5 Phenomenal Movie Airport Scenes

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

Vacation time is in full swing. Families are packing up and heading to different locales around the world. Airports are buzzing. That got me to thinking about today’s Phenomenal 5 – movie airport scenes. Just take a moment to think and you will quickly realize that airports have been memorable settings for some truly great movie scenes. Today we are looking at five of my favorites. Now I did try to steer clear of obvious choices and movies that spend a ton of time in airports. Movies like “Airplane!” and “Die Hard 2” would otherwise easily make this list. In light of that I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there is no denying that these five movie airport scenes are nothing short of phenomenal.

#5 – “Up in the Air”


There are a couple of great scenes in Jason Reitman’s underappreciated “Up in the Air”. The one I’m including today is Ryan’s (George Clooney) first trip with Natalie (Anna Kendrick). The obnoxious seasoned traveler Ryan is like a machine – navigating the airport with precision. Natalie seems like a fish out of water and Ryan takes it upon himself to break her in. The scene is laced with humor but it also does a good job of helping to define Clooney’s faulty and often annoying character.

#4 -“Heat”


“Heat” is a Michael Mann crime thriller masterpiece featuring two of cinema’s heavyweights – Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. There are so many great scenes and one of them takes place at an airport near the end of the movie. I certainly don’t plan to ruin it for those who haven’t seen it, but the film simmers and builds towards this inevitable confrontation. And while the terminal itself is a backdrop, the airport plays a pivotal role in how things play out. It is a fabulous scene.

#3 – “Argo”


The suspense and intensity is what drives “Argo” and its fabulous airport scene. The stakes are through the roof in Ben Affleck’s Best Picture winner which tells the story of the CIA’s rescue of Americans during the Iran hostage crisis. This is another airport scene that serves as the film’s climax. It is clearly injected with dramatic effect but it works. The tension builds throughout the scene and Affleck films it masterfully. “Argo” received its share of negativity, but I’m a fan of it and its great airport scene.

#2 – “Bullitt”


Do you sense a trend here? “Bullitt” features a great airport scene near the end of the film. After several twists and turns Frank Bullitt finds himself on the trail of his chief suspect. It leads him to San Francisco Airport. Once there he must navigate more false leads before ultimately staking out a spot in the terminal. What follows is a great sequence that has you questioning along with Bullitt. Then there is the way it all unwinds. It is a fine conclusion to a true cinema classic.

 #1 – “Inception”


Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” remains one of my favorite movies from recent years. For me it was an unmatched experience. Everything hit the right note to me including the incredible, emotional ending. A key part of that ending takes place in an airport where we see if Cobb’s (Leo DiCaprio) efforts have paid off. It is a beautifully shot sequence energized by a subtle yet effective suspense. And Hans Zimmer’s brilliant music is almost beyond description. I adore this scene and ending. I still find myself moved by it each time I watch.

So there are five truly phenomenal airport scenes. See something I missed? Please take time to share your thoughts or your picks in the comments section. I’m anxious to hear what would have made your list.

32 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Movie Airport Scenes

    • I soooo love the scene and part of the reason it is number one on my list is because of the emotion. Maybe I am a softy dad but I honestly get a bit misty every time I see that.

    • I think at the time it did get some buzz and even some Oscar nominations. But you never hear anyone talk about it. It doesn’t seem like it has stuck with many people.

  1. There’s a lovely airport moment in Sleepless in Seattle, where Tom Hanks catches sight of Meg Ryan for the first time. I also enjoyed the scene in one of the Dirty Harry films where Harry goes to SF airport to enjoy “the best burgers in town” and ends up donning a pilots uniform to foil a hijack.

    “Captain can you fly? Never had a lesson!”

  2. Great choices, the first four movies which went through my mind were scenes in Airplane, Dumb and dumber, Home Alone and The Terminal although they don’t hold a candle compared to your picks.

  3. Great choices Keith. Gotta rewatch Bullitt one of these days. Casablanca, Catch Me IF You Can, Meet the Parents and of course Planes, Trains and automobiles are all high on my list!

    • Thanks man! I thought about Casablanca but I felt as though I mention that film all the time! 😉 Yet another one where the great airport scene happens at the end!

  4. I’ll second Rob’s suggestion for Catch Me If You Can. Brilliant sequence. What a great Phenomenal 5 List, Keith.

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