
* RefusalOfTheCall. Followed by [[TheCallKnowsWhereYouLive Xur And The Ko-Dan Armada Know Where You Live]].
* RidiculouslyHumanRobot: Beta absorbs Alex's DNA and thereby copies him with near perfection, but has a hard time learning all of the humans' customs. Like the tongue in the ear thing.
* RoboticReveal: Beta is shot by the assassin, revealing his robotic insides to both his attacker and Maggie.
* RobotMe: Beta is a duplicate of Alex intended to cover up his absence from Earth.
* RobotNames: "Beta" is not a name, but a designation for a type of robot.
* RousingSpeech:
-->'''Alex:''' ''(depressed)'' Otis, I just never have a chance to do anything around here.
-->'''Otis:''' Things change. Always do. You'll get your chance! Important thing is, when it comes, you've got to grab it with both hands, and hold on tight!
* SciFiWritersHaveNoSenseOfScale:
** The Frontier is an energy field that encapsulates (or at least cordons off) an entire section of the known galaxy. The energy field is projected by field generators that are placed, at best, ten kilometers apart. That would be a septillion (10 to the power of 24) generators per square light year of barrier, with a few billion of those for one third of the galaxy. The novelization changes this to state that the Frontier is a political designation and that, rather than knowing how to defeat it, Xur instead knows the location of the Star League base. Also, it changes the destruction of a force field to the traitor giving the enemy the codes for the League NoWarpingZone generators.
** The Ko-Dan command ship's ColonyDrop against the Star League base. Leaving aside the pinpoint accuracy required to hit a particular planetary target from space distances, the Frontier is apparently well within Rylos' star system because otherwise it would've taken tens of thousands of years for the meteorites to hit at sublight velocities.
** The distance from the Rylos to the Frontier is apparently really short as well, given the brief flight in the Gunstar. Grig says they'll be there in "twenty klicks" and that he'll have a solution to getting past the fighters to hit the command ship before they do. When he finishes speaking, an alarm sounds, and they're at the Frontier.[[note]]By the look on Grig's face, however, it's more likely he made a mistake in distance.[[/note]]
* SeizeHim: Commander Kril gives this order to the Ko-Dan soldiers after Emperor Xur screws up.
* SentryGun: An array of automatic defensive turrets protects the Star League's base, and do quite well at it until they are sabotaged.
* SeriousBusiness: Getting a high score in a video game is so important that it gets the entire trailer park's attention. Given Alex' complaints about how boring his hometown is, it may well be the most exciting thing around.
* SequelHook: Xur escapes.
* SimulationGame: The Starfighter game is a simulation of the real thing.
* SmallTownBoredom: Alex lives in a trailer park with so little to do that a video game is considered the pinnacle of excitement.
* SnakeOilSalesman: Centauri is a space version, peddling video games around the galaxy but conveniently failing to mention that they are a recruitment tool.
* SoundEffectBleep: What is surely a truly spectacular string of profanity from Alex is conveniently drowned out by the noise from his and Grig's Gunstar taking off.
* SpaceFighter: The Gunstars and Ko-Dan fighters. The Gunstars apparently operate without the support of a battlestar-equivalent.
* StayWithTheAliens: Alex [[IChooseToStay remains with the Star League]] to help them rebuild and to train their next generation of Starfighters.
* SuperPrototype: The Gunstar that Alex and Grig use is the only fighter to survive the assault, since it was a work-in-progress kept in a special hangar.
* SyntheticVoiceActor: Most of the aliens that are not largely human in appearance have heavily filtered voices, with the notable exception of Grig.
* TakingTheBullet: Centauri does it to save Alex from a Zandozan energy bolt.
* TechMarchesOn: Grig's amazing photo album - thousands of pictures stored in a device you can hold in your hand/tentacle/pseudopod! It seemed an impossible dream from the vantage point of TheEighties. Although slideshows on our modern phones, cameras, [=PDAs=], etc. don't go ''that'' fast (unless specifically programmed to do so).
* TranslatorMicrobes:
-->'''Alex:''' You speak English?
-->'''Rylan Officer:''' No, you ''hear'' English thanks to the translation device.
** Viewers with good ears can tell when the device becomes active, because the background chatter switches instantly from Rylan to English.
* TheUnfrozenCavemanLawyer: Alex manages to be an exceptional Starfighter, despite having grown up in a trailer park on Earth.
* VerticalKidnapping: Attempted when an alien assassin is sent to kill Alex.
* AVillainNamedZrg: Xur fits, pronunciation-wise.
* VillainousBreakdown: Xur, once his allies have had enough of his [[TheCaligula bizarre personality]].
-->'''Xur:''' How dare you! I am the Emperor of Rylos! I and I alone command this entire arm-- ''(guards begin to drag him away)'' Release me! I ''command'' you! '''''YOU WILL PAY FOR THIS WITH YOUR LIVES!'''''
* VillainExitStageLeft: Xur, during the impact strikes of the Gunstar. SavedForTheSequel that never happened.
* VoluntaryShapeshifting: The Xandoxan assassin is a shapeshifter.
* WhooshingCredits
* YouOweMe: Beta to an absent Alex [[spoiler: during his HeroicSacrifice]].
* YoureNotMyFather: Inverted. Xur mocks his familial relationship to his father, who in turn [[IHaveNoSon disowns him]].
* YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness: While Xur believes himself the leader of the Ko-Dan armada, he is in fact useful to them in exactly one way: by having the codes to the Frontier. Once he's served that purpose, he is rapidly shunted aside. Earlier, the Ko-Dan second-in-command whispers to Kril, "How long must we endure this fool?" Kril motions for him to shut up, since Xur is still in the room.
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