Aviation Movies

The aviation movies on this page have been included on warbirdsite.com to give site visitors a guide to the range of films available, many of which have been released on DVD.  I have ranked them from "must-see" first to "don't bother" at the bottom of the page, and rated them on the following basis:

RATINGS


Five Star
*****
Excellent
Four Star
****
Very good
Three Star
***
Average
Two Star
**
Marginal
One Star
*
Bloody Awful
                  
DARK BLUE WORLD (2001).  "In the tradition of Pearl Harbor and based on actual events, comes the heroic story of two life-long friends who take up the fight of their nation against the Nazis.  During this time their friendship faces the ultimate test when they both fall in love with the same woman.  From Academy Award Winning Director of Kolya and set against a backdrop of spectacular staged dogfights, this is a film that will have you both absorbed and strapping yourself in tightly!"

DARK BLUE WORLD
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
*****
There is plenty of aviation content in this film, which is well balanced with ground-based sequences
Authenticity
****
This film uses a mixture of live shots with real Spitfires and CGI (computer-generated imagery) - the result is believable and the CGI is not overdone.  Shot in Europe, some of the scenes feature too many conifers for an English landscape and therefore provide a distraction to those expecting to see oaks.
Story line
*****
Although the blurb makes a comparison to "Pearl Harbor", the storyline is far more believable and more sensitively handled
Acting
****
Excellent acting but one of the lead actors (Krystof Hadek) looks too young - more like a 15-year old than someone around 20.
Overall rating
*****
This is a great movie for both warbird buffs and those interested in a well-scripted storyline.  It is well directed and has that European flavour that makes it a little more refreshing than the type of film expected out of Hollywood.  Highly recommended.

ALWAYS (1989). "Steven Spielberg directs this heartwarming romantic adventure USA Today calls "a winner."  Pete Sandich (Richard Dreyfuss) is a legendary pilot with a passion for daredevil fire fighting.  However Dorinda (Holly Hunter), the woman he loves, and Al (John Goodman), Pete's best friend, know that legends can't take risks forever.  After sacrificing himself to save Al, the ace pilot faces his most challenging mission: helping Dorinda move on with her life.  Breathtaking cinematography and exhilarating aerial choreography highlight this compelling adventure that co-stars Brad Johnson and features a special appearance by Audrey Hepburn."

ALWAYS
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
****
Great action shots of PBY Catalina, A-26 Invader and C-119 Flying Boxcar on fire-bombing operations.  The air-to-air sequences are quite stunning.  The opening scene alone is a "must-see".
Authenticity
****
Very believable film on life at a fire fighting base.  The shots of aircraft flying through forest fires are incredibly realistic - if somewhat over dramatised.  Despite a bit of artistic licence being used, the shots work.
Story line
*****
Really great storyline with all the essential ingredients - action, romance, unpredictability, humour, tension - thoroughly absorbing
Acting
*****
Excellent acting - particularly Holly Hunter and John Goodman
Overall rating
*****
This is one of the best aviation movies ever made and is a joy to watch

MEMPHIS BELLE (1990).  "Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket) and Eric Stoltz (Anaconda) head the dynamic cast of Memphis Belle, an adventure inspired by true World War II heroics.  Producers David Puttnam and Catherine Wyler used her father William Wyler's 1944 film about the famed Flying Fortress as inspiration.  Director Michael Caton-Jones (The Jackal) cast top-flight actors: Billy Zane (Titanic), Harry Connick Jr (Copycat), Tate Donovan (Love Potion #9), D B Sweeney (The Cutting Edge), Sean Astin (Rudy), David Strathairn (L A Confidential), Reed Diamond (Homicide: Life on the Street) and John Lithgow (3rd rock from the Sun).  In these talented ranks, Memphis Belle soars."


MEMPHIS BELLE
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
*****
Half the movie is about the crew of the Memphis Belle on their last mission, so it has to get five stars
Authenticity
*****
Excellent - great attention to detail
Story line
****
Simple but effective - characters are well developed
Acting
*****
Brilliant.  The actors are young (which they need to be for a bomber crew) and have all the traits you'd expect.
Overall rating
*****
Memphis Belle shows what daylight B-17 crews had to go through every mission.  The crews were young, you lived life to the full and you prayed like hell you'd survive your tour.  This film is a tribute to those thousands of aircrew that didn't return home. 

FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER (1990).  " From the producer of The Hunt for Red October and the director of  Red Dawn comes this explosive wartime adventure roaring with spectacular aerial action.  Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) plays Commander Frank Camparelli, the battle-hardened squadron leader of an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam war.  Brad Johnson (Always) is pilot Jake Grafton, a disillusioned young renegade looking for payback.  Willem Dafoe (Spiderman) is Cole, the cynical, hell-bent bombardier Grafton recruits to fly an unauthorised mission behind enemy lines.  The target: a missile depot in Hanoi.  The plane: the A-6 Intruder, a low-altitude bomber with no defensive weapons.  The risk: court-martial at the hands of Commander Camparelli . . . if they live to return.

FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
****
Excellent air-to-air filming of the A-6 Intruder and carrier operations. 
Authenticity
*****
Portrays life on an aircraft carrier well (a real carrier was used during filming) and the special effects are well done.  Real cockpit shots are used at times and the night-time studio cockpit sequences are great.  Although about the Vietnam war, it was filmed on location in Hawaii - not that you would know it.
Story line
*****
Great story based on the book of the same name by Stephen Coonts.  Good balance of action, suspense, humour and the serious side of war.
Acting
*****
The three lead actors do a great job - no faults there.
Overall rating
*****
This is without doubt one of the best films covering the air war in Vietnam.  Although showing the realities of war, it doesn't have that heavy feeling like Full Metal Jacket, The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now or Platoon.

TOP GUN (1986). "A hip, heart-pounding combination of action, music and incredible aerial photography helped make Top Gun the blockbuster hit of 1986.  Top Gun takes a look at the danger and excitement that awaits every pilot at the Navy's prestigious fighter weapons school.  Tom Cruise is superb as Maverick Mitchell, a daring young flyer who's out to become the best.  And Kelly McGillis sizzles as the civilian instructor who teachers Maverick a few things you can't learn in a classroom."

TOP GUN
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
*****
As the blurb says, incredible aerial photography.  It would have taken a lot of time and plenty of assistance from the US Navy to get the right shots.
Authenticity
*****
Hard to fault except the scene when McGillis meets "Mitchell's" class intake.
Story line
****
Great threads throughout the movie and nice to know you don't always have to be first to be a winner.  At the end of the day "We're all in the same team."
Acting
*****
Great acting.  Top Gun made Tom Cruise a household name and he hasn't looked back since. 
Overall rating
****
Top Gun has stood the test of time and remains an aviation classic.  Yes, parts are full of testosterone, but would you expect anything less from fighter jocks at the Navy's Fighter Weapons School?

APOLLO 13 (1995). "In this definitive 2-disc Special Edition, Ron Howard directs Academy Award Winner Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise and Ed Harris in this riveting suspense-thriller from Image Entertainment about a "routine" space flight. Apollo 13 is a breathtaking adventure that tells the true and remarkable story of courage, faith and ingenuity in a race to bring a group of heroic astronauts home when their spacecraft is damaged thousands of miles from Earth."

TOP GUN
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
***
Rating the aviation content of this is difficult - it all depends how you view space vehicles and whether they constitute aircraft. If you're into punching buttons, adjusting knobs and running through instrument sequences however, you'll love it.
Authenticity
*****
Excellent. Howard chose to drop usage of actual footage of the Apollo programme and went for CGI, achieving from nice angles in the process. The Huston control room set was so authentic that some advisors who had worked in the real building thought they actually there. It has been said that  Apollo 13 is so believable that historians of the future will look at the film to see what took place at the time as it records much of what hasn't been written. Much of the space shots were done in zero-g - not in space but aboard a USAF "airliner" doing push-overs. No special effects were needed!
Story line
*****
Given events are based on the real thing, a story which united and gripped the world, the story flows without a hitch.
Acting
*****
Excellent.  Convincing.
Overall rating
****
Apollo 13 is a superb movie. The only reason I give it a four star rating here is the fact that it's low on "aviation content" - otherwise it should get all the stars.

THE RIGHT STUFF (1983). "In the middle of the 20th century, America pondered its future - and looked to the skies. Based on Tom Wolfe's book, The Right Stuff is the tale of how that future began, a thrilling epic of intrepid test pilot Chuck Yeager and the seven pioneering astronauts of the Project Mercury space program. Philip Kaufman scripts and directs, pushing the envelope with a filmmaking bravado that matches this soaring story of training and heroism . . . and of sudden fame for which there is no training. Ed Harris, Barbara Hershey, Sam Shepard, Dennis Quaid and Fred Ward are among the perfect cast of this winner of Academy Awards that in a pristine 20th-anniversary digital transfer remains the stuff of must-see entertainment. Let's light this candle, flyboys".

