- Travelling can be stressful, but watching movies can help.
- “Aeroplane!” is perfect if you really need some laughs and want a classic.
- Get over your heartbreak with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”
When it comes to in-flight entertainment, it all depends on your mood.
Feeling lighthearted and wanting a good laugh? Bored on a long-haul flight and want something you’ll be invested in until the very end? Recently heartbroken and need to shed a few tears instead?
No matter what you’re feeling, here are the 19 best movies to watch next time you’re on a plane.
Need something light to ease the stress of travel? Watch a hopelessly fun flick like “Notting Hill.”
Between security, missed flight connections, and your seatmate hogging the armrest, travel has plenty of reasons to be stressed. It might feel impossible to relax, but a playful film can certainly help.
It’s a sweet romantic comedy featuring an independent bookstore owner (played by Hugh Grant) who loves a movie star (played by Julia Roberts). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry-especially at Roberts’ iconic line near the end-and it will transport you far, far away from the metal tube you find yourself in.
“I love to watch comedy or romcoms where I don’t have to stress much on the brain. My last flight I watched ‘Notting Hill,’ though I had already seen it a few times.” Nidhi Gupta, travel blogger and filmmaker at Means2Madness, told INSIDER.
“Aeroplane!” is perfect if you really need some laughs and want a classic.
It might seem a little bit on the nose, but “Aeroplane!” is a classic for a reason. The film, which stars Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty, is about a flight that goes wrong in all the best possible ways. Hilarity ensues.
“The ’80s classic ‘Aeroplane!’ would be incredible. It’s hilarious and hasn’t lost any charm,” she told INSIDER.
If you want some laughs with a comedy that’s more recent, you can’t go wrong with “Bridesmaids.”
Kristen Wiig co-wrote and stars in this hilarious story which follows Annie, a woman whose life is falling apart while her best friend (played by Maya Rudolph) gets engaged. Single and nearly broke, she tries to keep up with the duties of Maid of Honour.
When it came out, the film was often called the “female version of ‘The Hangover,’” but anyone can enjoy this flick. It’s about friendship through life changes, with lots of laughs thrown in.
Mike Stommel, travel public relations professional and agency owner at Lucky Break PR travels across the country every few weeks, and “Bridesmaids” is one of his go-to’s.
“With the stress of everyday work, I love disconnecting from my day-to-day routine and getting a few laughs in while I fly.
His only warning though?
“When watching a comedy with headsets, be mindful not to laugh out loud too much; however, it’s hard to do with ‘Bridesmaids.'”
If you’re from the US and a little homesick, watch something that will bring home to you, like “Rush Hour.”
“I usually watch something that’s a (US) classic for me because it helps with homesickness. Last flight I was on, they had ‘Rush Hour’ and I loved it.” frequent traveller Ebony Brown told INSIDER.
In the film, a Chinese diplomat’s daughter is kidnapped, and the most unlikely duo ends up hot on the case: Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. At its heart, it’s a classic funny man and straight man approach to comedy, plus explosions, gunfights, and all the adrenaline of an action flick.
Fuel your wanderlust even more with “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”
Based on a short story by James Thurber, this film follows an ordinary man who experiences extraordinary things by getting out of his comfort zone. The stunning cinematography will fill you up with a desire to travel.
The daydream-prone protagonist, Walter (played by Ben Stiller, who also directs the film), travels the world in search of a lost negative for his job. The audience sees him transform from a sheepish man content with a predictable life to someone adventurous and inspiring.
“I watch ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ just about every time I fly. My job takes me off the beaten path, so I watch Walter Mitty to get pumped and to embrace adventure! It reminds me why I love exploring,” digital nomad Sarah Vandenberg told INSIDER.
“The Wedding Dress,” a Korean drama, is the best tearjerker you probably haven’t watched yet.
“The Wedding Dress” is a modern classic that will satisfy your need for a tear-jerker.
“I enjoy international movies. My all time favourite is ‘The Wedding Dress,’ a Korean film. Massive tearjerker!” digital nomad Shannon Moore Martin told INSIDER.
It’s not unusual at all to get a little more emotional and cry on planes, so let it out with this movie. It follows a single mother who discovers she has a terminal illness, and she then sets out to do everything she can for her daughter with her limited days left, including making a wedding dress.
