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Aviation History Poll – Best and Worst Aviation Movies

1/8/2010 • Discussions

 Aviation History Reader Poll

In the March 2010 issue, contributing editor Walter J. Boyne offers up his picks for the 10 best and 10 worst aviation movies ever made (read the feature here). Let us know which of your favorite flying films should have made the cut but didn’t, and which movies you would add to the aviation hall of shame.

Give us your thoughts in the comments box below.

78 Responses to Aviation History Poll – Best and Worst Aviation Movies

  1. Flyer says:

    It should have been noted that Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding served as a technical consultant for the flick “Battle of Britain”.

    AND no list of great aviation flicks is complete without “Aces High”, a 1976 British movie with Christopher Plummer and Simon Ward. Lots of great WWI flying and a story line that any combat fighter pilot (such as this one) can relate to. It’s my all-time top.

    I agree with you about “Top Gun” – any military aviator who hotshotted around the way those clowns in the flick did would have had their wings yanked immediately. The Navy should have sued for defamation of character. Interestingly, there actually was a female instructor at Top Gun school, but she was a real professional, not like the vamp plus in the film.

  2. G-man says:

    How could Memphis Belle not be in the top ten? As a general representation of air combat in the CBO, its not half-bad. You said you weren’t looking for technical accuracy, and it’s certainly not as cliched as some of the others in the top 10 list, so what’s the problem? If for no other reason, it was one of the last air combat films to be made with actual aircraft.

    Also, what about Catch-22?

    By the way, I completely agree with your choice of Pearl Harbor as worst of the worst. *shudder* It literally makes me angry to see people watch it. Though that recent movie Stealth is just as bad.

  3. Robert says:

    Dam Busters is in my opinion a great aviation film classic.

  4. Rio says:

    Yes Stealth was in whole trite. However that dogfight with SU27? was worth it! And notice the theme of corporate hotshot that has been a mainstay from Aliens to Avatar.

  5. Sally says:

    I definitely agree with much of your top 10 list, especially Twelve 0’Clock High as one of the best and Pearl Harbor as one of the worst. Special mention to The Best Years of Our Lives for the opening and closing where one gets a real sense of the insides of the planes.

  6. BM says:

    what About the movie: the right stuff” which is not as good as the novel, but it is still a good “airplane” movie.


  7. Godfather 22 says:

    I totally agree with your selections. However, let us not ignore the rotary wing community!
    As a recently retired Army helicopter pilot I would also like to include under the absolute worst of the worst catagory the horrendously bad stink bomb “Fire Birds” with Nicholas Cage.
    I reach for empty beer cans to throw at the TV whenever it appears.
    Under the best catagory I would include “Blackhawk Down”. Although the flying scenes are limited it absolutely captures the low altitude tactics used by necessity in joint ops.
    Thanks, GF22

    • Al says:

      When I started reading the worst list, the very first movie that came to mind was Fire Birds. How could that not make the list? It’s a close second to Top Gun. The author needs to watch it again.

  8. Tim_757 says:

    “…looks like I picked a bad day to stop sniffing glue.”

    I am sad that ‘Airplane’ didn’t make either list. As an Aviator I’d have to say that movie was a classic. Only slightly less crazed was “Air America”.

    Also ‘Airport’ was a good little flick (great opening credits if you need to be motivated to shovel your driveway from a snow storm), but the sequels really needed to be on the worst list.

    One movie that I was sad left off the Best List was ‘Flight of the Intruder’ which had some very cool flying sequences.

    As far as ‘niche’ movies, I liked ‘Always’…gotta love warbirds.


