Fire in the Sky

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Fire in the Sky
Fire in the sky poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Lieberman
Produced by Joe Wizan
Todd Black
Screenplay by Tracy Tormé
Based onThe Walton Experience
by Travis Walton
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography Bill Pope
Edited bySteve Mirkovich
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • March 12, 1993 (1993-03-12)(United States)
Running time
109 minutes [1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million [2]
Box office$19.9 million (domestic) [3]

Fire in the Sky is a 1993 American biopic science fiction mystery film directed by Robert Lieberman and written by Tracy Tormé. It is based on Travis Walton's book The Walton Experience , [4] which describes an alleged extraterrestrial encounter. The film stars Robert Patrick in the leading role as Walton's best friend and future brother-in-law, Mike Rogers, and D. B. Sweeney as Walton himself. James Garner, Craig Sheffer, Scott MacDonald, Henry Thomas, and Peter Berg also star.

Biographical film film genre; dramatizes the life of an actual person or people

A biographical film, or biopic, is a film that dramatizes the life of a non-fictional or historically-based person or people. Such films show the life of a historical person and the central character's real name is used. They differ from films "based on a true story" or "historical drama films" in that they attempt to comprehensively tell a single person's life story or at least the most historically important years of their lives.

Science fiction film film genre

Science fiction film is a genre that uses speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not fully accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial lifeforms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception and time travel, along with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar travel or other technologies. Science fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition. In many cases, tropes derived from written science fiction may be used by filmmakers ignorant of or at best indifferent to the standards of scientific plausibility and plot logic to which written science fiction is traditionally held.

Mystery film sub-genre of the more general category of crime film and at times the thriller genre

A mystery film is a genre of film that revolves around the solution of a problem or a crime. It focuses on the efforts of the detective, private investigator or amateur sleuth to solve the mysterious circumstances of an issue by means of clues, investigation, and clever deduction.


Fire in the Sky was a modest box office success and met with generally positive reviews. The film's critical standing has since diminished, although its alien abduction scenes remain well-regarded. It was nominated for four Saturn Awards.

Saturn Award award

The Saturn Award is an American award presented annually by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films; it was initially created to honor science fiction, fantasy, and horror on film, but has since grown to reward other films belonging to genre fiction, as well as on television and home media releases.

Plot summary

On November 5, 1975 in Snowflake, Arizona, logger Travis Walton (D. B. Sweeney), and his co-workers—Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick), Allan Dallis (Craig Sheffer), David Whitlock (Peter Berg), Greg Hayes (Henry Thomas) and Bobby Cogdill (Bradley Gregg)—head to work in the White Mountains.

Snowflake, Arizona Town in Arizona, United States

Snowflake is a town in Navajo County, Arizona, United States. It was founded in 1878 by Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake, Mormon pioneers and colonizers. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names. According to 2012 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the town is 5,564.

Lumberjack craftsmen who perform the initial harvesting of trees

Lumberjacks are North American workers in the logging industry who perform the initial harvesting and transport of trees for ultimate processing into forest products. The term usually refers to a bygone era when hand tools were used in harvesting trees. Because of its historical ties, the term lumberjack has become ingrained in popular culture through folklore, mass media and spectator sports. The actual work was difficult, dangerous, intermittent, low-paying, and primitive in living conditions. However, the men built a traditional culture that celebrated strength, masculinity, confrontation with danger, and resistance to modernization.

The Travis Walton UFO incident was an alleged abduction of an American forestry worker by a UFO on November 5, 1975, while working in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests near Snowflake, Arizona. Walton reappeared after a five-day search. The Walton case received mainstream publicity and remains one of the best-known alien abduction stories. Skeptics consider it a hoax. Walton wrote a book about his purported abduction in 1978 called The Walton Experience, which was adapted into the 1993 film Fire in the Sky.

Driving home from work, the men come across an unidentified flying object. Curious to learn more, Walton gets out of the truck and is struck by a bright beam of light from the object and is sent flying several feet backwards as if pushed by an unseen force. Fearing Walton was just killed, the others flee the scene. Rogers decides to go back to the spot to retrieve Walton, but he is nowhere to be found. Making their way back to town to report the incident, the loggers are met with skepticism, as they relate what sounds like a tall tale to Sheriff Blake Davis (Noble Willingham) and Lieutenant Frank Watters (James Garner). They are suspected of foul play despite no apparent motive or knowledge of Walton's whereabouts.

Unidentified flying object unusual apparent anomaly in the sky that is not readily identifiable

An unidentified flying object (UFO) is an object observed in the sky that is not readily identified. Most UFOs are later identified as conventional objects or phenomena. The term is widely used for claimed observations of extraterrestrial spacecraft.

