Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

planes trains and automobiles poster 1987 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Candy & Martin work well together


Movie Info

Movie Name: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Studio: Hughes Entertainment

Genre(s): Comedy/Seasonal

Release Date(s): November 25, 1987

MPAA Rating: R

planes trains and automobiles pillows john candy steve martin

Those aren’t pillows

Marketing executive Neal Page (Steve Martin) just wants to get home to Chicago from New York City for Thanksgiving and keep his promise to his family.  When he suddenly finds himself thrust next to shower-ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy), it feels like their fates are intertwined.  Neal just can’t seem to get away from Del no matter how hard he tries.  When their plane is diverted to Wichita due to a snow storm, Neal’s only chance to get back home might be Del and almost every mode of transportation possible…will Neal survive the trip and will Del survive if Neal tries to kill him before they reach Chicago.

Written, directed, and produced by John Hughes, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a holiday comedy.  The film was released to positive reviews and a strong box office.  It has become a Thanksgiving holiday favorite over the years.

I wasn’t from a Planes, Trains and Automobiles family.  When it came out, we didn’t see it and I don’t really remember renting it.  Despite that, the movie has caught on with me as both a nice ode to the meaning of Thanksgiving and a classic 1980s comedy with two stars of the genre and the decade.

planes trains and automobiles car john candy steve martin

It might look ugly, but it will get you where you want to go

The story is one of those improbable stories that you could probably find a million plot holes to (like just getting his wife to wire money to the police station after losing the rental car and wallet), but it also doesn’t matter.  In real life, no one regardless of the situation would give the Del character that much leeway…he’s not charming so much as obnoxious.  While Martin is uptight, he has some legitimate pet peeves with Del that would probably only be exacerbated by spending more time with him.  The story however works due to the set-ups and a mixing of the typical Odd Couple plotlines.

Steve Martin and John Candy were at their peak when they made this film.  The joining of the two stars was genius and expected, but they seem to work well together instead of trying to steal the movie from the other actor.  The movie is also filled with tons of cameos like Kevin Bacon, Dylan Baker, Richard Herd, William Windom, Lyman Ward, Matthew Lawrence, and Ben Stein.  Edie McClurg gets a special shout out for the classic car rental scene and a perfect delivery.

planes trains and automobiles trunk ending steve martin john candy

There’s no place like home for the holidays!

The movie also captures that mad rush of the holidays.  Hughes (who scripted other holiday classics like Home Alone and Christmas Vacation) gets the holidays and the magic that comes with them…but also the self-centered nature.  Everyone wants to get home, and everyone wants to get to their family.  It is part of what makes the last scene touching and still a little bittersweet.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles earns its place among holiday classics.  With very few Thanksgiving movies, it has its own special place and that even opens it up for more viewing time since it has little competition.  I know I would have killed Del by the end of the movie…but the part of Planes, Trains and Automobiles that upsets me the most is that I really want an Oxford comma in the title (though it is less egregious than some lacking commas).

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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