Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines



Top gun of slapstick early-aviation comedies.
  • Review Date: February 26, 2008
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1965
  • Running Time: 138 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The cast is abundantly, exuberantly filled with hearty stereotypes, such as stiffly proper Britons, opera-singing Italians, laid-back cowboy Yanks, militaristic Germans, romantic Frenchmen, etc. (the Japanese entrant is a surprise; he has British mannerisms instead). There isn't any meanness in any of it. Noble, honest pilots win; the shifty, underhanded one doesn't.

Violence & scariness

Flying-machine crashes and car-chase crackups are pretty frequent, but harmless. A punch-out. A clumsy duel fought with outsized rifles.

Sexy stuff

A nude in a painting obliquely glimpsed. The model herself quickly clads herself in a towel. A flirty Frenchman insists on greeting and romancing girls with slaps on the bottom. Near the end he heads for a handy haystack with a woman.


"Hell" uttered, the s-word muttered, and the ethnic slur "nip."


Mention of some real-life London newspapers.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking (with one of the wine glasses poisoned); cigar and cigarette smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there are blink-and-you'll-miss them swear words and ethnic slurs, and a few stunts of a don't-try-this-at-home-with-cardboard-wings variety. One running gag concerns a Frenchman who seduces a string of women throughout (nothing explicit is shown). Some video boxes of this feature carry a "G," others a "PG," and there's no difference in content.

What's the story?

An all-star super-deluxe widescreen slapstick epic, THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES takes place in 1910. A British newspaper baron (Robert Morley), to boost the infant field of aviation, sponsors an air race from London to Paris -- with part of the journey by land, because it's still inconceivable these spindly, prop-driven craft could stay aloft more than 60 miles at a time. The race draws an international cast of contenders: an Italian aristocrat, a womanizing Frenchman, a pompous squad of German military, a Snidely Whiplash-style cheater named Sir Percy (Terry-Thomas) and an American cowboy named Orvil (Stuart Whitman). When not dealing with balky engines and Sir Percy's sabotage, Orvil and the main British contender (James Fox) begin a romantic rivalry over the press baron's daughter.

Is it any good?


Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines recently charted high in a UK survey of favorite kid-friendly movies, and no wonder. From the opening faux-silent movie sequence with a caveman (mimed by Red Skelton), there's hardly a dull minute for viewers of any age, even with a super-sized length (home-video preserves the "intermission" break and orchestral overture for old-time theater audiences). The cast sparkles, and they're all larger-than-life actors playing broad character spoofs, right down to major Euro-actors in bit roles (yes, that's the villain from Goldfinger as the pratfalling German marshal).

Sets, costumes and nostalgic Edwardian-era flavor are a joy to behold. And the sputtering, chugging, wire-and-canvas flying contraptions are wonderful. In all but a handful of shots it's clear that these are real aircraft, not CGI or f/x illusions. Watching them aloft conveys some of the thrills that early plane-spotters might have felt back then.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the period atmosphere. What must it have been like to behold early airplanes at the dawn of aviation? How has air travel and technology changed the world? You can research real air-races and barnstormers from the old days, and famous larger-than-life daredevil pilots (like Roscoe Turner, who traveled from race to race with a pet lion).

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 16, 1965
DVD release date:March 16, 2004
Cast:James Fox, Sarah Miles, Stuart Whitman
Director:Ken Annakin
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Run time:138 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines was written by

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byDr3w November 9, 2011

Common Sense Media Strikes Again!

This was the first film that caused me question common sense media's reliability as a site. I bought this film on their recommendation that it was fine for kids "7 and up". I was shocked and embarassed by how much lewd and suggestive content got stuck in this film. One character, the Frenchman, is an obvious womanizer. Not just that, he treats woman as sexual objects to obtain. He slaps them on the bottom, leers at them, and isn't interested in them for anything but sex. This could be amusing if it were being treated as wrong, but the film expects us to laugh at and CONDONE this type of behavior. Some of the Frenchman's behavior is seriously unfunny. At one point, the film makes it obvious that he is in the process of deflowering an older man's virgin daughter off-screen. Then, the villain makes a joke about it! Is this supposed to be amusing? Plus, there is partial nudity in this film. During a Titanic style nude drawing sequence, a woman's bare back and lower bottom are visible. She covers herself relatively quickly with a towel, but I was so disappointed and upset at this scene that I considered turning the film off right there. The language in this film is also unacceptable. I never heard the s-word used, but the characters in this film use the d-words and h-words many times. Now, you may be thinking, "What is this prude's problem? None of that stuff is that big a deal." I would more or less agree with you that none of this stuff is that bad compared to other films, but the fact that this film is targeting families raises it to a higher standard. It should be squeaky clean, and it simply isn't. Plus, while the content may not be ridiculously over-the-top, the film's sleazy view of sex and its lack of any apparent message makes it a poor choice for my family.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written byjace February 5, 2010

Leave it alone

Nude posing for painting seen from behind. Suggestive situations.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Teen, 14 years old Written byMister Keating April 21, 2011

Mister Keating on Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 mintunes

It's got great actors, It has Gurc Fode (I can't spell his name right (The guy who played Gold Finger)) Eric Skyes and Terry-Thomas in it. It's got crashs, and a plot about the relational between Miss Brownly and Richard Mays plus a rivaly between Mays and Orvil Netwon.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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