30 Movies with Airplanes for High-Flying Entertainment

From jet setting action flicks to romance on the runway to snakes at 36,000 feet, there's no shortage of airplane films to keep you entertained.

Best Airplane Movies
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A lot of things can happen on an airplane. You can fall in love, catch a criminal, or even get into an all-out-war with a bunch of snakes.

We, of course, are talking about movies. Movies that take place on a plane or in an airport seem to have a unique quality to them. They make rom-coms more romantic, action films more thrilling, and dramas more heart-wrenching all because they take place 36,000 feet in the air.

Of course, movies about air travel naturally lend themselves to suspense — like "Flightplan" or "United 93" — mostly because the idea of being in a crisis in the air automatically makes for good drama. The stakes couldn't be higher and the air can't be thinner.

Then there are straight-up horror flicks like "Final Destination" or "Red Eye." These are definitely not for the faint of heart — or anyone who's planning to take a trip soon.

But not all airplane movies are disaster flicks or tense, action hero vehicles. Some of these movies can make you laugh, like "Airplane!," "View from the Top," or "The Terminal" — even though the latter mostly takes place in the airport.

And perhaps, the best part of these films is that they feature your favorite Hollywood actors and actresses — like Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Harrison Ford — who are often playing some of their most beloved roles.

We decided to round up 30 movies that involve flights or air travel — some critical darlings, others merely entertaining B-movies — for your reading pleasure. Who knows, you may be inspired to have a travel-themed movie night tonight.


Best Airplane Movies
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In this film, Ray Liotta stars as a convicted murderer who hijacks a plane. It's a pretty typical airplane action movie with all the tropes in place, which is probably why the movie has a whopping 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. There's lots of acting that really chews at the scenery and some interesting (though mostly implausible) technical airplane stuff folded in.


Liam Neeson stars as an alcoholic U.S. Marshal who must find a killer after receiving text messages that another passenger will die if the killer's demands are not met. It's one of those action thrillers viewers have come to expect from the "Taken" star, and if you're willing to get around the loose ends and glaring implausibilities, you'll definitely enjoy it.

"View from the Top"

Back in the early 2000s, Gwyneth Paltrow appeared in a number of odd, screwball romantic comedies. In this film, Paltrow stars as a trailer park girl who dreams of being a classy flight attendant — and she has the brains and drive to achieve it. Is all that personal success worth sacrificing for a young Mark Ruffalo? We're not sure. But this movie has a few good goofy moments, especially from Mike Myers, Christina Applegate, and Candice Bergen.

"Con Air"

Best Airplane Movies
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This movie may not have won any prestigious awards, but it's become something of a cult classic, if only for the famous line, "Put the bunny back in the box." The script is sometimes quite hard to listen to, and Nicolas Cage has a very tough time nailing down that Alabama accent, but with all of its entertainingly over-the-top performances and explosions (lots of explosions), it's enjoyable for people who like movies that are "so bad, they're good."

"Final Destination"

Let's just say this is not a movie you want to watch on an airplane. As a society, we might've been worn out by the teen horror flicks of the '90s, but this 2000 film actually has quite a surprising and clever premise that goes beyond the typical slasher movie. While it may not have gotten great reviews at the time, audiences still enjoy it, earning it a fairly decent audience score of 68 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

"Passenger 57"

This cult favorite stars Wesley Snipes as John Cutter who’s on a flight to L.A. to start his new life working for a major airline’s anti-terrorism unit when, fittingly, the flight is hijacked by a famous terrorist. When the FBI agents who apprehended the movie's villain are killed, Cutter is the only person onboard who can save everyone. It's a classic '90s thriller filled with action set pieces.  


This 2005 suspense movie centers around an aircraft designer (played by Jodie Foster) who's daughter randomly goes missing on a flight to New York. The twist? The sky marshal (Peter Sarsgaard) and captain (Sean Bean) on board are telling her that her child never boarded the plane. It's one of those few, amazing female-led suspense movies, because, of course, it's Jodie Foster. And who doesn't love Jodie Foster?

"The Terminal"

If you're in the mood for a charming romantic comedy, you can't go wrong with Tom Hanks. This movie is a typical feel-good film and a ringing endorsement for John F. Kennedy International Airport. Who knew someone could feasibly live there?

Hanks plays a displaced Eastern European man who has to wait at JFK until the war in his home country is over. He's smitten with a flight attendant (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and changes the lives of everyone around him. This movie is basically the equivalent of a warm hug.


