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Some of the Best Movies about Planes and Pilots

Strap in and grab your popcorn, it’s time to watch some films about flying. Although a far cry from actually flying, a great movie about airplanes has the ability to capture the beauty of flying, inspire some to get their wings (or get back up there), and remind us what can happen if things go wrong. Here are some of the greatest movies about planes and pilots, in alphabetical order.

Airplane!
Although not exactly realistic, Airplane! is definitely an iconic movie. This spoof of the 1957 disaster film Zero Hour! stars Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, and other comedy greats. The plot is hilariously heroic: an ex-fighter pilot, traumatized from an unnamed war, steps in to land a Boeing 707 after the pilots pass out from food poisoning in order to win the affections of the stewardess. One of the best lines is by actress Julie Hagerty who plays stewardess Elaine Dickinson, “Ladies and gentleman, this is your stewardess speaking. We regret any inconvenience the sudden cabin movement might have caused. This is due to periodic air pockets we encountered. There’s no reason to become alarmed and we hope you enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?”

The Aviator
In 2004, Martin Scorsese teamed up for the second time with Leonardo DiCaprio on The Aviator, a blockbuster biopic of the life of filmmaker, entrepreneur, and airplane aficionado, Howard Hughes. The film highlights some of Hughes’ airborne accomplishments, including owning TWA and flying around the world in four days.

The film won three Golden Globe awards, including Best Motion Picture — Drama and Best Actor — Drama. In 2005, The Aviator garnered 11 nominations — the most of any film — at the 77th Academy Awards. The film won five Oscars: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Cate Blanchett), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography.

Fly Away Home
This quietly inspirational movie starring Jeff Daniels and a young Anna Paquin is about a very unique homemade plane, a young girl, and a gaggle of baby geese. When 13-year-old Amy Alden, played by Paquin, comes across a goose egg nest in an area being demolished, she brings them home and cares for them until they hatch under a heat lamp. The challenge is they they’ve imprinted her as “mother,” will only follow her, and won’t migrate south on their own. After some convincing only a cute daughter is capable of, her father Thomas, played by Daniels, builds a homemade gas-powered “goose” plane for Amy to take up and lead her geese south. We won’t spoil the ending, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s a delightful movie the whole family can enjoy. Make it your next movie night with the kids.

Top Gun
Ah, to be a young, cocky U.S. Navy fighter pilot. This hit 1986 action film starring Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, and others is all about adrenaline, jet-fueled power and romance. The aerial dogfight scenes to the soundtrack of “Danger Zone” captured the national zeitgeist to the point that inquiries into the Navy’s Aviation Officers Training School markedly increased. Everyone wanted to be “Maverick!”

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