  9. Randall C. Reed says:

    I have a crystal clear recollection of going to the movies with my Dad and watching “Bombers B-52.” I was only 6 or 7 or 8 at the time and knew nothing about jet bombers. But I remember being mesmerized by the sheer SIZE of that airplane. When they showed the scene when William Holden is trying to lower (kick?) the humungous landing gear down from inside the wheel well, I almost lost my mind! I had never though that a tire could be so big! I was awestruck by the whole visual experience. How could I possibly imagine that that same aircraft would still be flying 55 years later. Really amazing…

  10. Randall C. Reed says:

    Tim_757: I agree with Air America: Superb aviation gags in that movie! Also, can anyone assemble a list of movies in which that same twin piston-engined aircraft with the small ram-jet like assist engines was used (looked like a predecessor t to the C-130)? I know it was used in Con Air and I recall seeing it in Always with Richard Dreyfuss. We all owe a great debt to this aircraft ofr which otherwise many of our favorite modern-era fly films might not have been made. Yuk-yuk-yuk!

    • OV1Drvr says:

      C-123 Provider. Originally started life out as the first all metal military glider. Then a pair of Wrights were bolted on then during Viet Nam the jets from a B-66 Destroyer were bolted on instead of JATO bottles to provide better short field performance in the high DA environment of SEA.

  11. Redhand says:

    You missed an all-time classic WWI film: “The Dawn Patrol” with David Niven and Errol Flynn. No way it should not have been on the top-ten list. Similarly, IIRR, there was a rather good Korean War film you missed: “The Hunters.” Finally, I was surprised the Steve McQueen B-17 flick “The War Lover” wasn’t at least mentioned.

  12. Georg says:

    You missed “The Sprit of St. Louis” and “Flight of the Phoenix” (original) from your 10 best. “633 Squadron”!?! Don’t even mention that piece of garbage in the same paragraph as “The Dam Busters”!

  13. Wreck Smurfy says:

    The only film I’d add to your top ten (and I’m surprised it hasn’t been mentioned yet) is “The Great Waldo Pepper” (1975). Here’s a movie where the flying is central, not incidental, to the story, and what magnificent (and real) flying it is! War movies are great, but here’s a story set in peacetime, featuring barnstorming, stunt flying, and the progress of aviation technology. The story is strong (screenplay by the great William Goldman), the cast is generally excellent, the “love angle” is realistic, and you have both the beautiful Susan Sarandon and the equally beautiful Margot Kidder to look at. What’s not to love?

  14. Wreck Smurfy says:

    Oh, and for an Honorable Mention Id have to include the airborne landing sequences of “A Bridge Too Far”. Wow.

  15. Ken V says:

    Dr Strangelove, Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Thr Atomic Bomb is my favorite movie of all time. There are so many memorable comedic moments and INCREDIBLE performances,
    by Peter Sellers (in three roles including the Werner Von Braun-ish/
    Henry Kissinger role, Slim Pickens as Major King Kong, a young
    James Earl Jones as his navigator, Sterling Hayden as the deranged
    commander of Burpelson AFBase, and George C.Scott as General
    Buck Turgidson, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs which he himself considers to be his favorite performance in his career.
    The whole film tales place inside Russian air space and in the B-52
    itself, as well as a few ground locations, which are mostly the Pentagon and Burpelson Air Force Base.

  16. Bugs Dooley says:

    In not exact order here are my favorites: The War Lover, Fly Boys, Pearl Harbor, Flying Tigers, Top Gun, Twenty Seconds Over Tokyo, Command Decision, The Blue Max, Amelia, and the High and The Mighty. Understand comments on Top Gun but was still hell of a flick would have been better with Commander Harmon Rabb. Fly Boys was just plain good and sorry so was Pearl Harbor. Had to add that old Pelcan from the High and the Mighty and like in my book Woody from Flying Tigers.

    • Taiko says:

      I dare say that Tom Cruise is closer to the size of the average Naval Aviator than (JAG) David James Elliot who must be touching the upper limit.

  17. Marc Findlay says:

    I 100% agree with both lists!!!! Pearl Harbor is the absolute worst!!!!

  18. Walter says:

    I can watch the first 5 to 7 minutes of Top Gun every morning with coffee. Watching those real crew members work the deck launching aircraft is like a ballet. Nothing like the real thing to make you proud.

  19. Fred Wenzel says:

    How about ‘The Dawn Patrol’ 1936? Errol Flynn and David Nevin.

  20. Brent M says:

    A list of 10 is not enough.

