For anyone existing in the real world, airports are not exactly enchanting. Unless you’re living it up in the lounge, the fun starts at the long customs and security queues and ends with $9 coffee and bad WiFi.
The movie version of an airport is a little different. In movies, a missed flight means meeting the life of your life over cocktails. In movies, you can slide through security with a heartfelt plea or conveniently board the wrong flight in first class. It’s for these reasons, and many more, that movie airports beat the real thing every time.
With their natural capacity for high drama, it’s no surprise we keep seeing big movie moments set in the bustle of airports. These scenes can often bend towards the ridiculous, whether it’s outright cheesiness or an event that seems impossible in 2019.
To indulge our sometimes sickly love of airport scenes, here’s eight of the cringey best. (By the way, action movies and outright parodies weren’t in the running, with one exception.) See you at the bar.
When you hear ‘2001 Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts’, The Mexican probably doesn’t jump to mind. And why would it, when these two were at their most movie-starry in that year’s Ocean’s Eleven ensemble?
Unfortunately their actual star vehicle from 2001 has little going for it. Brad and Julia play Jerry and Samantha, a bickering couple who break up, spend most of the movie apart, then get back together after convoluted gun-related hijinks. Crucially, they have zero chemistry.
You could easily say the best part of The Mexican is James Gandolfini as a sensitive hitman. Or is it perhaps Samantha’s Houdini act in this climatic airport scene? Now you see her, now you don’t, NOW SHE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU BRAD!
If dorky expressions of young love make you uncomfortable, this scene is a whole symphony of discomfort.
Love Actually opens at London’s Heathrow Airport, with Hugh Grant’s voiceover explaining how joyous reunions at the arrivals gate is proof that “love is all around”. Naturally, we end up back there for young Sam’s dash to farewell “the love of his life” before she flies home to the US.
This has everything we appreciate in a ridiculous airport scene, from the three adults distracted by almost-naked Bill Nighy to a child casually hurdling over a security guard.
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
Home Alone 2 had a tough job: how do you separate adorable psychopath Kevin McCallister from his family again after the events of Home Alone? Instead of leaving him behind in Chicago, this time he ends up on the wrong plane, headed for New York while everyone else flies to Miami. OOPS. (Seriously, though, we should take a closer look at those parents.)
This one requires major suspension of disbelief — especially in 2019, when the caper wouldn’t even make it past the boarding pass mix-up. But then how would we get to another round of heartwarming booby trap violence and a cursed Donald Trump cameo?
Sometimes you get Dumb and Dumber Jim Carrey and sometimes you get Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind Jim Carrey. Then, in movies like Yes Man and Liar Liar, you get a less satisfying in-between Jim Carrey. He’s falling over, pulling insane faces and having real feelings.
Liar Liar takes it to extremes with its airport scene. Carrey’s family man Fletcher Reede abandons his car, stows away on the baggage carousel like Bugs Bunny and stops a plane with a motorised staircase, all so he can deliver his son a message. It’s surprising he only ends up with both legs broken.
They categorically don’t make movies like Pushing Tin anymore. Coming straight out of 1999, it’s a comedic drama about warring air traffic controllers played by John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton.
It’s a pretty weird watch 20 years later, particularly for fourth-billed Angelina Jolie right before her Oscar-winning performance in Girl, Interrupted. Anyway, no one was winning Oscars for this scene of our two ‘heroes’ finally bonding under a Boeing 747. Holy 1999 CGI!
For the most part, The Terminal is more snoozy than ridiculous. This story of Eastern European traveller Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) marooned in New York’s JFK airport for nine months is a passable distracted Sunday afternoon watch, with maximum Steven Speilberg sentimentality and Borat-lite accent work from Hanks.
Can’t stand Hollywood heartstring-pulling with music by John Williams? This scene is your kryptonite.
Not Another Teen Movie
Does it count if the movie is knowingly parodying dumb airport scenes? In this case, yes, because Not Another Teen Movie doesn’t quite know when to let a good thing go.
It’s fun to watch future Captain America Chris Evans (slumming it back in 2001) as the popular jock breezing through security to declare his love, but this set-up takes it one Molly Ringwald cameo and one Freddie Prinze Jr. joke too far.
I mean, there’s a reason why it’s 28 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Remember Garden State, the movie you liked in 2004, bought on DVD, then quietly disowned? It’s got sad, floppy-haired Zach Braff as Andrew, Natalie Portman in oversized headphones as Sam and non-stop angsty music cues from The Shins, Iron & Wine and Coldplay.
Garden State also delivers a lot of questionable Zach Braff-ness. The climactic airport scene runs the checklist of cliches, with our guy racing off a flight to tell Sam he wants to stay. Conveniently, she’s still crying in a phone booth. It’s very on-brand for Garden State that the best thing here is the song by Frou Frou.
Feature image: Love Actually