If you get bored easily on long-haul flights (and who doesn’t?), watch “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy is a truly epic series in every sense that will keep you riveted for 9+ hours. The film follows Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) as they return The One Ring to Mordor, but it includes a large cast you’ll inevitably fall in love with.
“I find flights tend to be an environment for making stronger emotional connections to characters in films, and you can’t help but be moved by the various events throughout the three movies. The characters struggle towards reaching their goal, with tragic losses, uplifting moments, and heartache throughout,” Laurence Norah, travel blogger at Finding the Universe, told INSIDER.
“Plus that ending, as they all go their separate ways, gets me every time!”
Feeling ready for the holidays? Look no further than “Love, Actually.”
Staffo Dobrev, the public relations manager and budget travel expert at Wanderu usually travels home for the holidays and this film in particular marks the start of the festivities.
“It has actually become sort of a tradition for me. The movie itself is a buildup to Christmas and it’s a perfect way to warm your heart right before the holidays,” Dobrev told INSIDER.
The film, set in the UK, follows multiple storylines, most of which delightfully intersect in subtle ways. It’s got an all-star cast, including Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, and many more.
Dobrev added, “There are two parts in particular that I love the most: the ‘All I Want for Christmas’ number at the school play-it sets the holiday mood just perfectly-and the final scene where everybody arrives at the airport. It makes me that much more excited about seeing and hugging my family right after that flight.”
If you’re drowsy and want a little bit of a wake-up, check out “ARGO.”
This historical drama, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, is based on an event during the Iran hostage crisis during 1979-1980. Tony Mendez (played by Affleck) is on a mission to save six Americans from almost certain execution, and his grand plan involves posing as a Hollywood producer and training the refugees to act as a film crew.
Amy Hartle, travel blogger at Two Drifters, said the film was incredible and simply perfect for a flight.
“Not only did it completely rivet me, making hours of the flight pass in the blink of an eye, it kept me pleasantly on the edge of my seat. I find the distraction of an emotionally-engaging film matches well with the excitement and adrenaline I feel on a flight,” she told INSIDER.
If you’d rather have the chance to get a little sleep, then look to a fan favourite you won’t mind dozing off during like “The Princess Bride.”
Travel is exhausting, but sometimes it’s nearly impossible to get comfortable and catch some z’s in-flight (especially with airline seat size continuing to shrink). Call it movie magic, but sometimes putting a film on is just the thing to pass out.
“Princess Bride” is hands down the best in this category. The narrator (Peter Falk) sits down with his sick grandson (Fred Savage) to tell him a story as he rests in bed. Characters played by Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher, and so many more then come to life.
You won’t feel bad dozing off during this flick, and the jokes never get old even if you’ve seen it a few dozen times. Princess Bride is sweet, funny, and will fill you with fuzzy, warm nostalgia.
“Legally Blonde” is sure to put a smile on your face, no matter how exhausted you might be from your trip.
Not only is “Legally Blonde” a clever, humorous film, but it leaves you with a bit of that inspiring feeling. If Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon) can turn her life around, ditch that loser, and become a lawyer, you can make something of yourself, too.
“It’s light-hearted and always leaves me in a good mood,” Adrienne Clement, travel blogger at Bucket Half Full told INSIDER.
If you’re worried that something will go wrong on your trip, put your mind at ease with “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
Travel is way more than picture-perfect Insta-shots. It’s missed flights, getting lost, language barriers, sickness on the road, and a bunch of other pretty un-glamorous things, too. So instead of fretting about what will go wrong, this film starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo will remind you it will all be OK.
“The ‘perfect’ vacation doesn’t exist, and sometimes it’s about the metaphorical journey and not the destination. And after going through the anxiety of packing, the challenges of airport security and the boredom of waiting around to board a plane, ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ offers the perfect cure-all: a ton of laughs to forget it all,” Lynn and Justin, the travel bloggers behind Mad Hatters NYC told INSIDER.
Don’t feel like planning anything? You can bet “Toy Story” will be available in-flight.
Maybe you simply don’t have the time to download a movie. That’s when a film like Toy Story (as well as the sequels) work perfectly.
