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Movie Midnight Special Explained and Reviewed

Midnight Special is an intriguing familial story that asks amazing questions and gets us to consider "What If". IMDB

I get MAYBE, five fantastic movies a year that just brings me unbridled joy to bring to you. And interestingly, those five movies probably bring me 50% of my web traffic too. The movies I fall in love with are the ones that blowup my stats. It just works out that way. I find sleeper movies that may or may not have done very well at the box office but are absolutely brilliant finds that most of you have never heard of. Movies like The One I Love, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Survivalist and others, definitely get my juices flowing. Welp, today I have the movie of the year for you. Midnight Special. Movie of the year basically just means that it’s a movie that make you really think and consider what is going on in the film. The deeper implications of what might really be going on. That is my own definition of what makes a movie good, something that allows us to discuss the heck out of it here! haha. Movie Midnight Special Explained and Reviewed…

Midnight Special – Spoiler Free – Overview

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, (which is practically no one because the box office has been surprisingly abysmal, $3.4 million after two weeks of wide distribution?!?) don’t worry. I won’t spoil it for you… yet. I’ll tell you when to scram in a minute. But for now you are safe. Probably a safe place to start would be the trailer. Always a great way to get a general feeling for where a movie is going. But I highly recommend your watching the film right here.

So, we have a kid with special powers? And a parent that wants to keep him safe from the government and some other less clear powers. It’s a movie in the form and feel of E.T. maybe? Which is a comparison that I don’t really like much, but the marketing arm for this movie just keeps making. I personally liken it more to Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s movie about a boy and his father, than I do to ET. But if you blend the two – and drop in a modest dollop of what… Upstream Color. Yeah, I’m going to dollop in some Upstream Color just because I can. And then you shake, but not stir, that unholy troika … and voila, you have Midnight Special. I think. hahah.

The acting is a pile of top notch performance delivered by Jaeden Lieberher who plays Alton – our enigmatic and curious plot driver – Michael Shannon (Alton’s Father), Kirsten Dunst (who has a smaller but no less significant and powerful role here as Alton’s mother), Joel Edgerton who plays Lucas, and finally Kylo Ren, I mean, Adam Driver, who plays the dark lord, Paul Sevier from the NSA. Each one of these actors HAD to hit their marks for this film to work, and they really did do a fantastic job doing just that.

It is a compelling story in it’s own right. Take away the sci-fi aspects and you really do still have a good movie on your hands. But you know what? Add the science fiction? And you have a great movie on your hands. Fantastic characters. Great writing. Compelling motivators and conflict. Fantastic movie. (Can you tell I’m struggling to say more without spoiling it? Yeah. I’m thinking you non-viewers probably need to go now. HAhahha.)

Spoiler Filled Midnight Special Walkthrough

Alright, yeah, I have said this twice now… but I really do mean this… if you haven’t seen this movie, go see it. But leave. Bookmark please, and come back later. But whatever you do, don’t keep reading! I’m going to filet this film and lay out the inner workings of this movie across the table for us to discuss. Ok? Great. So yeah. move along.

Now that we have the ground rules squared. Let’s talk through the plot at a very high level just in case some of you didn’t grasp the order or the layout of the basics.

Midnight Special Events Overview

Movie Midnight Special Explained and Reviewed

The movie opens with an Amber Alert canvassing the south and the larger Texas area, and the nearby states. A boy is missing, and he’s probably been taken by his biological father from a place called the Ranch. We learn quickly that the Ranch is a cult like religious environment that has been worshipping and listening to the prophecies of Alton, even going so far as to flip their services to the night time because Alton can’t be out during the day.

When we catch up with Alton and his dad, Roy, they are joined by one of Roy’s childhood friends Lucas and the three are doing everything in their power to get as far away from the Ranch as they can. This is complicated by the fact that they are only able to travel by night because of Alton’s ‘condition’.

The Ranch responds to Roy’s kidnapping of Alton by sending two guys out to get Alton back. Apparently, Alton is the key to their salvation… and that judgment was coming in four days time.

Movie Midnight Special Explained and Reviewed

The NSA and the FBI are also inbound, and are very very interested in Alton because of the NSA’s tracking of Doak’s sermons which are quoting sensitive and encrypted military satellite transmissions. And on top of that, every single local authority and policeman in the area had been notified of Roy’s last known location, and what he looks like on every locally run news channel.

So from the very start of the movie, the odds are stacked against the trio. And to make matters worse, Alton is getting sick. Something is wrong with him. And all this running definitely isn’t helping. Oh, and the satellites he’s bringing out of the sky? That’s probably not helping him much either. Eventually they make it to Sarah Tomlin’s house – Roy’s estranged wife, and Alton’s biological mother. And soon the four of them are moving together trying to get to a mysterious destination that they never discuss, but is obviously their first and foremost priority.

And as Alton begins to slowly come completely unglued, coughing, spraying light out of his eyes, jibbering in radio host spanish… it isn’t looking good.

Movie Midnight Special Explained and Reviewed

Alton decides that he and Roy need to head out across the plains together. Lucas and Sarah continue onwards to a hotel and wait for their arrival. Meanwhile, Roy and Alton take shelter in a cave that Alton found, but decides that he wanted to be awake for the daytime… that something important needed to happen.

So, over Alton’s father’s objections, the two head out to watch the sunrise. Craziness ensues, (lights from eyes, earth quaking, etc) and later Roy and Alton arrive at the hotel, with Alton looking right as rain. The bags under his eyes are gone and he is able to look at the sun now. And now it’s time to head out again after some rest, in order to get closer to the final destination that Alton needs to get to.

But as they step out onto the balcony, Lucas is shot in the chest by the two Ranch members sent to get Alton back. The zip-tie everyone up to keep them from coming after them, and then take off with Alton with a pillowcase over his head. The trio get un-tied and then take off to get Alton back from the Ranch abductors. But before they catch up to them, they come upon a spot where they watch a helicopter take off, and the car of the Ranch members soaked in blood. So Alton is gone, the Rancher abductors are dead, and the NSA now has the boy. Probably where Midnight Special gets most of it’s likening to E.T., the government begins its interrogation and study of Alton.


