Airplane! Movie Poster Image




Rapid-fire spoof with sexual jokes and cartoon violence.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1980
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Buried beneath the nonstop jokes and goofiness, the film's hero learns that the key to redemption is behaving courageously and putting the past behind him. He manages to shake off old fears and earlier cowardly acts by bravely taking command of a pilotless passenger plane and landing it safely.


Positive role models

The two leading characters are magnified heroes: undertaking impossible tasks, looking disaster directly in the eye, and saving lives despite their fear and ineptitude. Much of the humor in this film comes from taking traditionally cliched characters and stereotypes to new heights: a singing nun, a gay airline worker, two jive-talking African-Americans, Girl Scouts in a "brutal" fistfight, a substance abuser, even a sleazy pedophile.


Exaggerated, comic action throughout. Despite the fact that a passenger airplane is in danger of crashing for most of the film, it's never to be taken seriously and there's no real suspense. Other cartoon violence includes: a plane crashing into an airport waiting area, suicides (by hanging, "hari-kari," and setting oneself on fire), treacherous falls, a dog attack, brutal fights, a stabbing, a drug overdose, and pilots becoming ill, vomiting, and passing out. It appears for a few moments that a young female patient may suffocate when her medication is accidentally stopped. 


The frequent sexual innuendo, fast-paced sexual references, exaggerated romantic behavior, even brief nudity (bare breasts, a thong), all are meant to be funny and, in many instances, parody sexuality from other movies. A sequence reenacts the iconic shoreline love scene from From Here to Eternity. There are suggestive magazine covers, a silly sexual encounter between a woman and an inflatable vinyl airline pilot, and a brief shot of an obscured gynecological exam, and a slick pedophile makes sly verbal comments to a young boy (including "Have you ever seen a grown man naked, Tommy?"). 


Occasional swearing and vulgar language: "ass," "crap," "goddamn," "s--t," "pisser," "hell," "sit on face." A section of a magazine display is labeled "Whacking Material." There are farts and fart jokes, and feces are used as a comic prop.



Trans World Airlines, Coca-Cola, Tupperware, U.S. News & World Report, Tab, Gatorade, Boys' Life magazine.


Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Substance abuse is parodied throughout. The hero has "a drinking problem"; in his case, the problem is that the liquid misses his mouth when he attempts to drink from a glass. One character continually mentions that he plans to stop smoking, drinking, using amphetamines, and sniffing glue; he gives in to all of them on camera. Drinks are served in a bar and on the plane. A woman openly sniffs cocaine. 


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).

What's the story?

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, AIRPLANE! 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, the film 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the use of humor in the movie 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 2, 1980
DVD/Streaming release date:October 24, 2000
Cast:Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges
Directors:David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:sex and drug references.

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Parent of a 4, 8, 11, and 13 year old Written bybedbye February 27, 2010


I loved it, but there was WAY too much adult material (drugs & sex) for the young teen group that watched it. I am glad to see the ratings here have changed. Previously, there was no mention of the 36DD that filled the screen for 3 awkward seconds!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 17 years old Written byjohnthemon February 25, 2011

Very funny movie, definitely recommend.

Brief nudity might bug some viewers (which I find kind of hilarious) and there is one scene of pretty clear inuendo. Other than that, it's just a freaking hilarious movie.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent of a 11 year old Written bybenito jug March 19, 2011

SO FUNNY!!!!!!!!!!!!

I almost peed my pants it was so funny i watched it with my dad and he skipped the bad part. Classic