Perhaps it’s down to curiosity or some sick desire for destruction, but it appears that we as a society can’t get enough of plane crashes. The fact that on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic, the most-watched, regularly, is Air Crash Investigation is pretty much a testament to this fact.
This interest in air disasters also translates to fiction, be it on TV or the big screen; some of the most popular and successful productions have a crash as a central plank in their narrative, and it’s something that we just appear to have some fundamental need to watch avidly.
When it comes to the way these air crashes are created and filmed, there are some that are less nerve-shredding and effective than others, and perhaps those who might (to save money) use free stock video to help place an incident in a specific city, but we’ve isolated five tv shows and films that have adeptly used an airplane incident as the focal point for their storytelling experience.
Though arguably the TV show went on longer than it needed to, Lost was nonetheless a hugely successful creation that was part of a new breed of series that had the benefit of very high production values.
Of course, central to the entire program is a plane crash that starts the show, leaving a disparate group of individuals on an island in the middle of nowhere. Whereas the show would have worked well just as a show about survival, it clearly went down a more supernatural angle that led to the presence of polar bears on the island as well as a smoke monster and a host of other issues that our main characters had to deal with.
Clearly, there were some aspects that were not resolved, but all in all, the show was a landmark moment in TV and still retains a cult following who are more than willing to explain just what went on at the island. Hint, the characters may well have been dead all along…
Denzel Washington stars in this excellent movie as a pilot with a drink and drug problem, something you don’t really want from the man flying your plane; regardless of this, he manages to pull off a miraculous feat when at the controls of a plane that suffers a mechanical failure.
At one point, he flies the plane upside down, and only a handful of those on board die; however, there is then an investigation that seeks answers and inevitably the character assassination of Washington’s character.
Washington earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a troubled man, and it’s a movie that enjoyed a great deal of critical acclaim as well as being well received by audiences worldwide.
This show is a little similar to Lost in terms of its premise. Here a flight takes off from Jamaica on route to New York; only when the plane touches down in the US does it appear they have arrived over five years late, and no one quite knows what’s happened.
The passengers were clearly assumed dead, and there are many questions that need answers, and here the supernatural once again plays a part with those who were on board experiencing visions of events that haven’t happened as well as hearing voices—all in all, stuff that shouldn’t really be happening.
The show was originally cancelled by NBC after three seasons but picked up by Netflix for a fourth and final outing that will air sometime in the future.
Did you know that Cast Away, the Tom Hanks-led movie that sees our hero plunged into the ocean while in a FedEx plane, was the starting point to the Lost tv series? Indeed it was the movie that set in motion the successful TV show.
Anyway, Cast Away has an air crash at its center and a very effective one when it comes to making you shudder in your seat. Fortunately, there is a lot more to the film than just the accident, and we get to see Chuck Noland (not the amusing choice of name) trying to make the most of being marooned on a deserted island.
We see Hanks successfully making fire, shelling coconuts, and slowly losing his mind before finally electing to take on the high seas and away to safety. Then we get a final act where we see Chuck’s wife has remarried (to Mr. Big from Sex and the City no less), and this adds a nuanced take on the whole Robinson Crusoe-style tale.
Another Tom Hanks-helmed film that has an air crash, this time based on the true story of a flight that had to ditch in the Hudson River.
Interestingly the movie is more about how procedures play out following an accident as opposed to centering on the excitement and energy of the crash itself, which we only get to see towards the end of the movie.
The film shows how Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger and his co-pilot Jeffrey Zaslow had to go about clearing their names after the incident, which remarkably resulted in not even serious injuries for anyone on board.
Clint Eastwood’s film is more interested in the processes at play and how two ‘ordinary’ men become the focus of worldwide media attention. In this way, it’s an excellent character study and not a movie for those who just want to see how well an air crash is depicted on the big screen.