But it’s Alton that is calling all the shots in this interrogation. Alton tells everyone that he will only speak to Paul Sevier. Soon enough (ie. immediately after zero questions are answered) Alton loops the monitoring video feed and unlocks the door. Alton tells Paul that they’ll be leaving now, at which time he carjacks a Prius and overloads the entire base’s electrical circuits and allowing them to head on their way.

Meanwhile, Roy, Sarah and Lucas are completely lost as to what to do now. Roy is convinced that they’ll never see Alton again. And then a pay phone just across the way starts ringing. Then the one next to it starts ringing, and then they are all ringing. It’s Paul, telling them to meet Alton and himself at a specific location. Paul hands over Alton, and asks to tag along. Roy tells him no. Sevier asks for Lucas’ handcuffs so as to not appear to be in on the plot. And then, just like that, the game is afoot again.

The very last section is straightforward enough… the four coconspirators are trying to get to a very specific Geo-location that the government now knows because Paul Sevier figured out the signal from the noise and passed it off to the government agencies originally looking for Alton. Now the problem is, how do they get Alton into that location without being caught by the government? Well, they have Alton, remember? And he tips them to a single road that isn’t very well guarded, and they bum-rush the checkpoint.

After colliding with the jeeps and the tire strips, they keep going. Eventually Sarah and Alton jump out of the car, and Lucas and Roy keep going to call the government off Alton’s trail. Alton and Sarah head out into the field, and Alton basically detonates a 4 state radius psychic mushroom cloud that opens up our world to this other observant world which allows humans to temporarily see into this other temporal reality. Futuristic silver skyscrapers dot the horizon and soon these others, watch Alton as he is ushered back “home”. The temporal window collapses and that leaves us with Roy, Lucas heading to jail. In an interesting turn of events it is Sevier who is doing the interviewing of Alton’s father and Lucas. And that leaves us with Alton’s mother, Sarah, running for it… dying her hair and escaping off into the horizon on her own again.

Midnight Special Explained

Above, I walked you through the barebones of the basics of the movie. But what does it all mean? Well, to get at the layer beneath the obvious-ness, we need to talk about a few of the details in the movie that I didn’t discuss above.

Midnight Special & The Ranch 

The single biggest vein of questions I get over and over again about Midnight Special definitely centers on The Ranch. Before the movie even begins, The Ranch has already been playing an enormous part in the culmination of this movie and the driver for the plot. The Ranch was definitely there before Alton was born, his parents probably met there, and married. They then had Alton – and immediately noticed he wasn’t normal. Doak took Alton as his own son, as was probably customary for all children born at The Ranch. Roy stayed close to Alton, and watched over him perpetually. Sarah on the other hand gets fed up with Cult life, and takes off. Thus the closeness between Alton and Roy. Thus the reason I think this movie is more like Boyhood than any other movie that comes to mind.

Doak and the elders of The Ranch realized Alton had prophetic capabilities (at least, what they think are prophetic anyway, I’ll get to that later) and began using him for that purpose… even going so far as to reschedule their services for the middle of the night, when Alton could be up and about. Well, Doak and the elders of The Ranch begin to ascertain that an important date is coming, and the surmise that it is the End of Days – the Tribulation prophesied about in Revelation. The Judgement. And they even believe that without Alton, the members of The Ranch won’t be saved. Thus their determination to get him back as quickly as possible. When the movie starts they only have 4 days left.

Midnight Special and Alton’s Prophecies

Which brings us to Alton’s prophecies. They aren’t exactly prophecies as we learned pretty early on. Alton is actually a human radio receiver that is capable of amazing feats of decryption and cyphering. We see him mimic the sounds of Spanish radio. We hear from Sevier that Alton was decrypting and communicating highly secure transmissions from military and NSA satellites. He even was able to bring down satellite DSP9712, a satellite originally tasked with tracking nuclear missile launches after Alton realized that it was tracking him personally. So The Ranch was a little off base on their belief that Alton was prophesying… although, that isn’t necessarily true, Alton was receiving communications from other beings… but we’ll get to that in the theories section below.

Midnight Special – What’s With The Numbers?


Throughout the entirety of the movie we get lots and lots of numbers thrown at us. Some of them are identified and explained and others are just left out there bouncing around without much context. One of my favorite quotes in this vein was from Paul who said, “Do Meridian Alpha, Red Saber mean anything to you?” These were all top secret government campaigns that alton had uncovered unwittingly (or wittingly… either one.)

Here are two of the key numbers we get early on in the opening of the movie; “35 47 97 52” & “53 23 77 127”.  And even Paul Sevier gets caught up in the numbers and the locations that Alton is pulling out of the air. Once Paul realizes that Alton was just a conduit for military secrets and other random bits of trivia, he starts to look for patterns in the numbers to learn where exactly Alton is going.

Midnight Special Overarching Timeline

  1. Roy and Sarah join the cult independently
  2. Roy and Sarah meet at The Ranch & marry
  3. The couple have a male child, and name him Alton
  4. The quickly realize he isn’t normal
  5. Alton is adopted by Doak Meyer – he’s now Alton Meyer
  6. All children are taken as children of Meyer at The Ranch
  7. Sarah gets fed up with the cult and flees
  8. Roy stays with Alton and watches over him
  9. Doak decides Alton’s prophecies are key
  10. They move services to the night time for him
  11. With the coming “Judgement” Roy decides he’s had enough
  12. Roy flees with Alton to protect him
  13. The NSA is investigating into the sermons and transmissions of classified material
  14. NSA begins interrogating members of the cult
  15. The Ranch sends two people to get Alton back
  16. They get him, only to lose him to the government soon after
  17. Alton and Paul leave, and head back to Roy and Sarah
  18. Sarah and Alton arrive at the critical location
  19. Alton is taken to his one real home
  20. NSA/Sevier continue investigating what happened

One of the key outstanding questions that still lingers for me is how Paul Sevier figures out, from the numbers within the prophecies, where Alton is going. We see Paul circle a few numbers on the board… but otherwise, we get nothing on that front. We just have to assume there is a pattern here somewhere that we aren’t privy to. And the final question I haven’t 100% fully wrapped my brain around? …

Midnight Special – Who Are The Others?

