Airplane! (titled Flying High! in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan) is a 1980 American satirical comedy film directed and written by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker and released by Paramount Pictures. It stars Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty and features Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Lorna Patterson. The film is a spoof of the disaster film genre, and a close parody of the 1957 Paramount film Zero Hour!. The film is well-noted for its use of absurdist and surrealist comedy. Airplane! was a financial success, grossing over US$83 million in North America alone, against a budget of just $3.5 million. The film's creators received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Comedy, and nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and a BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay. In the years since its release, Airplane!'s reputation has grown substantially. The film was voted the 10th-funniest American comedy on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs list in 2000, and ranked 6th on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies. In a major 2007 survey by Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, it was judged the second greatest comedy film of all time. In 2008, Airplane! was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time and in 2010, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
Ex-fighter pilot and taxi driver Ted Striker (Robert Hays) became traumatized during an unnamed war, leading to his fear of flying. As a result, he can't hold a responsible job and his wartime girlfriend Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty), now a stewardess, leaves him. To win her back, Striker overcomes his fear and buys a ticket on a flight she is serving on, from Los Angeles to Chicago, leaving the taxi he was driving behind. However, during the flight, Elaine rebuffs his attempts. After dinner is served, many of the passengers fall ill, and fellow passenger Dr. Barry Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) quickly realizes that the fish dinner gave some passengers food poisoning. The stewards discover that the cockpit crew, including pilot Clarence Oveur (Peter Graves) and co-pilot Roger Murdock (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), have all come down with food poisoning, leaving no one aboard to fly the plane. Elaine contacts the Chicago control tower for help, and is instructed by tower supervisor Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges) to activate the plane's autopilot, a large inflatable doll named "Otto", which will get them to Chicago, but will not be able to land the plane. Dr. Rumack convinces Striker to fly the plane, though he feels unable to handle the pressure and the unfamiliar aircraft. McCroskey knows that he must get someone else to help talk the plane down and calls Rex Kramer (Robert Stack). Striker and Kramer served together in the war and must overcome their negative history. As the plane nears Chicago, Striker becomes increasingly stressed and can only land the plane after a pep talk from Dr. Rumack. With Kramer's endless stream of advice, Striker is able to overcome his fears and safely land the plane with only minor injuries to some passengers, and damage to the landing gear. Striker's courage rekindles Elaine's love for him, and the two share a kiss while Otto takes off in the evacuated plane after inflating a female companion.