Top 10 Aviation Films

It’s a subjective exercise picking a favourite anything and for every fan of Top Gun there’s another who thinks its gung-ho brash and bluster style is just too much. Here’s my 10:

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

There’s a stiff RAF officer played by Peter Sellers and crazed USAF B-52 nuclear bomber pilot played by Slim Pickens (later to be seen in the farting scene in Blazing Saddles).

The aircraft play a crucial part as they are they can start World War III if they are not recalled in time.

This film by Stanley Kubrick was made in the middle of the Cold War and while its special effects are rudimentary it retains its power to both chill and entertain.


The Sound Barrier (1952)

In the post-war period British aviation continued its innovative ways that had found such success in the 1939-45 conflict. This David Lean-directed film showed how the British attempted to break the mythical Sound Barrier first. Not all survive it…

Angels One Five (1952)

Battle of Britain film with stiff upper lipped officers and daft inexperienced junior pilots. ‘Septic’ is not a name you’d see on a Top Gun helmet that’s for sure.

The Battle of Britain (1969)Battle of Britain film poster

Michael Caine, Robert Shaw, Susannah York, Spitfires, Spanish Heinkels, a great theme – plus a whole lot more. Laurence Oliver plays Hugh Dowding and Trevor Howard plays the commander of 11 Group, Keith Park. There are rumours of a Ridley Scott Battle of Britain film but it will take some effort to rival this epic telling of the only aerial conflict of the war.

Reach for the Sky (1956)

Kenneth More played the much-loved war hero and double amputee Douglas Bader. One not just for Sunday afternoons.

Firefox (1982)

Clint Eastwood steals a top secret Russian fighter jet which has a voice-activated cockpit – it’s the future!

633 Squadron (1964)633 Squadron

A brave mission, with many repeated shots of Mosquitos flying up Scottish glens – I mean Norwegian fjords. Can you spot the models being swung round on string? Not bothered, it’s a stirring war movie made in the 1960s and one of the main stars is not one of the Mosquitoes drafted in for the flying sequences but the dramatic theme tune.

The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)

It’s an American film from the 1970s and is actually about something, with incredible flying sequences including a couple of shocking moments.

The Dam Busters (1955)

This is one of the stand-out war movies. It’s in black and white, it’s got clipped accents, an actual wartime hero in the shape of Richard Todd (who took part in D-Day) who played Guy Gibson and it’s got Lancasters, an un-PC dog and the best theme tune of all time. The daring exploits of 617 Squadron were portrayed in this film which bears repeated viewings.

The Right Stuff  (1983)

The film version of Tom Wolfe’s seminal book about the test pilots at Edwards AFB and the early Mercury astronauts. Yes, you can tell the aircraft are models but who cares with a cast including Sam Shephard, Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid and Ed Harris. Contains scenes of bravery and crewcut haircuts.

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