When we can’t or don’t want to experience something firsthand, we turn to movies for a way to vicariously experience it through someone else’s eyes. There are many examples of this, including plane crashes. Is there a movie out there that shows them in the best light?
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A plane crash in a movie must be dramatic, exciting, and believable enough to avoid looking like a joke, so there isn’t much to say here.
Since we’ve seen so many of them, these are the ten best:
10. Airbus A320: Knowing (2009)
Even though Alex Proyas’ acclaimed film, Knowing, doesn’t include his most impressive work, the film does feature an exciting crash scene involving a fake Plymouth Air plane and a lot of dated CGI flames.
9. McDonnell Douglas DC-10: Fearless (1993)
The drama’s crash landing is loosely inspired on United Airlines Flight 232’s tale. The film is shot entirely from the point of view of the protagonist and boasts stunning visual effects as the plane’s fuselage gets torn apart around the passengers..
8. McDonnell Douglas MD-80: Flight (2012)
Another film in which a collision is central, Realism is an issue, but Flight accomplishes a gripping third act as Denzel Washington’s problematic plane crash-lands in the middle of a field.
7. Embraer EMB 110P1 Bandeirante: Dark Knight Rises (2012)
EMB 110P1 is tied to a Lockheed C-130A Hercules transport jet in the film’s opening credits before being ripped apart and dumped in the Scottish countryside. The fact that Nolan chose to employ real planes rather than CGI sets this feat apart from others of its kind. The business jet was eventually replaced by a gliding facsimile, but the end effect is still amazing.
6. McDonnell Douglas DC-9: The Grey (2012)
In a scenario eerily reminiscent of the final moments of the film Fearless, Liam Nielsen’s character awakens on a plane only to discover that it is plummeting to its doom before being hurled from the shattered wreckage into the frigid Alaskan wilderness.
5. Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar: Flight of the Phoenix (2004)
A transport jet crash-lands in the midst of the desert in a frenzy of fantastic practical effects in this relatively underestimated survival thriller. For those of you who don’t know, there was a true tragedy behind the scenes when a handmade plane cartwheeled during production and killed a stuntman in the 1964 James Stewart film.
4. Fairchild FH-227D: Alive (1993)
After crashing into a mountain, Flight 571’s limbless fuselage pulls the remaining passengers down the slope in a believable manner in the video, which depicts the survivors’ harrowing ordeal.
3. Airbus A320: Sully (2016)
The crash, like the film, is a modest reenactment of the downing of US Airways Flight 1549 in a low-key, non-action-oriented manner. Because it accurately depicts actual events without resorting to hyperbole, it is deserving of acclaim.
2. Hughes XF-11: Aviator (2004)
We made a concerted effort to omit military aircraft from this list in order to preserve the focus on civil aviation. A military aircraft disaster that was captured on film, such as Howard Hughes wrecking Beverly Hills homes on his first flight with his prototype, would not be complete without it. Martin Scorsese’s masterful direction gives the scene a thrilling, eerie feel while also paying homage to the true story on which it is based.
1. Boeing 747-200F: Tenet (2020)
It was apparently because of budgetary problems that Christopher Nolan decided to crash an actual retired jumbo airplane in his next picture, The Dark Knight Rises. Air Hong Kong and Cathay Pacific used the 747-200M, serial number 22105, from 1981 to 1997, when it was converted to a freighter for the latter two airlines. The film production group bought it in 2019, painted it in a fake Norskfreight livery, and slammed it into a California hangar wall. Several different vantage points allow the audience to take in one of the most breathtaking sights ever captured on film: the plane crashing into the mountains.