    “Island in the Sky” and “A guy named Joe” would have to make top list for me.

    Good thing this list is military focused or you would have to list “Snakes” and “Flightplan” as the worst.

  21. Orca says:

    I haven’t seen even a small fraction of the movies mentioned, so I can’t exactly point out good ones in comparison, but do you mean to tell me there hasn’t been a SINGLE movie made since 1967 that can break into your top 10?

  22. Jeff S says:

    Worth consideration: “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” a great book and a fine movie, and “Fighter Squadron,” a seldom-seen WWII film that includes fab shots of P-47 Thunderbolts.

  23. James Crown says:

    Sad to say that these lists probably say more about your actual age than they do about the films themselves. However, you do hedge your bets a bit by saying age, background and so forth count. Assume you must be about 102, and haven’t been to a cinema in the last 30 years (or perhaps you were asleep or into the popcorn). Cheers
    James C

  24. Jeff B says:

    One of the best is One Six Right it’s hard to find but it is worth it.

    • Tabby T says:

      I was wondering if anyone was going to mention this movie. The story, history and photography of this production from 2005, shares the timeless romance of flying with all ages and celebrating the unsung hero of aviation. A must see!

  25. Bernie McKenna says:

    what about Wing and a Prayer.Featured real live F6F’,TBF’s,SBD’s,SB2C’s and the USS Essex on its shakedown.cant get anybetter.


  26. Trapper says:

    While there were a number of movies critiqued here that I have not seen, I strongly disagree with ALL of Walter J. Boyne’s picks for 10 worst that I have seen. With the exception of “Snakes On A Plane”.
    While some of the movies on both lists have cheesey special effects, and/or less than stellar acting, and/or somewhat anemic plot lines, the rankings passed out in this review say more about personal taste of Boyne (or lack there of) than any actual quality or discrepancy within each movie. Again with the exception of “Snakes On A Plane”, of which I felt his review was FAR TOO generous.
    I am just so saddened knowing that Historynet.com can not afford an actual movie review critic. Boyne’s review here has convinced me that had to be as F#@&ED UP on cocaine while doing this review, as he thought the makers of “Snakes On A Plane” were. But don’t worry about what I think Walter, just do another line.

  27. Harry McNamara says:

    I love the lists, but would add one other best: Island in the Sky. Made just before The High and the Mighty, it featured John Wayne and a great cast of veteran actors. It was directed by William Wellman and was based on the novel of the same name by Ernest K. Gann. Although it’s about an aircraft crew surviving in the bitter cold of far northern Canada, I still think of it as an aviation movie as opposed to a survival film. Well, there’s my two cents.

  28. Ken Standing says:

    This is an interesting idea …I’ m sure all aircraft enthusiasts wath war films with a special close interest trying not to bore others with ciomments and details.

    I watchesd Reach for te Sky the other day – a mixture of good stuff (Avro 504, Bulldog and Hurricanes) and terrible mistakes – Bader shoots down a FW190 during the Battle of Britain. It is also very pro his Big Wing tactic and Leigh Mallory gets a prominent part with no mention ofPark.

    You wopnder who takes decisioons on what the audience will get to see, if they care or just have a “It doesn’t matter” attitude. A documentary covering the Doiolittle Raid suggested a Liberator was flying with the B25s over Tokyo.Then there are the glimses of gun camera filmed action with British pilots bravely shooting down Spitfires. We’ve all seen them!

    It is sad to see such as the destruction of the 633 Squadron Mosquito and was that Bulldog a real thing? ….but these are, perhaps, now part of the history of the renaissance of the warbird. If I won the Lottery I’d be tempted to offer to rebuid the destroyed hangar at Duxford in facsimile. I bet they could do with the space.

    Of good films I can think of there is the John Wayne film about the Flying Tigers and The Way to the Stars.

    ….and from your description I think The Interceptors goes to 11.

