10 top aviation movies, one among them from India

These movies set on planes, airports and terminals contain some of the scariest, funniest, and most memorable moments in cinematic history

10 top aviation movies, one among them from India
(Clockwise from top left): Neerja, Con Air, Top Gun and The Aviator. Image courtesy: Google

Chances are that right now you are sitting in your living room, chatting away with your family, watching a movie, playing or just making that next office presentation. But cooped up next to your loved ones, are you thinking of what’s happening to the aviation sector, now that most of us are pandemic-struck and unable to travel?

From fearing turbulence during air pockets to sitting next to strangers, making friends over a conversation at the airport lounge to waiting for your baggage, air travel is truly a journey - and cinema has capitalised on all of them.

Whether it's heroic pilots saving the day and passengers’ lives with a landing on water, or a man no longer recognised by a country and stuck at a foreign airport, movies set on planes, airports and terminals contain some of the scariest, funniest, and most memorable moments in cinematic history.

And while you are waiting to board a plane and travel during the holidays, we bring you some movie recommendations that will certainly make for good entertainment until your next flight.

Here is a list of 10 best aviation movies:

1. The Aviator (2004)

The movie is based on the real-life story of the eccentric American billionaire Howard Hughes who was an aviation pioneer. This was the second collaboration between director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, and was released in 2004. Hughes was one of the most successful business magnates and also a filmmaker but the movie largely focuses on his achievement in the aviation sector. Hughes was known for his innovation and the movie deals with his many endeavours in the world of flights, for instance, forming the Hughes Aircraft Company, chasing speed records, buying and expanding Trans World Airlines, and building the notorious Spruce Goose. Scorsese’s biopic is a narration of Hughes’ high and also the lows that he struggled with throughout his fascinating life. 

2. Top Gun (1986)

Love it or hate it, but Top Gun has placed itself as the most loved movie for aspiring fighter jet pilots. The movie that released almost three decades ago based on high-flying US Navy pilots continues to inspire a lot of kids to take the Navy path. The craze for the movie is such that actor Tom Cruise aka Maverick would be making a comeback in an F/A-18 Super Hornet in the soon to be released sequel Top Gun: Maverick, which has already become a much-awaited movie of the year. The film revolves around students at the US Navy’s elite fighter pilot school as two cocky pilots, Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Iceman (Val Kilmer), compete for the top spot in the class. The film has some of the best aerial footage in Hollywood history and proved to be one of the movies that launched Cruise’s career.

3. Air Force One (1997)

This classic mid-air action thriller will keep you on the edge of your seats as communist radicals try to kidnap the US president and his family who are flying in the world's most secure aircraft - Air Force One. Although the plot is a little difficult to believe, the action sequences and the game of cat-and-mouse between the terrorists and the president on the plane more than makes up for it. Harrison Ford plays the US president who refuses to negotiate with the terrorists. Ford is great as a diplomat but equally skilled with a gun during a fight. But the real star of this is Gary Oldman, who plays an evil and callous terrorist.

4. Sully (2016)

The Tom Hanks starrer is based on a true incident, in which a veteran pilot lands an Airbus A320 with 155 passengers on the Hudson river saving their lives. The incident, also known as the 'Miracle on the Hudson', took place in January 2009 following a bird hit. The dramatic visuals of the rescue operation caught the attention of international media and Sully was touted as a national hero. But Hanks as Sully has to defend himself in front of the authorities who questions his landing based on the result of a flight simulator. The movie is an insight into the life of a pilot and protocols he has to follow while flying. 

5. Con Air (1997)

Featuring Nicolas Cage, Con Air is again a mid-air high-action thriller in which he plays a soon-to-be-paroled army ranger who is being transported in a prison plane with the country’s most notorious criminals. The plane gets hijacked by these prisoners who are using it to transport themselves to freedom but Cage is there to stop them. Jam-packed with humour, this movie has it all: drama, action, love story, loyalty towards friends, and honour. This movie failed to bag any prestigious awards, but it definitely received cult status.

6. Flight Plan (2005)

It gets extremely annoying when you lose your luggage or electronic goods while travelling. But imagine a protagonist played by Jodie Foster waking up after a short nap and discovering her toddler seated next to her is missing in the flight. The twist in the story begins when nobody in the plane testifies that the child ever boarded the plane. Foster gives a knockout performance as she plays a mother who doesn't take no for an answer. In fact, she is the one that unravels the mystery surrounding her daughter’s disappearance.

7. Amelia (2009)

Indian director Mira Nair brings to life the story of legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart, who disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 in an attempt to make a flight around the world. She set many aviation records apart from becoming the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. The role of the protagonist is played by Hilary Swank while Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor star as Amelia’s love interests! The most part of the movie depicts Amelia's aviation career. However, it doesn’t make assumptions as to what happened to her. Nair does a great job of capturing the beauty of flight that would take your breath away.

8. The Terminal (2004)

Co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks, The Terminal is a story of a man who has landed at New York but his passport and visa are worthless as his country has fallen in a coup and no longer recognised by the US. The protagonist Viktor Navorski is stuck at the airport terminal and spend months there until the war back home is over. The movie is a delightful journey and an uncommon tale of a gentleman who is trapped by the bureaucracy in an international airport lounge.

9. Flight (2012)

The movie opens with one of the most terrifying flight scenes, in which a nose-diving aeroplane is saved by being flown upside down by Denzel Washington, who plays Whip, an alcoholic airline pilot. He manages to avoid a plane crash with some physics-defying manoeuvres. While he is hailed for saving the lives of passengers, an investigation makes him and everyone around him question his judgment and actions. Experts and pilots dismissed it by calling it unrealistic on several levels. But director Robert Zemeckis and his team of technical wizards keep the audience gripped to their seats.

10. Neerja (2016)

The movie is based on the real-life story of flight attendant Neerja Bhanot, who lost her life protecting the lives of 359 people on board Pan Am Flight 73 in 1986. During its stopover in Karachi, four armed Palestinian men belonging to the Abu Nidal Organisation hijacked the aircraft. Bhanot quickly alerted the cockpit crew by using the hijack code, which allowed the American pilots to escape and thus, ground the plane.