Planes are amazing inventions. And as much as we are glad that we live in an era where we can catch flights and quickly travel from one place to another, there’s no denying that flying makes us anxious too. Although statistics have been shouting out from the rooftops that air travel is relatively safer than any other mode of transport, there’s something about flying that still makes many of us nervous. Well, if you needed more reasons, here’s our list of Thrillers Set in the Skies That Will Make You Cancel Your Next Flight! Of, we don’t mean to scare you. It’s just that all these movies are so amazing in their own ways that we wouldn’t want you to miss out on them! Just one recommendation we’d like to make though — please do not watch these movies right before a flight. Or you might end up canceling your tickets and postponing your trip indefinitely!
Executive Decision is one of the first big-budget and highly successful movies that explored the adventurous storyline of action on an airplane and as an action film, is widely regarded as quite an impressive one. The first directorial venture of Stuart Baird, the movie has Kurt Russell and Halle Berry in the lead, with others on the cast, including Steven Seagal, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Joe Morton, David Suchet, and BD Wong providing additional firepower to the plot. With especially impressive action sequences like the one where a group of US commandos makes its way into the plane by attaching a Remora F117x aircraft to it, the movie provides enough adrenaline rushes to keep the audience at the edge of their seats at all times. Playing out the formula that makes for a great action thriller movie to the hilt, the excitement the movie provides throughout its running time of 133 minutes makes Executive Decision a great addition to this list.
Cillian Murphy may be the perfect mix of a hero and a villain in Peaky Blinders but there was a time when he went all out with his villainous roles, and Red Eye was one of those journeys he took as the bad guy. With his good looks, winning smile, and hypnotic eyes, Cillian brilliantly carries out the role of Jackson Rippner, a terrorist who is on the plane to carry out the assassination of Charles Keefe, the US Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. And to make his plan work, he uses his charm to win the attention of Lisa Reisert, played by the beautiful and talented Rachel McAdams, only to later manipulate her into helping him with his plan. What plays out is a battle of wits and courage, with Lisa eventually overpowering the villainous terrorist with her determination to never give in to the threat, a conviction that is the result of a past incident that had her being raped at knifepoint. With loads of grit and an equal number of interesting twists in the plot, Red Eye makes for quite an adventurous film.
Air Force One
When Harrison Ford is part of an action thriller film, you know it’s got to be among the best and that’s exactly what Air Force One is. As the President of the United States of America, the movie shows just how a true leader remains one even in the face of danger, and even outs his own more important life at risk to save the lives of others. On Air Force One with his wife and daughter, as well as security personnel and staff, President James Marshall comes under attack when a group of terrorists disguised as reporters and part of the entourage put to work their plan of killing some personnel and taking others hostage. Soon enough, in the face of chaos, essential players in the plot have to make the choice between courage and cowardice, and the President chooses the latter. With enough action to keep the audience captivated throughout its running time of 124 minutes, Air Force One was made on a considerably high budget of $85 million but proved to be worth the risk, raking in $315 million at the box office. And how convincing was Harrison For as President? A 2016 Wall Street Journal poll announced President James Marshall of Air Force One the greatest fictional president!
Imagine walking into a plane with a child or a loved one and then suddenly discovering that the child or person is missing and nowhere to be found! And to add to it, no one is willing to believe you when you say that you really did have someone with you! That’s exactly what goes down in the movie Flightplan, starring the extremely talented Jodie Foster and a talented supportive cast comprising Peter Sarsgaard, Erika Christensen, and Sean Bean. The mystery psychological thriller begins with the premise of an understandably disturbed American aircraft engineer heading back home with her husband’s body and daughter. The only problem is that after her daughter disappears, no one is willing to believe in her claim that she did indeed bring her child onto the flight. Thus begins the saga that has a mother’s determined and relentless hunt to find her daughter while the plane is still in midair, in the process revealing a plot that proves to be a lot more sinister and dangerous than just a kidnapping. The movie was a great success, raking in a high-flying $223 million in comparison with the production budget of $55 million.
What else can you expect when you put the most notorious of criminals on a plane! Con Air is an action-packed thriller that not only has a brilliant star cast but also makes for a great storyline that is tightly woven around interesting sequences and leaves audiences with an experience that doesn’t let them rest their eyes or heartbeats even for a minute. And the reason why it’s on this list is that although the movie plays out in different locations and settings, the consistent feature throughout the movie is the Fairchild C-123 Provider nicknamed the Jailbird. As a prison transport plane, this one is jampacked with criminals ranging from rapists to murderers as part of a prison transfer, and the main protagonist of the film, the character of Cameron Poe played by Nicolas Cage, finds himself on this plane as he heads out to meet his family after being granted parole. And as it turns out, the flight takes a lot longer than usual! With a rich star cast that includes John Cusack as the US Marshal whose job it is to bring the plane down and hand out justice to the prisoners, as well as other brilliant actors including John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Colm Meaney, Mykelti Williamson, and Rachel Ticotin, the movie was a runaway hit, raking in a whopping $224 million against the $75 million it took to make the movie.
