When the entire crew of a passenger plane is struck down with food poisoning, there's only one man who can come to the rescue. Ted Striker (Robert Hays), a lovesick, ex-war pilot with a drink problem and a crippling fear of flying, is the unlikely candidate charged with guiding the doomed Chicago-bound flight to safety. After becoming traumatised by an incident during combat, Striker's life has fallen apart and his stewardess girlfriend has dumped him.
Determined to win Elaine (Julie Hagerty) back, he has followed her on to the flight, despite his dread at being anywhere near an aircraft. When disaster strikes, Ted and Elaine have to negotiate a gaggle of hysterical passengers and idiotic crew members while nervously trying to bring the plane down in one piece.
A wickedly inspired send-up of overblown 70s' disaster movies, Airplane! has set the bar for every madcap comedy spoof since. Based largely on little known 1950s' aeroplane drama, Zero Hour, Airplane! lampoons the film's clunky dialogue, idiotic characters and implausible plot twists with aplomb.
This classic comedy is widely regarded as one of the funniest films of all time and is certainly one of the most quotable, with an endless stream of memorable oneliners accompanying the spot-on parodies and visual gags. The unconventional crew includes basketball player/actor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Peter Graves, playing the confusingly named Captain Oveur, and Leslie Nielsen, the requisite 'doctor in the house' who utters the immortal 'Don't call me Shirley!' gag, one of the most famous lines in comedy movie history.