Again, this is definitely not something to watch while traveling at 36,000 feet. The cast is full of your early '90s crushes — including Ethan Hawke and Josh Hamilton — who are playing what is likely some of the darkest roles in their careers.

It centers around a Uruguayan soccer team that gets stranded in the Andes after a plane crash, and it's also based on real events. The story is a true testament to the ability of humans to survive the worst of circumstances.

"United 93"

This film came out five years after the tragedy of 9/11. The film is about the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. Performances by the entire cast, which is largely made up of relatively unknown actors, are nuanced, unsentimental, and incredibly emotional — though the script deviates quite a bit from actual events (or at least, what we know about them).

"Home Alone 2: Lost in New York"

Best Airplane Movies
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Most of this movie does not take place on a plane, we know. But plane travel is a major plot point for young Kevin (Macaulay Culkin). Unlike the first film, we see more of that airport hustle-and-bustle when the McCallisters speed through to make their flight.

Sure, there are some logic problems like, "Why wouldn't a gate agent check his ticket?" and "Why didn't the flight attendant make sure that Kevin was pointing out his real father?" and "How did Kevin remarkably find an empty seat on an overbooked flight to New York?"

But despite all that, any '90s kid will admit that they would love to accidentally fly to a cool city without their parents. Plus, it's a great holiday movie.

"Air Force One"

Everyone's favorite fantasy president, Harrison Ford, plays the commander-in-chief in this action drama. Much like "The Fugitive" or "Patriot Games," we love to see Ford get mad and take down bad guys. It's a pretty high-energy film that's full of twists and turns, all taking place aboard Air Force One.

"Executive Decision" 

This time it’s Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal facing off against a group of terrorists on a plane headed for Washington, D.C. The two action stars play U.S. military men who team up to overcome the hijackers who are threatening to release nerve gas on the nation’s capital if their leader isn’t released from custody by the U.S. government. 


This film is named for the emergency signal that’s sent in the case of a hijacking which should give you some idea of the predicament Joseph Gordon-Levitt finds himself in. Gordon-Levitt plays a co-pilot who must try to maneuver an emergency landing after terrorists attack the cockpit of an Airbus A319 on the way to Paris from Berlin. It’s got plenty of tension and good action to keep you entertained through yet another hijacking thriller. 

"Die Hard 2"

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John McClane is back, and this time, he's going to save Dulles International Airport. This sequel takes place one year after the events in the first film, but this time the terrorists have taken over the Washington, D.C. airport and only McClane can stop them. If he can't, they'll deliberately guide planes to crash.

If you're looking for high stakes and lots of fight scenes, this is the perfect movie for you. Much like the first film in the series, it's an unexpectedly good holiday movie, too.

"The Aviator"

Even though Leonardo DiCaprio didn't win best actor for this one, his portrayal of one of the most interesting American historical figures reminds us why we love to see DiCaprio on the big screen. He's joined by an incredible cast that includes Cate Blanchett (doing possibly the best Katharine Hepburn impression ever), Kate Beckinsale, and John C. Reilly. If all of that hasn't convinced you, this movie also shows Leo flying a cool vintage plane.


Following the exploits of real-life pilot Amelia Earhart, this film starring Hilary Swank is a fascinating biopic. Viewers not only learn about Earhart’s life and career but also her perilous journey to become the first woman pilot to fly solo around the world by airplane. Though this isn’t set entirely on an airplane, it’s a reliable look at a real aviator that also stars Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, and Christopher Eccleston. 

"Planes, Trains and Automobiles"

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This 1987 comedy classic stars John Candy and Steve Martin, and centers around two strangers (a veritable odd couple) who have to deal with what is possibly the most extreme travel delay in history. Delayed flights, broken-down trains, and bumpy rides make for some hilarious comedy with poignant character work by Candy and Martin. And, it's one of the few Thanksgiving movies out there.

"Catch Me If You Can"

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This delightful Steven Spielberg film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the real-life FBI fraudster Frank Abagnale Jr. One of Abagnale's clever ways of getting away from FBI Agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) is impersonating a Pan Am pilot (despite being 17 and having no flight experience).

Along with the unexpected friendship between an FBI agent and a bank forger, the film is also chock-full of vintage 1960s aviation details that will make any history buff happy.