This movie is 100% about Alton and who he is. We learn that he isn’t normal, that he has powers that normal humans do not have. And that belongs somewhere else. One of the most important details explaining who the others are is within a conversation between Paul Sevier and Alton:

Paul – “They believe you are a weapon”

Alton – “I’m not”

Paul – “And The Ranch thinks you are their savior.”

Alton – “I’m not any of those things. I belong to a different world, there are people there, they watch us. And have been watching us for a very long time.”

Alton – “I need to go where I belong.”

So, from this conversation we learn that these others, they are a race of extra-temporal beings that spend their time watching humans for some reason. They live here on planet earth with us, and can see through the veil between our world and theirs.

Midnight Special – What’s It Really About?

Jeff Nichols is known for not caring a lick about comprehension and ease of understanding. When asked during the PR tour if he’d thrown story out the air lock, Jeff responded with, “I didn’t create this to have a kind of plot concision. That’s just never been a priority.” So we from a comprehension standpoint, Nichols first priority was our fully understanding it. It has even been said that the point of the loose ends is to ask us a question, “Why is it so important for us to know?” why do we want so badly to wrap up the errant details? Well, you know what? I have a theory to what it’s all about… ‘Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky…

Midnight Special Movie Theories

So, as always, I’ve got a couple theories on what this movie is really all about. Knowing that Nichols first directive wasn’t to make it clear, it looks like we have a TON of space to work in here. So I’m going out to three point land in order to come up with some innovative and interesting theories as to what is going on. I have my favorite, but you going to have to guess… and of course, I’d like to hear your theories as well.

Collective Hallucination Theory of Midnight Special


The Collective Hallucination theory of Midnight Special is sort of a last gasp theory that started small and logically expanded exponentially the further I thought about it. This theory is just that for some reason Alton is suffering from a hallucinatory delusion… which also effects those near him. The Ranch… effected. The NSA. The FBI. Roy, Lucas, Sarah… all effected. Causes them to see Alton as a powerful extraterrestrial that has prophetic visions that come from our global satellite network? The only way that could even make sense is if someone were slipping everyone in the movie LSD in their coffee. Or, we could 180 degrees, and make a Jacob’s Ladder play here and say that everyone is dead? No. This is an awful, awful theory. Sorry for even mentioning it.


The Secret Service Theory of Midnight Special

Throughout the movie, we hear a couple of times about how the… what do we call them (anyone have a name for them? The light sticks? The others… used too many times. The orbs! I’m going with the Orbs), how the Orbs watch us, and how they have been watching us for a “very long time.” Well, in this version of how the movie went down… the Orbs have been watching the humans and have tapped out what is possible to learn by just watching. And so they decide to infiltrate the human world by sending a child to earth that carries both orbness, and humanness. A mixed race child? Then that allows them to experience both being a human, as well as a first person perspective about what it means to be a human on earth.


The Ascension Theory of Midnight Special

The Ascension theory takes a queue from the Secret Service theory, that a boy was accidentally (or more likely intentionally) born of two worlds. Our world, and this other another orb-world. And with that in mind, Alton is obviously a Christ figure supernatural, and natural simultaneously. He ruffles the feathers of the religious institution that becomes infatuated with him, his knowledge, and his utterances. They decide that they must have him back, in their confines, and under their ‘protection’, otherwise he should be dead.

Alton experiences his own sort of death while in the field with his father as they watch the sunrise together. This rebirth is what saves him, and allows him to really understand who he really is. Death and rebirth is an obvious picture of Christ, his death at the hands of the Pharisees and resurrection three days later.

And then the ending? I believe that the ending is a picture of Christ’s ascension. So, remember the details of the ending… Sarah is watching as Alton is met by other light beings, and is taken up into this other world that filled with beings that watch the earth. And have been watching for a very long time. No? Now, let’s read Acts 1:6-11 and compare the two scenes together. Tell me if they aren’t the spitting image of one another:

“So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

“He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

“After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!””

Come on! The parallels are uncanny. Sarah basically stands there and watches as Alton is carried up on a cloud. Not exactly. But you get my point. This is 100% a picture of the ascension. And Alton is a picture of the Christ. He came to the world, basically died and was reborn. And ultimately returned to where he originally came from. The entirety of Midnight Special is a modern retelling of the Christ story.

Mary gives birth to a child via virgin birth, who goes on to do miracle after miracle. The world comes to despise him and the message that he brings. He is reborn after dying, and then ascends back to the heavenly realm he had originally come from.

No? What are your thoughts and opinions about what Midnight Special was all about? I know I’m wrong, because you guys tell me all the time! hahah. But I’d love to hear from you about what your thoughts are about this movie.

And if you are looking for other movies like Midnight Special? Don’t worry, I got you:

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Taylor Holmes

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  • Hi Taylor

    Great review / summary. I wondered how long it would be until you analysed this film.

    The missing link within the film for me was what you see as being his death/rebirth. Your theory on that aspect works for me, which forces me embrace your whole ascension theory. BUT what were they hoping to find with Michael Shannon at the end, and did you notice the faint blue flicker in his eyes?

    Jeff Nichols is a fantastic director. I just wish more people would go and see his films.