THE RIGHT STUFF
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
****
Plenty of aircraft and Mercury space vehicles to see. Includes actual footage from the Mercury programme and testing of aircraft.
Authenticity
****
Overall the movie is very believable. Some shots are a bit strange - such as the X-1 sitting in the desert seemingly unattended. Models are used for some of the flying sequences but they are acceptable, and understandable given the date of the movie.
Story line
*****
Excellent story line with a nice balance between the astronauts and those test pilots who didn't fly in the Mercury programme.
Acting
*****
Excellent acting - nobody lets the team down in this one
Overall rating
****
The Right Stuff is an excellent movie and hasn't dated much.  Its strengths are a superb story line and excellent acting, which make for pleasurable viewing. Even with the use of CGI today, it would be hard to improve on the original. The film makers certainly used the right stuff to portray an important part aviation history.

THE BLUE MAX (1966).  "The Blue Max is a raging war time thriller featuring spectacular aerial combat sequences.  It is the story of Bruno Stachel, a cold, ambitious German combat pilot in World War 1.  As brave as he is ruthless, he excels in combat, wins the highest medals, The Blue Max, and becomes a national hero.  The Blue Max is among the best of aviation films with outstanding photography, spectacular dogfights and a dramatic score."

THE BLUE MAX
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
*****
Excellent air-to-air photography - probably the best WWI reenactments ever filmed.  What makes these scenes particularly good is that they are carefully choreographed so that the viewer isn't confused as to who is shooting at who.
Authenticity
*****
This is very good.  Sure, a lack of WWI aircraft meant they had to substitute the occasional Tiger Moth here and there, and some of the close-ups of pilots taken in the studio are a bit dated, but given the film was produced in 1966, one can't really complain.  Even so, some of the studio shots are bordering on being quite realistic - better than other close-ups in some films shot 30 years later.  The ground scenes are also grand in their scale and detail.
Story line
****
At first the story line seems fairly predictable as it follows the career of an aspiring fighter pilot but, as the film progresses, the twists and turns the story takes are surprisingly refreshing.  The end is a classic.
Acting
*****
The acting is first class with big names such as George Peppard, James Mason and Ursula Andress.
Overall rating
****
The Blue Max is without doubt one of the best aviation movies ever made.  Even though it was filmed in 1966, it still sits comfortably in the top ten aviation movies of all time. Highly recommended.  It is rumoured that Peter Jackson is planning on doing a remake of this movie - here's hoping . . .


PEARL HARBOR (2001).  "An epic blockbuster with astounding visual effects, Pearl Harbor is another unforgettable motion picture from producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay, the hit-making team that brought you Armageddon.  Featuring Ben Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Armageddon) , Josh Hartnett (The Faculty) and Kate Beckinsale (Brokedown Palace) in a tremendous all-star cast, the innocence of a nation is instantly shattered by a sudden and devastating act of warfare.  As the lives and loves of a generation are tragically swept into the greatest conflict modern man has ever known - World War II - the events of Pearl Harbor become a supreme test for the strength of the human spirit.  Also starring Cuba Gooding Jr (Jerry Maguire, Men of Honour), Alec Baldwin (Outside Providence), Jon Vought (Coming Home, Enemy Of The State) and Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan), this breathtaking story of love and heroism is a must-see cinematic event."

PEARL HARBOR
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
****
There are some excellent aerial sequences in this film using Spitfires, P-40s, and B-25 Mitchells, and modified American aircraft representing the Japanese aircraft which make the film interesting from a warbird-watch perspective
Authenticity
***
Average.  A lot was changed for Hollywood with modern warships used in the filming being the worst example.  The use of CGI did allow fairly accurate placement of warships in Pearl Harbor as they would have been on the day however.  And fancy having the same actors saving the day with their P-40s over Oahu and then going on to hit Tokyo in the Doolittle Raid using B-25s - you'd think the USAAF were short of pilots!  Or what about the Mitchells practicing short-field take-offs on a runway and not succeeding due to a tail wind (as shown by a flag) - I wonder why. 
Story line
**
Not good - too much twisting of facts and puffing of the chest to make the whole experience credible.  The inclusion of the Doolittle Raid soured the movie.  The story lets the movie down - its just too ambitious.
Acting
****
The acting is good - just a pity the parts the actors had to play were a bit far-fetched.
Overall rating
****
The best feature of Pearl Harbor from a viewing perspective is its use of CGI - this being a milestone in aviation film history.  Overall its a good movie if you're not too worried about historical accuracy and can put up with the clichés.  The blurb on the cover (see above) sums it up - a bit too much hype. 
THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN (1995).  This is the True Story of the U S Army's "Fighting 99th" - the first squadron of African-American combat fighter pilots.  Against all odds - the prejudice and humiliation, the distrust and vengeful behaviour of senior white officers - this squadron learned how to survive at any price.  With devastating precision, the black pilots shot down more than 400 German aircraft without losing a single plane to enemy fire in more than 200 bomber escort missions.  This is their remarkable and courageous story - a story that has waited 50 years to be told, a story that will shock and enrage you - a final tribute to the unsung heroes of World War II, The Tuskegee Airmen.

THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content *****
There is plenty to please in this movie - Stearmans, T-6 Harvards/Texans, P-51s, B-17s and Bf109s.  Some great original air-to-air sequences and appropriate original wartime footage
Authenticity
***
Overall, most aspects of this movie foot the bill but some stuff doesn't cut the mustard.  The grey skies, cold air and terrain of North Africa aren't convincing (because it wasn't shot in North Africa!), and the B-3 sheepskin jackets look too new and too clean, as do the sparkling Mustangs (no battle scars on these post-restoration beauties).  The budget didn't quite extend to exotic locations but careful editing keeps most people happy.
Story line
*****
Great story.  The black Americans of the 332nd Airborne had it tougher than their fellow white countrymen but they proved beyond any doubt that the colour of your skin makes no difference to your piloting skills.  Incredibly, while these guys were escorting bombers, no bombers were lost as a result of enemy action!  Beat that!  I also like the touch where President Roosevelt's wife turns up on base after the pilots have received their wings and demands an airplane ride from one of the Tuskegee airmen - good on her for showing how to cut through the bullshit.
Acting
*****
Superb acting in this movie.  The actors speak with emotion and passion - absorbing stuff and very convincing. 
Overall rating
****
Having not heard much about this movie, I wasn't expecting a winner but the opening score and cinematography showed the movie had potential.  From there, it just got better.  The soon-revealed quality of the acting quickly grabbed my attention straight away.  Apart from some not-quite-convincing  locations and clean jackets/aircraft, this movie is recommended viewing.  Its certainly streets ahead of other films further down the page and the storyline is far more convincing than Pearl Harbor!

BATTLE OF BRITAIN (1969).  "Featuring a "big stellar cast" (Variety), including Sir Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Sir Laurance Olivier, Christopher Plummer, Michael Redgrace, Robert Shaw and Susannah York, Battle of Britain is a spectacular retelling of a true story that shows courage at its inspiring best.  Few defining moments can change the outcome of war.  But when the outnumbered Royal Air Force defied insurmountable odds in engaging the German Luftwaffe, they may well have altered the course of history!"

BATTLE OF BRITAIN - SPECIAL EDITION
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
*****
The movie used every available Spitfire, Hurricane, He111 and Bf109 it could get its hands on - many of the latter two types coming from the Spanish Air Force
Authenticity
****
Overall - excellent.  Not 100% true to history but not far off
Story line
***
A bit weak but not that important given the amount of action
Acting
****
Some big names in this movie and it shows
Overall rating
****
This is a "must have"  for those interested in warbirds.  The special edition release provides an extra disc that shows how the movie was made - fascinating stuff and worth getting

TORA! TORA! TORA! (1970).  "Tora! Tora! Tora! is the Japanese signal to attack - and the movie meticulously recreates the attack on Pearl Harbor and the events leading up to it.  Opening scenes contrast the American and Japanese positions.  Japanese imperialists decide to stage the attack.  Top US brass ignore its possibility.  Intercepted Japanese messages warn ot it - but never reached FDR's [Franklin D Roosevelt - the US President] desk.  Radar warnings are disregarded.  Even the entrapment of a Japanese submarine in Pearl Harbor before the attack goes unreported.  Ultimately the Day of Infamy arrives - in the most spectacular, gut-wrenching cavalcade of action-packed footage ever.  It's the most dazzling recreation of America's darkest day - and some of her finest hours".

TORA! TORA! TORA!
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
****
Superb air-to-air sequences and aircraft carrier operations
Authenticity
****
Although American aircraft were modified to play the part of Japanese aircraft, this is hardly noticeable.  Some special effects are dated (particularly the use of model ships), but the action around Pearl is spectacular.  A few stuntmen had closer calls than they wished for with runaway aircraft and explosions, which makes for some astonishing footage.
Story line
***
Given that the film had to stick to historical events, the storyline is surprisingly well scripted and believable - particularly since it includes the Japanese viewpoint
Acting
****
Great acting throughout
Overall rating
****
Like the "Battle of Britain" this is a "must-have" given the scale of the film, the importance of the subject in history, the grand aerial sequences and the full-on action during the attack on Pearl - a real aviation classic, even if it is slightly dated in the special effect area.
ACES HIGH (1976).  "A moving story of comradeship and bravery, loneliness and fear.  Aces High cintains some of the most magnificent aerial battles ever staged leading to a BAFTA nomination for Best Cinematography and Best Film at the Evening Standard British Film Awards.  Under Jack Gold's sensitive direction, this is a moving portrayal of the futility of war.  The superb British cast includes Malcolm McDowell, Christopher Plummer, Simon Ward and Peter Firth and features cameo appearances by Sir John Gielgud, Trevor Howard and Richard Johnson."

