Whether you love to travel or not, almost everyone loves some of these best airport movies. Although this is not a comprehensive collection, it is certainly a relative one.
Air travel has evolved a lot since Wilbur Wright took his first flight and even more when passenger air travel became more of an every day affair for the masses and commercial air travel was born. Here is an eclectic mix of movies either shot almost entirely in airports, on “airplanes,” or with plot lines that centered around travel in one way or another.
I think it’s rather interesting that Steven Spielberg directed two of the best airport movies on my list, The Terminal and Catch Me if You Can, and they also starred Tom Hanks. This wasn't intentional, I just realized it as I was looking at credits when I put this list together. My list of best airport movies also features Leonardo DiCaprio in two films in the starring role.
Tom Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, an eastern immigrant who finds himself stranded in JFK airport in The Terminal. Viktor must take up temporary residence in the airport when a political action in his homeland leaves him as a man without a country. It’s a very heart warming movie as Viktor makes friends with airport employees. Directed by Steven Spielberg . Also stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Stanley Tucci. (2004)
Video: The Terminal Movie Movie Trailer
Up In the Air
George Clooney portrays Ryan Bingham who has a job traveling around the country firing people in Up In The Air. This leads to Ryan living his life out of a suitcase. He loves being a road warrior and all the travel perks that brings. I absolutely love the “TSA Check-In Ballet” Scene where he’s so familiar with security process he glides through it like a beautifully choreographed dance routine. Also, as a "mileage whore," I love the scene when George & Vera's characters compare frequent flyer status cards...classic! The movie also stars Jason Bateman, Vera Farmiga, and J.K. Simmons. (2009)
Video: Up In the Air Movie Trailer
Catch Me If You Can
A true story about Frank Abagnale Jr. played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Catch Me If You Can tells the tale of how, before his 19th birthday, Frank successfully conned millions of dollars worth of checks as a Pan Am pilot. I love the airport scenes of Leonardo flocked by the flight attendants that remind me of the “Golden Age of Travel.” Directed by Steven Spielberg. Also stars Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, and James Brolin. (2002)
Video: Catch Me If You Can Movie Trailer
Non-Stop is a mystery-action-thriller starring Liam Neeson as Bill Marks, a former cop now working as a federal air marshal. While on a flight from New York to London, Marks gets a text telling him that unless 150 million dollars is transferred to an offshore account, someone will die every 20 minutes. The movie also stars Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Lupita Nyong'o and Scott McNairy. (2014))
Video: Non-Stop Movie Trailer
I love a good a suspense movie and is a modern Hitchcock-style thriller. Jodie Foster portrays a bereaved woman who also designed the plane she is flying home from Berlin to America on. Accompanied by her young daughter, the child vanishes at 30,000 feet and nobody admits she was ever on that plane. Also stars Sean Bean. (2005)
Video: Flightplan Movie Trailer
If you want to get a sneak peak at history, then The Aviator starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchard is a must view. This biopic depicts the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes' career from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s. Although we all know this story was dramatized, I do love all the high notes hit on aviation history in this movie. (2004)
Video: The Aviator Movie Trailer
Inspired as a spoof on all the Airport movies of the 1970’s, in Airplane!, the flight crew takes ill and the only person capable of landing the plane is an ex-pilot who is afraid to fly and also has a “drinking problem.” This cast is hilarious and includes Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, Julie Hagerty, Robert Hays, Robert Stack (who was also in Airport 1975) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in some of the funniest scenes with a kid. It also has a memorable scene with Barbara Billingsley (Mrs. Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver) jive talking. Too young to remember jive talking? Then you need to watch this movie on DVD, but watch Airport 1975 first so you’ll understand all the satirical references and it will be twice as funny. (1980)
Video: Airplane Movie Trailer
In the seventies, disaster movies were big: Earthquake, Poseiden Adventure, Towering Inferno and they were blockbuster gold for the movie studios. I think the movie, Airport, (so successful it became a series of movies) sort of started this disaster movie phenomenon. This may have been because it was during the era of some of the first airplane hijackings and was the catalyst for installing airport security screenings. I actually remember getting on a plane in 1969 and we did not have to go through any type of security. That all changed dramatically in the 1970’s.
