Midnight Special Explained (Plot And Ending)

Midnight Special is a sci-fi drama directed by Jeff Nichols, depicting the pursuit of a boy with supernatural abilities by the government and a religious cult, unravelling mysteries of faith and the extraordinary as the boy’s father tries to protect him. The cast has Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver and Jaeden Martell in leading roles. Many found the film unsatisfactory, but many loved it. Watch it and make your own decision. Here’s the plot and ending of the movie Midnight Special explained; spoilers ahead.

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Oh, and if this article doesn’t answer all of your questions, drop me a comment or an FB chat message, and I’ll get you the answerYou can find other film explanations using the search option on top of the site.


Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:

Why is the movie called Midnight Special?

The title refers to the train called Midnight Special and the song based on it. According to folklore, if the light of the ‘Midnight Special’ train shone on a prisoner’s cell, it was believed that the inmate would be pardoned or set free. The song captures the anticipation and hope associated with the train’s arrival, symbolizing the potential for liberation or a fresh start. This is closely tied to the theme of the film. Also, the Midnight Special train was operated by the Alton Railroad, also the boy’s name.

Midnight Special: Plot Explained

Midnight Special: What is Alton?

Midnight Special What Is Alton?

Alton is a kid with supernatural abilities and was born to Sarah and Roy. It appears that they gave up the boy for adoption to a religious group in Texas, namely to Pastor Calvin Meyer, because of the nature of the boy’s powers. 

Alton can:

  • Intercept electromagnetic and radio waves
  • Manipulate electronic devices telepathically
  • Emanate energy fields (which is initially mistaken to be hypersensitivity to sunlight, hence the goggles)

He is possibly capable of other things, but we’re not shown in the film.

Fun Trivia: Alton is reading a superhero comic, and he emits an energy field from his eyes, much like Zod, played by Michael Shannon in Man Of Steel, great casting.

Midnight Special: What is the ranch?

The ranch is a religious cult led by Calvin Meyer, the adoptive father of Alton. The ranch believes that Alton is a messiah figure; they see him as a saviour and are convinced that his abilities hold the key to salvation.

Why is the government after Alton?

The word about Alton’s powers gets to the government as they notice encoded numbers sent via satellite as part of pastor Calvin’s sermons. The government finds Alton a threat and wants to use him to enhance their national security, science and technology. Clearly, not a great career path for Alton.

Why does Roy take Alton away from the ranch?

After seeing that Alton is stuck between two groups, the government and the religious cult, Roy fears for Alton’s life and takes him away with the help of Lucas, a childhood friend and now State Trooper. Roy finds each group is after Alton for their own selfish needs, and his son will be safer with him. Upon reuniting with his father, Alton asks him to take him to a specific location. While Roy, Serah and Lucas don’t know precisely why, they trust Alton and pursue their mission.

Who is Elden?

Elden is a member of the religious cult who doesn’t live on the ranch anymore. It appears he broke away from them and now is the safe house owner that Roy uses to halt for the night with Alton and Lucas. While we don’t know why Elden left the ranch, he announces he greatly misses it.

What is Elden doing to Alton?

During this scene, Elden is likely attempting to connect with or understand Alton’s powers on a spiritual level. The cult members, including Elden, perceive Alton as a messiah figure, and they believe that his eyes might hold the key to some profound revelation or insight. Elden’s actions at this moment reflect the cult’s deep-seated faith and their conviction that Alton’s abilities are of a higher, possibly divine, nature.

Roy knocks Elden unconscious, ties him to a chair and leaves with his van.

What does Alton do to the satellite, and why?

What does Alton do to the Satellite?

Alton senses that a satellite is being used to track his position, so he leaves the van’s safety and telepathically locates and destroys the satellite. The debris rains down on the fuel station they are at, and they make a run for it. They arrive at Sarah’s place, where Alton explains what he did.

Seeing the sun

As they continue driving out, Alton has an episode in the van where his eyes glow out of control. Roy takes him away and spends the night in the woods. Alton grows very weak and explains to his dad that he needs to see the sun. At dawn, Alton sees the son and creates a massive energy field. However, the nature of the field is not explained, just that it doesn’t seem to cause mass destruction.