Liam Neeson is famous for doling out the best action-packed sequences in movies. And among the best roles he has pulled off during his career — and we’ll all agree there have been quite a few of them — was that of Federal Air Marshal Bill Marks in the action-in-the-skies movie Non-Stop. As an alcoholic who is the last person you’d expect to be of any help in a crisis situation, it is eventually Bill who, despite seeming like it’s all getting away from his hands, does take control. With the help of Jen Summers, played by Julianne Moore, and despite the initial resentment of passengers, Bill Marks manages to fight every little challenge that comes his way and eventually manages to disprove the initial notion that it was him who was hijacking the flight. A runaway hit with the audiences, the movie made an impressive $222 million at the box office, against the $50 million or so budget it was made on. As far as action movies set in the skies go, Non-Stop does to be one of the best ones out there!
Exciting, emotional, and engaging, Flight makes for one of the best plane movies out there and Denzel Washington makes it even better! Inspired by the events surrounding the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 but a far cry in terms of the storyline, this one has an alcoholic Captain William “Whip” Whittaker Sr. taking to the skies with more than a hundred souls on board and miraculously crash-landing his plane after waking up midflight and seeing it going into a steep dive. Declared a hero for saving so many lives, things soon turn around when it is revealed that the pilot may have been intoxicated at the time of the incident. The ensuing drama and the main protagonist’s own struggles with alcohol give the movie a heartrending twist and it’s not just about heroic anymore. Although Flight wasn’t played out completely in the skies, it sure deserves a place on our list for simply being a great one inspired by events that did take place in the sky.
When Tom Hanks delivers, he delivers the best, and the best was just what Sully was! Based on the real-life incident of the US Airways Flight 149 that made an emergency landing on the Hudson River in January 2009, the movie brings to the fore the timely decisions that the pilot of the aircraft, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, and co-pilot First Officer Jeff Skiles, that saved the lives of all the 155 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft. Paying equal attention to the publicity that the entire incident got, the praise that came the pilot’s way, and the ensuing investigation that raised eyebrows within and without, the movie gave viewers quite the thrilling ride. While the landing itself was hailed as miraculous by the most seasoned of pilots, the investigation thereafter that questioned the pilot’s decisions greatly divided the same experts. Sully captures it all, with Tom Hanks perfectly pulling off the role of the pilot Sully, whether it is taking all the praise in his stride, or the ridicule that he had to face from certain quarters thereafter.
Based on a true story that showcased how even the most ordinary people can sometimes prove to be extraordinary heroes, Neerja is an Indian film that follows all that went down when the Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked in Karachi by the Abu Nidal Organization in 1986. An incident that caught the attention of the world and had everyone on tenterhooks, the hijacking eventually ended with far fewer loss of lives, thanks to the quick-thinking as well as sacrificial actions of Neerja Bhanot, the head purser on the flight. Losing her life while defending three children from gunfire, Neerja proved to be the hero we only see in movies and hear about in books. Dedicated to this brave soul who posthumously won the unique recognition of being honored by the governments of India, the United States, and Pakistan, Neerja is a story of courage and sacrifice, and despite its heartbreaking ending, it shows us the extraordinary courage that one woman showed, when she could have just as easily been a part of the rest of the crowd by giving in to the situation. Even today, when the world speaks of hijackings, the story of Neerja Bhanot is hailed as one of the most heroic attempts in history.
The 9/11 attacks brought upon the world one of the darkest days we’ve ever known, and although it was only America that came under attack, every nation across the globe felt experienced the horror and stood up to fight the good fight against terrorism. Since then, there have been many documentaries and films that have explored the events surrounding the attacks. Among them is United 93. The movie revolves around the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93 and depicts how the heroic efforts of the passengers on the flight as well as crew members ensured that the terrorists on the flight could not put to work their plans of hitting New York City. The only hijacked plane on that fateful day that did not hit the target intended by the terrorists, it was clear that if it wasn’t for the bravery of the passengers and their apparent disregard to even losing their own lives, the destruction on that day would have been far more than it was. The plane eventually crashed into a field in Shanksville, killing every person on board. Although several events played out in the movie were a figment of imagination, and even carried a disclaimer to this effect, this was the only way this story of courage and sacrifice could be retold. As a movie, United 93 remains one of the most poignant ones that will always help us remember how courage will always triumph over evil.
Let’s Give This List a Safe Landing, Shall We?
Some of these movies were based on real-life incidents while others were the result of really imaginative storylines. And yet, some of the sequences that play out in these films are as close to reality as they can get, and bring out not just the dangers of air travel but also the risk the crew of every flight faces each time they take to the skies. As we end this list of Thrillers Set in the Skies That Will Make You Cancel Your Next Flight, we salute the bravery and courage of all those who continue to serve air passengers despite the risks involved. From hijackings to terrorist attacks, we have lost so many lives over the decades. So we especially salute and pay homage to all those passengers and crew who have lost their lives due to accidents and incidents related to air travel.