Tall tale story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual

A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. Some stories such as these are exaggerations of actual events, for example fish stories such as, "That fish was so big, why I tell ya', it nearly sank the boat when I pulled it in!" Other tall tales are completely fictional tales set in a familiar setting, such as the European countryside, the American frontier, the Canadian Northwest, or the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Noble Willingham American actor

Noble Henry Willingham, Jr. was an American television and film actor who appeared in more than thirty films and in many television shows, including a stint opposite Chuck Norris in Walker, Texas Ranger.

After interviewing the men, Lieutenant Watters realizes there is a great deal of tension between Walton and Dallis, leading him to believe this might be a murder investigation. The Lieutenant also discovers a tabloid newspaper in their truck with headlines about aliens, hinting that they used the article to concoct their story. The men are accused of murder and are threatened by Travis' brother Dan Walton (Scott MacDonald). The men are offered a lie detector test and take it. After the testing is complete, Rogers is outraged that the results are not shared and he and his guys refuse to come back the next day to take it again. However, after the men leave, the man who administered the tests tells the Sheriff and Lieutenant that with the exception of Dallis' test (which was inconclusive), the other men seem to be telling the truth.

Extraterrestrial life Lifeform that does not originate from Earth

Extraterrestrial life, also called alien life, is life that occurs outside of Earth and that did not originate from Earth. These hypothetical life forms may range from simple prokaryotes to beings with civilizations far more advanced than humanity. The Drake equation speculates about the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. The science of extraterrestrial life in all its forms is known as exobiology.

Scott MacDonald is an American actor. He is best known for his recurring roles as Captain Manning on short-lived series Threshold, Burley from HBO series Carnivàle, and as Commander Dolim from Star Trek: Enterprise, and as the title character from 1997 horror film Jack Frost, and Officer Gerard from Dexter.


A polygraph, popularly referred to as a lie detector test, is a device or procedure that measures and records several physiological indicators such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity while a person is asked and answers a series of questions. The belief underpinning the use of the polygraph is that deceptive answers will produce physiological responses that can be differentiated from those associated with non-deceptive answers. There are, however, no specific physiological reactions associated with lying, making it difficult to identify factors that separate liars from truth tellers. Polygraph examiners also prefer to use their own individual scoring method, as opposed to computerized techniques, as they may more easily defend their own evaluations.

Five days later, Rogers receives a call from someone claiming to be Walton. He is found at a Heber gas station, alive but naked, dehydrated and incoherent. A ufologist questions Walton but he is thrown out and Walton is taken to a hospital. Rogers visits Walton while in the emergency room and ends up telling Walton that he left him after he was struck by the light but came back to get him. Walton appears very angry by this and turns away from Rogers who blames the whole incident on Walton for getting out of the truck. During a welcome home party, Walton suffers a flashback of the abduction by the extraterrestrials.

Heber-Overgaard, Arizona CDP in Arizona, United States

Heber-Overgaard is a census-designated place (CDP) in Navajo County, Arizona, United States. Situated atop the Mogollon Rim, the community lies at an elevation of 6,627 feet (2,020 m). The population was 2,822 at the 2010 census. Heber and Overgaard are technically two unincorporated communities, but as of the 1990 census, their close proximity has led to the merged name of "Heber-Overgaard".

Dehydration in physiology, excessive loss of body water

In physiology, dehydration is a deficit of total body water, with an accompanying disruption of metabolic processes. It occurs when free water loss exceeds free water intake, usually due to exercise, disease, or high environmental temperature. Mild dehydration can also be caused by immersion diuresis, which may increase risk of decompression sickness in divers.

Ufology study of UFOs

Ufology is the study of reports, visual records, physical evidence, and other phenomena related to unidentified flying objects (UFO). UFO reports have been subject to various investigations over the years by governments, independent groups, and scientists. However, ufology, as a field, has been rejected by modern academia and is considered a pseudoscience.

In his flashback, he awakens inside a slimy cocoon. Breaking out of its membrane, he finds himself in a zero-gravity environment inside a cylindrical enclosure whose walls contain other similar cocoons and he is horrified to inadvertently discover that one contains the decomposing remains of a human body that has apparently been dissected and is still semi-conscious. As he makes his way to a neighboring area featuring what appear to be several humanoid space suits, he is apprehended by two extraterrestrial creatures. He is unwillingly hauled down corridors full of terrestrial detritus such as shoes and keys before arriving in a bizarre examination room. The aliens strip him of his clothes and cover him with an elastic material that pins him painfully to a raised platform under an array of equipment and lights in the middle of the room. Despite Walton's terrified screams, the aliens pitilessly subject him to a traumatic, excruciating experiment in which a gelatinous substance is shoved into his mouth, his jaw is clamped open, a device is inserted into his neck and he is forced to endure an ocular probe while fully conscious during the experience. Afterwards, Walton loses consciousness until finding himself back on Earth disoriented, abused, and severely traumatized.

