Home  /  Everything Else: Article  /  6 aviation movies based on true events

6 aviation movies based on true events

By Flora  /  27 Sep 2019 (Friday)

The idea of wanderlust has always been an obsession with people young and old. Our fascination with aviation and aeroplane movies have garnered a lot of popularity through cinema history. While many have conjured up crazy stories that happen thousands of feet in mid-air - think a crate of deadly serpents slithering around -, there are some films that are based on true events.

Check out our list below!

The Aviator (2004)

Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale 

Based the life of Howard Hughes, an aviation pioneer, the film portrays his life from 1927–1947 during which time Hughes became a successful film producer and an aviation magnate while simultaneously growing more unstable due to severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Howard Hughes is well known in the aviation industry for building the Hughes H-1 Racer and H-4 ‘Hercules’ (also known as ‘Spruces Goose’) as well as expanding the Trans World Airlines which later became American Airlines.  Hughes cut Lindbergh's New York-to-Paris time in half while setting the around-the-world record in 1938. 

The film did incredibly well and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (DiCaprio) and won 5 including Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Supporting Actress (Blanchett). 

Sully (2016) (Streaming on Netflix)

Director: Clint Eastwood 
Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn

Sully, also known as Sully: Miracle on the Hudson is a biographical drama based on the story of Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) who made an emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in 2009, in which all 155 passengers and crew survived with only minor injuries, and the subsequent publicity and investigation.

Apart from building up to the harrowing recreation of the crash (and eventually save) where both plane engines were knocked out, another simultaneous storyline unfolds in the film where the celebrated pilot was put through an unfair trial to prove that what he did was the best option.

Amelia (2009)

Director: Mira Nair
Cast: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor 

Amelia looks into the life of the legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart (Hilary Swank), who mysteriously disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937, in an attempt to make a flight around the world. Most of the story is told in flashbacks before ending with her disappearance. 

In love with aviation since young, Earhart discovers the thrill at the age of 23, and within 12 years, she becomes the first woman to pilot a plane solo across the Atlantic Ocean, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross. She is thrust into the limelight as the most famous woman pilot of her time.

Flight (2012) (Streaming on Netflix)

Director: Robert Zemeckis 
Cast: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman 

Flight may not have been based on true events, but this movie deserves a mention! Starring Denzel Washington as William ‘Whip’ Whitaker, the action-drama film is inspired by the plane crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261. 

William ‘Whip’ Whitaker is an alcoholic airplane pilot who miraculously crash-lands his plane after it suffers an in-flight mechanical failure, saving nearly everyone on board. Co-pilot Ken Evans takes over while Whip discreetly mixes vodka in his orange juice and falls asleep at the controls. He is jolted awake as the plane goes into a steep dive. Immediately following the crash, he is hailed a hero, but an investigation soon leads to questions that put the captain in a different light.

The film was nominated for two awards at the 85th Academy Awards for Best Actor (Washington) and Best Original Screenplay.

United 93 (2006)

Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: David Alan Basche, Olivia Thirlby, Liza Colon-Zayas

Probably one of the sadder movies of the lot, United 93 is an honest and moving film that tells the story of the passengers and crew who prevented the terrorists from carrying out their plans for the fourth hijacked plane on September 11 2001. The plane crashed into a field near a reclaimed strip mine in Pittsburgh, instead of the intended target of the U.S Capitol Building.  

The drama recounts how the passengers of United 93 fought back against the terrorists who hijacked their plane, preventing them from executing their mission by rushing the cockpit. Cutting back and forth between the plane and the ground, the FAA tries to figure out what's just happened and how to respond to the attack. According to the filmmakers, the film was made with the cooperation of all of the passengers' families.  

The Captain  (Opening InCinemas 3 Oct 2019)

Director: Andrew Lau Wai-Keung
Cast: Zhang Hanyu, Yuan Quan, Qin Li, Shu Chen, Ou Hao, Du Jiang

The Captain, also known as ‘The Chinese Pilot’ is a cinematic portrayal of one of the most miraculous emergency landings in contemporary Chinese aviation history. The biographical drama is inspired by the 2018 incident where the right-hand side of the cockpit window of Sichuan Airlines flight 3U8633 broke at 32,000 feet in mid-air above the Tibetan Plateau. As crazy as it sounds, the co-pilot was sucked halfway out of the cockpit window and all things went down. 

Captain Liu was faced with an unexpected emergency. The pressure dropped and with it the temperature that could result the pilots at risk of frostbite. He managed to regain control of the plane, flying solo with only manual controls, before bringing it and its 119 passengers safely home.

You say

Get Showtimes