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Airplanes in the Movies

Those of us who love airplanes often also have a love for airplane movies.  Here are some of the best movies that are either (1) all about airplanes or (2) feature airplanes in some prominent scene or sub-theme. 

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While we're not movie critics, we've added a few comments of our own, along with convenient links to both DVD and VHS versions at Amazon.


Battle of Britain -  Movie about the real air battle that took place in WW2, while Germany was preparing to invade England.  Amazing airplanes, real and models.  A must watch for Spitfire fans.  You'll be dying to buy or build a Spitfire model after you see this one.  Famous (real) quote (Churchill): "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few".  Watch the movie and you'll know how he felt. 

12 O'clock High  -  About bomber crews in WW2 Europe.  About leadership as much as it's about planes.

Pearl Harbor -  The plot is not quite believable (one pilot in unrelated battles / missions) and the action scenes a bit overblown.  Still, good "blockbuster" type fun.

The Aviator - Should have won Best Film at Oscar night.  Great model airplanes, great acting, great insight into Howard Hughes' life.  That Hughes Racer is really slick, check it out if you visit the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.

Casablanca - Number 2 on the American Film Institute's "100 greatest movies list".  Not really an airplane movie, but has an unforgettable airplane scene.  Famous quotes: "Here's looking at you kid", "Round up the usual suspects", and "This looks like the start of a beautiful friendship"; all in that one famous scene...!

Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines

Blue Thunder -  OK, this is about helicopters, but any aviation fan will appreciate it.

Firefox - With Clint Eastwood, when he was only a famous actor (not a famous director).  Great "Cold War" atmosphere.

North by Northwest - Cary Grant gets run down in a field by an airplane, which looks suspiciously like a model.

Any James Bond movie - But especially Octopussy, both for the cool name and for the cool homebuilt jet.

Flying Tigers - With John Wayne.  About the real American Volunteers Group who fought the Japanese in China, before Pearl Harbor.  Some nice model and real airplane footage (P40 Tigersharks).

Bridges of Toko-Ri - F9F Panther jet fighter action

Hell's Angels -  This is the Howard Hughes' movie profiled in the Aviator.  Used real airplanes; some of the pilots did not survive filming. 

The Great Waldo Pepper

Tora Tora Tora! - WW2 Pacific Action

Midway - About the famous battle of Midway in the Pacific.  Great drama with many famous actors. 

Memphis Belle - Bomber crew in WW2

Flight of the Phoenix - The original one, starring Jimmy Stewart

Flight of the Intruder - A6 Intruders over South East Asia during the Vietnam conflict

Air America - Fictionalized version about the civilian airline that was actually a front for a CIA operation in South East Asia. 

Top Gun - Naval pilot training school.  Famous Quote: "I feel the need, the need for speed!"

Six Days Seven Nights - Comedy-Action-Romance, featuring great shots of the DeHavilland Beaver.  A GWS Beaver would look great in that color scheme...

Tuskegee Airmen - WW2 action, about African American pilots fighting the enemy as well as stereotypes.  An excellent movie on many levels.

Dark Blue World - WW2 Spitfires.





1941 - Action comedy, Spielberg directed.

The Dam Busters

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30 Seconds Over Tokyo - About the famous Doolittle raid that got some US pride back after Pearl Harbor. 

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A Wing and A Prayer

Spirit of St. Louis. Jimmy Stewart again (not that anyone minds), in the role of Charles Lindbergh.

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Strategic Air Command

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Empire of the Sun - Early Spielberg.  For P51 fans.

The Dawn Patrol - World War I action, starring the consummate swashbuckler, Errol Flynn.

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The Right Stuff - About the breaking of the sound barrier (Chuck Yeager) and the early astronauts.  Contains a few historical inaccuracies, but good fun.

Airplane - Slapstick stuff set aboard an airliner.

Piece of Cake - More Battle of Britain.  Actually a mini-series, featuring the Spitfire.

Catch 22