Motion pictures and airplanes were invented around the same time, so it’s no wonder that a history of the medium is also a history of its fascination with motor-powered flight. Movies about flying have been with us from the silent era through this week’s release of Disney’s Planes.
It’s almost as if film and airplanes have been competing in a century-long race. On the one hand, the movies may struggle to keep up with planes, straining to approximate the sensations of flight – the speed, the hurtling motion through three-dimensional space, the miles-high perspective, the seeming freedom from gravity. On the other hand, planes are subject to human and mechanical error, so sometimes they falter spectacularly before an unblinking camera.
Maybe that’s why so many of the great films about how awe-inspiring flight is – like the ones in the following gallery – also depict horrible crashes and accidents. It’s almost as if we can’t imagine the glory of flight (and of the human ingenuity that makes it possible) without also imagining the Icarus-like punishment for our hubris in daring to soar.
Next Hell’s Angels