There is a reason Maverick is one of Tom’s most enduring characters despite having being on the scene now for close to 30 years: We love fighter pilots. Or more specifically, movies about fighter pilots. We can’t get enough of that high-altitude adrenaline rush, even if we’re only gripping—Walter Mitty style—the side of a theater seat and not the throttle of a P-47 Thunderbolt, P-51 Mustang, F-15 Strike Eagle or F-22 Raptor. Flying has been at the heart our fantasy life from the beginning of time, and flying really, really fast in the throes of combat with the fate of the free world hanging in the balance, well, that dream never gets old.
You know what they say, if you can’t join them, then watch a really good movie about them. So, we’re here to start our own air-to air combat, even if it’s just virtual air
Below we’ve included clips from six high-octane fighter-pilot movies. This is by no means a definitive list, and it’s certainly not meant to be the last word on great flying films. Altogether they provide a history lesson on flying, with footage from movies set from World War I to some time in the undisclosed future.
What distinguishes them in our mind are the great scenes of pilots putting their planes and jets through the paces in the direst of situations. And let us be frank: Some of the footage is intense and not for the faint of heart. But, boy, is it exciting.
So, take some time to get lost in the lengthy clips. THEN tell us in the comments section below what is your favorite fighter-pilot film of all time, bar none. The one film filled with planes that you would take to your desert island. If you want to take this into the Twitterverse, then start the dogfight at #FighterPilotFilms.
Get your flight suit and your oxygen mask and settle into the cockpit of your barcalounger for a gravity-defying good time. And don’t forget to hit us up with some great flying-film flak.
Top Gun 1986
Maverick is a hot pilot. When he encounters a pair of MiGs over the Persian Gulf, his wingman is clearly outflown and freaks. On almost no fuel, Maverick is able to talk him back down to the Carrier. When his wingman turns in his wings, Maverick is moved up in the standings and sent to the Top Gun Naval Flying School. There he fights the attitudes of the other pilots and an old story of his father’s death in combat that killed others due to his father’s error. Maverick struggles to be the best pilot, stepping on the toes of his other students and in a different way to Charlie, a civilian instructor to whom he is strongly attracted.
Here is the famous dogfight scene with Maverick and company taking on fighter pilots with hostile intent.
Battle of Britain 1969
Historical reenactment of the air war in the early days of World War Two for control of the skies over Britain as the new Luftwaffa and the Royal Air Force determine whether or not an invasion can take place.
The Fate of the World
The climactic scene of Battle of Britain in which the RAF go head-to-head with Germans.
Before the United States entered World War I, young Americans went to France to be fighter pilots, joining the Lafayette Escadrille. This fictional version follows a laconic Texas rancher, an eager Nebraska kid, a Black boxer already in France, and a New York swell, as they arrive green for training, get their baptism by fire when German planes ambush them on their first mission, and graduate to heroics
Old School Fighters
Classic dogfighting from the First World War, when pilots sat in open-air cockpits and they could almost smell the enemy.
In the near future, the Navy develops a fighter jet piloted by an artificial intelligence computer. The jet is placed on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific to learn combat manuevers from the human pilots aboard. But when the computer develops a mind of its own, it’s the humans who are charged with stopping it before it incites a war.
The Frantic Future
This compilation of Stealth‘s best flying scenes is futuristic and fast. Hold on to your popcorn.
Memphis Belle 1990
The “Memphis Belle” is a World War II bomber, piloted by a young crew on dangerous bombing raids into Europe. The crew only have to make one more bombing raid before they have finished their duty and can go home. In the briefing before their last flight, the crew discover that the target for the day is Bremen, a heavily-defended town that invariably causes many Allied casualties.
The Engines of Fate
These guys aren’t actual fighter pilots, rather they man a bomber during its final run in WWII. Regardless, the flying scenes are intense and impressive.
Pearl Harbor 2001
The classic story of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is told through the eyes of two boyhood friends, now serving as officers in the Army Air Corps. Rafe is an energetic young pilot who is selected to fly with the British in Europe while America is still not at war. After Rafe is shot down and presumed killed, however, Danny comforts Rafe’s former lover, Evelyn, and the two draw closer. But, when Rafe turns up alive, the two former friends become enemies, and it is through the turmoil of Pearl Harbor that the two may reconcile their differences.
Into the Breach
This is classic dogfighting filmmaking at its best. The throttle of excitement if pushed all the way into the red. Crazy intense.
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