    Ian Scaife

  • Hey there Ian,
    Yeah, the interview at the end with Lucas as well as the scene with Roy was interesting to me too. And why Paul as the interviewer? Wouldn’t he be the least best person to do the interviewing? Let alone, shouldn’t he be fired?!? hahah. Was there something else going on there? Personally just chalked it up to humans not believing what they’ve seen. More of a commentary on our “scientific method” then on anything else.

    As for the glow, yeah, I did, but I wondered if it was just a lighting effect from the sunrise? Or something like that? I didn’t think it was anything specific. But hey, I’ve been wrong once before. hahah. If it really is something, is it some form of ascendancy evolution thing? Is the movie positing that anyone can ascend like Alton did? If so, there would be implications for who Alton possibly is… right?

    Interesting. I’ll have to go watch it again, and watch specifically for that glowing business. Good to see you around again Ian!

  • Paul Sevier experiences a conversion; like the Apostle Paul.

  • I just watched this movie and googled “Midnight Special explained” and found this sight. The last scene was what got my attention about an explanation. The glow in the dad’s eyes at the end made me wonder if it wasn’t some kind of evolutionary thing going on.

  • Hey Mark, which site please? I also wondered about the dad at the end.
    It also looked like they’d done brain electrode testing on him.

  • If you subscribe to the whole Christs Ascension theory (which I believe is astoundingly accurate), the explanation of why the fathers eyes lit up at the end is because he was receiving the same power that Alton had existed with. Remember, after Christ ascended, his ascension paved the way for the Holy Spirit to come into all that believed in him. His father, who believed in him more than anyone, was receiving the same powers that Alton had because Alton was the sacrifice needed to spread them.

  • Hey Erix,
    Hahahah, it’s rare that people out weird me in my weirdness. So kudos to you! hahah. Totally, the Holy spirit did come afterwards, at Pentecost! So what we are saying here is that power went out to everyone that believed… so we see that in his dad and the glowy eye thing happening there. I love that.

    Brilliance Erix.

  • I think he meant Taylor’s website…

  • The light in his eyes at the end is a play on the song of the same name “Midnight Special”. In prison, the inmates that received light from the train would be set free. We learn there is a “few seconds” window where that world and this world align at sunrise. If Roy is outside at that moment then perhaps that is what sets him free as he can catch a glimpse of his son. “That’s the deal”

  • Check this link out. This says it’s not really about religion at all and that the director Would Have Made It blatantly about religion if that was his intention. That it’s way more about parents believing in their children and having Blind Faith in their destiny.

  • Great input everyone. Perhaps, the others are the creators of the simulation that we live in. And Alton is a glitch, a role player, or even a hint that the simulators are themselves a simulation. Great movie!

  • first, the site chewed up and spat out your link… maybe send it to me via email and I can post it for you. second, of course it isn’t ABOUT religion. But the obvious religious metaphors are like so enormous as to drowned out any other message. Yes, it is inherently about the love of a father for his son, and the depths he would go to protect him… etc.

    But come on.

  • Hi Taylor, thanks for the thorough article. To me*, this movie is about a terminally ill boy, his parent’s struggle of letting him go peacefully, the medical community’s obsession for understanding his illness (the gov’t guys), and finally a cult’s misguided relationship with this family and the boy. IMHO The story of a terminally sick kid in an intriguing sci-fi/fantasy world couldn’t have fit a better storyline. Again this is of course a biased view based on my personal experiences and place in life. Especially seeing how the mom and dad make their peace with their son going away and not ever coming back, it just felt very real from the perspective of parents who have to make peace with such a difficult situation in their lives.
    *I’m a father of a 2 year old healthy boy who battled his share of medical problems at birth.
    So I just wanted to share how the movie resonated with me. Doesn’t mean it’s any more or less valid than other theories out there :) If I ever were to talk to the director, I’d be curious to hear if this was ever an intention or even crossed their minds.

  • Wow. Uber poignant. Totally see that there. It definitely very well could be a story about the journey of a very sick little one. Yeah. It’s definitely there. Thanks for sharing.

  • I noticed the faint blue glow in Roy’s eyes, and I’m certain that it’s meant to mean something more than just a natural reflection. If you watch closely, you’ll see that it illuminates his eyes, moving from right to left, in a kind of cloudy, swirling pattern. It’s definitely something that has to do with the parallel world.

    As for this signifying the possibility of normal people being able to access the parallel world, I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s important that it was Alton’s father. Also, consider Alton’s mother, who was able to escape from the NSA, even though the area was under heavy surveillance. Both of these events – Roy’s glowing eyes, and Sarah’s escape – suggest that what Alton really is came from them, that they are two separate halves of the power that came together as Alton.

  • No, the director has explicitly stated it’s not a Christ/Messiah allegory. Not that that’s not just about this, or that there are other themes as well, but it’s not at all a Christian metaphor. I get where you’re coming from (though it’s a bit of a stretch), but the theory has been specifically refuted

  • Yes! And when he dehydrates and then drinks water by the lake it’s his baptism.

  • I was happy with the whole movie and most of the ending. I enjoyed seeing Paul sit down and act like they had never met before that gave me hope! I was lost when they showed the dad standing there hooked up to like a brain wave reader and smiling and looking up?? Was he being tested cause he is the boy’s father ? Was he smiling like he could see the other world or just smiling cause looking up reminds him of his son and he’s happy knowing he’s still alive out there somewhere not suffering or on the run anymore?? So many questions!!

  • I just watched this (I don’t go to movie theaters anymore). As we got closer to the end of the movie, it became clearer and clearer to my mind that we’re dealing with ascension, as explored in the old TV series Babylon 5. In Babylon 5, several species throughout the quadrant were thought to have ascended into energy-form versions of themselves, though this was never directly observed by non-ascended species. The way ascension was portrayed in Babylon 5 is that an entire civilization would mass-ascend, every member of the species all at once.

    This movie seems to take a different spin on the concept, where ascension is gradual. Here, as individual humans ascend, they join those who ascended before them.