What is the energy field?

I believe the field Alton creates when exposed to the sun temporarily alters the visible spectrum to see an otherwise cloaked world built on top of the human world. The species that lives in this world prefers to stay hidden. Roy and Alton witness this world out in the woods, but it’s not shown to the audience till the end.

Who is Paul Sevier?

Who is Paul Sevier?

Paul is a communications analyst for the National Service Agency and has been brought in to understand how Alton and the ranch may have gotten hold of the encoded numbers. The government eventually brings him in to talk and understand the nature of Alton’s powers. Paul deciphers that the coordinates in the sermons are random locations which Alton intercepted as part of government communications. They are not unique places. Paul theorizes that Alton was looking for a language to describe a location, and all Alton heard was coordinates. Paul further analyses the coordinate numbers and zeros in on the direction they are headed. We don’t know how he circles those numbers, but we can assume that Paul’s ability to see patters is exceptional.

Who are the two guys?

These are two government-hired hitmen with ties to the ranch. They are operating on their own to do whatever it takes to locate and abduct Alton. The two start tailing Roy until they find Elden and get information on where Alton is headed. Remember Elden forced Alton to show him visions? This would have given him some insights on where Alton plans to go, and the two guys beat that out of Elden. They eventually find the place where Sarah, Roy and Lucas are, shoot them, grab Alton and leave.

A high-speed car chase is cut short by a traffic pile-up, and in the end, Roy realizes that the two men have already handed Alton over to the government in a helicopter they had seen moments before.

The Interrogation

When Alton is interrogated, he demands to talk alone to Paul, and the suits oblige. Alton alters the electronics to ensure the cameras are capturing nothing by Alton sitting on a chair. Then he shows Paul everything about the second world and why he needs to go there. Alton then powers down the building, and Paul helps Alton escape and reunites him with his parents.

The Final Destination

Alton leads his family to the coordinates he needs to get to; they drive through a blockade to get there. Sarah and Alton exit the car, and Alton and Lucas drive on as a decoy. In that short moment, Roy bids farewell to his son. Roy leads the troops away.

Midnight Special: Ending Explained: What happened to Alton?

Midnight Special Ending Explained - What happened to Alton?

The ending of Midnight Special shows Alton getting to the coordinates and setting off an energy blast, which reveals giant structures that belong to the species living on top of the human world. Members of the species arrive to escort Alton, who bids farewell to his mom before collapsing the energy field and disappearing.

Roy has already seen this once in the woods, so he realizes Alton is safe and will soon depart. The car crashes, and Roy and Lucas are arrested. The government, refusing to believe what their people saw, continues questioning Lucas about Alton’s location. Paul shows up to interview Lucas, acting like he never met him, but Paul fully understands what has happened as Alton showed the other world to him.

Midnight Special: Was Alton an Alien?

No, Alton was born to two earthlings, Roy and Sarah. The other world and its people can be an evolved human species, aliens, or time travellers – the film doesn’t go into that. However, it’s entirely possible that the presence of their world interferes with ours in a way that results in the birth of advanced species like Alton because of cosmic and otherworldly forces.

As to how they got here, perhaps, they have been here much before the humans and the primitive human species have been living on the planet oblivious to their existence. Who is to say that cows or other animals and birds can’t see them, maybe they have always seen them, and it’s a regular sight for them. The civilization has been on Earth for so long that the word alien wouldn’t fit.

Midnight Special: Is Roy an alien? Why does Roy’s eyes shine in the end?

Midnight Special was Roy an alien | glowing eyes.

Roy might have some altered genes, but he is not alien; he is just more evolved. In the final frames, we are shown Roy trying hard, and eventually, a slight glow appears in his eyes. While he might not have the powers of Alton, it seems Roy has just enough abilities to continue to have a connection with Alton, which makes it a bitter-sweet ending.

What were your thoughts on the plot and ending of Midnight Special? Drop your theories and comments below!