    • fretherne says:

      I’m afraid there was not a genuie Bristol Bulldog still flying whe ‘Reach for the sky’ was filmed. A Gloster Gladiator was used with the canopy and Town end annular fairing removed from the Bristol aero engine to make the Gladiator look a little more like the Bulldog. The Gladciator was lent/hhired by the old Gloster Aircraft Company busy at that time building Javelis. The Gladator was a restoratio project by GAC apprentices in the 1950s. It was not actually crashed in the film and now I believeit is a flying exhibit at the Shuttleworth displays.

      Favourite films – well I am surprised ‘The Blue Max’ is not included.

  29. silksheen630 says:

    In reply to the comments by Flyer on Jan 9, 2010 at 8:16 pm
    It should have been noted that Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding served as a technical consultant for the flick “Battle of Britain”.

    To the best of my knowledge, my stepfather did not serve as a technical adviser to Spitfire Productions, the company that made the 1969 film “Battle of Britain. Aged 86 he was crippled with arthritis and in a wheelchair; I have photos of him visiting Duxford and Pinewood Studios during the filming where he met some of his former Fighter Command pilots. Larry Olivier, who visited Lord Dowding at our home in Tunbridge Wells, was not the first choice to play the role of Sir Hugh. Alec Guinness was originally asked, but he declined. From letters between him and my mother we do not know why he declined the role; he did however come and enjoy a vegetarian lunch with Lord Dowding at our home.
    Unfortunately, the costly Battle of Britain film (based on the book the book The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster) did not explain Dowding’s unique ‘Home Defense’ system that he devised from 1936 as the first commander of the new RAF Fighter Command. This Despatch (in 5 parts) by Air Chief Marshal Dowding on the conduct of the Battle of Britain he submitted to the Air Ministry in August 1941 gives his personal account of that great air Battle that saved Europe: http://www.spitfiresite.com/history/articles/2007/11/battle-of-britain-by-hugh-dowding-01.htm

    Flyer comments:
    AND no list of great aviation flicks is complete without “Aces High”, a 1976 British movie with Christopher Plummer and Simon Ward. Lots of great WWI flying and a story line that any combat fighter pilot (such as this one) can relate to. It’s my all-time top.

    Unfortunately I have not seen “Aces High”, but the subject being the use of aeroplanes during the Great War links again with Dowding, then a Captain with the Royal Garrison Artillery and a pilot, rising to the rank of Brigadier-General. He had foreseen the potential of aeroplanes while at the Army Staff College in 1912 and took private flying lessons at Brooklands, Surrey, with a small flying school run by Vickers, gaining his civilian pilot’s licence on 20 December 1913. On 28 April 1914 he passed the Officers Flying Certificate at the Royal Flying Corps School, Upavon: http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Dowding.htm

  30. Denbo Murray says:

    One film that I think you should include- it meets most of your requirements is “30 seconds over Tokyo” with Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson.

    It’s also fun to watch the Dam Busters immediately followed by Star Wars. Most of the Death Star battle was lifter right from that movie. In fact, the story goes that George Lucas actually cut the scene together before the special effects were created to give the crew the guideline of what he was envisioning. Some of the dialogue translated over as well.

  31. Darryl Depew says:

    Just read the 10 Best & 10 Worst Aviation Movies.

    Glad to see Maginicient Men (#1), 12 O’clock High (#2), Blue Max (#6), Battle of Britain (#7), and Dam Busters & 633 Squadron (#8) on the top-10 list. I will need to check out Wings (#3) and Hell’s Angel’s (#4); hopefully TCM will air these in the near future.

    Command Decision was an excellent war drama, however with the exception of the projector showing clips of the “Lance-Wulf” (afficianados will recognize the ME-262) zipping by a P-47 & P-38, there are no air scenes in the flick. Hitler did more that anyone or anything else to hold back production of the ME-262.

    Was surprised to see Top Gun in the 10-Worst list, however I will not take any potshots at Mr. Boyne (there will be plenty of Navy pilots to do this!). I do have two negative comments about Top Gun: 1) The language is salty, even when compared to a mainstream movie of today, and 2) Their characterisation of the F-14 as an inferior fighter (to the A-4 and F-5??!!) thus requiring extra skill on the part of American pilots just to level the “playing field.” I did feel the action scenes were well done, and the use of call names (Maverick, Ice Man, Merlin, Sundown, etc.) is quite realistic and factual.

