The 1980 comedy masterpiece by David Zucker, Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams Airplane! is widely regarded as one of the greatest parodies ever made. It largely pokes fun at the disaster films that dominated 1970s cinema – especially airborne films, like the Airport series – but like any great parody movie, it nods to a bunch of other movie classics.
While Airplane! mainly satirizes movies about life threatening disasters like the cabin crew of an airliner succumbing to food poisoning, he also winks at horror movies, war movies , westerns, epics of swords and sandals – just about every type of movie.
9 Jaws (1975)
For the majority, Airplane! is a parody of disaster movies, but its opening credits poke fun at Steven Spielberg’s suspenseful 1975 masterpiece Jaws, with an airplane instead of a shark.
John Williams’ iconic theme plays on the soundtrack as the wing of an airplane moves along a cloud like a shark’s fin on the surface of the ocean. This beautifully ridiculous overture lets audiences know that they don’t have to take the film seriously at all.
8 The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Stephen Stucker gives one of the most memorable support turns of Airplane! as an eccentric control room employee Johnny. In one of the scenes in the control room, he says, “Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, Toto! It’s a tornado! It’s a tornado!
This line is, of course, a reference to the first scene of The Wizard of Oz when a tornado hits Dorothy’s family farm and seems to fly off to the merry old country of Oz.
7 Shane (1953)
There is a running joke everywhere Airplane! circling around Captain Oveur saying extremely inappropriate things to a young boy named Joey whom he invited to check out the cockpit. Oveur’s dialogue with Joey is a parody of the main character’s interactions with his boss’s son, Joey, in the classic 1953 western. Shane.
In Shane, the titular gunslinger gives wisdom to his young companion like, “Joey, there is no life with murder.” In Airplane!, however, Captain Oveur is more interested in asking sexually suggestive questions such as, “Joey, have you ever seen a naked adult man?” “
6 Airport 1975 (1974)
While Airplane! is a general parody of Airport A series of disaster films that lasted throughout the 1970s, it specifically refers to the 1975 one starring Charlton Heston and Linda Blair. It was the first sequel to the blockbuster original Airport 1970 film.
The scene in which a passenger plays a guitar and sings for a sick girl who is on her way to get an organ transplant is a direct nod to Airport 1975. (Except in Airport 1975, the guitarist doesn’t accidentally remove the girl’s IV line and almost kills her.)
5 Spartacus (1960)
One of the inappropriate questions Captain Oveur asks Joey is, “Joey, do you like gladiators movies?” It’s a nod to the homoerotic connotations of Stanley Kubrick’s epic swords and sandals in 1960. Spartacus.
According to Outside magazine, the original cut of Spartacus featured a scene in which a general, played by Laurence Olivier, attempts to seduce a slave, played by Tony Curtis, in a hot tub, but the scene was deleted by the studio.
4 From Here to Eternity (1953)
When Ted and Elaine kiss on the beach in a flashback in Airplane!, it’s a reference to a similar iconic scene in From here to eternity. It’s one of the most often parodied scenes in movie history – there’s even a nod to it in Shrek 2.
The version of the scene in Airplane! is decidedly less romantic than the original. The waves get bigger and bigger until the lovebirds are covered in algae and marine life.
3 Midnight Express (1978)
In addition to SEO Shane and Spartacus, Captain Oveur’s conversations with Joey include a reference to the controversial prison drama Midnight Express. Oveur said, “Joey, have you ever been to a … a Turkish prison?” “
Directed by Alan Parker and written by Oliver Stone, Midnight Express is hugely controversial for its portrayal of unspeakable violence and depravity within the walls of Turkish prisons.
2 Saturday Night Fever (1977)
When Ted remembers the first time he met Elaine, there’s a flashback to a bar full of fighting soldiers. Ted wears the same white disco costume made iconic by John Travolta in Saturday night fever.
He joins Elaine on the dance floor when the jukebox plays “Stayin ‘Alive”, which the Bee Gees contributed to the soundtrack of Saturday night fever. The Airplane! The sequence takes a much more wacky turn than the surprisingly grounded dance drama of 1977, as Elaine grabs Ted by the thighs and spins him around the room.
1 H hour! (1957)
The Zuckers and Jim Abrahams designed Airplane! after seeing a disaster movie made for 1950s television titled H hour!. A little like Airplane!, H hour! represents about half of the passengers of an airplane suffering from food poisoning. According to The Guardian, Airplane! borrowed so generously from H hour! that the studio had to buy the remake rights.
There are a few lines in Airplane! which were lifted directly from H hour!, like “Every passenger who has eaten fish for dinner on this plane will become ill within half an hour of eating it.” ” In H hour!, these lines are played straight, but Airplane! emphasizes their ridiculousness.
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