Top 5 Most Terrifying Movie Airplane Crashes
I just took a long flight today, and as I white knuckled several “goony bird” type landings, I not only watched my life flash before me more times than I care to mention, but I had the time to reflect on the visceral fear I have regarding plane crashes. I have far less than a healthy airplane neurosis which I care not to go into here, but for one who flies quite a bit each year, it’s something I really need to deal with — someday. This fear is not helped at all by seeing more than my share of perilous movie plane crashes over the years that were part of my “flash before your eyes” montage.
So with the summer travel season behind us, but the Holidays fast approaching, let’s take a moment to mediate on the perils of plane flight, and those films that have bought us closer to death than we should ever experience in the flesh.
The true story of a Uruguayan Rugby team crashing in the Andes is rendered even more bleak when the survivors are forced to eat their dead. After the horrendous crash, I was ready to leave the theater. Imagine my surprise when I returned with popcorn to find passengers slicing up buttocks and love handles. Not for the weak of stomach.
4United 93 (2006)
There’s no questioning how this story ends, as it was culled from actual records of the heroic passengers that thwarted one of the four planes hijacked on that fateful day, September 11th, 2001. So going in, you know what you’re in for. Still and all, the final 45 minutes are a poignant descent into one of the most tragic days in American history.
3Cast Away (2000)
When it comes to technical wizardry, almost no one can top Robert Zemeckis. He’s able to take some of the most seemingly benign images (a feather blowing in a breeze, anyone?) and make them realer than real. So when he staged the plane crash that sets Tom Hanks’ lonely island odyssey in motion, it was a pulse-pounding, near death experience that holds the audience hostage for far too long. The carrier, meant for cargo, shakes and rattles in what starts out as innocent turbulence, and ends up in an electrical storm as Hanks, the everyman, peeks over his shoulder and into a cockpit scene no civilian should ever witness, as pilots are going crazy, then holding for dear life as the plane plunges into the murky depths of the Pacific and swimming through flames and debris to the surface. I’m sweating just thinking of it.
For some reason, Zemeckis decided he needed to better himself and stage “the greatest plane crash in movie history,” which is only the rising action of this surprisingly low-key, sensitive portrayal of a man battling his demons and addictions. Denzel Washington plays a man who abuses himself in the first ten minutes worse than most people do in a lifetime. After, sex, drugs, booze, more drugs and then some more booze, this irresponsible pilot powers a faltering passenger plane through a near death take-off, only to fall asleep as the plane goes into deeper troubles. By now everyone knows (SPOILER if not) that in order to get out of a no-win crash scenario, Washington flips the plane upside down, minimalizing the fatalities but raising the curiosity and ire of the FAA. If you can make it through this amazing scene without affecting your heart rate, you’re a much better man (or woman) than I.
This film ruined me for a week, and it wasn’t even the plane crash that did it. This meditation on the connection made by crash survivors dealing with their own mortality and guilt has a devastating plane crash at its core that is the engine that powers everything in its wake. What makes this disturbing Peter Weir directed tragedy so wrought is that it returns to the crash again and again, each time, highlighting different subtleties to end up with a pastiche of moments that together offer a most devastating, life changing event. From Jeff Bridges wandering in a field afterwards, to the confession he hears form a co-worker as they are going down, I can’t help but believe there’s a deep truth to this film and crash that mirrors reality in a most unsettling way.
Because it’s TV, I can’t really count it, but the crash of Oceanic Flight 815, revisited over 6 seasons of LOST, is, like Fearless, so relentless in its continued flashbacks to the crash, each time portrayed in different scenarios and points of view, that when watched binge-style, assures you’ll never want to get on a plane again.