    Comments on Midway: It was a yucky drama, but the coverage of the historical events, especially when ABC included the Coral Sea segment not in the original movie, was mostly well presented (yes, there was a “Point Luck”; yes, Ensign George Gay had a sea-level view of what transpired; no, the Hiryu’s planes did not sink the Yorktown – a Japanese submarine finished off the badly-damaged carrier while under tow back to Pearl).

    I was glad to see Pearl Harbor (#10) on the 10-worst list, however I would place this as the worst of the worst. When I watched the movie, I languished. Another yucky drama, worse than the Tom-Haruko affair in Midway! Even the air scenes were way overdone! There was very little air-to-air combat in the actual battle (thank you General Short). I’ll take Tora Tora Tora anyday over Pearl Harbor. The drama level is low (however, I’ll take this over the yucky), but the movie focuses on historical events, not drama (watch From Here to Eternity for your dose of Pearl Harbor drama). Agree with Mr. Boyne’s Alec Baldwin comment. He may have been a good Jack Ryan, but Jimmy Dolittle had to roll in his grave on AB’s portrayal of him.

    Enjoyed reading the article and the follow-up comments.

  32. David Embry says:

    Mr. Boyne has a good list. ‘Spirit of St. Louis’ is on my top 10 along with a 1938 movie called “Men With Wings”, another Wellman film.
    I saw it on TV as a boy and it sure made an impression. You could tell the director’s heart was in aviation.

  33. chris says:

    Two British classics havent even been mentioned, thats: The First of the Few, and The Sound Barrier, both with exhilerating air scenes. Ok both are slightly off centre both their hearts are in the right place.

  34. Ron Sandberg says:

    I would like to see a place were these films could be rented, or sold
    Aplace that just old aviation films are sold or rented.
    Never can find any of this great stuff in any video store. They usually dont have any idea of what you are talking about!!!!!!

    Ron Sandberg

  35. Andy Risio says:

    A few that missed the list and missed mentioned so far in the great category:
    The Wings of Eagles (John Wayne and John Ford)
    We Were Soldiers (for the helicopter guys out there)
    The Right Stuff (while largely about the first astronauts, the Chuck Yeager parts were exceptional)

    I loved the list overall and agree with many of the choices (Battle of Britian is a classic and Pearl Harbor was an abomination.)

    A few other terrible ones that missed the list:
    Blue Thunder (again in the same vien as Firebirds, ya gotta love wisper mode)
    Courage Under Fire (for oh, so many reasons)

  36. John Milkintas says:

    As a Vietnam vet, I have to add the Flight of the Intruder.

  37. Rick Apitz says:

    While not a movie per se… the British TV production of Piece of Cake is an incrediblbe bit of aviation cinemetography.

    • Juanhop says:

      Yes it is.

      A bit in the same way, have a watch to “Dark blue world”, a 2002 chech production which I accidentally saw, and that I have for a secret tip. Goes around chech pilots joining the R.A.F. after the fall of their country.

  38. PiperMcK says:

    12 O’Clock High is not only the # 1 Aviation film ever made – but perhaps the best movie ever made (certainly in the top 3). As mentiioned in the review, it is about leadership and is still referenced as the point of departure for leadership discussions. It best represents the junction of all military aviation thought and theory from the beginning through the greatest air battle in history. Gregory Peck’s performance has no equal. Zanuck’s production is gripping and includes some of the best air combat footage known. Consider the climatic scene showing Peck sitting in his quarters in the middle of a complete mental and emotional implosion. As he flys “at every crew station” of the ongoing mission, we know exactly what is going through his tortured mind – with no dialogue. 12 O’Clock High is not just about aircraft – it is about exposing the airman’s soul. #1.

  39. brendan mcnally says:

    Nobody mentions “DARK BLUE WORLD” a Czech movie from a few years ago about Czech Spitfire pilots in the RAF. Some pretty good fighter footage there.. Check it out!!

