One of the big draws of Robert Zemeckis’s “Flight,” which opens this Friday, is a stunning plane crash sequence in which a pilot played by Denzel Washington manages to avoid total disaster and save most of the passengers on board his faulty aircraft. Of course, for people afraid of flying, this same sequence could also be the biggest deterrent.
As for creating new aviophobes, it may have that effect on some people but nothing on a scale that the airline industry should worry about. Plane crashes and accidents have been depicted regularly in movies since the silent era, and while “Flight” proves that they keep getting more realistic, it’s likely that if these fifteen precursors haven’t already instilled a fear of flying in you, you should be fine.
The last time Zemeckis made a live action film he gave us another frightening plane crash that left Tom Hanks stranded on a desert island with a volleyball for a companion. While it may seem favorable to crash into a body of water rather than land, watching this sequence doesn’t exactly make it look like a good time either.
This incredible and terrifying true story of a crash in the Andes will at least make you fear the sight of mountains outside your airplane window. It’s amazing that some of the Uruguayan rugby team survived the crash, as we see so many sucked out after the tail breaks off and then others fatally harmed when the fuselage touched down. But the accident wasn’t the end of their problems, and the film will have you asking yourself if you could do what they did in order to live.
“Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed in the Mountain”
Evidence that you don’t need a full dramatization to make you feel the horror of the situation, this critically acclaimed documentary covers that 1972 Andes crash depicted in “Alive” with firsthand accounts from the survivors. Mixing their verbal testimony with quick flashes of reenactment, the film’s constant reminder of it being a true story might be an even more effective source for a flying phobia.
As scary as the plane crash is in this film, the lack of sound effects and tight clutter of shots, not to mention the fantastical element, to the sequence keeps it from feeling too real and therefore is not too fear-inducing. Really it’s the opening scene with its slow reveal of the aftermath and screeching score that’s more harrowing.
Have you ever boarded a flight and wondered if you’d get a vision about its awful fate? Maybe that only happens to someone who has seen the first “Final Destination” too many times. The movie shows in detail the horrid deaths of multiple passengers during one teen boy’s prophetic nightmare. And the nightmare comes true, though he and a handful of others escape the plane before it explodes during takeoff. This isn’t to say they really survive the disaster completely, however.
“Twilight Zone: The Movie”
Have you ever been on a flight and seen a gremlin on the wing? Perhaps you’ve seen the segment from this movie titled “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” -- or the old “Twilight Zone” TV episode it’s based on -- too many times. In the film version, a man with a severe fear of flying is thought to be delusional when he sees a creature outside his window messing with the engines. Is it real or in his head? Let’s just say we hope watching all the scenes compiled here don’t cause you to have the kind of extreme aviophobia he suffers from.
A movie doesn’t have to be based on a true story or even serious to make you afraid of flying. This classic Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker comedy shows us other things to worry about besides crashing, such as bad airline food and neighboring passengers who may annoy you in any number of ways. And who doesn’t worry for just a second during each flight that they might hear the words “is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?”
Before “Airplane!” parodied them all, the “Airport” series of films presented (slightly) more serious depictions of everything from bomb and missile threats to getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle. This first sequel involves a mid-air collision between a 747 and a single-passenger plane, the pilot of the latter having suffered a heart attack causing his Beechcraft Baron to then wipe out the flight crew of the jumbo jet. Here, though, the stewardess tries to first make do on her own without asking the passengers for assistance.
“Die Hard 2”
In the cases of “Airplane!” and “Airport 1975” the passengers could be thankful for the guidance provided by the control tower. In this first “Die Hard” sequel, one flight isn’t so fortunate when the pilots are misled by terrorists who’ve taken over the tower’s radio communications and landing system. One jet is intentionally crashed, killing all on board, while many other flights continue to circle the airport with their fuel running low. This isn’t a likely specific scenario for most, though you might relate to the circling situation during bad weather conditions.
It’s bad weather conditions -- a blizzard, to be exact -- that causes the plane crash in this movie, which again isn’t the last of the main character’s problems. But that main character is played by Liam Neeson, who can survive anything, including airline disasters and wolf attacks. Unfortunately, the rest of us aren’t Liam Neeson.
“Snakes on a Plane”
None of us are Samuel L. Jackson, either, which means none of us would fare so well in the unlikely scenario of a bunch of motherf---ing snakes getting loose on our motherf---ing plane. The ridiculousness of the movie aside, though, it does make you wonder what’s beneath you in that cargo hold during a flight.
Potentially worse than snakes on your plane are the nation’s worst convicts on your plane, which is surely one of the most unlikely things that will ever happen for you, no matter how bad your discount airline of choice is. What this movie might do is instill a fear of being on the Las Vegas strip in a world where they fly the nation’s worst convicts on a plane.
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”
Ever wake up on a flight and take a moment to wonder where you are and what’s going on? Now, imagine you regain a sense of your situation by discovering that the pilots have abandoned plane. If you’ve got Indiana Jones with you, no need to panic. If you don’t, just remember that inflatable rafts are not just for sea crashes.
We’ve heard about the danger that geese pose to major flights -- that was the cause of the emergency for Captain “Sully” Sullenberger’s miraculous incident a few years back -- and this film depicts a crash caused by birds that will have you worried about your plane, big or small. One good way to keep the realism of the film from getting to you, though, is to watch this video segment on the making of that sequence.