    The subtext seems to indicate that eventually all of humanity would ascend, but that the process would take thousands–even tens of thousands–of years. Meanwhile, ascended humans have built their own civilization, probably procreating and even dying (much, much longer life-spans I’d reckon), on another spectrum of matter (think string theory).

    Though non-ascended humans can’t see them, they can see us, probably even interact with and guide us as a species. There is a hint here, where the fallen nuclear satellite is concerned. Just think of all the close calls we’ve had as a species with nuclear annihilation. Another subtext seems to indicate that ascended humans are interacting with non-ascended humans at least enough to prevent this outcome.

    So there are my thoughts. I’d be curious to learn whether or not this is on par with what the director intended.

  • haha nice.

  • Hey poet,
    So from your vantage you are taking a position of almost reincarnation type position… one that says that it is the gradual betterment that eventually leads you to this ascension. No? Not that this is a religious flick, but we have been speaking about it somewhat in religious terms.

    So point/counterpoint, you see my Christianity analogy and raise me with a reincarnation approach? Or no… maybe the better religion to compare it to would be Taoism? Interesting.

  • I was thinking more from an evolutionary standpoint, not reincarnation. Have you ever watched the Babylon 5 TV series? It was the first TV series to ever make consistent use CGI in order to render space operations and battles (the absolute best space battles ever rendered), planetary environments, etc. If you haven’t watched the series, I’d recommend it to you. The actors are a little fuzzy in the first season, but they all settle into their characters wonderfully by the beginning of the second season. I still think of Babylon 5 as the greatest sci-fi story ever televised.

    Though the concept of ascension was explored or touched upon in several episodes, the Babylon 5 made for TV movie “River of Souls” I think does the best job of conveying what I mean.

  • The director even said that this was inspired by his own son who suffered a seizure at a young age and almost died. He explained it was a struggle dealing with that situation and this film embraces that emotion. I think Selim nailed it above.

  • To me the whole thing played out as a fantasy from the view point of the father of a dying son. Anyone would dream about an adventure and rescuing your special boy who ends up going to a cool space kingdom with other people like him rather than face the reality of your dying child.

  • Yeah, like the fevered dreams of a sick person… but the fevered dreams of the father of a sick child. Like it. Well played Brad.

  • I just saw the movie, and another googling anothers perspective of the ending, I have to say, I like the theory of ascension. Above note, Paul Servier does remind me of the Apostle Paul, in no way I took the movies with religious atonements, whether the director meant it or not, I have to agree, its sort of a new age Jesus, story. Though the fathers eyes in the end intrigue me, as for what it could stand for. Because he believed more so than anyone else, he may have been given the right to ascend, just not yet… Sort of like a believer for the second coming…. Lucas, Sarah, Paul, Roy and any others that are ready when the time comes.
    Another thought, is that he is one of them to, as he is the boys father. Could be an ethereal being that chooses to stay human, to help others like Alton, to ascend. This one doesn’t make as much sense, and just a thought on a tandem note. Anyways great review with a good explanation.



  • That glow in Roy’s eyes could be coming FROM Alton in the other dimension, telling his father that he’s still here with him. A last message of hope. I’m more curious about the probes that are attached to Roy’s head at the end. Was he about to be executed or are they experimenting on him? Why is he in a jumper and shackles if he’s just being tested?

  • One of your theory should have been about the very very very end of the movie. His father’s eyes shined just a little bit like Alton’s eyes. That was his mother and father. They had sex and had a kid. There was nothing in the movie that led you to believe that he wasn’t the son of the two of them. What I got from the end of the movie was that Alton’s father was one of them or a mix of us and them. He either knew it or he didn’t. I just think it’s crazy that you did not mention that in anything you said.

  • I agree, everything points out to Alton being their biological son. So why is he like that? Throughout the movie I kept waiting for that questioned to be answered. And when the dad eyes flared, I got! I believed the dad was also from the other world. Like Alton said on the interview, his people been. ..or always watching over the ppl of earth. So either, the dad fell in love w/ an earthling & had a baby, or Roy, himself was a previous mix breed. At the end when the father eye flickered, I noticed he had wires monitoring his brain, which would suggest, he is in control of his abilities & don’t want to become a guinea pig or his abilities aren’t that strong as Alton (possibly because he’s a mix breed ). Either way , the father was adamant about getting his son to that location -undoubtedly believing that the boy would be ok, once they reached the location. How come he had such faith in nothing he knew nothing of?

  • In your Jesus Christ Ascension theory you forgot to mention JUDAS!!! The gentleman whose first home they go to that selfishly uses Alton’s powers to enrich himself at the risk of losing him. And then they show that brief scene where it seems that he is going to spill the beans to the FBI/NSA. Whaddya think?

  • oh nice. Every Jesus-centric theory there needs to be a Judas in there somewhere. Well played Jane. (Jane? Jason? So confused.)

    Thanks for the shout out.

  • The fathers eyes glowing at the end to me signifies that he carries the same thing that alton is but to a much lesser degree. This suggests recessive genes to me. Think of it like a gene for blue eyes, each of us carry two sets of genes, the ones our mother gave us and the ones our father gave us. If one pair of genes has one that is dominant and one that is recessive then the one that is recessive will not be expressed in that person.

    Essentially, you can carry the gene for blue eyes but not have blue eyes yourself because you also carry the gene for brown eyes (dominant trait).

    With that said, both of Alton’s parents probably carry the gene for the “orbs” various abilities in them but since they are recessive they don’t have those powers themselves. This is why Alton doesn’t look like walking energy, he genes of the “orbs” mixed with those of humans. My guess is that one of the “orbs” came to earth at one point and had a child with a human (the regular way or some artificial way, I don’t know) and then those genes spread out into the gene pool until they ended up colliding together with Alton’s parents.

    If what I surmise is true, then more people like Alton could be possible to start popping up with variable amounts of “orb” characteristics.

    Back the father to close this out. His eyes likely glowed in the minor way at the end because he has a partial gene pairing of the “orbs” so he has a milder response to the sunlight.

