Airplane! (1980)

There are legitimately few films that we as a species have collectively decided are close to flawless. For many these are artsy and brooding epics but for others these include fun comedies and silly stories. Guess which Airplane! is?


I’ll begrudgingly outline the plot for anyone who hasn’t seen this film, but you really need to go away and rethink your life choices up until this point.

Traumatised fighter pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays) still hasn’t got over his old flame and flight attendant, Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty). Determined to win her back, he boards her flight, only to discover much of the passengers and crew are suffering from a severe case of food poisoning. Striker must confront his inner demons and land the plane with the help of a gruff air-traffic controller and his former commander.

Airplane! is held together by the love story at its core. It contains a ticking clock scenario involving a heart transplant that is quickly milked for gags and left aside. (It’s an interesting choice as the genre would have ran with this as a basis for the human element of the film)

Elaine and Ted are in the midst of a relationship speedbump and it drives that aforementioned aspect of the film leading to some comical flashbacks.

airplane film review crazydiscostu ever been in a cockpit before


There’s a great flavour of the disaster movie genre even from the opening exterior shots of the airport, expertly fostered by Elmer Bernstein‘s wonderfully genre-laden score.

Airplane! parodies the genre of disaster film (specifically air disaster) with expert skill using send-ups that are lovingly woven into the fabric of the film and make up the DNA of the music, FX, titles and plot points.

airplane film review crazydiscostu comedy disaster


The film opens with a parody of Jaws and contains a joke about abortion within the first 3 minutes so if you’re sensitive of either subject in films then I suggest you get counselling and avoid this one altogether. For the rest of us it plants a flag and sets the tone for the tomfoolery that will follow.

Airplane! boasts a comedic formula Hot Shots skilfully adapted and the Scary Movie franchise tirelessly failed to replicate. Extensive use of 4th wall breaking, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it backgrounds and visual gags that are sometimes telegraphed, punctuated with timing and concluded to satisfaction.

Each scene is loaded with layers of audio and visual gags ensuring the viewer picks up something new with each viewing.

airplane film review crazydiscostu leslie neilsen


The film is largely based off the disaster movie Zero Hour (1957) which the producers subsequently bought the rights to. Airplane! cost $3.5 million and only took 34 days to make which held up against todays cinema is most impressive.

It remains one of the most quoted films in cinema history, chocked full of witty one-liners and outlandish comedic revelry. The film defines a milestone in comedy and pinpoints a specific cultural shift from optimistic 70’s to cynical 80’s cinema, employing dark humour yet somehow remaining fun some 40-odd years later (which itself is a crazy concept).

The cast leave everything they have on screen, aided by sleek editing, cinematography and comedic timing. And what a cast! Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty carry the weight of the film routinely but it’s the supporting cast that shine through. It’s worth noting that a full third of the movie passes before Leslie Nielsen/Frank Drebin (Dr Rumack) is introduced in his first ever comedic role. And longer still before we see Lloyd Bridges/Admiral Benson (Steve McCroskey) or Robert Stack/Ultra Magnus (Rex Kramer). (It’s also interesting to note that the band Gomez have 2 songs named after characters from this film. Quality knows quality)

Airplane! is not a perfect film but i struggle to find one closer to that ideal. You can currently find it available for streaming on Netflix UK.

airplane film review crazydiscostu poster

CRAZYDISCOSTU.COM – A Blog For The Modern Geek – Lifestyle, News, Reviews, Film/Tv, Gaming, Tech, Music, Opinions, Culture, Craft Beer, and General Geekery.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.