How can I even call myself a legitimate airline and aviation blogger if I don’t have a post about Airplane! movie quotes? I mean, shouldn’t I have scratched that off my list back when I first started? Oh well. It may have taken me a few years, but here we go with an entire post about all the best quotes from the movie “Airplane!”
For the extreme few of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the quotes in this article are pertaining to the 1980 Paramount Pictures film named “Airplane!”
Not only was it one of the stupidest movies ever created, it was also one of the most brilliant. It quickly and easily reached cult status in the airline and aviation community, and it’s on its way to being one of the greatest films of all time. I am serious. But don’t call me Shirley…
Airplane! was an unusual movie in the sense that there wasn’t a very defined plot with a clear set of main characters. Yes, Ted Striker (Robert Hays) and Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty) are arguably the two most important characters in this film. However, there were so many others that stood out as being vital to the overall flow of the movie.
It was a bit of a disorganized mess, but that’s what made it brilliant. That being said, I’ll try to break down the plot as simply as I can:
- The movie starts by introducing the audience to a wide variety of characters who are preparing for a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago.
- The flight will be operated by a Trans American Airlines Boeing 707 (which hilariously sounded like a piston-driven aircraft).
- The story gains momentum as a lovestruck / down on his luck war veteran named Ted Striker reluctantly follows his ex-girlfriend / flight attendant onto the flight in a last ditch effort to win her back. He is massively afraid of flying, by the way.
- During the course of the flight, a meal is served. Steak and fish were the options. It turns out that the fish was bad and anyone who ate it became violently ill. Guess what the entire flight crew ate?
- Striker’s fear of flying was stemmed from traumatic war experiences. He was a pilot who was shot down in the war (they never really specified which war), and suddenly – he was the only passenger on board capable of landing that plane.
- Striker then goes on to work through his personal demons about flying, and finally works up the courage to land the plane.
I know. It sounds like a really serious and heavy movie, but all of the shenanigans that were going on between the other characters in this movie made it absolutely brilliant.
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All of the best Airplane! movie quotes – including some that you have probably even forgotten about
Normally when I do movie quote posts, I like to organize everything into sections. For example, my recent post of Top Gun quotes was very easy to compartmentalize. Breaking everything down into individual sections was a nice way to digest the best parts of that movie, and it ended up being a fun read.
And I said earlier, this film is a little different. Since the movie flows together so seamlessly, I’m going to organize all of these Airplane! movie quotes in a linear fashion which follows the timeline of the actual film.
Something else that’s notable about Airplane! is that many of the jokes were visual instead of spoken. I could probably make an entire post of just hilarious facial expressions and mannerisms from this movie. It’s that good.
How I use quotes from the movie Airplane! in my daily life
I’m starting to learn something about myself as I do more of these movie quote posts. You see, back when I wrote my Planes, Trains, and Automobiles quotes article earlier this year, I included a section which laid out all the ways that I use those quotes in my daily life. I then did it with my recent post about Top Gun. And now, it would be foolish of me to not do it again since this has been such a quotable movie for me.
After all, Airplane! was the first aviation movie that I ever saw in my life. It came at a time where I wasn’t even into airplanes yet, but it has such a profound impact on me that I have been rattling off quotes from this movie ever since. Like, pretty much nonstop.
Here’s how I’m using those quotes in my daily life:
- Every time someone tells me they’re going to Turkey: “You ever been in a Turkish prison?”
- Every time I very ungracefully complete a massively complicated task: “ I just want to tell you both good luck. We’re all counting on you.”
- Every time I walk into an airport and I hear the red zone / white zone message: “Don’t start with that ‘white zone’ shit again!“
- Every time I’m typing an address into Google maps: “Roger Roger. What’s my vector, Victor?”
- Whenever something doesn’t go as expected: “What a pisser.”
Was Airplane! the movie that was responsible for getting me into aircraft?