ACES HIGH
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
****
No shortage of aviation content in this film! 
Authenticity
****
A lot of work went into creating the costumes, settings and aircraft for this movie and it shows.  The mess, airfield, and hangar scenes are hard to fault.  Cockpit shots vary from excellent to predictable.  The SE5As and Avro 504 look the part with realistic wear and tear.  Unfortunately the German aircraft really are a bit of a "circus" with everything from Tiger Moths, Phalzs, Fokker Monoplanes, Albatrosses and Bucker Jungmanns being thrown into the air.
Story line
***
The story essentially follows a week in the life of a replacement pilot who joins 76 Squadron at the front.  The "plot" is therefore simple to say the lease but its a fairly honest look at life in the RFC
Acting
****
The acting in this movie is excellent and the characters believable.  
Overall rating
****
Aces High is a good movie and worth seeing for its realistic depiction of life in the RFC and the effects of war.  The storyline is a bit thin but this is made up for by excellent acting and well developed characterisation. 
THE AVIATOR (2004).  "One of the 20th century's most compelling figures, Howard Hughes was a wily industrialist, glamorous movie producer and unstoppable American innovator - but he thought of himself first and foremost as an aviator.  In this spectacular epic, director Martin Scorsese focuses on the most prolific period in the life of Hughes (played by Best Actor Golden Globes Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio): the mid-1920s through the 1940s.  It was a time of brilliant aeronautical invention, turbulent love affairs (including one with Katharine Hepburn, played by Cate Blanchett) and savage corporate battles.  Prepare yourself for the ride of the lifetime of this billionaire, genius, madman."

THE AVIATOR
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
***
As you'd expect, there is some interesting footage here but its far from stunning.
Authenticity
***
Not convincing.  The Aviator is a good example of CGI gone mad.  Impossible camera angles and shots are disturbing.  The scene when Hughes and Hepburn and flying at night is awful - the cockpit noise level is so quiet you could hear someone taking the top off a milk bottle (and probably dropping a pin).  On the plus side, however, the crash scene of the YF-11 is convincingly brilliant.
Story line
****
Hughes did a lot in his life and The Aviator tries to pack as much of this in as possible.  Unfortunately, the cramming of events comes at a cost of poor character development and drama.
Acting
*****
Great acting.  Cate Blanchett deserved an Academy Award.  DiCaprio does well but his youthful looks and enhanced accent don't sit comfortably.  Alec Baldwin and Alan Alda are at their best.
Overall rating
***
The Aviator probably didn't deserve five Academy Awards but there's no doubt that it is an interesting movie - more so for its telling of the life of Howard Hughes than for its cinematography.
CATCH-22 (1970). "Mike Nichols superbly directed this cinematic adaptation of Joseph Heller's scathing black comedy, the tale of a small group of flyers in the Mediterranean in 1944.  There are winners and losers, opportunists and survivors.  Separately and together, they are nervous, frightened, often profane and sometimes pathetic.  Almost all are a little crazy.  Catch-22 is an anti-war satire of epic proportions."

CATCH-22
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
***
Some great sequences of B-25 Mitchells taking off, landing and flying in formation.  Interior shots leave plenty to the imagination.
Authenticity
***
The aircraft are real and the ground shots depict large camps with all the tents, structures and vehicles you'd expect.
Story line
***
The story is the theme of the book: "OK, let me see if I got this straight: in order to be grounded I've got to be crazy, and I must be crazy to keep flying, but if I ask to be grounded, that means I'm not crazy anymore and I have to keep flying?".  The movie is surreal in its presentation.  There's a madness in everything and everyone - which is the whole point, in war there is no point.
Acting
***
The characters are disturbing, but they are meant to be.  At times its like you have characters from Lord of the Flies, Hogan's Heros, Blackadder and Apocalyse Now all blended into one
Overall rating
***
This film is definitely worth a look but you need to view it with an open mind.  Its certainly thought provoking.

