Sallie Wulf

Written by Sallie Wulf

Modified & Updated: 02 Mar 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith


Airplane! is a classic comedy film that has become a cult favorite among movie lovers. Released in 1980, this spoof of disaster movies quickly became a box office hit and continues to entertain audiences to this day. Directed by Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers, David and Jerry, Airplane! delivers non-stop laughs with its rapid-fire jokes, absurd situations, and hilarious performances.

In this article, we will explore 40 fascinating facts about Airplane! that reveal the behind-the-scenes stories, production challenges, and interesting tidbits about the making of this iconic film. From the casting decisions to the memorable gags, get ready to dive into the world of Airplane! and discover why it has remained such a beloved comedy for audiences of all ages.

Key Takeaways:

  • Airplane! is a classic comedy film released in 1980, known for its rapid-fire jokes, iconic quotes, and star-studded cast. Its timeless humor continues to entertain audiences even after 40 years.
  • The movie’s clever satire, fast-paced editing, and universal appeal have solidified its place as one of the greatest comedies of all time. Its success inspired a new era of parody movies.
Table of Contents

Airplane! was released in 1980

Airplane! is a classic comedy film that was released in the year It quickly became a cult favorite and remains popular to this day.

The movie was directed by Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers

The talented trio of Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, and David Zucker joined forces to direct Airplane! Their comedic genius shone through in every scene of the film.

The film is a spoof of disaster movies

Airplane! parodies the disaster movie genre, taking jabs at popular films like Airport 1975 and Zero Hour! It cleverly exaggerates the cliches and tropes of these films for comedic effect.

The iconic “Don’t Call Me Shirley” line was ad-libbed

One of the most memorable lines in the movie, “Don’t call me Shirley,” was ad-libbed by Leslie Nielsen, who played the role of Dr. Rumack. It went on to become a well-known catchphrase.

The film features a star-studded cast

Airplane! boasts a fantastic cast, including Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, and Lloyd Bridges. Each actor brought their unique comedic talent to the film.

The movie was a box office success

Airplane! was a commercial success, earning over $83 million at the box office. Its popularity has only grown over the years, cementing its status as a comedy classic.

The Zucker brothers got the inspiration for the film from a disaster movie called Zero Hour!

David and Jerry Zucker were inspired to create Airplane! after watching the disaster movie Zero Hour! They noticed the unintentional humor in the serious dialogue and decided to turn it into a comedy.

The film has countless memorable quotes

Airplane! is filled with memorable quotes that have become ingrained in popular culture. From “Surely, you can’t be serious” to “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley,” these lines are often quoted by fans.

The script underwent several rewrites

The script for Airplane! went through multiple revisions before it was finalized. The filmmakers worked hard to ensure that every joke landed and the timing was perfect.

The film’s production budget was only $3.5 million

Despite its huge success, Airplane! had a relatively modest budget of $3.5 million. The filmmakers made the most of their resources and created a hilarious and memorable comedy.

The movie is known for its rapid-fire jokes

Airplane! is famous for its rapid-fire jokes and gags. The humor comes at a fast pace, with visual gags, puns, and one-liners keeping the audience laughing throughout the film.

It was nominated for an Academy Award

Airplane! was nominated for Best Writing at the 1981 Academy Awards. While it didn’t win the award, the nomination itself speaks to the film’s clever and witty script.

The film was a critical success

Airplane! received positive reviews from critics upon its release. Its unique brand of humor and clever satire garnered praise and solidified its place as a comedy classic.

Airplane! was a breakthrough film for Leslie Nielsen

Leslie Nielsen’s role in Airplane! marked a turning point in his career. He had previously been known for his serious roles, but his comedic portrayal of Dr. Rumack showcased his talent for comedy.

The movie was shot on a tight schedule

Due to budget constraints, Airplane! was shot in just over a month. The tight schedule meant that the cast and crew had to work efficiently to bring the film to life.

The original title of the film was “Flying High!”

Before settling on Airplane!, the film was originally titled “Flying High!” The title was changed to avoid confusion with another film released around the same time.

The cockpit scenes were filmed in a real airplane

To add authenticity to the film, the cockpit scenes in Airplane! were shot in an actual airplane. This attention to detail helped to enhance the realism of the comedic situations.

The film’s humor has stood the test of time

Even after four decades, Airplane! retains its ability to make audiences laugh. The timeless humor and clever writing ensure that the film remains as funny today as it was upon its release.

The film has inspired countless parodies

Airplane! paved the way for a new wave of comedy films and television shows that parodied various genres. Its success influenced the comedic style of many filmmakers and writers.

The actors had to keep a straight face during hilarious scenes

One of the challenges for the actors in Airplane! was to keep a straight face while delivering hilarious lines and participating in absurd situations. Their comedic timing and professionalism shine through in the finished film.

Airplane! was a breakthrough film for the Zucker brothers

Brothers David and Jerry Zucker, along with Jim Abrahams, gained widespread recognition and success with Airplane! The film marked a turning point in their careers and allowed them to continue making successful comedies.

The film was heavily influenced by the TV show “Police Squad!”

Airplane! shared a similar sense of humor and style with the short-lived TV show “Police Squad!” The success and critical acclaim of the show influenced the comedic approach of the filmmakers.

The movie features a memorable karaoke scene

In one memorable scene, passengers on the plane break into a spontaneous karaoke session. This hilarious moment adds to the film’s overall comedic atmosphere.

The movie’s success led to a sequel

Airplane! was followed by a sequel titled Airplane II: The Sequel. While not as successful as the original, it still retained the zany humor and wit that made the first film a hit.