    Another one possibly worth looking at is HANOVER STREET, a woman’s movie about a wartime love triangle Harrison Ford-LEslie Ann Down=Christopher Plummer. Some decent B-25 footage

    Brendan McNally
    Author of GERMANIA, A Novel

  40. Frank Eskridge says:

    I’m a little surprised at the vitriolic responses to Pearl Harbor! As a whole, the movie was bad. But the battle scene, beginning with the Japenese planes flying in low over the lady hanging her laundry, to the final cut to Roosevelt declaring war, was, I thought, one of the great edited sequences ever done. If you have the DVD, I challenge you to watch just that sequence and not be impressed.

  41. Mick says:

    I really liked (and still do) ‘God Is My Co-Pilot . I regret I did not go down to Macon and have the pleasure of meeting and chatting with General Scott. He was at the Aviation Museum (Warner Robbins, Ga) Almost every day (even when he was in his nineties)

  42. Bob Haberman Jr says:

    First off, I thoroughly agree with your first choice for best. I recently watched it again, and it really holds up. I would like to hear your comments about “Only Angel Have Wings”( stupid tital). I thought Battle of Britten rated higher. Your points about Top Gun are well-taken, but it is definitely not the worst. I’m not defending it, but The Memphis Belle abuse left me enraged! I could hear Mr. Wyler turning in his grave! The Memphis Belle was a real plane with a real crew! They deserve better. I would also like to hear your views about The Great Waldow Pepper.
    I have to chime in with Rick Apitz. Piece of Cake was superb!


  43. John Niebling says:

    Great suggestions! Although flight isn’t central to the story, I’ve always loved “The Final Countdown.” It showed the workings of the Nimitz fairly accurately and utilized real servicemen. The best part of the movie was the F-14s playing with the Zeros.

  44. thethar says:

    Best? Not strictly aviation but about flying something in and overcoming engineering problems – Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell is my favourite. Worst? Top Gun.

  45. sebastian says:

    i love the f-14, so top gun gives me an adrenalin rush, when they hot dog those planes around. great footage :)
    the story sucks though, and the mismatched love affair gets on my nerves.
    every time they proclaim the f-5 as being a mig-28 my stomach turns over..
    i hate it, when aviation movies don’t get the facts strait, like in hot shots! (should have made the worst list) when they show f-16s and call them f-15s, as if people are too stupid to notice the difference!
    especially if it doesn’t hurt the budget to get it strait…
    flight of the intruder is also a movie i missed here.

  46. kent hughes says:

    Good lists. On the worst list should be Fate is the Hunter. A great book but an awful film. A film that might be considered for the top list would be Task Force. A Wing and a Prayer had some good shots of Naval WWII aircraft but a dumb story line, it might be on a Top 20 list.

  47. Oldgeorge says:

    C’mon, guys. How about Blaze of Noon? Ernie Gann’s story about the dawn of the airmail days is a masterpiece. I was in flight training when the film hit the theatres and if we had seen the movie the night before, we were not allowed to fly. A two-day wait was considered necessary in some cases. It was much too inspirational for fledgling pilots. Anybody know where I can find a tape or dvd of this movie?

  48. hannah says:

    United 93. It made me cry. especially when I saw the wreckage. i was amazed by the heroism of the passengers. RIP to the passengers and crew.. :( and to all victims of 9/11

  49. P.S. Paaskynen says:

    The Swedish Air Force is featured in a series of films starting in the 1940s with “Första Divisionen” (1941) about a squadron flying the B5 (Swedish license built Douglas 8 (version of A-17) and a later one, also with amazing flying footage for its time, was “Gula Divisionen” (1954) featuring the SAAB J 29 Tunnan.

    A French film with nice flying footage is “Les Chevaliers du Ciel” (Sky Fighters, 2005). It features the Mirage 2000.

  50. Danny Choriki says:

    Great lists. Totally agree about Top Gun. The characters and main plot were so unrealistic.

