There’s no better way to pass the time on a long flight than to immerse yourself in a good movie. Running anywhere from about 90 minutes to three-plus hours, movies can keep you occupied while you wait to arrive at a destination. While some people prefer to watch movies and TV shows on their own mobile devices, the on-board experience through the seatback entertainment system found on many airlines typically provides a pretty good selection of current and older titles from which to choose.
Delta, for example, offers a large selection of close to 300 movies as part of its Delta Studio library. This includes a diverse mix of new releases, documentaries, foreign titles, and family-friendly fare. Have a Delta flight coming up? Don’t waste time sifting through the collection. Here are the best movies to watch on Delta airlines.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
StarsSteve Martin, Michael Caine, Glenne Headly
Directed byFrank Oz
You might wake up sleeping passengers with your loud guffaws while watching this classic comedy, but it’ll be well worth the stares because of the great mood it puts you in, just in time for your arrival at a vacation or business destination. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels stars Steve Martin and Michael Caine as con men who compete with one another to see who can successfully weasel a wealthy heiress out of a large sum of money. Caine’s suave, highly educated Lawrence is juxtaposed by the small-town, brash Freddy (Martin) in the perfect odd couple pairing. The movie is a trip down memory lane for anyone who watched it back in the 1980s, but its humor still holds up for those watching for the first time.
The Woman King (2022)
GenreAction, Drama, History
StarsViola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch
Directed byGina Prince-Bythewood
If you’re in the mood for a new movie, and one with plenty of action and adventure, The Woman King will fit the bill. The epic historical action drama tells the story of the Agojie, an all-female warrior unit that protected a West African community in the 17th through 19th centuries. Viola Davis trained extensively to play the role of General Nanisca, the woman who teaches the next generation of warriors, and it pays off. The obvious themes of female power aside (the movie not only stars a predominantly female cast, but also has a largely female crew), The Woman King has also been praised for its story and emotional depth. Davis has received accolades for her performance as well.
Friday Night Lights (2004)
StarsBilly Bob Thornton, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund
Directed byPeter Berg
This film inspired the NBC drama of the same name. Both were actually based on the H.G. Bissinger book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream. Set in 1988, the movie follows a high school football team and its coaches, parents, and other school officials as they prepare to compete for the state championship. Heartwarming and thrilling, Friday Night Lights is the perfect balance between sports movie and drama. For example, if one half of a couple prefers soapy drama and the other likes sports, it’s a great compromise to watch together. All you need is two pairs of headphones and a splitter and you can both watch on the same screen (or watch individually on each of your screens side by side.)
StarsSean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
Directed byDavid Anspaugh
Another sports-themed movie, the biographical film Rudy is a fists-in-the-air, feel-good movie that will get you pumped up on a flight. Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger (Sean Astin) has dreams of making the revered University of Notre Dame football team. But without the good grades, not to mention money, his dreams appear out of reach. Tragedy, however, leads Rudy to make a rash decision to go for it and do whatever it takes to realize his dream — life is short, after all. Considered one of the most inspiring films of all time by the American Film Institute, nothing will get you down while Rudy is playing over the seatback entertainment system. Not even the airline being out of the snack or meal items you wanted.
Say Anything… (1989)
GenreRomance, Comedy, Drama
StarsJohn Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney
Directed byCameron Crowe
Featuring one of the most iconic and often imitated scenes in cinematic history, Say Anything… is the type of movie you can watch again and again. Some of the content in this ’80s teen romantic drama is dated for Gen-Zers (what is a boombox anyway?). but the themes of love for someone seemingly out of one’s league, in more ways than one, never gets old. With a star-studded cast, iconic soundtrack, and an almost perfect Rotten Tomatoes critic rating, Say Anything is just as culturally significant today as it was decades ago.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
StarsChiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o
Directed bySteve McQueen
Perfect for long flights given its more than two-hour runtime, 12 Years A Slave is an emotional watch with very serious subject matter, but it’ll totally immerse you in the storyline so you forget about the snoring passenger beside you and the occasional turbulence. None of those annoyances compare to the goings-on in this biographical drama based on the slave memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup. Set in pre-Civil War times, a Black man named Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is kidnapped by two con men and sold into slavery. The story follows his 12 years working on plantations.
Stand by Me (1986)
StarsWil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell
Directed byRob Reiner
A classic that Gen-X parents revel in introducing to their kids one day, Stand by Me, based on the Stephen King novella The Body, is about both tragedy and friendship. The film follows four young boys who go on a hike to search for a boy who was rumored to have been accidentally killed. But the adventures they get up to on the journey before locating the tragic scene is the real story as the boys come together and share their deepest, darkest secrets and feelings. The coming-of-age drama features all the pre-teen themes that hold true today, from bullying and family discord to friendship and friends growing apart. A cast that includes a who’s who of the ’80s, a terrific soundtrack and story, and the nostalgia factor make Stand by Me a solid choice.
The Goonies (1985)
GenreAdventure, Comedy, Family
StarsSean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen
Directed byRichard Donner
Another classic coming-of-age film, The Goonies, one of the best ’80s movies, is one you can watch with your teenage and preteen kids (depending on your and their comfort level) while flying to a destination for adventure. Or simply watch on your own and relive the magic of a group of kids from a small neighborhood who set out on a quest to find a long-lost fortune they believe can save their homes from being foreclosed on. It has bullies, criminals, pirates, and even a character named Sloth. Preserved by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” The Goonies is the type of movie you can watch again and again, quoting every line as you go — and it never gets old.
Matchstick Men (2003)
GenreComedy, Drama, Crime, Thriller
StarsNicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman
Directed byRidley Scott
There’s just something about Nicolas Cage that screams “perfect for in-flight viewing,” and such is the case with Matchstick Men, the perfect movie to watch while headed out of town on business. The Ridley Scott-directed film, based on the Eric Garcia novel of the same name, is about Roy (Cage), a con artist who suffers from both Tourette’s syndrome and OCD. He and his partner, Frank (Sam Rockwell), also his protégé, work together selling shoddy water-filtration systems and fake lottery tickets. All is swell in business until Roy suffers a panic attack and decides, at Frank’s urging, that it’s time to see a psychiatrist. Revelations about his past drudged up during treatment lead to Roy’s discovery that he has a teenage daughter. It’s a story as old as time about how a child causes a ne’er-do-well to rethink his bad life choices. But not all is what it seems. The twists and turns in Matchstick Menwill keep you guessing.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
GenreThriller, Crime, Drama
StarsMatt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law
Directed byAnthony Minghella
With an incredible cast, long run ime, and twists and turns, The Talented Mr. Ripley ticks all the boxes as a solid choice for a long flight. Watch it, soak in everything by the end, and doze off for a quick nap before landing. The period psychological thriller, set in the 1950s and based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith, stars Matt Damon as Tom Ripley, a young man who is sent to search for the son of a shipping magnate. After meeting the opulent young man, however, Ripley becomes obsessed with him, to disturbing levels. The movie is dark, suspenseful, and smart, keeping you on the edge of your (plane) seat the whole way through.
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