Sci-fi movies featuring kids were huge in the ’80s, and it’s easy to make the case that kid-focused and family-friendly films experienced a golden age during that decade. Beyond the most obvious example, “E.T. the Extraterrestrial,” movies like “Explorers,” “Flight of the Navigator,” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” are all excellent examples of the successful genre.
One kid-led ’80s sci-fi film that often gets unfairly forgotten is “D.A.R.Y.L.” Starring Barret Oliver fresh off his role in 1984’s “The NeverEnding Story,” it features the young actor as a robot that gives the movie its name, short for Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform. After Daryl escapes the facility that created him with the help of a sympathetic scientist, he first finds himself in a foster home and eventually in the care of Joyce and Andy Richardson (Mary Beth Hurt and Michael McKean, respectively). Daryl attempts to have a normal life as a regular human boy, but the people who created him come looking for him one day and send everything into upheaval.
It’s not the only example of a 1980s robot that tries to live among humans, but unlike “Short Circuit” or the TV show “Small Wonder,” “D.A.R.Y.L.” takes a more heartwarming, dramatic route rather than being slapsticky and silly. Children of the ’80s looking to introduce their kids to some of the sci-fi of their youth should definitely consider “D.A.R.Y.L.” for the next family movie night.