Top 10 underappreciated aviation movies

While we like our “Top Gun” and “Airplane!” just as the next guy or gal, there is a collection of films about aviation that dominates all the top-10 lists, and let’s be frank, we have seen all of them. So, what are less known films that can be considered just as good?

Please keep in mind that the list has no particular order, and that some of the entries may be a bit rough around the edges for a regular viewer. But we like them nonetheless!


The Captain (2019)

One of recent Chinese blockbusters aimed at both domestic and foreign audiences, with a dose of patriotism and more than a handful of clichés. Still a solid movie, if viewed as a throwback to inoffensive and motivating disaster films of the 80s and 90, or just simply to see the best popcorn experience contemporary Chinese industry can offer.


Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

Neither unknown nor underrated, but still largely overshadowed by Pearl Harbor (2001), this American-Japanese production is a must-watch for any WWII history buff. It portrays the infamous attack on the Hawaiian (HA) air base without cheesy nationalism, love subplots and overuse of bad CGI, substituting them with real motivations, impressive acting and practical effects that will make your toes curl.


Red Baron (2008)

There was a whole avalanche of films about the most famous German pilot through the 20th century, with varying degrees of success, accuracy and racism. The 2008 depiction stands out as possibly the most sensible and cool-headed dramatization of von Richthofen’s life, and in addition to that, features quite impressive dogfight scenes.


The Eternal Zero (永遠の0) (2013)

While not particularly historically accurate and rather controversial, this Japanese war drama is centered on a tragedy of one family and depicts Japanese Kamikaze pilots in quite a moving manner. It is a well-constructed story in general and can serve as more emotionally-charged counterbalance to “Tora! Tora! Tora!”


Sky Fighters (Les Chevaliers Du Ciel) (2005)

Corny English translation of the title deserves to be forgotten, but the film itself is an engaging and accessible action flick, capable of showing that Americans are not the only ones capable of producing those.


R2B: Return to Base (알투비: 리턴투베이스) (2012)

If “Sky Fighters” is French “Top Gun”, then “R2B: Return to Base” is a South Korean play on the same theme. With slightly lesser budget and more wackiness, it is still an enjoyable film for some easy watching.


Winged Devils (Forza “G”) (1972)

Don’t get it wrong, this movie is not good. But it is the perfect blend of comedy, trashiness and adventure to be worth a watch, just as many low-budget Italian films of the era are. Oh, and the music is one of the lesser known soundtracks of the great Ennio Morrocone, not as impressive as his better known work, but still enjoyable.


Only “Old Men” Are Going Into Battle (В бой идут одни «старики») (1973)

While this war drama has a solid cult following in the former Soviet Union, it is not well known outside the region. And although its Lavochkin La-5s and Messerschmitt Bf.109s are “played” by post-war trainer aircraft, the film keeps an emphasis on “drama” instead of a “war”, making inaccuracies rather unimportant.


Toward The Unknown (1956)

More interesting as a showcase of the 50s U.S. Air Force tech than an actual movie, the film features early jets galore, in addition to rather forgettable story and breathtaking aerial cinematography.


Eye in the Sky (2015)

Another not-really-underrated movie, “Eye in the Sky” was praised for its drama, but overlooked for its depiction of aviation. Actually, the future of aviation, as the film focuses on the dark underside of drone warfare, and brings up issues that are bound to linger as the use of unmanned aircraft rise to prominence in the world’s militaries. 

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