Flying in planes can be stressful for a variety of reasons, and Hollywood has made the most of them all, from turbulence to strangers in the seats next to you. These films are some of the scariest, funniest and most memorable in cinematic history, whether the plot revolves around heroic pilots or a rampage of killer reptiles. To be clear, these movies are not recommended if you’re actually on a plane because you don’t want to imagine the worst-case scenario while flying 30,000 feet in the air.
1. Air Force One (1997)
Air Force One, the high-octane thriller starring Harrison Ford as the family-oriented, anti-terrorist President of the United States, is nearly entirely set on the film’s titular presidential jet. It begins when a rogue party of Communist extremists (headed by Gary Oldman, in his villainous element) seize the president’s plane and threaten to execute hostages until the United States agrees to their demands. Harrison Ford chasing terrorists through airplane hallways and action sequences that range from riveting to moderately ludicrous follow for the next two hours. We’ll be there for anything.
2. Airplane! (1980)
When you think about plane movies, chances are you’ll think of this 1980 screwball comedy first. Pilots attempt to land a plane after food poisoning causes passengers to vomit, but the quirky cast, visual gags, and memorable dialogue make this a worthwhile watch. If Michael Scott is quoting it, you may quote it, too.
3. The Aviator (2004)
With Leonardo DiCaprio portraying the famously wealthy filmmaker with OCD, The Aviator depicts his life in real time. More than two hours of footage from Martin Scorsese’s biopic depicts Hughes’ Hollywood romances, B-movie roles, and descent into mental illness. The film is also about a man’s passion for flying airplane, but that’s not all it is about (hence the title). It’s a fascinating look at Hughes’ life as an aviator, including his time as a test pilot for the Army, flying around the world in four days, and finally flying the H-4 Hercules.
4. Bridesmaids (2011)
Bridesmaids isn’t really a “airplane movie,” but the 12 minutes that take place in the air are the greatest sections of the film. During Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) bachelorette party in Las Vegas, her bridesmaids (including maid of honor Kristen Wiig) all go through their own emotional journeys in their seats, from drinking too much to flirting (for lack of a better word) with a supposed air marshal. As well as playing on universal emotions that every air passenger has felt at some point, the sequences brilliantly capture the characteristics of the women who appear in them.
5. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
An FBI agent named Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) is on the hunt for a teenage con artist named Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Steven Spielberg’s stylish caper, which is based on a true story. Pretending to be an actual Pan Am pilot, Abagnale has been known to collect paychecks from the airline and walk hand-in-hand beside happy flight attendants. Filmed in what is now the TWA Hotel, the elegant movie provides us with an abundance of vintage air travel visual candy.
6. Flight (2012)
Denzel Washington flying an upside-down plane in the movie might be its most famous scene, but Flight’s appeal goes far beyond the film’s aerial feats. After miraculously saving everyone on board during a plane crash, alcoholic pilot Whip Whitaker (Washington) is subjected to public scrutiny about his drinking habits and what actually occurred prior to the plane malfunctioning. One of the best, most subtle performances from Washington, and the best depiction of alcoholism in a film to date.
7. Red Eye (2005)
As if conversing with random strangers wasn’t scary enough, Wes Craven’s Red Eye takes a typical airplane scenario—flirting with your seatmate—and transforms it into something genuinely awful. Following a chance encounter at an airport bar, Lisa (Rachel McAdams) and Jackson (Cillian Murphy) find themselves sharing an aisle seat for a midnight flight to Miami. Before Jackson admits that he’s a member of an anti-government terrorist group, the plane has already departed the runway. There’s nothing Lisa can do to escape the eerie stillness of the red-eye trip or Murphy’s creep factor, which is a significant part of the plot’s creep factor.
8. Snakes on a Plane (2006)
When Snakes on a Plane was released in 2006, philosophers finally had an answer to the conundrum that had stumped them for millennia: What happens if bad guys unleash an army of deadly snakes aboard a commercial plane? Samuel L. Jackson would wind up rescuing the day with some very amazing monologues, life rafts and carry-on luggage would prove invaluable, and the reptiles would begin searching the toilets first. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, this is the movie for you.
9. Sully (2016)
Sully’s storyline is probably familiar to you. Tom Hanks portrays Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the hero of the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson” landing, which made him a household name. Including the LaGuardia takeoff and the notorious geese collision, the real-life Flight 1549 lasted only four minutes. However, the Clint Eastwood-directed film version will keep you spellbound for far longer. For the time being, you might want to avoid this flight if you’re a nervous flyer.
10. Top Gun (1986)
You’ve probably seen this one before: During their time at the Top Gun academy, Navy aviators Goose (Anthony Edwards) and Maverick (Tom Cruise) study everything they need to know to become the finest in the business. Much of the picture, especially the Kenny Loggins-backed soundtrack, now feels like a throwback to the 1980s, but the film’s aerial flying sequences are some of the best and most thrilling ever. For the record, we can all agree that shirtless beach volleyball scenes never go out of style.
11. United 93 (2006)
This is going to be a tearjerker. September 11, 2001’s hijacked airplane United 93, which had been scheduled to crash into the US Capitol, was hijacked by passengers and swerved off course. Aiming to be as authentic as possible, the film begins with the plane’s departure and continues in real time. It’s a difficult subject, but Paul Greengrass handles it sensitively and avoids pandering, earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.