Howard the Duck is a 27-year-old eligible bachelor who lives on the planet Duckworld. It looks like Earth, but anthropomorphic ducks, bearing a strong resemblance to Donald at Disney, inhabit it. It’s also has two moons instead of one.
During a leisurely evening, reading the articles from his latest issue of Playduck magazine, his armchair begins to shimmy and shake violently. He and the chair are catapulted out of his apartment building, up into the night sky, and into outer space. Howard eventually lands in the shittiest hole on the planet Earth; Cleveland, Ohio. That’s what I call a double whammy!
He lands in a dazed confusion, but spots a group of thugs accosting a young woman. He takes the odd looking men out using some sort of Quack Fu. The gang runs away from the Killer Duck of Caerbannog, and the grateful young girl introduces herself as Beverly Switzler. She asks Howard if he’d like to go to her apartment, and stay the night. She’s pretty cute for a girl without feathers, so he says yes.
The following day, Beverly introduces Howard to Phil “Philsy” Blumburtt. He’s a scientist Beverly thinks can return Howard home. Once Howard realizes Philsy is really just a janitor at the lab, Howard realizes he’s going to be on Earth for the rest of his life. He rejects Beverly, and goes his own way.
He looks for odd jobs, and lands one as a janitor himself at a local “romance” spa. Howard quickly quits, and goes back to Beverly. He visits her at a night club where her band, Cherry Bomb, plays 80s music. Once there, Howard uses his Quack Fu to fire Cherry Bomb’s disrespectful manager who insults the band instead of promoting it.
After Cherry Bomb’s set is over, Howard meets Beverly backstage, and the two go back to her place. She gets Howard to be the band’s new manager. The two flirt back and forth, and just when you think you might get to see Beverly fluff Howard’s feather pillow (or at least kiss him at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance), the bumbling Philsy arrives with Dr. Walter Jenning.
He tells Howard that a laser spectroscope they created was aimed at Howard’s planet the night of his abduction. They think it zapped him to Earth when they activated it. He hypothesizes that they can send Howard back to his world through a reversal of that same process.
They take Howard to the lab and activate it, but there’s a malfunction, and now the men think they might have brought something else unknown to Earth, but what? Hopefully it will be as fluffy and cute as Howard!
Unfortunately, it’s not; not at all. The life form comes from a distant region of space, and it now possesses Dr. Jenning. Howard, Beverly, and Philsy takes Jenning away from the lab. At a diner, the creature introduces itself as the Dark Overlord of the Universe where it demonstrates it has powerful mental powers. It uses them to destroy the table’s helpless utensils and condiments.
Your stereotypical 80s truckers start insulting Howard’s appearance; thinking it’s a man in a duck suit. Howard begins to use his Quack Fu on the fellas, but the Dark Overlord gets angered, and it destroys the diner before escaping with the lovely Beverly.
Howard locates Philsy, and breaks him out of jail after the police arrest him for being at the laboratory with no security clearance. Once out of jail, they steal an ultralight aircraft to search for Beverly and the Dark Overlord. Howard can’t fly though, so Philsy does it all.
We wind up back at the lab again. The Dark Overlord ties Beverly down to a metal bed so she can be the host body for another one of his kind from his dimension. Howard and Philsy arrive in the nick of time to destroy the Dark Overlord using an experimental neutron disintegrator.
However, it turns out the creature isn’t dead when they zap him. It just frees the creature from Jenning’s cramped body. Once the Dark Overlord reveals himself in his true form, Howard fires the neutron disintegrator at him; killing him all dead this time. Howard then destroys the laser spectroscope to prevent more Dark Overlords from arriving on Earth.
Unfortunately, it also destroys Howard’s only chance of returning to his planet (not like they couldn’t build a new one). However, all’s right, toots. Howard becomes Beverly and her band’s manager. He hires Philsy as an employee on her tour, and after he accidentally winds up on stage, Philsy gives him a red guitar. Howard plays away with Beverly while she sings the Howard the Duck theme song to close out the movie.