17+ Best Movies About Aviation (List)

Aviation has always been a fascinating subject, capturing the imagination of people around the world.

The thrill of flying, the courage of pilots, and the awe-inspiring aircraft have inspired numerous movies over the years.

From heart-pounding action films to inspiring true stories, there is a wide range of movies that explore the world of aviation.

Here is a list of several movies that focus on aviation, including the experiences of pilots, the history of flight, and air combat:

  1. Top Gun (1986) – A film about the experiences of a fighter pilot at the United States Navy’s elite fighter weapons school.
  2. The Right Stuff (1983) – Chronicles the first 15 years of America’s space program, focusing on the lives of the first astronauts.
  3. Sully (2016) – Tells the story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who successfully executed an emergency water landing on the Hudson River.
  4. Memphis Belle (1990) – A war film that portrays the crew of the B-17 bomber Memphis Belle during its final mission during World War II.
  5. Flight (2012) – A drama that follows an airline pilot who saves a flight from crashing but faces scrutiny for his alcohol addiction.
  6. The Aviator (2004) – A biographical film that centers on the life of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes.
  7. Airplane! (1980) – A parody of the disaster film genre, particularly the 1957 Paramount film “Zero Hour!”.
  8. Red Tails (2012) – A war film about the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) servicemen during World War II.
  9. Amelia (2009) – A biographical film about Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
  10. Flyboys (2006) – A war drama that centers around the adventures of the Lafayette Escadrille, a group of American men who volunteered to become fighter pilots during WWI.
  11. Twelve O’Clock High (1949) – A film that portrays the aircrews in the United States Army’s Eighth Air Force who flew daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany and occupied France during the early days of American involvement in WWII.
  12. The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) – A drama that centers on a disillusioned World War I veteran turned barnstormer.
  13. Spirit of St. Louis (1957) – Chronicles Charles Lindbergh’s historic transatlantic flight in 1927.
  14. Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965) – A British period comedy about the early years of aviation.
  15. Dunkirk (2017) – While not exclusively about aviation, it features significant air combat scenes as it portrays the Dunkirk evacuation during WWII.
  16. Catch-22 (1970) – A black comedy war film adapted from the novel of the same name, which presents a satirical take on the military bureaucracy and the operations of the air force during WWII.
  17. The Blue Max (1966) – A war film that portrays a German fighter pilot during World War I.
  18. Aces High (1976) – A British-French war film that depicts a week in the life of a British fighter squadron on the Western Front during WWI.
  19. Reach for the Sky (1956) – A British biographical film about aviator Douglas Bader who lost both legs but went on to fly during WWII.

Below we look in deeper detail into some of the best movies about aviation, highlighting their unique qualities and why they are worth watching.

The Right Stuff (1983)

Based on Tom Wolfe’s book of the same name, “The Right Stuff” is a captivating film that chronicles the early days of the United States’ space program.

It focuses on the Mercury Seven astronauts and their journey to become the first Americans in space.

The movie provides a deep insight into the lives of these brave individuals, their training, and the challenges they faced.

With its stellar cast, including Sam Shepard, Ed Harris, and Dennis Quaid, “The Right Stuff” is a must-watch for aviation enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Top Gun (1986)

“Top Gun” is an iconic film that has become synonymous with aviation.

Starring Tom Cruise as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a talented fighter pilot, the movie takes viewers on a thrilling ride through the world of naval aviation.

With its adrenaline-pumping aerial sequences and memorable soundtrack, “Top Gun” has left a lasting impact on popular culture.

The film’s portrayal of the intense training and camaraderie among pilots has made it a favorite among aviation enthusiasts.

Flight (2012)

“Flight” is a gripping drama directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Denzel Washington.

The film follows the story of Whip Whitaker, an airline pilot who miraculously crash-lands a malfunctioning plane, saving almost all the passengers on board.

However, as the investigation into the crash unfolds, Whip’s personal struggles with addiction come to light.

“Flight” explores the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by pilots and delves into the psychological toll of their profession.

With its intense performances and thought-provoking storyline, this movie offers a unique perspective on aviation.

Sully (2016)

Directed by Clint Eastwood, “Sully” is based on the true story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who successfully landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River after both engines failed.

Tom Hanks delivers a remarkable performance as Sully, capturing the captain’s calmness under pressure and the subsequent investigation into his actions.

The film highlights the heroism of the pilots and the importance of their experience and expertise in critical situations. “Sully” is a testament to the skill and professionalism of aviation professionals.

Apollo 13 (1995)

“Apollo 13” is a gripping space drama directed by Ron Howard.

Based on the true story of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, the film showcases the incredible teamwork and ingenuity of NASA’s engineers and astronauts as they work together to bring the crew safely back to Earth after an oxygen tank explodes onboard.

Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton deliver powerful performances, capturing the tension and determination of the characters.

“Apollo 13” is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the unwavering dedication of those involved in space exploration.

Red Tails (2012)

“Red Tails” is an action-packed war film that tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces.

The movie focuses on their struggles against racism and segregation during World War II and their remarkable achievements as skilled fighter pilots.

With its thrilling aerial combat sequences and powerful message of perseverance, “Red Tails” pays tribute to the bravery and determination of these unsung heroes.

FAQs – Best Movies About Aviation

1. What are some other notable movies about aviation?

Aside from the movies mentioned above, there are several other notable films about aviation. Some of these include:

  • “Airplane!” (1980) – A comedy spoofing disaster movies and aviation clichés.
  • “Wings” (1927) – The first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, showcasing aerial combat during World War I.
  • “Memphis Belle” (1990) – Based on the true story of the crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress during World War II.
  • “The Aviator” (2004) – A biographical drama about Howard Hughes, a pioneering aviator and filmmaker.

