After making his title in teen comedies with hits like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, John Hughes stepped outdoors his wheelhouse for 1987’s Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Hughes left highschool behind for a cross between a highway film and a buddy movie about reluctant touring companions and their disastrous multi-vehicle journey to Chicago.

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Thanks to timeless components like Steve Martin and John Candy’s impeccable on-screen chemistry and relatable airline frustrations, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is a hilarious gem that also holds up immediately.


Updated October 22, 2021 by Kayleena Pierce-Bohen: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is a heartwarming and humorous film that would simply be known as the quintessential Thanksgiving film. And with the vacation season quickly approaching, this listing has been expanded to incorporate much more ageless facets of this basic John Hughes flick. 

Steve Martin And John Candy Share Hysterical Chemistry

Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes Trains and Automobiles

The key to creating a buddy film work is discovering actors who share impeccable on-screen chemistry in addition to completely embodying their particular person roles. And Steve Martin and John Candy made a comic book pairing for the ages in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Martin brilliantly captures Neal’s uptight nature and Candy’s spot-on portrayal of Del’s oblivious outgoingness presents a hysterical counterpoint to his character.

It Perfectly Captures The Frustrations Of Travel

Neal Page and Del Griffith in Planes Trains and Automobiles

From the second Neal struggles to get a cab on the crowded avenue outdoors his workplace, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles completely captures the frustrations of journey.

Hughes confronts Neal and Del with each doable setback: delayed flights, crowded trains, inefficient automobile rental companies, and buses with engine bother. These issues are timelessly relatable. Everybody within the viewers has handled these frustrations sooner or later or one other.

Authentic Human Interactions

Steve Martin as Neal Page trying to rent a car from rental agent Edie McClurg in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Not solely are the 2 leads relatable characters, however in addition they work together with one another (and are a part of interactions) in a means that comes throughout as genuine and real. Other characters round them use platitudes, swear, are uncouth, and are available from quite a lot of financial backgrounds, from the service staff they work together with to their fellow passengers.

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By Hughes permitting his actors to behave as people do in actual life, the film not often appears dated (besides maybe by vogue or know-how), and on stability, the “warts and all” method helps preserve its timelessness.

Little Details

Del Griffiths (John Candy) reading a romance novel at the airport in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

The film was shot throughout Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles within the Spring of 1987, and regardless of a demanding schedule, Hughes insisted on capturing each facet of his screenplay, which clocked in at extremely irregular 90 pages for a comedy. According to Wild and Crazy Guys: How the Comedy Mavericks of the ’80s Changed Hollywood Forever, Hughes needed viewers to have the ability to watch the film greater than as soon as, and catch one thing new each time they did.

Perhaps predicting its common vacation rotation with audiences, he anticipated that their minds would possibly wander, and so targeted on seemingly random particulars to incorporate (equivalent to the person holding a shoebox filled with squirming white mice, or Del studying a trashy romance novel hilariously known as “The Canadian Mounted”) in order that even the background pictures have been full of eye-catching elements.

The Plot Moves At A Nice, Brisk Pace

According to Kirk Honeycutt’s John Hughes: A Life in Film, Hughes wrote the script for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles in simply three days – the identical period of time it takes Neal and Del to get to Chicago. This course of could possibly be described as rushed, however Hughes’ vastly influential writing speaks for itself.

The expedited schedule of Hughes’ screenwriting meant he didn’t overthink something and targeted on driving the plot ahead. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles exemplifies the strengths of Hughes’ no-nonsense writing. The film by no means stays on a scene for too lengthy and there are all the time extra hilarious hijinks on the horizon.

It Has The Perfect Balance Of Heart And Humor

There are loads of absurd conditions in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, from a discarded cigarette exploding a automobile to the torched automobile crashing by way of the wall of a motel, however the absurdity is rarely on the expense of drama. The film has an ideal stability of coronary heart and humor.

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It’s arguably essentially the most emotionally partaking film from Hughes’ filmography. The treacly sentimentality isn’t for everyone, however the heartfelt dramatic moments land superbly.

