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This delirious send-up of all-star seventies disaster epics set the meta-comedy mould for four decades' worth of cinematic spoofs.
"Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?" — Captain Oveur (Peter Graves)
Traumatized former fighter pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays) pursues his ex-flame, flight attendant Elaine (Julie Hagerty), onto a 747 flying from L.A. to Chicago. When the flight crew falls ill from spoiled fish, Striker must overcome his fear of flying (and his drinking problem) and try to land the plane, with the help of a ground team headed by his hard-nosed former CO (Robert Stack, wearing two pairs of shades). The trio behind The Kentucky Fried Movie took the helm for this mother of all movie spoofs, a delirious send-up of such all-star seventies disaster epics as Airport (though the scenario, much of the dialogue and the all-important exclamation mark are drawn directly from the little-seen 1950s Dana Andrews vehicle Zero Hour!). A full-force comedy assault, piling on verbal jokes and sight gags non-stop and getting tremendous comic mileage out of casting straight-faced former leading-man types — Stack, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, and especially Canadian Leslie Nielsen (as the overly literal Dr. Rumack) — and having them deadpan their way through their ridiculous dialogue, Airplane! set the meta-comedy mould for four decades' worth of cinematic spoofs, from the Nielsen-starring Naked Guns to Hot Shots! to the Scary Movies.