2. Are there any documentaries about aviation worth watching?

Yes, there are several documentaries that provide fascinating insights into the world of aviation. Some notable examples include:

  • “One Six Right” (2005) – A documentary celebrating the beauty of general aviation and the importance of local airports.
  • “Living in the Age of Airplanes” (2015) – Explores how aviation has transformed the world and connects people across continents.
  • “The Magic of Flight” (1996) – Showcases the thrill and excitement of flying through stunning aerial footage.
  • “Free Solo” (2018) – While not solely focused on aviation, this documentary follows the journey of Alex Honnold as he attempts to free solo climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

3. Are there any animated movies about aviation?

Yes, there are several animated movies that revolve around aviation. Some popular examples include:

  • “Planes” (2013) – A spin-off of the “Cars” franchise, following the adventures of Dusty Crophopper, a crop-dusting plane with dreams of becoming a racer.
  • “Porco Rosso” (1992) – A Studio Ghibli film set in the Adriatic Sea between World War I and World War II, featuring an Italian World War I ex-fighter pilot who has been cursed to look like an anthropomorphic pig.
  • “Planes: Fire & Rescue” (2014) – The sequel to “Planes,” focusing on Dusty’s new career as a firefighter.

4. Are there any aviation movies based on true stories?

Yes, several aviation movies are based on true stories. Some examples include:

  • “Amelia” (2009) – A biographical drama about Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • “Alive” (1993) – Based on the true story of the Uruguayan rugby team that crashed in the Andes mountains and their struggle to survive.
  • “United 93” (2006) – Depicts the events aboard United Airlines Flight 93 during the September 11 attacks.

5. What makes a great aviation movie?

A great aviation movie combines thrilling aerial sequences with compelling storytelling and well-developed characters.

It should provide a realistic portrayal of aviation while also capturing the human element and the challenges faced by pilots.

Attention to detail, accurate representation of aircraft and procedures, and a strong emotional connection with the audience are also important factors.

6. Are there any aviation movies suitable for children?

Yes, there are several aviation movies suitable for children. Some examples include:

  • “Planes” (2013) and its sequel “Planes: Fire & Rescue” (2014) – Animated films that follow the adventures of Dusty Crophopper.
  • The Rocketeer” (1991) – A superhero film set in the 1930s, featuring a young pilot who discovers a rocket pack.
  • “Fly Away Home” (1996) – A heartwarming film about a young girl who raises a flock of orphaned geese and teaches them to fly.

7. Are there any aviation movies that focus on World War II?

Yes, World War II has been a popular setting for aviation movies. Some notable examples include:

  • “Dunkirk” (2017) – A war film that depicts the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France.
  • “Pearl Harbor” (2001) – While not solely focused on aviation, the film includes intense aerial combat sequences during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (1970) – A historical drama that recreates the events leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

8. Are there any aviation movies that explore the future of flight?

Yes, there are several aviation movies that explore the future of flight and the possibilities of advanced technology. Some examples include:

  • Blade Runner 2049″ (2017) – A science fiction film set in a dystopian future, featuring flying cars and advanced aerial technology.
  • “The Fifth Element” (1997) – Another science fiction film set in the 23rd century, showcasing futuristic aircraft and transportation systems.
  • “Elysium” (2013) – A science fiction film set in a future where the wealthy live on a luxurious space station, featuring advanced spacecraft and aerial combat.

9. Are there any aviation movies that focus on female pilots?

Yes, there are several aviation movies that highlight the achievements of female pilots. Some examples include:

  • “Amelia” (2009) – A biographical drama about Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • “Fly Girls” (2010) – A documentary that follows the journey of a group of women training to become Air Force pilots.
  • “The Mercury 13” (2018) – A documentary that explores the story of the thirteen American women who underwent the same physiological and psychological testing as the male astronauts of the Mercury Seven program.

10. Are there any aviation movies that focus on commercial aviation?

Yes, there are several aviation movies that focus on commercial aviation and the challenges faced by airline pilots. Some examples include:

  • “Flightplan” (2005) – A thriller about a woman whose daughter goes missing during a flight, leading to a tense investigation onboard.
  • “Non-Stop” (2014) – A suspenseful film in which an air marshal must uncover the identity of a hijacker threatening to kill passengers every 20 minutes.
  • “Pushing Tin” (1999) – A comedy-drama that explores the high-stress world of air traffic controllers.

Aviation movies offer a unique blend of excitement, drama, and inspiration. Whether based on true stories or purely fictional, these films provide a window into the world of flight and the remarkable individuals who navigate the skies.

From historical events to futuristic possibilities, aviation movies continue to captivate audiences and remind us of the incredible achievements and challenges in the world of aviation.

Summary – Best Movies About Aviation

Aviation has been a subject of fascination for filmmakers, resulting in a wide range of movies that explore the world of flight.

From historical dramas to adrenaline-pumping action films, these movies provide a glimpse into the lives of pilots, the challenges they face, and the impact of their actions.

“The Right Stuff” offers a captivating look at the early days of the space program, while “Top Gun” immerses viewers in the world of naval aviation.

“Flight” and “Sully” delve into the moral and psychological aspects of being a pilot, while “Apollo 13” showcases the incredible teamwork involved in space missions.

Finally, “Red Tails” pays tribute to the bravery of the Tuskegee Airmen.

These movies not only entertain but also provide valuable insights into the world of aviation.


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