Howard the Duck is a 1986 American science fiction comedy film directed by Willard Huyck and starring Lea Thompson, Tim Robbins, and Jeffrey Jones. Produced by Hloria Katz and George Lucas, the screenplay was originally intended to be an animated film based on the Marvel comic book of the same name, but the film adaptation became live action due to a contractual obligation. Although there had been several TV adaptations of Marvel characters during the preceding 21 years, this was the first attempt at a theatrical release since the Captain America serial of 1944.
Lucas proposed adapting the surrealist comic book following the production of American Graffiti. After stepping down as the president of Lucasfilm Ltd. to focus on producing he chose to begin production on the film personally. Following multiple production difficulties and mixed response to test screenings, Howard the Duck was released in theaters on August 1, 1986. The film both received extremely negative reviews and became a box office failure. Contemporary critics focused on the decision to shoot the film in live action rather than as an animated film and the appearance of Howard as primary obstacles to the movie's success. More recent commentators tend to focus on issues with the script.
27-year-old Howard lives on Duckworld, a planet just like Earth but 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 ends up on Earth, in Cleveland, Ohio. Upon arriving, Howard encounters a girl being attacked by thugs and decides to help her out with his unique brand of Chinese martial arts, "Quack Fu". After the thugs scamper, the girl introduces herself as Beverly, 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, who 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. With the help of a no-nonsense secretary, he soon lands 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 sleazy manager, Ritchie, and confronts the manager when he badmouths the band. A fight ensues in which Howard is victorious, and he then forces the manager to release Cherry Bomb from their unfair contract.
Howard rejoins Beverly backstage after the band's performance, gives the band their money and accompanies Beverly back to her apartment, where Beverly chooses Howard to be Cherry Bomb's new manager. The two begin to flirt and joke at the idea of sexual intercourse, but are interrupted when Blumburtt and two of his colleagues, Dr. Walter Jenning and Carter, arrive and reveal how Howard came to Earth; Scientists had been working on a dimensional-jumping device that just happened to be aimed at Howard's universe and brought him to Earth accidentally. They believe they can send Howard back through a reversal of the process, so they all agree to visit the lab with the intention of sending him back. As they arrive at the lab the laser is malfunctioning again, this time causing Jenning's body to be taken over by an alien from "the Nexus of Sominus". Because the malfunctioning laser exploded someone has called the police, who arrive during the resulting chaos. Since Howard seems out of place (they believe him to be in a costume) the police decide Howard must be to blame and try to arrest him. Howard, Beverly and Jenning escape in Jenning's truck while Jenning begins a slow physical transformation into the alien he says is inside of him as the police pursue them.
They decide to visit a "Cajun sushi diner" where Jenning introduces himself as "the Dark Overlord of the Universe" and demonstrates his supernatural powers by causing a bottle of ketchup and a bottle of mustard to break. Howard is rude to the waitress, causing a group of truckers to insult him, leading to another fight. The entire diner then decides to cook Howard. They overwhelm him, carrying him into the kitchen and tying him to a table. The Dark Overlord then uses his powers to destroy the diner, freeing Howard. Deciding he will invade Earth, the Dark Overlord kidnaps Beverly, escaping in a semi truck. As she protests he explains he will need human hosts for his army.
On his own for the moment, Howard soon finds Phil and frees him from the police. The next section of the movie is an extended chase scene in which the two steal an ultralight aircraft, which they fly along roads searching for Beverly while the police remain in hot pursuit.
Back at the lab the Dark Overlord ties Beverly to a desk and puts her under the laser, saying he'll transfer another one of its kind into her body with the laser. Howard and Phil return to the lab and find a "neutron disintegrator" the lab had been testing for the military. When they shoot him with the weapon the Dark Overlord is forced from Jenning's body; neither are harmed. The Dark Overlord turns out to be a monstrous scorpion-like creature with human-like face and arms. Howard fires the neutron disintegrator again, obliterating the Dark Overlord, but there are already more of the Dark Overlords on their way to Earth. Howard is forced to decide between letting Earth's invasion take place while he returns home or destroy the laser, which would strand him on Earth. Howard chooses to destroy the laser.
Remaining on Earth, Howard chooses to become the manager of the band for Beverly. He hires Phil as a crew member for the band during their tour. A large rock concert is shown where Howard is invited up on stage with Beverly's band and is shown playing guitar with them.