Cinema’s scariest plane crashes

We take a look at some of the best, and scariest, plane crashes in films…

Robert Zemeckis’s latest film Flight soars into Irish cinemas this week; to pay homage to the spectacular and harrowing crash depicted in the film, Brogen Hayes took a look back at some of cinema’s best plane crashes.

Fight Club

Before he joins forces with Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) to form fight clubs and bring some much needed excitement back into his life, The Narrator (Edward Norton) is more than unhappy with his life and has become complacent about whether he lives or dies.
As a white collar worker, he journeys across America, and on one such flight, The Narrator imagines what it would be like if the plane went down. The sides of the plane are torn away, passengers and seats are sucked out into the air as The Narrator calmly watches, then the voiceover comments “Life insurance pays out triple if you die on a business trip”.
The scene serves to underline The Narrator’s nihilistic tendencies and his indifference to life, and ensure that no-one ever wants to sit beside Edward Norton on a plane.

Donnie Darko

Richard Kelly’s time travel film is all about a plane crash. No, really.
Donnie wakes up on a golf course and finds that a jet engine has crashed on his house, but no-one is hurt. That said, a giant rabbit called Frank tells Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. Which it does. Well, Donnie’s world does anyway.
The cyclical and slightly confusing nature of the film, and time travel, mean that by the end of the film, Donnie is in bed when the engine crashes into his room, and his mum and sister are on the plane that crashes. Stupid Frank and his cryptic messages.
The scene where the engine crashes through Donnie’s room, killing him is rather tame in the theatrical version of the film – everything is implied – but in the director’s cut, we finally got to see Donnie die a rather horrific death, impaled on an iron bar as the jet engine whirrs beside him.

Garden State

Zach Braff’s surprisingly depressing and unexpectedly uplifting directorial debut opens with a plane crash.
As the opening credits roll, we see Andrew Largeman calmly and apathetically sitting on a plane that is going down. While all around him panic, Andrew adjusts the air conditioning and waits for death.
Of course, this is a dream, but the scene gives the audience an insight into Andrew and how numb he has become. Of course, the tragedy of a plane crashing is mirrored in Andrew’s life, as he wakes to a message that his mother has died. Thankfully, this all happens within the opening minute, and the film gets more cheerful from here in.

Cast Away

Perhaps one of the most terrifying plane crashes committed to celluloid takes place in another Robert Zemeckis film; Cast Away.
Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a man who is obsessed with time and punctuality, and works resolving problems at a FedEx depot. Noland’s busy schedule means he has little time for anything else in his life, until a plane he is travelling in crashes into the Pacific Ocean.
As the plane dives, the audience is right there with Noland as the plane crashes into the ocean and fills with water. Shots of Hanks’s feet, from his point of view, as he is pulled away from the wreckage by an inflating life raft serve to put the audience in the character’s shoes. And give everyone an utter terror of flying.

Final Destination 1… and 5

It has to be said that the Final Destination movies have got sillier and sillier as the franchise has marched onwards, but there is something rather cool about the fact that the plane crash from FD1 was the same plane crash from the end of FD5.
The characters on the plane – in both films – have cheated Death, and Death is not happy. As the plane takes off from JFK, bound for Paris it is soon revealed that turbulence is the least of the passengers’ worries as overhead lockers open, spilling luggage around the plane – why are these so prone to open anyway? – an explosion tears off the side of the plane and seats are torn out through the holes.
The first time FD fans saw the crash it was a vision. The second time, it was the culmination of a chain of events set off by a bridge collapsing and the catalyst for all the other films. Retroactively. Sort of.

Honourable mentions to The Dark Knight Rises, The Grey and Alive. Oh, and Lost. We know it’s a TV show, but that crash!? Wow!

Words: Brogen Hayes