    I would have included Flying Tigers and one that I can’t recall the name. It was placed in Central America and was about a flying commercial mail service. I think it starred Cary Grant and Jean Arthur.

    One generic comment. Some people love movies because of the stories, plots and characters. These movies tend to have lots of dialogue. Others get their kicks from the experience of watching the movie, the visuals, the sounds and music.

    Top Gun is a good example of a movie that draws that distinction. Personally, I found it hard to believe and wasn’t able to suspend disbelief. Personally, I preferred “Hot Shots!”

  51. OV1Drvr says:

    Some of you guys are my type of sticks. As a retired Army Aviator I’ll agree that Firebirds was near the bottom my need for speed list. Dam Busters, 633 Squadron, Fighter Squadron, The Hunters, Dawn Patrol,
    Fly Boys, Battle of Britain, Air Force, Bridges of Toko Ri, and Strategic Air Command are in my vault.

  52. Joe says:

    While I agree and disagree with many here about different films, I’m saddened that Dive Bomber only got an honorable mention. Yes, there were plenty of inaccuracies, but this was made before the US entered WWII, and there is real technicolor footage of entire squadrons of TBD Devastators (of which none survive today) and F3F fighters, and there is even a P-26 Peashooter as an RAF fighter being inexplicably ferried through California, lol… Not to mention color footage of operations aboard the Enterprise in 1940! Errol Flynn is great, as is the rest of the cast. And it was directed by Michael Curtiz and scored by Max Steiner, both of whom collaborated many times, most famously on Casablanca…

    This is my all time favorite… It’s on DVD I recommend it!

  53. krb says:

    One of the best movies was “The Hunters” with Robert Mitchum and Robert Wagner…although it deviated considerably from the original novel, it had great F86 vs Mig15 flying scenes.

    One of the worst was “Flyng Leathernecks” with John Wayne. I love John Wayne…but this movie made no sense at all…the main character seemed to think his duty was to send men to their death, and if he didn’t do so, he wasn’t doing his job. Plus the action scenes deviated between F4F Wildcats and F6F Hellcats with a few scenes of F4U Corsairs thrown in, plus there was absolutely no emotion shown in the faces of the pilots during any of the action scenes…they just basically sat in the their cockpits while the camera tilted around them…

  54. Tiger driver says:

    How about Empire of the Sun? Not purely aviation but some great scenes!

    • Dave Nelson says:

      The best aviation film, in my opinion, was “Men With Wings”. I saw this film in glorious technicolor in 1938. It is very hard to obtain now .

      Dave Nelson

  55. Zululou says:

    Wings was the only silent movie I’ve ever seen, and I saw it just after passing my DC-8 flight engineer oral exam. Made it all the better, and it was great anyway. Also don’t forget This Man’s Navy, a superb movie all around. If you can find it, get some popcorn and enjoy!

  56. Anonomous says:

    Are you some pacifist of some sort, dont get me wrong, thats fine but seriously, Pearl Harbour the worst film ever? You’re on crack! And Top Gun, top 10 worst? WOW !

  57. fretherne says:

    There was a query about the Bristol Bulldog that Bader crashed in ‘Reach forthe Sky’. A Gloster Gladiator was used with thecooling ring fairing around the Bristol engineremoved, The crashed Blldog was a mock up.I believe there are atl least four Gladiators left andat least one is inflying condition. I believe a couple are being retrieved from thebottom of lakes in Norway where they sank through the ice duringthe Spring thaw. Sadly no Bulldogs.

    One rather sad note about the destruction of historical aircraft – the Lancaster actually used by Gibson to lead the Dam Busters’ raid was deliberately set on fire and used as a ground firefighting. exercise.

  58. Don Struke says:

    I guess I’m not surprised that no one mentioned another Peck film because it’s almost unknown, and that’s the 1954 “The Purple Plain”. I happen to have a copy of it. Peck is Forrester, a Mosquito pilot: Summary from IMDB” After losing his bride in a Luftwaffe air raid, bomber pilot Forrester becomes a solitary killing machine, who doesn’t care whether he dies. The reckless Canadian pilot is both admired and feared by the rest of his squadron in World War II Burma. The squadron physician is assigned to determine the embittered Bill Forrester’s fitness for duty. To break through the nightmare-haunted man’s wall of silence, the physician drives Forrester to visit an outpost of English-speaking refugees, which includes an alluring young Burmese woman.” A very good film.

