Whether war movies or dramas and thrillers, stories that take place in airplanes are always interesting to watch. From patriotic Pearl Harbor to parody Airplane! They are full of action and bring us another perspective to the situations we have maybe heard about before. We have given ourselves some thought and are bringing you the 10 best air force movies of all time.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
What it’s about: Relations between Japan and the United States are getting more and more complicated due to the U.S. embargo of raw materials. Air Staff Officer Minoru Genda is planning an attack on the United States. Even though the American intelligence agencies knew about Japanese plans, they didn’t believe that an attack of a kind could happen on U.S. soil.
Why you should watch it: This is one of the most accurate and interesting retellings of the story of Pearl Harbor, and it brings us the many details that preceded this tragic moment. The movie is full of action, very realistic, and it tells the story as it really happened.
The Right Stuff (1983)
What it’s about: This movie brings us the story of the US space program development, and it covers the breaking of the sound barrier to the Mercury 7 astronauts. It shows us that no one at the time had any idea or knowledge of what they were doing, neither running a space program nor selecting people to participate in it.
Why you should watch it: This is one of the best 1980s movies, funny and thrilling and definitely a must-watch for everyone interested in space and space programs and traveling. It is full of excellent actors who bring us a story we will adore to watch.
Memphis Belle (1990)
What it’s about: The movie is named after a B-17 bomber that got its name from its captain’s girlfriend. It is the story of four officers and six enlisted men on this plane who are about to go on their 25th mission. One of them wants to publicize everything before they even finish it. This becomes a stepping stone among the crew members, who are all completely different and have opposite views on the proposition given.
Why you should watch it: This is an interesting true story, and some of the dialogue we see and hear are the ones belonging to the crew on Belle’s mission. Even though the characters are fictional, this educational movie is full of interesting moments.
What it’s about: This biographical drama directed by Clint Eastwood tells the story of pilot Chesley “Sully” Sulleberger, who was forced to land his damaged plane on the Hudson River to save his crew and his passengers. Although he was mostly considered a hero, there have been many who still considered him reckless for deciding to perform this extremely dangerous action.
Why you should watch it: This is the type of movie that won’t let you rest until its end. It is realistic, brilliantly played, and directed, and it shows us what pilots are faced with during their flights and how sober and quick they must be if something goes wrong.
The Aviator (2004)
What it’s about: This interesting movie, a biopic about Howard Hughes, centers on his early filmmaking years but even more on his design and promotion of a new aircraft. It is an interesting view of his life, a life full of money and women and accusations of being a war profiteer.
Why you should watch it: This is not a movie about pilots, but it is still an air force movie due to the importance of Howard Hughes’ revolutionary design in the aircraft industry. It is a great drama directed by Martin Scorsese, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, and Kate Beckinsale in leading roles.
Air Force One (1997)
What it’s about: Harrison Ford plays the President of the United States in this intense action crime drama directed by Wolfgang Petersen. He gives an inspiring speech in Moscow about the USA’s new Zero-tolerance policy regarding terrorism. On his flight back home, his plane is hijacked and taken over by a few terrorists who take all the passengers on the Air Force One, including his wife and daughter, hostage.
Their plan is to execute one hostage every half hour until their requirements are met. But the President is a former Medal of Honor winner who is unwilling to let everything in their hands.
Why you should watch it: This is one of the classics among air force movies. Adrenaline-packed, with brilliant performances and claustrophobic enough to make you think twice about getting on an airplane again.
Top Gun (1986)
What it’s about: This is the story of Top Gun pilots who want to be the best pilots in the world and are there to obey the rules and learn. We meet Maverick, a young and rebellious pilot whose past and his father’s mysterious death still haunt him, which will have a great impact on him following the rules. He will also learn many important things from a civilian instructor, the ones you don’t hear in the classroom.
Why you should watch it: Another absolute classic among air force movies is this action drama directed by Tony Scott and one of Tom Cruise’s greatest hits. It is fun, daring, and interesting, and it became a favorite to many who grew up in the 1980s.
Black Hawk Down
What it’s about: This brilliant war drama, directed by Ridley Scott, with Ewan McGregor, Josh Hartnett, and Eric Bana in the leading roles, brings us the events of an almost disastrous mission in Somalia on October 3, 1993. Nearly 100 U.S. Army Rangers were dropped by a helicopter into Mogadishu with the task of capturing two lieutenants of a Somali warlord. This resulted in an extremely violent and dangerous shooting between the Army Rangers, US Special Forces, and Somali gunmen which led to the destruction of two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters.
Why you should watch it: This is a very realistic story inspired by true events that show us all the problems pilots can encounter while on their missions. It is engaging and thought-provoking and a story you won’t soon forget.
What it’s about: Ted Striker is a traumatized World War II pilot who decides to board the plane once again in order to win back the love of his life, flight attendant Elaine Dickinson. When a severe case of poisoning hits everyone on the plane, including the entire crew, Striker will be the one who will have to take charge of everything and safely land the plane.
Why you should watch it: Even if you are not a big fan of parodies, this movie is a must-see. It is hilarious, very clever, and witty, with excellent performances by Leslie Nielsen and Lloyd Bridges, and one of the movies that will make you laugh even more than 40 years after its release.
Pearl Harbor (2001)
What it’s about: This is the story of one of the most infamous World War II moments ever, the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Told through a sentimental and heartbreaking love story, this movie takes us back to the 1940s and shows us the lives of American pilots whose love for their country for sometimes stronger than the love for their closest ones.
Why you should watch it: Intense, interesting, and full of exciting flying scenes, this is a story of two best friends and a beautiful nurse that will break your heart. You will also learn something through those sad destinies that are probably similar to many at the time.