If you’ve ever wondered where the “disaster film” genre really took flight, look no further than Airport. Streaming now on Netflix, this ’70s classic offers a blend of over-the-top drama, impressive-for-its-time special effects, and a cast more packed than your last overbooked flight. Get ready to buckle up and enjoy some in-flight entertainment that doesn’t involve tiny screens or questionable headphones!
Airport gives us a 24-hour peek into the chaotic world of a fictional Chicago airport (which, let’s be honest, sometimes doesn’t feel all that fictional when you’re waiting at an actual airport). Directed by George Seaton, the film is based on Arthur Hailey’s 1968 novel of the same name.
Airport was directed by George Seaton, and the film is based on Arthur Hailey’s 1968 novel of the same name.
The story revolves around Mel Bakersfeld (played by Burt Lancaster), the weary, duty-driven airport manager. On one snowy night, he’s juggling runway closures, irate passengers, a wife who’s had it with his job, and oh, did I mention a bomb on an airborne plane? Yep, Mel’s got his hands full.
Our lead man Lancaster is ably supported by Dean Martin, who slips into the shoes of playboy pilot, Vernon Demerest. Vernon’s got his own share of problems, mainly an unplanned pregnancy with a stewardess (the iconic Jacqueline Bisset).
However, the real tension in Airport boils down to a distraught bomber on board the flight. He’s schemed up a plan to blow up the plane, hoping his wife will get the insurance money (talk about going to extremes, right?). Enter Joe Patroni (George Kennedy), a sassy and tough chief mechanic, tasked with getting a stuck plane off the snowy runway and playing an unexpected hero in the climax.
As for our supporting cast, it’s an ensemble to write home about. We’ve got Jean Seberg as Tanya Livingston, Mel’s sidekick and chief customer relations agent. There’s also the Oscar-nominated Helen Hayes playing the cunning little old stowaway, Ada Quonsett. She’s an absolute scene-stealer, weaving in and out of the story, scoring free flights with her wits.
Through gripping narratives, the film, in a rather dramatic manner, showcases the underbelly of 1970s air travel. From technical dilemmas, personal dramas, to the palpable tension of an impending disaster, the movie paints a turbulent (pun intended!) picture of the aviation world.
All in all, Airport is a joyride (again, pun totally intended) filled with drama, suspense, romance, and a bit of old-school airport glamour. They sure don’t make ’em like this anymore!
The ’70s began with a bang for Universal Pictures, as Airport soared high on the box office charts. The movie grossed a whopping $100.5 million in the US alone, making it one of the top grossers of 1970. That’s a lot of tickets and probably a ton of popcorn. Considering the film had a budget of around $10 million, Universal must’ve been throwing some pretty swanky office parties that year.
Brace for impact!”—is probably what the producers thought when the reviews started pouring in, because, let’s face it, critics can be a tricky bunch. The film garnered mixed reviews, but even the harshest critics couldn’t deny its entertainment value.
While some found it a touch melodramatic (it is a disaster flick, after all), others appreciated the film’s meticulous production design and multi-layered narrative. The highlight? Helen Hayes snagged an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the sprightly stowaway, Ada Quonsett. I mean, come on, a cheeky old lady outsmarting airport security? Who wouldn’t give her an award?
Airport also earned nine other Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. It may not have been the darling of every critic, but the Academy sure showed it some love.
Airport earned nine other Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture
The film’s success also spawned a slew of sequels and arguably gave birth to the “disaster film” genre of the ’70s. So, while Airport had its fair share of turbulence with critics, its legacy is undeniably grounded in cinema history.
Alright, let’s land this plane! Airport might be packed with dramatic moments, campy scenes, and iconic performances, but it’s these exact qualities that make it a must-watch. Whether you’re in for the nostalgia trip or just curious about the roots of the disaster genre, hopping aboard this cinematic flight on Netflix is a journey worth taking. Airport is streaming now.