Airplane! (1980)

88m, 7,817 feet
35mm, Metrocolor, 1.37:1 [negative ratio], 1.85:1 [intended ratio]
mono, English
Reviewed at The

An American comedy film with many fantasy, absurdist and surreal moments written and directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker.

Plot Summary

An airliner full of oddball characters (including coming-apart-at-the-seams ex-fighter pilot Ted Striker, his dippy stewardess girlfriend Elaine, a lecherous pilot with the hots for little boys and very strange doctor) is in trouble when the crew are knocked out by . It's up to Striker to overcome his fears and land the plane safely.


* = uncredited

Directed by: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
© MCMLXXX [1980] Paramount Pictures Corporation
Paramount Pictures presents a Howard W. Koch production
Executive Producers: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Produced by: Jon Davison
Associate Producer: Hunt Lowry
Written for the Screen by: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Original Scripts: Arthur Hailey (Flight Into Danger; Zero Hour); Hall Bartlett (Zero Hour), John C. Champion (Zero Hour) *
Director of Photography: Joseph Biroc
Film Editor: Patrick Kennedy
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Recording Mixer: Tom Overton
Costume Designer: Rosanna Norton
Make-up Artist: Edwin Butterworth
Hair Stylist: Joan Phillips
Director of Photography Special Effects: Bruce Logan
Miniature Special Effects: Richard O. Helmer
Special Effects: John Frazier
Visual Effects by: Motion Pictures Incorporated/Blalack & Shourt; Visual Concept Engineering/Kuran & Casady; Magic Lantern/Bill Hedge; Special Projects/Chris Walas; Robert Keith & Company, Inc.
Production Designer: Ward Preston

Robert Hays (Ted Striker)
Julie Hagerty (Elaine Dickinson)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as [Roger] Murdock
Lloyd Bridges as McCroskey
Peter Graves as Captain [Clarence] Oveur
Leslie Nielsen as Dr. Rumack
Lorna Patterson as Randy
Robert Stack as [Captain Rex] Kramer
Stephen Stucker as Johnny
Otto as himself
Jim Abrahams (religious zealot 6)
Frank Ashmore (Victor Basta)
Jonathan Banks (Gunderson)
Craig Berenson (Paul Carey)
Barbara Billingsley (jive lady)
Lee Bryant (Mrs Hammen)
Joyce Bulifant (Mrs Davis)
Mae E. Campbell (security lady)
Ted Chapman (airport steward)
Jesse Emmett (man from India)

Alternative Titles

L'aereo più pazzo del mondo – Italy
Aterriza como puedas – Spain
Czy leci z nami pilot? – Poland
Flying High
Hei, me lennetään! – Finland
Hjelp vi flyr – Norway
Kentucky Fried Theatre's Airplane – working title
Titta vi flyger – Sweden
Die Unglaubliche Reise in einem Verrückten Flugzeug – Germany
Vi flyver højt – Denmark
Y a-t-il un pilote dans l'avion? – France
¿Y dónde está el piloto? – Venezuela

Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)

See also
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Chicken Park (1994)
The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys (1996)
Independence Day (1996)
Jaws (1975)
The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
Pinocchio (1940)
Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th (2000)
Spy Hard (1996)
Toy Story 2 (1999)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Extracts included in
100 Years at the Movies (1994)
The 76th Annual Academy Awards (2004)
AFI's 100 Years, 100 Laughs: America's Funniest Movies (2000)
Precious Images (1986)
Screen Test: 4 November 1980


Screen International no.251 (26 July-2 August 1980) p.14
Deliciously, inventively funny. Not only in the obvious ways in which cliché-ridden disaster movies can be sent up by accentuating the ludicrous beyond the bounds of absurdity, but also in the finer detail of throwaway gags which add sparkle to the splendidly straightfaced buffoonery of a cast which plunges gallantly into the lunacies as if believing absolutely in every supercharged character and mock desperate situation. Nothing is sacred; not even the end credits or the warning against infringing copyright. In fact so many sly touches can be missed the first time around that Airplane! stands every chance of becoming a cult movie drawing audience back and back to search for more buried treasures and to respond enthusiastically to their favourite bits. – from a review by Marjorie Bilbow



  • Screen International no.248 (5-12 July 1980) p.6 – note (July openings)
  • Screen International no.249 (12-19 July 1980) p.1, 2 – article (Low budget ‘Airplane' takes off for… High-flying Paramount by BJ Franklin)
  • Screen International no.251 (26 July-2 August 1980) p.14 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review (The new films: Airplane! by Marjorie Bilbow)
  • Screen International no.252 (2-9 August 1980) p.2 – illustrated note (London box office by Chris Brown); note (West End openings)
  • Screen International no.253 (9-16 August 1980) pp.1; 6 – illustrated note (High flyers score for Paramount); note (Paramount power); note (US briefing)
  • Screen International no.254 (16-23 August 1980) pp.1; 2 – illustrated note (‘CE3K' II adds to box-office boom), note (London's top ten); note (London box office: Airplane!' – a ‘runway' hit by Chris Brown)
  • Screen International no.255 (23-30 August 1980) pp.1; 2 – note (London's top ten); note (London box office: Heavy weather by Chris Brown)


  • The Best 80s Movies by Helen O'Hara pp.26-27 – illustrated review
  • Christopher Lee: The Authorised Screen History by Jonathan Rigby pp.174, 207
  • Film Review 1981-1982 by F. Maurice Speed p.142 – credits, review
  • The Films of the Eighties by Robert A. Nowlan and Gwendolyn Wright Nowlan p.7 – credits, synopsis
  • Looking for a New England: Action, Time, Vision: Music, Film and TV 1975-1986 by Simon Matthews p.45

Other sources

  • BFI Southbank Guide May 2010 p.8 – illustrated listing
  • BFI Southbank Guide October-November 2018 p.28 – illustrated listing