STEALTH (2005). "From the director of XXX and The Fast and The Furious comes an exhilarating epic blockbuster starring Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel and Academy Award® winner Jamie Foxx (Best Actor, RAY, 2004). Breathtaking from take-off, it thrusts you in the cockpit, hits Mach 5 and never looks back. Henry, Ben and Kara are hands down the world's best tactical fighter pilots. But a new member joins their team, a state-of-the-art, fully-automated, pilotless, super stealth warplane - inhuman and invincible. But once this stealth goes up it's never coming down, wreaking destruction in seconds across the globe, leaving the team with one last no-fail mission: to stop it - no matter what."

STEALTH
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
****
There's plenty here for the aviation enthusiast with a blend of CGI stealth aircraft, full scale mock-ups, real F-18s and a few different helicopters thrown in for good measure. Some of the CGI blends are very impressive - best of all being the stealth aircraft landing on an aircraft carrier.  Done properly, CGI aircraft can be made to look real. When it works, its great.
Authenticity
*
Set in the near future, the stealth aircraft are certainly futuristic in performance but, even so, there are limits to aerodynamics that no fancy flying or powerplant is ever going to achieve.  If real pilots flew the manoeuvres these jet jocks are shown to do, they would have organ prolapses and permanently bloodshot eyes - if they survived.  If you're into explosions, however, you'll love this movie - its full of them and they are VERY real. One explosion apparently took three months to set up and its all over in seconds - the most complex explosion for a film ever recorded on camera. Still, good explosions don't make a good film. The film makers would have been better spending three months developing the script further.
Story line
*
Not good, by a long shot.  The story has nothing to do with stealth.  It develops like a poorly thought out computer game.  And when one of the aircraft goes down, I'm sure it isn't just coincidence that it falls in North Korea - just a few miles, and within walking distance, of the border with South Korea. How predictable can you get!
Acting
***
The acting is good and makes the movie bearable
Overall rating
**
The movie breaks some new ground in CGI aircraft effects and deserves credit for that. It also deserves credit for its experimentation on the score. Lucas, Biel and Foxx are also worth a look. The story line, however, is garbage. If you wanted to do a movie on stealth, why not use a B-2 and a few F-117s and stick with a sense of realism. 

FLYING  (1951).  "Marine Major Dan Kirby (John Wayne) is tough on his group of World War II aviators, tougher than his subordinate Captain Carl Griffen (Robert Ryan) thinks is necessary.  A struggle of will begins between the two men.  However, Kirby proves that his method is more suited to the demands of war."

FLYING LEATHERNECKS
Ratings
Comments
Aviation content
***
Plenty of interesting stuff in this movie for die-hard (no pun intended) aviation war movie buffs.  There is some classic wartime footage that makes impressive viewing - like the guy who tries to land his fighter 20 ft above the airstrip (the landing gear loses), or the pilot who manages to successfully bail out of his crippled aircraft which has lost a wing and all its tail feathers (a hard act to follow when every gun on the ship used for filming is pumping lead in your general direction).  These weren't stunts. 
Authenticity
***
A tricky category to score given the film uses real war footage (you can't score less than 100% given the stuff is for real!).  Considering the film was shot just six years after WWII, it has its fair share of interesting WWII aircraft from Hellcats and Corsairs through to Devastators, Avengers, SBDs, Catalinas, and DC4s.  There is a problem with continuity, however, as Hellcats (with rocket rails) are shown on Guadalcanal in August 1942 (they stand in for Wildcats, which were the type actually used).  Even so, most of the equipment shown has not been built for the film and is clearly of WWII manufacture.  There's plenty of studio shots of actors getting jostled around in their earth-bound cockpits but even modern aviation films use the same technique.
Story line
**
Like Midway (see below), the desire of the director to use actual war footage gets in the way of the story.  Character development is poor and the movie makes some big jumps, which leaves the viewer wondering whether they missed something.  At the time the movie was released, the war footage would have been compelling viewing on the big screen and would have pulled in thousands of servicemen "who were there".  This would probably have made up for the poor plot but in today's age it just doesn't work.  The real stuff and that made in Hollywood doesn't blend together.
Acting
**
John Wayne and Robert Ryan can certainly act but the clichés are thicker than treacle.  Its hard to warm to any of the characters.
Overall rating
***
This film shows its age in many ways - dated acting, fading colour, scratchy sound track and a script that comes from the era of films like Gone With The Wind.  Despite these faults, it is a classic aviation film of the 1950s and, surprisingly, it holds its own against films such as  Midway filmed 25 years later.  Its worth a look but more from the perspective of a documentary than something that should entertain.

MIDWAY (1976). "The Battle of Midway sounded its furious thunder in June 1942, just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Midway interweaves the dramatic personal stories of the men who fought the courageous battle that was to be the Pacific turning point for the United States.  The all-star cast and breathtaking war footage convey the Battle of Midway with powerful reality and epic sweep."