Airport was a movie about an escalated series of events involving a bomber on board an airplane, an airport almost closed by snow, and various personal problems of the people involved. The all star cast including Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, George Kennedy, Jacqueline Bisset, Helen Hayes, Maureen Stapleton and Gary Collins (whom I worked with as a producer at ABC-TV’s Home Show in the early 1990’s). (1970)
Video: Airport Movie Trailer
In this sequel to Airport, in Airport 1975 a 747 collides in flight with a small plane and is subsequently rendered "pilotless." Somehow the control tower must get a pilot aboard so the jet can land. As I watched the trailer, it was alarming how so much of this movie inspired the satire comedy Airplane which will seem twice as funny if you watch Airport 1975 first. This movie stars Charlton Heston, Karen Black, George Kennedy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Helen Reddy, Linda Blair, Dana Andrews and Myrna Loy (reunited from the 1945 Best Picture “The Best Years of Our Lives”) (1975)
Video: Airport 1975 Movie Trailer
In this version of Airport meets Poseidon Adventure, art thieves hijack a 747 in Airport ‘77. The rub on this third in the series of airplane disaster flicks is that the plane hits fog and then crashes in the Bermuda Triangle, trapping the thieves and the passengers under 100 feet of water. Stars Jack Lemmon, Brenda Vaccaro, Lee Grant, George Kennedy, James Stewart and Olivia de Havilland to name just a few In this all-star cast. (1977)
Video: Airport ‘77 Movie Trailer
View From the Top
View From the Top takes a comic look at the world of flight attendants. It stars Gwyneth Paltrow a Donna, a small town gal from Nevada who dreams of seeing the world by becoming a first class international flight attendant. Donna finds a mentor in retired flight attendant, Sally Candice Bergen), now a best-selling author who give Donna advice. Christina Applegate also stars as Donna's friend and together, they endure a daunting flight training course taught by a once-aspiring steward (played by the hilarious, Mike Meyers) whose eye condition has kept him forever out of the friendly skies. Lots of other stars include Mark Raffula, Rob Low, Josh Malina and Kelly Preston. This is a fun movie you'll enjoy, but it does have some slow moments. (2002)
Video: View From the Top Movie Trailer
Come Fly Wih Me - BBC TV Series
Come Fly with Me is a hilarious British mockumentary television comedy series created by and starring Matt Lucas and David Walliams -- the Little Britain guys. The series is narrated by Lindsay Duncan and follows the activity at a fictional airport and three fictional airlines: FlyLo (a low-cost airline), Our Lady Air (an Irish low-cost airline) and Great British Air (a major international British airline). Lucas and Walliams will keep you in stitches as they portray many of the airline and airport staff, as well as some passengers. Produced in the style of a "fly-on-the-wall documentary," you'll also love the celebrity guest stars that show up at the fictional airport -- including David Schwimmer among others. This was previously available on Netflix streaming, but currently may only be available on DVD. It is worth every dime since the comedy is simply briliant. (2010)
Video: Come Fly With Me BBC TV Trailer
I believe that most of the movies are available on DVD. A final and fourth Airport Movie was produced in 1979 but it was just so bad that it’s not worth a mention. Feel free to google the trailer though. I love putting together these fun list of favorites. Hope you've enjoyed them too!
Is there a great airport movie that I missed? Please add it hear and tell me all about it!
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For over twenty years, TV Travel Show Producer, Marianne Schwab, has been collecting money saving travel tips as a travel producer for high profile television programs. She has flown all over the world and produced live television productions on location from Caesar's Palace on the Vegas Strip to the beautiful island of Oahu. Read more