    I’m a little surprised you didn’t see this since you looked so hard at the movie’s details. To be fair, I have no idea how familiar you are with gene dominance and expression. Not understanding the numbers is fair since I doubt enough information is even in there to decipher at all, it was just an internal calculation on the part of Sevier.

  • I find it funny that you all seem to have made your own theories about what this movie is about when the creator of the film pretty much explained it in an interview, and it had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with being a loving and supportive parent.

  • Oh I read those interviews, sure. Obviously. Love your kids. But this movie is riddled with homages to all things great and small… and to ignore them is to completely miss the depths of how it is to love your children.

    Granted, I am a Christian. So I find the enormous number of Biblical references fascinating. But that doesn’t mean the author of the screenplay is a Christian and that this movie is an 80’s Billy Graham revival. It’s just interesting to find all the short hands to deeper meanings inserted by the folks that put this movie together.

    You sound like me actually the first time I read Prufrock. Yeah. It’s about an old guy and the people around him who like to drink TEA. Sure. Yes. That is one meaning to the poem The Lovesong of J.Alfred Prufrock. But it could also mean that he is afraid of dying. Afraid of wasting his life small talking about absolutely nothing when he’s had something he’s been dying to say his whole entire life! Or something.

    Just saying.

  • So, if the writer/director didn’t intend any of the religious allegory, as he has claimed, is it just coincidence? It seems odd that that would be the case. I think I read that he was raised in a Christian home, so maybe he just subconsciously wrote it that way without realizing what he was doing? Or maybe he did intend it to be allegorical and just doesn’t want to admit it? The allegory definitely seems to be there whatever his intent was. If it is just a story of parenting, I’m trying to figure out what the ending means. Do Roy and Sarah parallel new parents trying to keep their child safe so that he can grow and prosper, or get to where he needs to be? Is that the significance of the “ascension” ending? Or are the orb/others the parental figures, always watching and listening in with their baby monitors to make sure the kid reaches his potential? Probably both of those, I guess that makes sense. Good movie.

  • First, I loved the film. And i think most are missing the ending with Roy, the boys father is standing in the days light all chained, but a look on his face like he is some place else. If you look real close, and don’t feel bad. I didn’t see this till the third time i watched it. As Roy looks off into the distance you see just a little flash of light in both his eyes. I think he may have crossed over fell in love had a child and that the rest of the story. Now why how come Roy cant go back.

  • Explanation is so simple guys. this Movie like many similar movies before is showing simple fact : Human race is primitiv, idiotic, self destructive very selfish and on and on, list is just to big hahahah. NSA, FBI, Army, Police, Satelites, cults, religions etc.
    It is just another humanist try to open people’s eyes but there is no chance to succeed on mass scale hhha. People are stupid and that’s it !!! Give the masses sex and nudity violence and death and they are happy!!!
    I maybe sound depressing but in the fact i am very happy person who accepts all this as fact of life. So that’s my opinion anyway ;)


  • Rather then approach the religious theory (given that the director himself has refuted that this movie had anything to do with religion or any kind of religious metaphors), i took it as a form of evolutionary ascension, there have been many theories surrounding the possibility of what humans could do if they unlocked the full potential of the brain, or beyond that, ascending into something else entirely, beings of pure energy… The end of the movie to me seems to be a play on that, Alton breaches the boundaries of our plane of existence, tearing back the veil and revealing a civilization of ascended beings.. the buildings are what makes me believe its simply humans who have ascended over the ages….. the scene where he is sick and revitalized by the sun… Hinting that ascended beings need to “recharge” via solar energy… The fact that they keep him out of the sun, and every time his powers are used he gets weaker and weaker … And at the end, where his fathers eyes glow slightly, showing that he him self has begun his path to ascension… Its painfully obvious that this director enjoys leaving the story behind the story up to the imagination of the viewer… which i respect because its very interesting seeing the different theories that people come up with… Sadly that is also why the movie most likely didn’t fair so well with a lot of reviewers…A lot of people prefer to have every detail explained to them and tend to shun movies who leave them wondering… To each their own i guess, i enjoyed this movie.

  • Midnight Special is Nichols’ fourth film. And like his first three, extra special.

    I was hyped to see this long before I had the chance to: Nichols’ directing a science-fiction themed film after the Southern-Gothic drama/comedy “Mud” just seemed so surreal. And any film starring Michael Shannon is worth my time seeing.

    I’m going to assume Paul saw a non-random pattern in Alton’s number-sequences. That Alton was born of two worlds (Father was “light” and Mother was “human”) and his painful episodes of light-bursts and asthmatic breathing were the result of growing-pains; a reconciling of two different anatomies fusing together. Alton’s “true” nature reaching the critical point and his realization of it as well.

    My biggest question would then be: Who exactly is Roy? A “light” being sent here as an observer in our midst, tasked with a “burden” much like the men sent from the Ranch (but with a violent, misguided intent) would be my guess.

    And what became of the Ranch…how did the members react after the passing of the day they’d been long expecting? Wish just a minute had been spent on their situation after Alton’s departure.

    The darkened drive at the beginning was a cool way to begin things (jumping us right into the action sans explanation) but it did seem a little off…not a great way NOT to attract attention. And why was that car stopped in the middle of the road before someone else struck it? It wasn’t turning…and what happened to the truck that hit the stopped car? That scene needed tightening up (and some lines for that unfortunate Trooper caught in the middle of things.)

    Nit-picking aside, a terrific film that holds up to repeated viewings. The denouement is a “Wow!” especially melded to that resonating soundtrack.

  • Michael Shannon’s character is also an orb-creature who sacrificed himself so his half-orb half-human son could live without prejudice and torture from the hands of humans. The ending shows Roy Tomlin making peace with the fact that he’s separated from his son, but communes with him nevertheless. I believe the federal government has a sort of inkling towards this theory, which is why they have him hooked up to an EEG, and standing in a corridor watching the sunrise.