  59. AimHigh says:

    We forgot one of the best Aviation Movie – Empire of the Sun – One of the best lines in a movie. P-51 Cadillac of the skies! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ouJ_WyS9v8
    I think we can all relate to the boys love of airplanes.

    TOPGUN has to be the worst military / aviation movie I have ever seen.

    Air Traffic Controller
    Private Pilot

  60. lyndon says:

    Eagle Squadron would be lthe worst.

    These brave men were ridiculed by Eddie
    Albert turning the squadron into a search for members of the Women’s Air Force and by his inane juvenile remarks to them.

    Also, all the action seemed to be on the ground e.g. U.S. volunteers in shootouts with Germans.

    They flew Spitfires while Eagle Squadron existed until U.S. entry in to WW2.
    .How many German aircraft did the Squadron shoot down.

  61. Big Show says:

    Whilst Top Gun is not a good movie for aviation purists, it has probably inspired more kids to become pilots than the rest combined.
    Memphis Belle is also a great movie, until you start investigating the historical inaccuracies.
    Lets face it, fiction is far more exciting than mundane real life, so just enjoy them for what they are.

  62. Lyndon says:

    Been no mention of Aircraft Carriers.

    My vote would go for \Midway\.

    Four Japanese aircraft-carriers sunk in one day (three in five minutes).

    Japan’s drive was blunted and was henceforth on the strategic defensive.

    Once the previous inane comments are ignored, this site is just \real super\.

  63. John D. Howard says:

    I still say Island in the Sky with John Wayne should be encluded. Great flying, good story about survival and resque.

  64. Me says:

    I disagree with you Flyer about Aces High. It doesn’t even use the real S.E.5’s. I know because if you look at the joystick in the movie and at one in a real S.E.5 you will see a *HUGE* difference. The shapes are wrong. The one in the movie is a stick grip but the real one is a circle with two buttons inside the circle! It’s a fake!

  65. Alejandro Contreras says:

    What about The Hunters, with Robert Mitchum and James Wagner, portraying two F-86 pilots in Korea?

  66. Student Pilot says:

    Anybody who slams Pearl Harbor is ok with me! P-40s dogfighting Zekes and the portrayal of the Doolittle raid as a mass formation attack are downright disturbing, imo. I would put Tora! Tora! Tora! Toward the top of personal faves and Flying Tigers near the top of my Bad Dog! list because of distortion of history, predictability and John Wayne’s being himself and getting paid for acting.

  67. David Suliafu says:

    “Flight of the Intruder ” should be on the the 10 worst aviation movies. Your a little harsh on “TOP GUN” it did explode the recruiting office of navy and airforce ! some of the effects of this movies dogfighting sequences some of the best for modern air combat affectionatos. The story lines & acting are horrid but stimulated alot of air bunny’s still in the cockpit today.

  68. Rich says:

    One of my biggest gripes in movies is when they show warplanes en route to attack a ground target, yet are completely devoid of proper munitions for the task (often showing nothing more than a set of drop tanks LOL).

  69. W. Riopel says:

    Top 10 best and 10 Worst Aviation films. While I generally agree with the authors choices, I do strongly disagree with The Memphis Belle as one of the worse. Comparing it to the WWII documentary is unfair. The WWII film is about missions, the plane and the 8th Air Force in England. The Belle film of 1989 is about the crew as individuals, their lives (Hollywood style) and the the station goings on in the background. While the Belle film was not great, I believe it will stand the test of time as a good film. Besides, this film in the making was probably the very last time 5 actual B-17s flew together. Sadly, the French owned plane crashed on take off during filming with the plane a total loss due to engine failure. In this case no lives were lost, unlike WWII when often lives were lost on takeoff accidents.

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