These animated films appeal to kids and kids at heart, and the first instalment is the highest-ranking Pixar movie on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Some movies are the cinematic equivalent of a safety blanket, and the ‘Toy Story’ films definitely fall under that umbrella. They seem to be staple entries on most airlines’ entertainment systems, which makes them an easily accessible source of comfort on even the most miserable plane rides,” Alanna Smith, editor at TravelPirates, told INSIDER.
For easing some of the anxiety of plane travel, a train-focused film like “Silver Streak” will do the trick.
If you suffer from anxiety while travelling, films are a surefire way to take your mind off of things. And what better way to do that than with a film that has nothing to do with plane travel at all?
“Silver Streak” is about a murder which happens on a Chicago-bound train, which the protagonist witnesses and then is later accused of.
“Flying still bothers me so one thing I do to ease the anxiety is to pretend I’m on a train. Train movies further help suspend my disbelief. ‘Silver Streak’ is an absolute classic with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder.” Bill McCool, freelance writer and movie buff told INSIDER.
Get over your heartbreak with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”
For the lovelorn, this film is pure gold. Not only will it remind you that you can and will find love again, but it’s definitely going to give you some laughs.
Jason Siegel plays Peter, a musician who does the scores for a crime television show. When he’s dumped by Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), he heads to Hawaii to get away from it all-and of course, Sarah is there with her new boyfriend in tow.
The plot alone may not be groundbreaking, but even a decade after its release, “it’s as funny as ever,” according to GQ.
Embrace a silly mood with “Coco.”
It will be hard not to sing along with Disney’s “Coco.” It follows protagonist and aspiring musician Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) who somehow ends up in the Land of the Dead, and he must enlist the help of his deceased great-great-grandfather to get him back to the living.
But it’s the music that’s the star here. While your seatmates may not appreciate you belting the lyrics out loud, will anyone really notice if you softly hum them to yourself? Chances are, you won’t be able to resist.
Talita Ferreira, PR specialist for Brand Expedia in Latin America told INSIDER, “The soundtrack is amazing. It’s no wonder why it won the Oscars for Best Original Song. I dare people to watch the movie without crying just a little, or without singing the theme song along. Remember me.”
Put on “The Fifth Element” for those times you want to be transported to another planet.
Equally fantastical and fun, “The Fifth Element” is a superb sci-fi flick that follows gruff Korben Dallas and his quest to save the world. He works to reunite the human form of the fifth element, a wide-eyed woman named Leeloo, with the other four to prevent evil from destroying the world completely.
Viktoria Altman, a travel writer and photographer, told INSIDER it’s her favourite to watch on a plane.
“Bruce Willis in the 1990s, a brilliant female lead by Milla Jojovic, and the stunning visuals from director Luc Besson – this is a sci-fi classic that was way ahead of its time. ‘The Fifth Element’ also features a brilliant performance by Chris Tucker as a laugh out loud funny and ultimately brave Ruby Rhod,” she said.
If you’re antsy and don’t want to waste your time with a fictional story, you’ll get a lot from “Casting JonBenet.”
You might remember the 1996 unsolved murder of a young girl named JonBenet Ramsey, and this documentary, which just came out last year, shows it in a new light.
The documentary takes a unique approach. It follows the casting for a fictional film where actors (all local to the area where the original crime took place) audition. Throughout the process, the audience gets insight into the aftermath of the crime from those trying out for parts.
In September 2018, Thrillist named it one of the best documentaries to stream on Netflix.
If you’re indecisive and can’t choose between comedy, drama, or adventure, “Up” offers a little bit of everything.
This 2009 film from Pixar will likely have you in tears within the first 10 minutes, but it’s also jam-packed with laughs and action.
It follows grumpy, stubborn Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) as he tries to fulfil his late wife Ellie’s dreams of visiting their childhood dream destination, Paradise Falls. He makes some unlikely friends along the way, like the endlessly curious Russell (voiced by child actor Jordan Nagai) and a trusty golden retriever named Dug (voiced by Bob Peterson).
Peter Bradshaw summed it up well in his review for The Guardian: it’s “a lovely, charming and visually stunning family comedy which can leave no heart unwarmed.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.