Howard the Duck is a 1986 American comedy science fiction film directed by Willard Huyck and produced by George Lucas. Loosely based on the Marvel comic book of the same name, created by Steve Gerber and quoting scripts by Bill Mantlo, the film focuses on Howard, an alien from a planet inhabited by anthropomorphic ducks, who is transported to Earth, where he meets Beverly, a struggling singer. As Howard attempts to find a way to return to his planet, he helps Beverly with her career, develops a romance with her, and finds himself having to save humanity from an evil alien monster. The film stars Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins, and the voice of Chip Zien as Howard. It was the first theatrically released film starring a Marvel Comics character. Lucas proposed adapting the comic book following the production of American Graffiti, and began production on the film after stepping down as the president of Lucasfilm to focus on producing. Huyck and producer Gloria Katz's adaptation altered the personality of the character, and placed less emphasis on satirical storytelling in order to highlight the special effects work of Industrial Light & Magic. Following multiple production difficulties and mixed response to test screenings, the film was released to very poor critical and commercial reception. Criticism was made regarding the decision to shoot the film in live action rather than as an animated film and the unconvincing appearance of Howard. Overall, the tone of the film is in diametric opposition to the comics. Katz declared that "It's a film about a duck from outer space... It's not supposed to be an existential experience... We're supposed to have fun with this concept, but for some reason reviewers weren't able to get over that problem." It was a problem because of the existential nature of the original material. Gerber himself declared that the series' joke is "'This is no joke!' There it is. The cosmic giggle. The funniest gag in the universe. That life's most serious moments and most incredibly dumb moments are often distinguishable only by a momentary point of view. Anyone who doesn't believe this probably cannot enjoy reading Howard the Duck." The film has acquired minor internet meme status due to The Nostalgia Critic's review (The "Duck Tits" scene in particular).
Howard (voiced by Zien) lives on Duckworld, a planet inhabited by anthropomorphic ducks. One night, as he reads the latest issue of Playduck Magazine, his armchair begins to quake violently and propels him out of his apartment building and into outer space, where he eventually lands up on Earth, in Cleveland, Ohio. Upon arriving, Howard encounters a woman being attacked by thugs and decides to help her out with his unique brand of "Quack Fu". After the thugs scamper, the woman introduces herself as Beverly (Thompson), and decides to take Howard to her apartment and let him spend the night. The next day, Beverly takes Howard to a supposed-scientist by the name of Phil Blumburtt (Robbins), whom Beverly hopes can help Howard return to his world. After Phil is revealed to be only a lab assistant, Howard resigns himself to life on Earth and rejects Beverly's aid. He soon winds up landing a job cleaning up at a local romantic spa. Due to unfair treatment by his boss, Howard ultimately quits his job and returns to Beverly, who plays in a band called Cherry Bomb. At the club where Cherry Bomb is performing, Howard comes across the group's manager, and confronts the manager when he bad-mouths the band. A fight ensues in which Howard is victorious, before getting the manager to force Cherry Bomb out of their unfair contract. Howard rejoins Beverly backstage after the band's performance, gives the band their money and accompanies Beverly back to the apartment, where Beverly chooses Howard to be Cherry Bomb's new manager. The two begin to flirt and almost engage in sexual intercourse, but are interrupted when Blumburtt and two of his colleagues, Doctor Walter Jenning (Jones) and Larry (Paymer), arrive and reveal how Howard came to Earth: earlier, the scientists had been working on a dimensional-jumping device that just happened to be aimed at Howard's universe and brought him to Earth when it was activated. They theorize that Howard can be sent back to his world through a reversal of this same process, so they drive Howard to the lab with the intention of sending him back. The device malfunctions upon being used a second time, and Jenning's body is taken over by a lifeform from another alternate dimension. When the police arrive, the resulting chaos leads Howard, Beverly and Jenning to escape from the police as Jenning's transformation becomes more apparent. After eluding the police, they arrive at a Cajun sushi diner where the lifeform introduces itself as the "Dark Overlord of the Universe" and demonstrates its developing mental powers by causing the table condiments to explode. Chaos ensues when a group of truckers in the diner begin to insult Howard, resulting in a fight. This results in Howard's capture and near-decapitation at the hands of the diner chef. Meanwhile, the truckers are scared off when the Dark Overlord destroys the cafe, kidnaps Beverly, and escapes in an articulated truck. Howard then finds Phil and frees him from the police car he had been held in after being arrested for his role in the science center explosion. On the run, the two discover an Ultralight aircraft, which they use to search for the Dark Overlord and Beverly. Meanwhile, having returned to the lab, the Dark Overlord ties Beverly down to a metal bed, hoping to transfer another one of its kind into her body with the dimension machine. Howard and Phil return to the lab and apparently destroy the Dark Overlord with an experimental "neutron disintegrator" laser. However, it had only been knocked out of Jennings' body. Then, the Dark Overlord reveals itself as a monstrous creature. Howard fires the neutron disintegrator at the beast, obliterating it, and destroys the dimension machine, preventing more monsters from being brought to Earth, but also removing Howard's only chance of returning to his planet. Howard then becomes Beverly's manager and hires Phil as an employee on her tour.