The film’s soundtrack features popular songs from the 70s

The soundtrack of Airplane! includes popular songs from the 1970s, which add to the film’s nostalgic charm. The music perfectly complements the comedic moments on screen.

The movie’s famous “jive” scene required subtitles

During a conversation between two African-American characters in the film, subtitles are used to translate their dialogue. This added to the comedic effect and provided humor for a wider audience.

The film’s humor appeals to a wide range of audiences

Airplane! has universal appeal due to its broad, slapstick humor and clever wordplay. It can be enjoyed by both comedy enthusiasts and casual moviegoers alike.

The movie was shot on location in Los Angeles

The majority of Airplane! was filmed on location in Los Angeles, California. The recognizable landmarks in the background add to the realism of the absurd situations happening on screen.

The film’s dialogue is filled with double entendres

Airplane! is known for its clever use of double entendres and innuendos. These subtle jokes add an extra layer of humor and sophistication to the film’s comedic style.

The movie’s poster parodied the iconic disaster movie poster style

The poster for Airplane! cleverly parodies the iconic style of disaster movie posters. It features a plane in distress and includes humorous taglines that set the tone for the film.

Airplane! is often quoted by fans

Quotes from Airplane! have become part of popular culture and are often quoted by fans of the movie. Whether it’s the famous “Don’t call me Shirley” line or the tongue-in-cheek humor, these quotes have become timeless.

The film’s visual gags are brilliantly executed

Airplane! is filled with visual gags that add to the comedy. From the inflatable autopilot to the exaggerated reactions of the passengers, these visual elements enhance the humor of the film.

The airline industry actually embraced the film

Despite poking fun at the airline industry, Airplane! was embraced by many within the industry itself. The film showed that even pilots and flight attendants had a sense of humor.

Airplane! is often regarded as one of the greatest comedies of all time

Airplane! consistently appears on lists of the greatest comedy films of all time. Its blend of satire, slapstick humor, and clever writing has earned it a well-deserved place among the comedy classics.

The movie’s puns are both clever and cheesy

Airplane! is known for its clever and cheesy puns. From the character names to the dialogue, the film’s puns add additional layers of humor for audiences to enjoy.

The movie’s editing is fast-paced and adds to the humor

The fast-paced editing in Airplane! contributes to the film’s comedic timing. Quick cuts, reaction shots, and perfectly timed visual gags make the film even funnier.

The film has a dedicated fan base

Airplane! has a dedicated fan base that continues to celebrate the film’s humor and comedic genius. Fans quote the movie, dress up as characters for costume parties, and attend screenings of the film.

The movie’s popularity led to numerous parodies and references in pop culture

Since its release, Airplane! has been referenced and parodied in many forms of pop culture. From TV shows to other movies, its influence can be seen in various comedic works.

The film’s success launched a new era of parody movies

Airplane! paved the way for a new era of parody movies. It inspired other filmmakers to create spoofs of different genres, leading to a wave of successful comedy films.

Airplane! is a timeless comedy that continues to entertain audiences

Even after 40 years, Airplane! remains a beloved and enduring comedy. Its clever writing, hilarious performances, and timeless humor ensure that it will continue to entertain audiences for generations to come.


In conclusion, Airplane! is not only a beloved comedy classic, but it also remains a significant influence on the genre to this day. The film’s unique brand of humor, witty dialogue, and hilarious performances have cemented its place in cinematic history. From its clever jokes and absurd sight gags to its memorable one-liners, Airplane! continues to entertain audiences with its timeless humor.The movie’s success can be attributed to its talented cast, including Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hays, and Julie Hagerty, who brought their comedic timing and chemistry to the screen. Additionally, the film’s clever writing, which parodied the disaster movie genre, struck a chord with audiences and catapulted Airplane! to cult status.With its fast-paced jokes, quotable lines, and unforgettable scenes, Airplane! has left an indelible mark on the world of comedy. It remains a must-see film for anyone looking for a good laugh and a dose of pure entertainment. So, if you haven’t experienced the hilarity of Airplane! yet, buckle up and prepare for a wild ride!


Q: Who directed Airplane!?

A: Jim Abrahams and brothers David and Jerry Zucker collectively directed Airplane!, showcasing their comedic genius.

Q: When was Airplane! released?

A: Airplane! was released on July 2, 1980, to critical acclaim and commercial success.

Q: Is Airplane! based on a true story?

A: No, Airplane! is not based on a true story. It is a parody of disaster movies from the 1970s like Airport 1975.

Q: How did Airplane! become a cult classic?

A: Airplane! gained a cult following due to its clever humor, fast-paced jokes, and memorable performances, which continue to resonate with audiences today.

Q: Who are some of the notable cast members in Airplane!?

A: Airplane! features an ensemble cast including Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Lloyd Bridges.

Q: What is the runtime of Airplane!?

A: Airplane! has a runtime of approximately 88 minutes.

Q: Are there any sequels to Airplane!?

A: Yes, there is a sequel titled Airplane II: The Sequel, released in 1982, which follows a similar comedic formula as the original film.

Q: Is Airplane! appropriate for all audiences?

A: Airplane! is rated PG and is generally considered suitable for most audiences, but parental discretion is advised.

Q: Did Airplane! receive any awards?

A: Although Airplane! did not receive any major awards, it has received widespread critical acclaim and is regarded as a comedy classic.

Q: Can I still enjoy Airplane! if I am not familiar with disaster movies?

A: Absolutely! While Airplane! parodies the disaster movie genre, its humor extends beyond that, making it enjoyable for viewers regardless of their familiarity with the source material.

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