A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Airplane! is a fast-paced, comic parody of the very popular disaster movies of the 1970s (Airport, The Poseidon Adventure). For the makers of this film, nothing is to be taken seriously, not even an impending airplane crash. Many of the drug and sexual references may fly over the heads of younger viewers. But absolutely nothing is sacred -- sexuality, violence, racial stereotyping, and substance abuse all are grist for their ingenious silliness. There's brief nudity (breasts), lots of sexual innuendo, and sexual sight gags, including a romantic interlude between a stewardess and an inflatable pilot, and scenes in which a pedophile comes on to a young boy. Characters fall out of windows, commit suicide in a variety of ways, fight, drink alcohol, sniff glue, snort cocaine, and use occasional coarse language ("ass," "s--t," "crap," "pisser," and more).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In AIRPLANE! when the passengers and crew aboard Trans American Airlines flight 209 fall ill from food poisoning, passenger and veteran aviator Ted Striker (Robert Hayes) must put his wartime trauma behind him and take the throttle. As fate would have it, his old flame and flight attendant, Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty), is on board. Elaine's rekindled love for Stryker revitalizes his confidence, and, with the help of a couple of hilariously gruff air-traffic controllers, he flies the plane to safety.
Is it any good?
Without a doubt, this movie reigns as king of all '80s parody films. Leslie Nielsen (in a precursor to his turn as Lt. Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun series), Robert Stack, and Lloyd Bridges appear to enjoy portraying characters that lampoon their previous dramatic roles. And, although the dialogue and references to films such as From Here to Eternity and Saturday Night Fever will appeal mainly to adults, site gags such as the jive-talking granny (played by Barbara Billingsley of Leave It to Beaver) and exchanges such as, "Surely you can't be serious?" "I am serious ... and don't call me Shirley," will have kids rolling on the floor.
Along the way, Airplane! mixes embarrassingly obvious puns and sight gags with surprisingly quick-witted knocks at everyday airport/airplane situations. Parents should note that most of the jokes featured in this film are at the expense of various religious and ethnic groups. They are not especially mean-spirited, yet some might interpret the film's off-color humor as offensive.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the use of humor in Airplane! and how several jokes are at the expense of women, people of color, war veterans, religious groups, and gays. How does context change the way we interpret comedy?
Parents also can talk about the nature of parody and how much of Airplane! is parodying other movies.
How well do you think the filmmakers succeed at nonstop jokes and silliness?
- In theaters: July 2, 1980
- On DVD or streaming: October 24, 2000
- Cast: Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges
- Directors: David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: sex and drug references.
- Last updated: July 16, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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