While interviewing Walton, Lieutenant Watters expresses his doubts about the abduction, believing it as merely a hoax. He notes Walton's newfound celebrity because of the tabloids' attempts to profit from his tale. The film culminates with a denouement between Walton and Rogers. The closing titles state that in 1993, the loggers were resubmitted to additional polygraph examinations, which they passed, corroborating their innocence.



The film is based on the book The Walton Experience by Travis Walton. In the book, Walton tells of how he was abducted by a UFO. Walton's original book was later re-released as Fire in the Sky ( ISBN   1-56924-710-2) to promote the book's connection to the film. The real Travis Walton makes a cameo appearance in the film.

The film's alien abduction scenes bear almost no resemblance to Walton's actual claims. He reported that he flew the ship at the end of his encounter, which was not portrayed in the film. Scriptwriter Tracy Tormé reported that executives found Walton's account boring, and insisted on the changes. [5] [ page needed ]

The special effects in the film were coordinated by Industrial Light & Magic, and the cinematography was handled by Bill Pope. The original music score was composed and arranged by Mark Isham. The audio soundtrack was released in Compact Disc format on March 30, 1993.


Fire in the Sky met with generally favorable reviews. [6] John Ferguson of the Radio Times wrote: "Lieberman wisely concentrates on the emotional impact of the event on a close-knit circle of friends and family, although the eventual revelation of the abduction is genuinely scary. DB Sweeney shines in the lead role and there's good support." [7] Entertainment Weekly journalist Owen Gleiberman suggested that "It almost doesn't matter if you don't believe any of this stuff. For a few queasy minutes, Fire in the Sky lets you meditate on the aliens in your imagination. [8] Critic Roger Ebert said: "The scenes inside the craft are really very good. They convincingly depict a reality I haven't seen in the movies before, and for once I did believe that I was seeing something truly alien, and not just a set decorator's daydreams." He felt, however, that "there's not enough detail about the aliens, and the movie ends on an inconclusive and frustrating note." [9]

Chris Hicks of the Deseret News found that Fire in the Sky "leans in favor of believers, suggesting that all of this really did happen. And some of it is fairly entertaining." He disliked the film's sober tone, however, and would have preferred it be "more humorous or satirical, without necessarily sacrificing the sense that these characters believe it all." [10] Critic James Berardinelli applauded the "stunning, gut-wrenching realism" of the abduction scenes, but called the film a "muddled-up mess" that "can't make up its mind whether it wants to be horror, drama or science-fiction." [11] The X-Files creator Chris Carter was impressed by Patrick's performance in the film, which led to his casting Patrick as FBI Special Agent John Doggett for the series' eighth season in 2000. [12]

Critical opinion of Fire in the Sky settled into a mixed range: [13] the film holds a 39% approval rating at review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 18 appraisals, with an average score of 5.1/10. [14] Nonetheless, its alien abduction scenes are considered by many to be highly effective. [13] In 2017, Paste named Fire in the Sky as one of the 25 best science fiction films on Netflix. [15]


Fire in the Sky was nominated for four Saturn Awards: Best Science Fiction Film, Best Writing, Best Music, and for Patrick, Best Actor. [16]

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  1. "Fire in the Sky (1993)". British Board of Film Classification . Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  2. "Fire in the Sky". AFI Catalog of Feature Films . Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  3. "Fire in the Sky (1993)". Box Office Mojo . Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  4. Walton, Travis (1997) [1978]. The Walton Experience (3rd ed.). Boston: Da Capo Press. ISBN   978-1569247105.
  5. Clark, Jerome. The UFO Book, Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1998.
  6. Spry, Jeff (March 16, 2018). "Fire In The Sky still a frightening flick at 25". Syfy . Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  7. Ferguson, John. "Fire in the Sky". Radio Times . Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  8. Gleiberman, Owen (March 26, 1993). "Fire in the Sky". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  9. Ebert, Roger. Fire in the Sky review, Chicago Sun Times, accessed 22 June 2007.
  10. Hicks, Chris (16 March 1993). Review, Deseret News .
  11. Berardinelli, James. Review, 1993.
  12. Robert Patrick, All Movie Guide biography
  13. 1 2 Brownfield, Troy (November 8, 2009). "Ten alien abductions, from 'V' to 'X-Files'". Today . MSNBC.
  14. Fire in the Sky from URL accessed 4 November 2018
  15. "The 25 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix". Paste . February 5, 2017. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  16. Fire in the Sky - Awards