The Best and the Worst In-Flight Movies

By Robert Mark on April 26th, 2012

I’ve been a movie geek since I was a kid. So how could I refuse Zac’s Colbert’s (relation to Stephen Colbert??) request to pontificate about which movies are his favorites during airline travel? I wonder if my friend Mary Kirby at the Airline Passenger Experience Association agrees?

Rob Mark, publisher


As a movie lover who also enjoys traveling, in-flight entertainment is a regular and important feature of my life. As a result, I’ve been the consumer of some fantastic and atrocious choices of film when flying.



This is one of the funniest and most critically successful spoof films of all time, holding a 98% rating on movie aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. The combination of deadpan acting, witty one liners and ludicrous sight gags is over 30 years old, but survived the test of time. It’s been imitated but never matched and is surely one of the best movies to help your flight go quickly … “But don’t call me Shirley.”

Top Gun

Although the critics dismissed it for its overly familiar plot and uninteresting characters, the visual spectacle and visceral aerial combat scenes remain unbeaten. It also acted as the launching pad for its star Tom Cruise, who plays the cocky rookie fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. For high-testosterone, in-flight thrills this will make any plane journey fly quicker than an F-14A Tom Cat.


Air Force One

This film is far from terrible, in fact a slightly sketchy script is carried thanks to its two more than capable leads, protagonist Harrison Ford and antagonist Gary Oldman. The former plays President James Marshall who, on returning from Moscow, is kidnapped and his airplane hijacked by Kazakhstani terrorist Ivan Korshunov, played by Gary Oldman. The story that unfolds is somewhat preposterous, but entertaining enough. The problem lies with the central premise, a plane hijacking. There’s probably not a more unsuitable theme out there to watch when flying.

Snakes on a Plane

Written by fans specifically for Samuel L Jackson, this movie came with enough hype to fill a Boeing 747. But it’s not a great film, even the charismatic and ever-watchable screen presence that is Samuel L Jackson couldn’t propel it further than 68% on Rotten Tomatoes. It fails at the most crucial points. There’s no drama or suspense, the characters are dull and one dimensional. Its one redeeming feature is that it’s unintentionally hilarious. Unfortunately, the sheer thought of snakes on a plane is enough to make you paranoid and ruin what could be a relaxing flight.

Zac Colbert writes on a range of subjects, from film and fashion to aviation and private jet charters. He’s worked as both a freelance journalist and in-house copywriter since 2007.

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6 Responses to “The Best and the Worst In-Flight Movies”

  1. RayLRiv Says:

    Worst movie I’ve been subjected to aboard a comemrcial flight – Hope Floats with Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr.

  2. Mal Says:

    Best: Those Magnificent Men & their Flying Machines, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (the insane flying scenes with Buddy Hackett at the controls of a Twin Beech), The Blue Max (never mind that Ursulla Undress, er, Andress was in it), Airplane!, Catch-22

    Worst: Air Force One, Pearl Harbor

  3. glen towler Says:

    I haven’t seen either of the 2 worst films Rob mentioned guess I am not missing much Pearl Harbor and Titanic has to some of worst films I have seen but not on a plane it has been 7 years since I last flew on a plane with movies. I do hope my flight in July has some good ones or I will just sleep

  4. Susanne Says:

    Still remember my first Atlantic crossing vividly: The made us watch “Lost in the Bermuda Triangle” :-)(and there were no individual monitors in the seats back then, it was the big screen and no escape from it)

  5. Airplane Love Says:

    Daredevil. For some reason everyone else loved it…

  6. capnaux Says:

    LOL, I agree: “Airplane!” is best “airplane” movie of all time!

    My loftiest aviation dream was to have Leslie Nielsen stick his head into my flight deck before flight and say, “I just want you to know: we’re all counting on you”–just as he did in the movie, and just as he did on every flight he actually took!

    So sad to lose that comic genius. I posted a blog honoring him at:

    Check it out!


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