Words: Peter Boyle

Denzel Washington is ahem, winging his way into Irish cinemas this week with disaster movie Flight and he has picked up an Oscar nomination for his performance as Captain Whip Whitaker (you can see Caroline's interview with the man himself here). Below are some of our favourite aviation-themed films to get you in the mood.

To start off the list we have one of the funniest movies of all time. In Airplane the crew of a passenger flight become ill and the one man aboard who can save them is afraid to fly. The plot is not really important however, because it's all about the laughs. Airplane is flat-out comedy genius and crams joke after joke into 88 minutes of utter hilarity. The one-liners and sight gags are relentless. It was a parody of the disaster films that were popular throughout the 70s and started the whole spoof movie phenomenon, so we also have it to thank for classics like Hot Shots and The Naked Gun (and rubbish like Meet The Spartans).

Key line: "Surely you can't be serious!" "I am serious... and don't call me Shirley."

Top Gun
Top Gun was one of the defining movies of the 80s and launched Tom Cruise to mega stardom. He plays Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a cocky but talented hotshot who vies with Val Kilmer, amongst others, to be best damn fighter pilot in the US Navy. The enduring bromance between Goose and Maverick will never be forgotten - many a tear was shed at the demise of the former. The film also also featured some hugely popular songs including Berlin's mega power ballad Take My Breath Away and Danger Zone by Mr 80s Soundtrack himself Kenny Loggins.

Key Line: "I feel the need, the need for speed!" 

Cast Away
Before Bob Zemeckis directed Flight, he helmed another story with a spectacular plane crash. Tom Hanks stars as Chuck Noland, a Fed-Ex employee who is marooned on a desert island with only a volleyball for company. It turns out that paradise is not all it’s cracked up to be and this realistic depiction shows Noland struggling to even open a coconut and performing painful self-dentistry. The dialogue-free scenes on the island of him trying desperately to survive are the best part of the movie. This film showed not only the joyful rescue, but the devastating effects of arriving home to find out life has moved on without him.

Key Line: "WILSON!" 

Con Air
For some reason the US prison service decide to transport all of their most dangerous inmates on the one flight and it's not long before they have commandeered the plane. Luckily former US Marshall Cameron Poe and all-round good guy (Nicolas Cage) is on hand to save the day. Some may point to Con Air as the moment where former Oscar winner Cage sold out to Hollywood but compared to some of his recent work (like The Wicker Man) it stands up pretty well. John Malkovich hams it up as Cyrus the Virus, leader of the bad guys, and there is also excellent support from John Cusack and Steve Buscemi.

Key Line: "Put... the bunny... back... in the box."


Die Hard 2
It was always going to be hard to follow up the greatest action movie of all time but Die Hard 2 is a solid if unspectacular attempt. John McClane goes to pick up his lovely wife at Washington airport - problem is it has been overrun by pesky terrorists. He must kick some serious ass before the planes circling the airport run out of fuel. Die Hard 2 probably suffers from having an unmemorable bad guy in William Sadler's Colonel Stuart (he's no Hans Gruber) but it is an enjoyable thriller nonetheless.

Key Line: "Oh, we are just up to our ass in terrorists again John?" 

Based on an incredible true story, this movie tells the tale of a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crash-lands in a remote part of the Andes Mountains. Left to fend for themselves for over two months in freezing temperatures, the lengths they go to to survive are extraordinary. Besides Ethan Hawke it features an unfamiliar cast but this does not detract from a gripping and terrifying drama. The fateful crash itself is amazingly well-filmed - I haven't sat in the back of a plane since.

Key Line: "Are we supposed to fly that close to the mountains?" 

Air Force One
In this daft but entertaining thriller, Harrison Ford plays the all-action American President whose plane gets hijacked by terrorists. They didn't seem to realise that the head honcho himself is a former Medal of Honor recipient and up for kicking serious ass. Gary Oldman gets to flex his acting muscles as Ivan Korshunov, a crazy Russian general who plans to execute a hostage every thirty minutes until his demands are met. As cool and all as Barack Obama is, I can't imagine him taking on a plane of bad guys like our hero in this movie.

Key Line: "Get off my plane!" 

The Grey
In an underrated effort from last year, Liam Neeson and a group of fellow oil workers endure a horrific plane crash in Alaska. Surviving the harsh and unforgiving surroundings would be difficult enough at the best of times, but it turns out they also have a band of hungry wolves on their tails. The Grey is one of a series of action films Neeson has released in recent years but his character Ottway is more of a thoughtful, philosophical sort than Taken's Bryan Mills. He is no less of a tough guy though and not one to give in without a fight.

Key Line: "Once more into the fray. Into the last good fight I'll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day."

Snakes on a Plane
Snakes, a plane and Samuel L Jackson - what more could you need? This thriller created a huge online buzz before it was released back in 2006 but was a relative failure at the box office. The wafer-thin storyline involves a crate-load of snakes being deliberately released on a passenger flight in order to kill a witness in a mob trial. The characters are clichéd and the special effects are rubbish but there are plenty of laughs to be had. Sure it was never going to trouble the Academy for awards but if you take it for what it is - a send-up of ridiculous b-movies - then it's a whole lot of fun. For the TV version Jackson's famous line was edited to: "I have had it with these monkey fighting snakes on this Monday to Friday plane"

Key Line: "Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherf**king snakes on this motherf**king plane! "

Executive Decision
Executive Decision stars Steven Seagal (wait, come back!) and Kurt Russell, whose flight is hijacked by terrorists. The bad guys claim to want their leader released but they actually have a nerve gas bomb on board that they plan to detonate over US airpace. It's an entertaining if quite formulaic action flick and there is genuine suspense and excitement along the way. Seagal had never died in a movie before and apparently held up filming for several days as he was unhappy with his original death scene (his head exploding due to cabin pressure). As one critic put it, it's Seagal's best film due to the fact that he's barely in it.

Key Line: "I hope there's a good movie on this flight."


Words: Peter Boyle