Top 10 Plane Movies

10 – Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

First (and last) on our list is this delightful 1965 British comedy – subtitled Or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes – which tells the tale of a group of amateur airmen attempting to win the Daily Post air race from London to Paris. Stuart Whitman, Sarah Miles, Terry-Thomas, Robert Morley and James Fox feature in this quaintly endearing take on the competitiveness of the early years of flight.

9 – Catch Me If you Can

Based on the true story of forgery expert Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio), Steven Spielberg’s cat-and-mouse thriller shows how Abagnale grew up idolising airline pilots. One of his first cons involves him forging paychecks from Pan Am Airways with the stickers from toy Pan Am planes. He eventually manages to con his way onto real flights, and achieves his dream of walking through an airport, arm-in-arm with twenty beautiful flight attendants. A truly American take on Icarus flying too close to the sun.

8 – Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Steve Martin and John Candy play Neal Page and Del Griffith, two travellers forced into each other’s company by a series of transport disasters in this off-beat heartfelt comedy about the space we sometimes have to travel through to really know other people.Featuring one of the best bits of angry dialogue ever, which I must quote:

Car Rental Agent: [cheerfully] Welcome to Marathon, may I help you?
Neal: Yes.
Car Rental Agent: How may I help you?
Neal: You can start by wiping that fucking dumb-ass smile off your rosey, fucking, cheeks! And you can give me a fucking automobile: a fucking Datsun, a fucking Toyota, a fucking Mustang, a fucking Buick! Four fucking wheels and a seat!
Car Rental Agent: I really don’t care for the way you’re speaking to me.
Neal: And I really don’t care for the way your company left me in the middle of fucking nowhere with fucking keys to a fucking car that isn’t fucking there. And I really didn’t care to fucking walk, down a fucking highway, and across a fucking runway to get back here to have you smile in my fucking face. I want a fucking car RIGHT FUCKING NOW!
Car Rental Agent: May I see your rental agreement?
Neal: I threw it away.
Car Rental Agent: Oh boy.
Neal: Oh boy, what?
Car Rental Agent: You’re fucked!

7 – Up in the Air

George Clooney on Oscar-nominated form as Ryan Bingham, a professional fire-man…in the sense that his job is to fly all over America firing people. Ryan relishes his perpetual travels. Already entitled to the Concierge Key program by American Airlines, his personal ambition is to earn ten million frequent flyer miles. While traveling, he meets another frequent flyer, Alex (Vera Farmiga). They begin a casual relationship, meeting and sleeping together whenever they can arrange to cross paths. An elevated piece.

6 – Con Air

Nicolas Cage is on our list! Of course he is for how could we miss Con Air? Featuring so many immortal lines including “Nobody move or the bunny gets it”, “If your dick comes out of your pants, you’re off this plane”, and depicting the touching if ridiculous tale of the incarceration, release and transportation of Cameron Poe (Cage) and his escapades on board a plane hijacked by dangerous criminals. Look out for star turns by John Malkovich and Steve Belushi.

5 – The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s final installment in the the Dark Knight trilogy features arguably the best opening scene of the series, and certainly one of the best scenes set on a plane we’ve seen in the cinema. Tom Hardy’s Bane is introduced in terrifying form as he conspires to capture an informer from the clutches of the CIA in mid-air. Breathtaking plane action.

4 – Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

When an unhinged United States Air Force general orders a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, a race against time begins to prevent the B52 bomber carrying the deadly payload from starting a nuclear holocaust. One of the greatest films ever made, Dr Strangelove is also one of the best explorations of the psychology of those involved in this new and terrifying form of aerial warfare. If you haven’t seen yet, when do you plan on it?

3 – A Matter of Life and Death

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s beautiful 1946 romantic fantasy about the love that shouldn’t be allowed to blossom between British pilot Peter Carter (David Niven) and American radio operator June (Kim Hunter) features one of the greatest scenes set on a plane, which you can see below. The picture is charming, funny and utterly beguiling. In 2004 it was voted second greatest British film of all time by Total Film, behind Get Carter, which doesn’t feature any planes.

2 – Home Alone

Beloved of almost everyone, I’d imagine, Home Alone features as runner-up in our list almost entirely due to the scene where Macaulay Culkin’s mother realises she has left him at home. She’s sitting in first class, in front of uncle Frank, who’s just forced his wife to steal the crystal champagne flute, when suddenly it hits her. Go and watch it again and decide whether we’ve made the wrong choice and should’ve picked Home Alone 2: Lost in New York for the scene when she realises in the airport. Couldn’ve gone either way.

1 – Airplane!

Probably featuring more successful gags per minute than any other film, 1980s Airplane! is a justly and outrageously popular classic of the air. Following the story of a bunch of people who find themselves on a plane without a pilot, the film is more a collection of brilliant lines and Leslie Nielsen’s various deadpan faces than a narrative. I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.

Can you think of any plane films we’ve missed out, apart from Snakes on a Plane? We did that deliberately you know.

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