The film is based on the alleged 1975 abduction of Travis Walton (played by D. B. Sweeney), a logger from Snowflake, Arizona who went missing for five days after his co-workers claimed he was zapped by a flying saucer. The plot of the film centers mainly around the ensuing investigation and manhunt that took place, headed on-screen by the fictional Detective Frank Watters (James Garner), as well as the drama in which Walton's co-workers, including his best friend Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick), are accused of murder by their families and neighbors. Only the climax of the film (which was dramatically changed from the real Walton's story) focuses on Walton's experiences onboard the UFO.
Fire in the Sky contains examples of:
- Alien Abduction: Naturally since the plot is about Travis Walton's abduction.
- Aliens are Bastards: Though you might want to note that humans do the same things we saw the aliens do to other living beings out of science.
- And I Must Scream: Travis while going through a painful autopsy performed on him by the aliens screams out of fear and pain. The aliens get tired of his screaming and shove a tar-like substance down his throat.
- Best Friends-in-Law: Played With because Travis and Dana get married while he and Mike are estranged, but they reconcile by the end.
- Big Bad: The aliens.
- Body Horror: The experiments Travis is subjected to by the aliens are nothing short of violation. Tubes are shoved down his throat, his jaw is violently clamped open, a sharp device is shoved into his neck, and he is forced to endure an ocular probe. Suffice it to say, there's a reason why many call this scene one of the scariest ever put to film.
- Flashback: Most of the first act consists of Travis' friends recounting what happened; and then, near the end, Travis' flashback of what actually happened on the alien ship.
- Exposed Extraterrestrials: Subverted. What looks to be a regular example of The Greys turns out to be what their spacesuits look like. They are naked during the operation, but that's at least justified as being on the safety of their own spaceship in controlled environmental conditions.
- Eye Scream: Travis' flashback ends with a needle approaching his eye at an agonizingly slow pace.
- Genre Shift: The first and third acts are sci-fi, but the middle is mostly a cross between Police Procedural and small-town drama.
- The Greys: Subverted. When Travis first sees the slumbering aliens on board their ship, at first they look like this (grey all over, naked, large heads, huge black eyes, tiny mouths) but it turns out that those are just their suits. The actual aliens look a bit different, having slightly more humanoid faces and round heads with a beige skin tone.
- Incriminating Indifference: The biggest reason Allan Dallas was suspected for murder was because of his indifferent attitude toward Travis.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The only supernatural elements we see are in the Flashbacks; technically, the audience can imagine that these events didn't really happen, though the film is certainly implying that they did.
- Peek-a-Boo Corpse: After Travis escapes from his cocoon aboard the alien ship, he ends up entering another cocoon and finds a badly decomposed (and still conscious) human inside, much to his visible terror.
- Police Procedural: The real focus of the film is not the abduction but the police investigation.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The last few scenes are set 2-3 years after the abduction. The movie also ends with the note of what happened to the Real Life versions of Travis and Mike, and notes that they and Dallis later took another lie detector test and all passed.