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This Fun Fact Will Change the Way You Watch the Movie Airplane!

It’s no secret that the 1980 comedy movie Airplane! is a parody. But for some reason, I’ve spent my entire life believing that Airplane! was a broad parody of 1970s disaster movies. And while the movie clearly took inspiration from some of those films, it’s actually a very specific parody of a movie from 1957 called Zero Hour! Yes, with the exclamation point and everything.

How specific is the parody in Airplane? Huge chunks of dialogue in the classic comedy are taken verbatim from Zero Hour! Everything from “looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking” to a young boy visiting the cockpit are directly lifted from Zero Hour! Everyone on the flight getting poisoned by eating fish appears as a plot point in both movies as well. Even some of the character names are identical—Ted Stryker is the main character in both films.


So why didn’t the producers of Zero Hour! sue for plagiarism? The writers of Airplane! bought the rights to the old 1957 film to make sure there weren’t any problems.

You don’t have to take my word for how similar the two movies are. Zero Hour! is available for rental on YouTube for $2.99. And if you don’t feel like watching the entire thing, YouTube user Mason Wood created a side-by-side comparison of both movies a few years ago that you can view here.

I love old movies, but I found watching Zero Hour! really jarring. And I still have no idea if it’s because Zero Hour! is a bad movie or if it’s because the film is so close to Airplane! that I can’t help but hear the jokes after everything the actors say.

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