MIDWAY
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
***
The interesting aspect of this film is that it blends real wartime footage with that shot for the film.  This adds some impact to the film but it is also distracting  - it looks like the producers have run out of time and money and used such shots as fillers.
Authenticity
**
Unfortunately there are some major screw-ups here.  For one, the "actual footage of the battle" shows the use of F4U Corsairs - sorry but they weren't in the Battle of Midway!  Footage from this movie was also grabbed from Tora! Tora! Tora! and it shows (hills in the background while depicting action on Midway, same hangars as at Wheeler Field, Oahu, getting blown up).  The model ships used for some battle scenes are bloody awful - they look like the original television versions of Thunderbirds!
Story line
**
The chronology of events is correct and in some ways it comes across like a dramatised documentary but the drama acted out by the non-historical characters is pure soap.
Acting
*
Despite some big names, the acting is painful in parts.  Charlton Heston looks bad here even before Michael Moore got stuck into him in Bowling for Columbine.  The Japanese actors all speak English with various accents - not good.  In Tora! Tora! Tora!, the Japanese had subtitles and the acting was 100% better.
Overall rating
**
Purely from an historical viewpoint, the movie is interesting but do your homework first - read a good historical account of the battle and then view the movie afterward.  The subject matter is a good example of how chance alone can change the outcome of a battle.

WING AND A PRAYER (1944). "They fought the Battle of Midway. Don Ameche and Dana Andrews head an all-star cast in this acclaimed film about life aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier after the attack on Pearl Harbor. A group of young, eager Navy pilots become frustrated when their higher-ups enact a non-combat strategy against the Japanese. To make matters worse, the pilots must answer to a rigid, unyielding commander (Ameche). Against all odds, the men fly into action in the decisive Battle of Midway. Nominated for a 1944 Best Original Screenplay Oscar, this stunning war drama uses actual combat footage to tell its engrossing story."

WING AND A PRAYER
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
***
The greatest strength of this movie is the superb black and white filming of period aircraft on carriers - Hellcats, Avengers, Dauntlesses and Devastators. The images are crisp and with excellent contrast - so much superior to the garbage you see on cheap DVDs that have copied original footage so many times over. There are some great shots of aircraft trapping the wires, hitting the crash barrier and stalling and crashing into the sea on takeoff. Some original war footage is used now and then.
Authenticity
*
This receives a VERY mixed score. On one hand, you have some excellent black and white footage of real WWII aircraft (not hard to find in 1944!) but the movie falls over on a number of scores. Although not mentioned in the movie due to wartime censorship, the carrier portrayed is actually meant to be the Yorktown, which traveled into the South Pacific to take part in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Unlike the movie, the pilots didn't run away from the Japanese! Also, the Yorktown returned to Hawaii to get repaired in a very short time before sailing to Midway (the movie shows the carrier going direct to the Midway area from the South Pacific). It was good to see Dauntlesses, Avengers and Devastators shown but HELLCATS were not used at Midway (they flew later in the war). They are no doubt shown in the film for propaganda purposes. The Japanese aircraft in the movie are a joke. Apart from real wartime shots (rare), models were used for some shots and the film makers stooped to using some Wildcats with meatballs as stand-ins - not a good look! But this is not as bad as the model Japanese carriers that were set on fire! Initially the movie had a high standard of authenticity but this deteriorates as the movie progresses. To try and make it look right, they play original film footage of the action on a studio wall and have actors in the movie do their thing in front of the projected images - not pleasant! Unlike Midway, this version spends 80% of the time "somewhere in the  South Pacific" before getting involved in the Midway Battle. Losses depicted are light, but in reality they were heavy, particularly for the bomber aircraft. And, of course, nobody mentions that the Yorktown herself got sunk during the battle - although this is avoided as the movie ends after one day's action. The very worst moment comes when a plane runs out of fuel overhead in a rainstorm. The sound guys really screwed up big time here. The engine doesn't surge but sounds like they are turning the sound track on and off - full volume and then no volume with nothing in between. Seconds later, when the engine stops, the aircraft screams as though in a terminal dive under full power, and then "plop", it lands in the water with a most unconvincing sound - more like someone throwing a rubber ducky into the bathwater than tons of metal hitting the ocean. Incredibly, all this can be heard from outside the bridge of the carrier with no other sound apparent (like wind or rain).
Story line
**
The initial story starts out to be promising but heads downhill about half way through. The story is a major distortion of the truth - but then truth is always the first casualty of war and this is a war movie shot in wartime!
Acting
***
Some of the acting and initial character development was very good but, as was often the case with movies of this era, there is also a lot of over-acting with exaggerated facial expressions meant for the back row of a theatre! The narration of pilot talk, which is relayed over the ships intercom during an attack on the Japanese carriers, is bloody awful.
Overall rating
**
This is worth a look only if you're interested in excellent black and white footage of WWII carrier aircraft.

