Throughout cinematic history, aviation has played a large role in movies, whether aircraft is central to the plot, added for effect, or even used to film certain scenes. Grab your popcorn, because these are some great films that any flying enthusiast is sure to enjoy.
Set during World War I, Wings was the first aviation-themed film. Directed by William A. Wellman, an experienced pilot, Wings was praised for its innovative aerial shooting, which accurately depicted aerial combat sequences. Around 300 pilots were involved in the filming process, including the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Top Gun (1986)
Directed by Tony Scott, this 1980’s pop culture flick follows students at the U.S. Navy fighter pilot school as they compete for the top spot. Starring Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, Top Gun film featured real F-14 fighter squadron VF-51 Screaming Eagles in stunts. The film was well received by the public, and the US Navy reported its highest-ever application rates after the movie’s premiere.
The Right Stuff (1983)
Based on Tom Wolfe’s bestselling book of the same name, The Right Stuff depicts the men behind the United States’ first ventures into manned space flight. The film tells the story of test pilots like Chuck Yeager and Scott Crossfield, as well as the selection of the Mercury Seven astronauts. While many of the aircraft featured in the film are re-creations of originals, the film is considered a classic for its accuracy in depicting historical events.
Hell’s Angels (1930)
One of the first action films to use sound and the first multi-million dollar film, Hell’s Angels is an aviation-themed epic war drama centered on the British Royal Flying Corps in World War I. Produced and directed by the meticulous filmmaker and aviator Howard Hughes, Hell’s Angels was praised for its complex aerial combat cinematography using period aircraft.
Memphis Belle (1990)
Memphis Belle is a British war-drama flick about the last mission of an American Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, the Memphis Belle. Loosely based on the 1943 documentary Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, the film was dedicated to the brave airmen who fought in the skies above Europe during WWII.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
Set in 1941, this film recounts the events leading up to the aerial air raid of Pearl Harbor. It is told from the perspective of both the Japanese and American pilots in historical detail and was filmed in the United States and Japan using replica planes. The film won an Oscar for its quality visual effects.