The Best Airport and Airplane Movies

According to many movies made about airports and airplanes, a disaster is always waiting in the wings. Thankfully, day-to-day workings in the airline world are far less dramatic. Here are several must-watch flicks for anyone with a fascination for all things airlines, airports, and airplanes, in no particular order.

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    ••• (L-R) Tom Hanks, Capt. Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger and Aaron Eckhart attend the special screening of 'Sully' at BFI IMAX on Nov. 17, 2016, in London. Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

    Seven years after the "Miracle on the Hudson," director Clint Eastwood brought this movie, starring Tom Hanks as Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. it got rave reviews from aviation geeks and non-aviation people alike for its realistic portrayal of the actual landing.

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    Although this film is a documentary, it gives viewers a bird's-eye view of what happens at a general aviation airport. Filmed at Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles, it shows the story behind the facility's fight to survive through the eyes of pilots, historians and aviation geeks, including Academy Award-winning director and pilot Sydney Pollack.


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    The commercial airline industry was in its infancy when this movie, starring John Wayne, was released in 1954. In a departure from his usual Western flicks, Wayne plays a washed-up captain demoted to first officer who is haunted by a crash that killed his family. On a routine flight from Honolulu to San Francisco, the DC-4 loses an engine past the point of where it can turn around. Drama ensues with the aircraft and the passengers aboard, and veteran pilot Wayne takes a risk and lands the plane safely. 

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    This movie, released in 1980, was an homage to "The High and the Mighty" if it had been a comedy, right down to the washed-up, haunted pilot. The film, starring Robert Hays and Leslie Nielsen, also featured memorable cameos from Kareen Abdul Jabar, Lloyd Bridges, Barbara Billingsley, Maureen McCormick and Ethel Merman, became a global sensation and fans still enjoy quoting the funniest lines from the movie.

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    Harrison Ford, himself a pilot, plays the president of the United States aboard his official jet when Russian terrorists take over the plane. Instead of being ejected from the plane in a special pod, Ford's character, a former Vietnam War-era Air Force pilot and hero stays aboard to eventually save the day.

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    George Clooney was pretty easy on the eyes in this film, but director Jason Reitman did a great job showing the realities of air travel, right down to filming key scenes in a closed terminal at Detroit Metro Airport. 


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    This is the original air disaster movie. The plot included storylines on a paralyzing snowstorm, environmental concerns over noise pollution, and an attempt to blow up a plane. It made a surprising $100 million on a $10 million budget. Star Helen Hayes won a best supporting actress Academy Award playing a stowaway, and other actors in the movie included Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy and Van Heflin. This is the movie that helped spawn sequels -- Airport 1975, Airport '77 and The Concorde: Airport '79 -- along with the spoof 'Airplane' series. 

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    Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Frank Abagnale, a forgery expert who flew the world pretending to be a Pan Am pilot and cashing fraudulent checks. He is eventually caught by an FBI agent played by Tom Hanks and ended up working for the FBI, then for himself by creating unforgeable checks. The film also starred Martin Sheen, Christopher Walken, and Amy Adams.

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    Aviation geeks go crazy over all the technical errors in this 1990 movie. Bruce Willis reprises his role as New York City cop John McClain, who stumbles on a rogue military plot at Washington Dulles International Airport during the busy Christmas season as he waited to pick up his wife, played by Bonnie Bedelia, who was aboard a flight. The mercenaries hijack the air traffic control system at Dulles, putting planes in danger of running out of fuel and crashing. 

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    After surviving a horrific plane crash Max Klein, played by Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges, is changed. The journey to his recovery from the trauma and aftermath of surviving is shared when he meets another survivor, played by Academy Award nominee Rosie Perez, of the same air disaster.

    The movie was based on United Airlines Flight 232, from Chicago to Denver. The plane had an uncontained engine failure that damaged the hydraulic system on the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 tri-jet. The jet made an emergency landing at Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City, Iowa, where 185 of the plane's 296 passengers survived.The crash scenes were so realistic that US Airways used the film to show the devastation of aircraft accidents and helped employees to plan accordingly.

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    Academy Award winner Denzel Washington plays a pilot who is forced to crash land a plane based on the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 after it experiences a mechanical failure. Although he's first lauded as a hero for saving the lives of 96 out of 102 passengers aboard, things change when a blood test administered by the National Transportation Safety Board discovered alcohol and cocaine in his system after the crash.

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    Academy Award winner Jodie Foster plays a widowed aircraft engineer who's on a jumbo jet (modeled after the Airbus A380) flight from Berlin to New York with her six-year-old daughter to bury her husband. A mystery ensues as the child disappears inflight and the crew acts as if she didn't exist, making Foster's character think she's crazy.

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    Wesley Snipes plays a former police officer mourning the loss of his wife, killed in a convenience store robbery. He gets a job training flight attendants in self-defence but ends up becoming the vice president of a new anti-terrorism unit for Atlantic International Airlines. Snipes ends up being passenger 57 on a Lockheed L-1011 that is transporting international psychopath terrorist​ Charles Rane to Los Angeles for a trial and the movie about that encounter.

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    This movie, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Julianna Margulies, was so bad it actually became good to watch. No need to explain the plot, because the title says it all. What makes this one special is that the movie was popular even before it was released in 2006, thanks to the studio including suggestions from fans in the film.

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    This movie, compiled of four episodes, included a remake of the iconic "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," which originally starred William Shatner. In this take, John Lithgow takes over the Shatner role as a nervous passenger who thinks he sees a gremlin on the wing of his aircraft who is intent on destruction.