10 films for flyers – part 1

Capricorn One ChaseI don’t often go to the cinema but when I do, I want to see a good film. And if it’s a film that includes aeroplanes and flying, it needs to be very good.

Here’s a short list of some of my more favourite films (in no particular order) which include flying sequences or aeroplanes. I have left out those old war cliches like Top Gun, The Dam Busters, and Battle of Britain and Tora Tora Tora and listed some of the maybe lesser known but equally interesting movies.

1. One-Six Right. This is a great documentary film on high resolution DVD that celebrates the unsung hero of aviation – the local airport. Featuring magnificent air-to-air photography, the film dispels misconceptions and criticism of General Aviation airports. Through the love story of one airport, past to present, the film shares the timeless romance of flying with all ages. It should be compulsory viewing for all politicians who cannot see the value of having local airports. Here’s a link to the opening sequence (lo-res, sorry): One-Six Right

2. Catch-22. This is one out of the box. Based on Joseph Heller’s best selling book of the same name, the 1970 film follows the story of a B-25 squadron during World War 2. The ‘Catch-22’ of the title is based on an insoluble problem like: if you lose your glasses, you can’t see to find them. Have a look at the official film trailer here for a complete explanation. The film is hilarious and shocking in almost equal measure and must be one of the more provocative war films made.

3. The High & the Mighty. Starring John Wayne and Robert Stack, this 1954 film is about a DC-4 airliner on a night journey from Honolulu to San Francisco. Although set in the airliner, with engine and fuel problems, the film is really an interesting drama about people with all sorts skeletons in (and not so ‘in’) their cupboards. Good fun. Interesting fact – composer Dimitri Tiomkin won an Academy Award for his original film music score including the title song, but the title song did not actually appear in release prints. Here’s a (very low quality) clip of John Wayne being very macho in the cockpit.

4. The Flight of the Phoenix. This is one for all you amateur builders out there. Dennis Quaid stars in this 2004 remake of the 1965 film, based on the novel of the same name. Flying across the Gobi Desert, a Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar crashes. As its name suggests, the C-119 is not the most photogenic of aircraft, with its inverted gull-wing and high twin-tail boom design. But the aircraft design does at least make the story reasonably plausible. It tells of how the crew transforms the crashed aircraft into a single engine version to enable them to fly out. Needless to say, the story takes many twists and turns and not everyone makes it out. Not very successful at the box office, it’s an interesting film nevertheless.

5. Capricorn One. Although a thriller about a faked Mars landing, it includes one of the best aeroplane chases on film. Here’s a link to the whole chase: Capricorn One Bi-Plane Helicopter Chase. This film was made in the days before computer generated graphics (CGI) and remote controlled helicopters, so all the footage is shot for real – and very well shot too. Interesting fact: Telly Savalas – he of ‘Kojak’ detective fame – plays the role of the crop dusting pilot who rescues our hero (Elliot Gould) in his red bi-plane.

Look out for part 2 coming up soon. Meanwhile – do you have any favourite flying films?

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