  • This seems to be a story about a boy meant to be born in an alternate dimension. There is an unlimited number of dimensions, one where everything we imagine, or rather, anything we imagine exists and every possibilities live. So it is not impossible to say he’s from a dimension meant for beings that notices everything around them inter-dimensionally but was given birth to by a human in an odd dimension.

  • Surprised no one has brought up the constant references to being watched in our society and the constant debate about government intrusion etc. So, the movie clearly references these people who live above us and all we are told is that they watch us. Anyone feel uncomfortable? A bit of invasion of privacy here? Was Nichols making any sort of commentary on this?
    These people are never explained, they just lurk there, watching us. And the backdrop of the FBI and NSA taking over the Ranch, following with drones, spying with satellites. I’m not saying there were not security concerns, but these are all the privacy concerns debates in the years of Snowden etc. Seems like a huge theme of this movie!

  • The ascension theory is one I hadn’t considered, but in retrospect quite a plausible metaphor. The “other/alternate” world watching us is more sci-fi and therefore probably the most popularly acceptable.

    My biggest complaint and problem with the movie has nothing to do w/plot or meaning or metaphors. It’s really quite simple, yet incredibly annoying. It was the title. Before I literally accidentally came across it on cable and never really heard much about it beforehand when it was originally theatrically released, I thought it was a buddy movie. Or a comedy. Or about gun running or a myriad of other things other than what it actually was. Even after watching (& enjoying) the film, I still failed to see the connection with the plot and that God-awful misleading title.

  • That had me in stitches. Hahahaha. Too funny. I’ve never once thought about the title. But sure! I see it now. No idea how it’s relevant. None whatsoever.

  • I think you have something there but I was thinking more along the lines of evolution. It’s often been said that if humans could use 100% of their brain power they would have no need for a physical body and would exist as pure energy. Alton said that they other world had been observing ours for a very long time.

    I think that somewhere down the line humans started to evolve and when enough of them reached the stage Alton is in they either cloaked themselves or jumped to a higher plane, notice how the structures of their world were built on top and around ours, over roadways. And for thousands of years they built their world, because at first they still had physical bodies, beings of pure energy wouldn’t need skyscrapers and bridges, they kept to themselves keeping an eye on us, because we, the branch of humans that were slower to evolve, would get there some day if we didn’t kill ourselves first.

    Maybe once and a while they came to our plane of existence to guide us, and were mistaken for ETs, think petroglyphs and other real marking on cave walls thousands of years old, we look at it and see ET but it was really them, now obviously that’s just a movie but the cave art is real, you can google for it.

    Anyway just my take on it, it really seems to fit, one last thing. I think the sun has something to do with the evolution and why they thought it would kill Alton, why he had to be awake for that sunrise, he might have finished evolving sooner but they thought sunlight would kill him, he seemed to get a energy boost when in the sun, or maybe it would have killed him until he got to a specific age, old enough to handle it

  • It’s the continuation of cocoon

  • I somehow feel that the people being picked up, as well as Alton , are not the same people who “have been watching us for a very long time.”

    There are at least Alton & his kind, us, and the watchers.

  • Thank you I enjoyed this article it was a very interesting intepretation of the movie. The term ‘watchers’ appears in the book of Daniel (KJV) and refers to the Angels. The watching of course are the ‘eyes of Elohim’ and has (misphatim or divine judgement written all over it). This is significant with apocalyptic allusions particularly to Merkabah (ie in Ezekiel’s vision of the divine Chariot) and the ‘eyes’ that move every which way. So dam it – nearly everyone in the story had a bit of the truth – they just needed the whole picture (at the end). Heaven was where Alton wanted to go to. In the original Hebrew the word HaShamayim is translated heaven – and that word has ‘mayim’ in it which is the hebrew for water. I couldn’t help but not miss the references to water leading up to the part when Alton crossed over a bog to the field before the great manisfestation took place. So yes there appears to be a great deal of correlations with the Biblical data. Shalom to you Taylor!

  • hello to you all

    I just watched this movie and was intrigued enough to search out the meaning – like the rest of you – and found this site.

    First: Thank you Taylor great website and blog – good thoughts to get the conversation rolling

    Second:I enjoyed reading all your ideas – you are all well informed and quite creative.

    Third: I am impressed on the quality of all you commentators – positive, non critical, i wish earthling were all more like you guys

    About the movie: I really can’t add more to the movie than the previous commentators. I really like the references to the parents letting go of a sick child, which appears to line up with the director’s views but there certainly biblical and/or ascension overtones. The basic premise was and is a great story and was pulled off well but it is these overtones I believe that make one stop and think that there has to be more to life, which i really liked.

    One thing that wasn’t commented on, perhaps missed, was the 4 “others” or Orbs who walked with Alton could be seen as humans silhouettes which illuminated googles. At first i thought it was poor photography. But then realized that it was intentional – the “others” are in-fact humans who have ascended.

    Great webite, great article and I plan to look for the other movies directed by Jeff Nichols


  • Here it is 2019 & EVERYTIME I watch this movie I get more out of it! I found all the prior comments fascinating & brought up some aspects I never imagined.

    2 questions I still have and maybe you can answer for me?

    1. At the end where both Roy & Sarah bid Alton a wordless goodbye signalled with eyes locked & a brief smile WHICH ALTON returns (& again with Roy’s eyes illuminating at the end) IS IT possible that telepathy is used w/out the parents even conscious they are really transmitting to him (although they see him respond briefly both when Roy let’s him out of the car & Sarah watches him turn around..then leave from the bog..as she smiles & almost imperceptibly nods) and

    2. The words to “Midnight Special” the theme song at the end refer so clearly to the person breaking free of this earthly realm & “Lord take me with you”.
    .The writer of that song…Ben Nichols..the credits say..is he a relative of the movie’s Creator? & ASIDE from it being a SUPER song…WHY would that be chosen as the title song IF There wasn’t any Religious theme kind of intended do u think?
    Just curious

    That being said all in all a great movie with exceptional performances. Michael Shannon is one of my most favorite actors….he doesn’t disapoint here.

