Planes, Trains and Automobiles Movie Poster Image

Planes, Trains and Automobiles



Funny comedy about a holiday travel nightmare has profanity.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: July 19, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1987
  • Running Time: 92 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Two opposite characters -- one an optimistic extroverted salesman, the other a more cynical and introverted advertising executive -- learn to appreciate the qualities in the other person and grow to be friends. 

Positive role models

While not role models per se, Neal and Nell are opposites who learn to appreciate their differences in personality and temperament. 


The lead characters narrowly avert a fatal accident when they drive down the interstate in the wrong direction. Pratfall violence: Neal getting grabbed in the testicles and dragged, characters punching each other and falling over. 


Scantily-clad girl pinups inside taxicab. A couple on a bus makes out while groping each other. In the airport, Nell reads an X-rated paperback book. In one of the movie's better-known scenes, while sharing the same bed in a motel room, Nell wakes up spooning Neal, and when they realize that Nell has his hand not between two pillows but rather Neal's buttocks, they both panic. 


During an altercation with a rental car employee, Steve Martin's character goes on a tirade in which he uses "f--k" several times. Other profanity: "son of a bitch," "a--hole," "s--t," "goddamn." 

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Frequent cigarette smoking. Lead characters drink several mini bottles of various types of alcohol while stuck in a motel room, act drunk. Beer drinking. Cigar smoking. 

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is a classic 1987 John Hughes-directed comedy in which two opposite characters, a loquacious salesman played by John Candy and a cynical advertising executive played by Steve Martin, face one setback after another while trying to get home in time for Thanksgiving. The consistent use of profanity in this movie may override its many humorous scenes, and as such, may not be appropriate for younger kids. In one scene that adults may find funny, an irate Steve Martin employs "f--k" repeatedly while arguing with a rental car agent; in another, Candy jokes about picking up pick-up sticks with his "butt cheeks." Some smoking and drinking. The film does impart a few moral lessons, such as the value of family and not judging a character by his first impression.

What's the story?

Neal Page and Nell Griffith couldn't be more unlikely traveling partners, let alone friends. Neal ( Steve Martin), a wearied executive from the Chicago suburbs who has sat in on one too many business meetings, is desperate to come home to his wife and children for Thanksgiving dinner after his plane is indefinitely laid over in Wichita, Kansas. Neal repeatedly meets up with goofy shower-ring salesman Nell ( John Candy) in a series of coincidental encounters, beginning with Nell's unwittingly stealing Neal's New York City cab. Throughout their journey, they spar with Midwestern hicks, motel clerks, a rental car agent, and law enforcement figures, traveling not only by plane, train, and automobile, but by bus and even foot as well.

Is it any good?


There are some truly hilarious scenes in PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES, but they aren't very appropriate for kids -- at least younger ones. In one scene, the two men are forced to share a bed in a sleazy motel and Nell unconsciously cuddles with Neal in his sleep. When they wake up, horrified, Neal asks Nell where one of his hands is. He replies, "Between two pillows." Neal exclaims, "Those aren't pillows!"

Neal's love-hate relationship with Nell does not always serve as an appropriate role model, as he repeatedly tells off Nell and berates his oddball behavior. Yet, even Neal realizes his bad behavior and regrets it on several occasions, and by the end of the film, the two realize that together they've accomplished more than they could separately. Overall, teens would get a chuckle from the film's many escapades, and their parents would probably enjoy viewing it with them -- with the understanding that the humor is far from clean.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether a movie can still be funny without the use of foul language.

  • How does this movie find comedy in two characters who are the opposite of each other? What are some other examples of movies in which the two lead characters are opposites? 

  • How does this movie find comedy in the near-universal experiences many travelers face when trying to get home for the holidays? How does the movie exaggerate these universal moments for comedic effect? 

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 20, 1987
DVD release date:January 8, 2002
Cast:John Candy, Kevin Bacon, Steve Martin
Director:John Hughes
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Topics:Friendship, Holidays, Misfits and underdogs, Trains
Run time:92 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 17 years old Written bycopperzinc April 6, 2009
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Kid, 11 years old March 13, 2010


I loved this movie. Even though there are some words which aren't age appropriate....Kids should be able to understand not to say those words. But otherwise, this movie is perfect for a good laugh.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Great messages
Teen, 17 years old Written byoctober1985 July 18, 2009
Probably one of the tamest R-rated movies ever. THe only reason it's R is because of one scene at a car rental place where Steve Martin just swears at a woman and uses the f-word frequently. It's used about 15 times in one minute. There's one scene that might be scary for little kids(when they are in the car crash), but other than that, the rest of the film is PG material.
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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