Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Movie review by
Lori Silberman ..., Common Sense Media
Planes, Trains and Automobiles Movie Poster Image
Funny comedy about a holiday travel nightmare has profanity.
  • R
  • 1987
  • 92 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 53 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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

Violence

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. 

Sex

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

Language

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." 

Consumerism
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. 

What 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 pickup sticks with his "butt cheeks." Expect 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6, 15, 15, and 17 year old Written by79awesome August 26, 2013

classic

A really good classic movie I enjoyed for ages even my 15 year old enjoys it really funny but eh.. some sex jokes but lol really friendly and a sweet comedy
Adult Written byparent of 3 April 2, 2015

Comment about the f*** scene

Great movie, my kids enjoyed it; a good overall message about tolerance and differences. Re the car rental scene, with all of the F*** language: I let my ki... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bycopperzinc April 6, 2009
Kid, 11 years old March 13, 2010

IT'S FINE!

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 otherwis... Continue reading

What's the story?

In PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, Neal Page and Del 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 Del (John Candy) in a series of coincidental encounters, beginning with Del'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 this movie, 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 Del unconsciously cuddles with Neal in his sleep. When they wake up, horrified, Neal asks Del where one of his hands is. He replies, "Between two pillows." Neal exclaims, "Those aren't pillows!"

Given Neal's love-hate relationship with Del, he does not always serve as an appropriate role model. He repeatedly tells off Del 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 Planes, Trains and Automobiles's many escapades, and their parents would probably enjoy viewing it with them -- with the understanding that the humor is far from clean.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether a movie can still be funny without the use of foul language. Do you think Planes, Trains and Automobiles is funny?

  • 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

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