    & if all “watchers ” who are monitoring humankind are as “transparent” as these beings w/out causing force or harm then I think that says a lot asd to their origins & motives too.
    What do you think?

  • Very interesting comments on this unusual film which I was introduced to just today (and only watched once , so far. But it occurs to me to somewhat hint at what some have believed to be a reality mostly “lost” to modern minds: that of the Geni of ancient Zororastrian teachings of the Persians, ya, Genies! (Not the wiggle your nose type, if you please). In more modern times, an unusual, mysterious book from pre World War II, published in 1955, called the Urantia Book. This book, without authorship but claiming supernatural writers, details the birth in two periods from 50,000 to 200,000 years ago roughly, of a race of beings who are part human, invisible (but some not always) and not mortal, the “Midway Creatures” who are watchers, but also guardians of civilization, culture, and the rule of heaven on earth. One further quick note: the pilot Matt Arnold (?) who coined the term “flying saucer” in the 40’s (flying over the Cascade mountains out west saw several glowing disc-shaped things below him that seemed to skip along between the mountain tops like a stone or teacup saucer thrown on water) but 10 years or so later told Look Magazine (in a Flying Saucer special edition) that he never meant to imply they were extraterrestrial space craft but rather “living beings”. To my way of thinking “invisible” implies co-existence with normal reality but in something like another dimension. Just thinkin’….I’ve gotta watch it again…..

  • Just watched the film. Read the theories above. At a more mundane level, seemed to me to be a metaphor about about sexual abuse and mental escape. Also possibly abuse of power. I have to watch this again.

  • Yes… definitely got the religious theory, initially, but a parental love theory wins for me. Specifically from the scene when Alton and his mother are in the field and Alton is about to leave… that scene sealed the parent metaphor imo. Here’s why… that was when I realized how much the movie portrayed parental protection, care, concern, sacrifice. As Alton is about to leave to his otherworldly destination, Sara/mom is standing back as she looks terrified for her son, yet looks on with love and acceptance too. When raising a child, parents go through the same emotions of love, worry, sacrifice… all in the name of raising the child to be self sufficient, self accepting, and hopefully escape societal ills. Parents know that bad things lurk and they must protect their vulnerable child (vulnerable either from sheer youth, or illness as portrayed with Alton) from these potential harmful influences, i.e. the religious sect willing to murder for their beliefs, governments willing to committ reprehensible acts, and even individuals who call themselves friends only to take advantage and betray trust (think the Lucas character). This movie is about what it is to be a parent and what a parent goes through, emotionally, trying to safely raise a child to independence.

  • All of these opinions are great and I can see how this movie made us all think! At first, I thought it was about the government trying to take control of a child which may or may not have exceptional powers. Then, as it progressed, I began to see the connection with Christ, living, dying, and being raised from the dead. I kept thinking that it was almost like Heaven coming to earth as described in Revelations, but, in this case, it was coming for this child. It felt biblical to me when he showed his mother his skin after he got a glimpse of the next world when he saw the sunset for the first time. It was translucent and he told her there were others there just like him. I, too, see all the parallels to Christ and His ascension into Heaven. I know the director says it is not about the Bible or religion, except, he began the movie with an occult religion and a congregation believing this child was their way to salvation.

  • “The Biblical baby name Lucas is Hebrew in origin and its meaning is bringer of light, morning.”

  • Because he fell and while he get’s a signal from his son he’s unable to return.

  • I am a little surprised no one sees the Super String or M-Theory connection. With their 10 or 11 dimensions. All along through the film I instinctively tracked that the boy was a being from one (or more) of the other dimensions, and that the whole story was about getting him to the right spacetime location to cross the boundary and return to his “home” dimension.
    If you read up on the alternate dimension potential of the theories, there is much about not being able to observe those dimensions directly, but that they have an affect on ours. And that some of that can be (or must be included to) explained mathematically.
    The “other world” buildings observed when the “veil is pulled back”, existing in the same spacetime as ours, even connected to some of our buildings, was a perfect example of that to me.
    Nothing in the film contradicted this, and it was perfectly obvious to me, until I found this website in looking to see what others thought.
    As the beings in the other dimension are energy beings (at least as we observed them), the flash of light in the father’s eyes at the end seemed perfectly logical to me, as the son communicating with the father. He could literally have been standing right in front of him…
    Just a thought.

  • I’m surprised no one has talked fae. Ley lines were mentioned early in the movie by Elden. Watchers, children of the light, use of magic that didn’t automatically harm tech, human relatives, troubled relationship to church and nation, crossing over involving water, communication involving secret stones (cave), light being dangerous but sunrise renewing magic, nature-loving (trees on the balconies), not wanting to harm more than necessary, architecture lofty and absurd-seeming, ephemeral and time-defying existence?
    All of these are tropes related to the fae. And yes, Alton was watching and wordlessly communing with those who helped him, especially his parents.
    On another note, Roy’s backstory made him uniquely able to survive years of testing and prison life.

  • Thank you so much for writing all this FOR me. Perfectly explained theory and the theory that’s most applicable.

    It’s so obvious this is simply about ascension into 4 and 5 dimensions. Those were 4d or 5d beings at the end. NOT ANGELS LMAOO. Alton ascended by opening a portal and revealing other dimension. We all can ascend as well is the message and his fathers eyes was showing that message

    This is just like the movie and book The Celestine Prophecy where it talks and shows same Knowledge and at the end they also ascend like Alton and “disappear” onto next plane and then reappear when they choose like in Midnight Special with beings by the mom at the end. Y’all, before religion there was spirituality, period. You can say Christ story all day but the bigger picture than that is the universe and energy and all the many dimensional planes.

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