"Snakes on a Plane"

We all know the famous line, so there's no need to repeat it here. Suffice to say that this film is a ridiculous, over-the-top, expletive-filled action flick that's pretty much exactly what the title says it is. It was mostly panned when it first came out, but has gained a bit of a cult following.

Luckily, according to rumors, Samuel L. Jackson actually wanted to be part of the film because of its silly title, so he clearly didn't take it seriously. Also, don't think a snake falling from an overhead bin can't happen, because one actually did in 2016. Have fun sleeping tonight.


Best Airplane Movies
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Denzel Washington stars as an alcoholic pilot who manages to avoid a plane crash with some pretty physics-defying maneuvers. While he's praised for saving so many lives (the crash only had a few casualties), an investigation makes him and everyone around him question his judgement and actions.

Responses to Washington's performance were a bit mixed at the time, but this film is everything you want in a Robert Zemeckis movie: a deeply flawed protagonist looking for redemption, tense action, and heartbreaking revelations.


The incredible story of US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger is easily one for the history books, and definitely something we all want to see Tom Hanks bring to the big screen. While Sullenberger was hailed a hero after making an emergency landing in the Hudson River without a single casualty, this biopic is actually a pretty nuanced portrait of the pilot that neither reveres nor condemns him for the circumstances surrounding that fateful event.

"Red Eye"

Wes Craven's in-flight suspense thriller is definitely one of the better (and underrated) suspense thrillers out there. It stars Rachel McAdams as a woman who is kidnapped and dragged into a murder plot by a stranger (Cillian Murphy) aboard a red-eye flight.

It's one of those highly psychological horror movies that builds just the right amount of tension and doesn't lag anywhere along the way. It may not be the most realistic movie, but it's certainly an entertaining one.


Best Airplane Movies
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This 1970 classic might be one of the first airplane disaster movies ever. It stars Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, and Jacqueline Bisset, and centers around the flight and ground crew who are figuring out how to safely land their plane after a bomb is detonated on it. It's a bit of an old-fashioned film that can be a little cheesy at times, but it's essential watching for aviation fans.

"Blood Red Sky" 

Less goofy than "Snakes on a Plane" and set mostly on a flight unlike "Final Destination," "Blood Red Sky" is a horror movie in the sky perfect for anyone looking for a thrill. A woman (played by German actress Peri Baumeister) with a mysterious illness is traveling on a transatlantic flight with her son when the flight is overtaken by terrorists. Instead of your tried and true hijacking plot, however, the film quickly becomes a creature feature when Baumeister unleashes her monstrous side to save her son’s life.

"Up in the Air"

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George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, and Vera Farmiga star in this smart and funny portrait of corporate employees who live out of their suitcases. Clooney is a man who is just shy of one of his life goals — 10 million frequent flyer miles — when his company slashes his travel budget.

It's not as action-packed as other films on this list, but it's superbly acted and has an excellent, entertaining script that pretty much guarantees a good watch.

"Cast Away"

It seems impossible not to be moved (and terrified) by the epic plane crash that happens in this film based on a true story. The beginning of this movie doesn't shy away from a difficult situation, and honestly, it can be hard to watch for anyone who flies a lot. But the film, ultimately, is about survival and is a sad, impressive, and sometimes funny journey that we're all happy to go on with Tom Hanks.

"The Right Stuff"

This movie focuses on the lives of the first U.S. astronauts, but much of the film is about the grueling training they went through in order to have "the right stuff."

It's a highly personal, funny, and triumphant film that centers around some significant points in American history, and has some amazing performances from Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, and Dennis Quaid.

"Top Gun"

This Tom Cruise classic is about high-flying Navy pilots, and we're sure that it inspired a lot of '80s kids to become pilots. The film has some of the best aerial footage in Hollywood history and is one of the movies that launched Cruise's career. We dare you not to quote Maverick after watching.


There's no better airplane film than one that makes you laugh. Sure, some of the jokes and gags in this film haven't survived the test of time, but this screwball 1970s-inspired comedy has one of Michael Scott's favorite lines:

Ted Striker: Surely, you can't be serious.

Dr. Rumack: I am serious … and don't call me Shirley.

Classic comedy gold.

Honorable Mention: "Bridesmaids"

Best Airplane Movies
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This film is largely not about air travel, nor does air travel make-or-break the plot, so sadly we couldn't include it in the main list. However, the scene in which Kristen Wiig gets drunk on a flight to Las Vegas may be one of the most quotable of all time.

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