That’s a fantastically good question. I first saw this movie as a very young boy in the in the 1980s, and I don’t recall ever getting excited about airplanes after those first few viewings. It wasn’t until I actually started drawing stuff that I found that I liked drawing airplanes (and cars).
Even then, when I did start first drawing airplanes, it was military and space aircraft. To be honest, I don’t think it was this movie that got me into commercial aviation.
That being said, this movie still had a massive influence on me. The overall corniness of it no doubt rubbed off on me a bit, and I’m even starting to question if it had a significant impact on the quirky sense of humor that I have today. I mean, the humor in this movie is exactly the kind of humor I apply to most situations in life.
Thinking back on it, I would likely will be a very different person today if I hadn’t seen that movie at such a young age. Whether or not I’d be a better person is the question. The only thing that I know for absolute certainty is that I would be a much more bland person for sure…
Big fan of Airplane! Laughing just looking at the pictures scrolling down. It’s a real classic. As an aside, I relatively recently watched “The Poseidon Adventure” for the first time since I saw it in the theaters (6th grade!) and I COMPLETELY forgot that Leslie Nielsen was the captain of the doomed ocean liner! It’s a dead serious movie, and Nielsen delivered his lines in that same dead serious deadpan — and even though there was NOTHING close to a joke, I’m cracking up every time he speaks WAITING for one!
(“Weather reports say there’s a giant tsunami heading our way.”
“A giant tsunami? What is it?
“A wall of water a hundred feet tall that could send us straight to the bottom. But that’s not important now.”)
Anyway what I REALLY wanted to say is that Airplane! isn’t just a “generic” parody. For those who weren’t there, the 70s were the Golden Age of disaster movies, from Irwin Allen’s “Earthquake” (in SENSURROUND!) and “The Towering Inferno”, to a string of airborne crises with the name “Airport” (Airport 75, Airport 77, etc). Arthur Hailey, who wrote the original “Airport” had also a movie called “Zero Hour!”, a serious movie, which Airplane! is =specifically= parodying; in some sequences, the dialog is nearly identical — up to a point, when Airplane! goes off the rails! One of Airplane!’s famous lines, “I sure picked the wrong week to quit smoking.” is just one. And yes, both DO use the ! in the title.
PS — Zero Hour! was itself adapted from an earlier Hailey work, a Canadian TV movie, “Flight Into Danger”, which I haven’t seen (yet!) but appears from what I’m reading to be the identical plot, right down to the pilots eating bad fish.
Well. THAT dragged out more than I intended, sorry! But bottom line, if you have a warped sense of humor and love parody, DO NOT MISS Airplane! And once you’ve watched it, catch Zero Hour! it will be just as funny!
A big joke that unfortunately is lost to most Gen X and younger (me included) is some of the ridiculous casting of the film. My dad grew up watching Robert Stack (The Untouchables), Lloyd Bridges (Sea Hunt), Peter Graves (Mission: Impossible, Stalag 17, westerns), Leslie Nielsen (The Poseidon Adventure) in mostly non-comedic action/adventure/drama roles. I got the absurdity of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a cockpit and “the mom from Leave it to Beaver speaking jive” but lost that extra humor on some of the others, who said some of the most absurd and ridiculous quotable lines from a comedy film while playing it straight.
It’s scary how much “serious” material from “Zero Hour!” was appropriated by ZAZ almost as is and played as satire. There are YouTube videos putting scenes from the two films side by side. It’s all in the presentation and delivery, it seems.
Finally, although my dad rarely watched the show, he went to the theater to see “Beavis and Butt-head Do America”. He could not stop laughing at Robert Stack as the voice of an over the top federal agent. I guess I felt the same way about “John McClane” playing a criminal paying B&B to “do” (murder) his wife.
PS — forgot the most important one! Hailey was also behind Runway Zero-Eight, and I think THAT’S the one that kicked off the whole disaster movie craze.