The computer that made the spaceships in the movie was a Cray X-MP, which cost $15,000,000 in 1984 dollars. (about $34 million today)
That Cray was less powerful than the iPhone you traded in 2 years ago.
However, as the world has discovered since then – the best computer does not necessarily make for the best movie. The Last Starfighter was not the best movie to come out in 1984, but it is one of the best “first acts” to come out in 1984.
Boy wants out of his trailer park, but he’s an absolute nobody in the middle of nowhere. Boy plays video games, and finds out he’s the Chosen One in the center of the Battle for Everything.
A lot of movies have a great set-up, and they fill you with wonder as they introduce you to their own world.
“The Last Starfighter” offers over a half-hour of high-grade, pure and entertaining 80s-ness, as it offers you that setup. Watch it for that.
Watch the boy learn that what he loves most… is what makes him useful to the universe in the battle between Good and Evil. Watch the rest if you like, but my recommendation would be “Battle Beyond the Stars” (1980) to see how the Battle itself plays out.
The setup here, is the goodness. The first act is the fluffy filling that makes it a Twinkie. The rest is not entirely different from most CGI spongecakes, despite my childhood affinities for it. The 80s characters in their trailer park village are full of naive charm, the premise is full of naive charm, and it has that one girl from Night of the Comet.
You’ve got the remote. With this remote comes the power to watch not only the best VHS tapes, but the best parts of them. Just rewind this one when “the Kodan Armada” shows up. You’ll need to get up and get more trail mix anyway, since you’ve eaten all the M&Ms out of the first bowl.
Maybe pop in “Night of the Comet” and watch that until they go underground.