The Characters Are Three-Dimensional

Most buddy motion pictures like this have one-note archetypes within the lead roles. Hughes used archetypes as a jumping-off level for each Neal and Del – the previous being a high-strung company go well with and the latter being a pleasant optimist oblivious to the issues he causes – however he rounds them out as three-dimensional human beings.

Neal’s determined bid to get house to his household makes him relatable, whereas Del’s “You wanna hurt me?” monologue provides the character actual depth.

Martin And Candy Both Showed Off Previously Unseen Dramatic Range

There was no query of Steve Martin or John Candy’s comedic skills previous to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Both have been hailed as comedy legends because the starting of their profession.

But in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, the 2 actors confirmed off their beforehand unseen dramatic vary, notably in Neal and Del’s home-truth-spilling arguments and the twist reveal about Del’s spouse.

It’s The Ultimate Thanksgiving Movie

Neal and Del in Planes Trains and Automobiles

There aren’t loads of motion pictures about Thanksgiving – the vacation doesn’t have its personal subgenre like Christmas – so there’s no query that Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is the perfect Thanksgiving movie. But even when there have been a bunch of different well-known Thanksgiving motion pictures, that might in all probability nonetheless be the case.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles isn’t simply the quintessential Thanksgiving film as a result of it revolves round Neal’s quest to get house in time to have a good time the vacation; Hughes’ movie embodies what Thanksgiving is all about. Neal warming to Del and finally inviting him over for dinner is the final word Thanksgiving story.

The Wholesome Message

Neal Page(Steve Martin) looking concerned while Del Griffiths (John Candy) smiles holding coffee in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

At its coronary heart, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is concerning the inherent hazard of judging a e book by its cowl — of judging folks primarily based on a second in time. But due to the circumstances they discover themselves in, Neal and Del are compelled to get to know each other regardless of how little they’ve in widespread, and the film preaches a message of tolerance and empathy.

Neal is self-centered and inwardly targeted, who purports to care about his household however does not have time for them. He’s involved about his journey, his consolation, his baggage, and his personal issues till he meets Del, who’s so involved about everybody else round him that he forgets to take inventory of his wants. One is not open sufficient, and the opposite is just too open, however due to the compelled self-reflection they bear, the 2 males discover they’ve extra in widespread than they assume.

Neal’s Car Rental Meltdown Never Gets Old

Neal’s outburst on the automobile rental place in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is among the funniest film moments of all time. Everybody’s been there – at their wits’ finish, scorned by unhealthy customer support – and Martin’s exasperated supply of Neal’s profane monologue won’t ever get outdated.

RELATED: 10 Fun Behind The Scenes Facts About Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Modern R-rated comedies have F-bombs peppered by way of each single scene, however Hughes provides his one profanity-laden scene hilarious impact by preserving the opposite scenes comparatively clear. The automobile rental agent, performed by Ferris Bueller’s Edie McClurg, provides the scene an ideal punchline: “You’re f*cked!”

It Was A Radical Change Of Pace For John Hughes

Del is debatably John's most famous role

Throughout the ‘80s, John Hughes turned a well-known filmmaker with a series of hit high school comedies. Just when he was beginning to settle into a well-recognized teen film system, Hughes branched out into new territory for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

For his first non-high college film, Hughes blended two different comedy subgenres: the highway film and the buddy film. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles proved that Hughes wasn’t a one-trick pony.

The Heartbreaking Final Twist Makes The Movie Rewatchable

Neal smiles at Del in Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Del’s arc takes a heartbreaking flip on the finish of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. After parting methods with Del, Neal items collectively that Del doesn’t have a house to go to. So, he returns to the prepare station and invitations Del over to his personal home for Thanksgiving.

Knowing that Del’s spouse has handed away provides a tragic layer to his character arc on rewatches. It’s simpler to select up on the foreshadowing when the viewers is aware of there’s one thing to foreshadow.

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