MOSQUITO SQUADRON (1970).  "David McCallum (The Man From UNCLE) stars in an epic adventure that balances large-scale spectacle with searing human drama, perfectly capturing the explosive action and emotional torment of war.  With its astonishing choreographed aerial combat sequences, Mosquito Squadron catapults the viewer into the searing heat of battle.  As Allied forces struggle against the awesome might of the German Luftwaffe, an even greater threat is posed by the destructive V3 Rocket, which is nearing completion at a secret testing centre.  Its up to the RAF's Mosquito Squadron to destroy the site, but its leader, Quint Munroe (McCallum), faces a conflict when he makes a grim discovery.  An air strike may kill hundreds of British POWs - including the squad's former commander!"

MOSQUITO SQUADRON
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
***
Some good aerial shots of Mosquitos
Authenticity
***
Apart from the real aircraft, the rest of the movie is lacking
Story line
***
Average.  Its certainly not "on the edge of your seat" stuff.
Acting
***
Average
Overall rating
**
Unless you're wanting to see some nice shots of Mosquitos, there's not much to enjoy in this movie - despite what the blurb says above.  I'd give it a miss.

633 SQUADRON (1963).  "Excitement, adventure, derring-do and courage in the war-torn skies over northern Europe are "the right stuff" for this pulse-pounding World War II air drama.  Two Academy Award winners headline the solid cast: Cliff Robertson (Best Actor, Charly, 1968) and George Chakiris (best Supporting Actor, West Side Story, 1961).  Robertson, an avid flyer in real life, plays a combat-weary pilot whose RAF squadron is ordered on an apparent suicide mission to destroy a Nazi rocket fuel plant tucked deep into a Norwegian fjord.  Chakiris portrays a resistance fighter whose fate numbers among the many ironies in the expertly written screenplay.  To make the film, which is based on a true story, a squadron of legendary Mosquito fighter-bombers was resurrected from near extinction.  Dazzling flying sequences, bone-shattering sound and superb special effects help make this one of the most realistic films ever to reach the screen."

633 SQUADRON
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
***
Some great footage of real Mosquitos before many of them were scrapped.  Sadly, the people who made this film, wrecked a few more after rounding up the survivors.
Authenticity
**
Average to poor.  The film makers used flying models in a lot of shots and the person controlling them did a shocking job - they look and fly poorly.  The Bf108 Taifuns strafing the RAF base don't look the part either.
Story line
*
The story line should work but it doesn't - even though it is suppose to be based on a real story.  The blurb is the ultimate deception.
Acting
*
This is bad - I'm surprised you can't see the strings the puppeteers are using.
Overall rating
*
Unless you're a fan of the television version of Thunderbirds, this is NOT recommended viewing.  The movie is very dated.

THE FLYING TIGERS (1942).  "They were the terror of the sky, a small daring band of American mercenaries who soared into battle in defence of China's freedom.  They were aces, adventurers and heroes, America's hottest fighter pilots - THE FLYING TIGERS!  Possessing unmatched skill and bravery, Jim Gordan (John Wayne), the Tiger's commander, is the top gun of China's skies.  But he faces a battle on the ground when his good friend Woody Jason is suspected of recklessly causing the death of a fellow pilot, and accused of stealing Jim's fiancee.  Woody's fight for the respect of the Tigers and his best friend is an explosive battle of courage and heroism that lights up the sky with action!"

FYING TIGERS
Rating
Comments
Aviation Content
**
Sure, a few aeroplanes are depicted in this movie but most are models (bad ones at that). 
Authenticity
*
A shocker.  Dummy wooden P-40s are used for the close-up shots and they look awful!  Not a rivet to be seen and the cockpits are hideous.  Models are used for taxiing, take-off scenes and most of the air-to-air shots.  At one point Spitfires are even substituted for P-40s!  This is as bad as it gets.
Story line
***
The story line is the only plausible feature of the movie.
Acting
**
Some good, most average.  Some parts are over-acted.  Wayne should have stuck to Westerns.
Overall rating
*
Not good.  If you like playing "pick the holes", this movie is brimming with awful scenes and terrible special effects.  Its so bad that all you can do is laugh as models are set on fire, thrown into the air and filmed.  The movie would have to rank as the lowest budget (and probably worst) war film of all time. 



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