Movies on Your Flights

What to Watch on Your Flights This Holiday Season

Airline entertainment options can seem like the discount racks at Marshall’s — a hodge podge of last season’s cast offs and Weird Barbie concoctions that haven’t exactly considered your frame of mind and fellow flyers.

But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find some treasures. They’re just hard to spot based on those one sentence synopses. So we’ve combed through the major airlines’ releases and created a guide to help you winnow down the choices.

Our criteria?  To help you avoid any added stress or turbulence of the mind, should you encounter any in the air.  We’ve also picked a few worthy new releases you might have missed, and focused on the ones that won’t be cringey to watch with your fellow passengers (including those kids and parents behind you).  We left off the usual holiday fare, as you might get stuck re-watching the same movie once you land. And to save you some money, we’ve added some titles you’ll have to pay for back home.  Here’s the final breakout.

When You Want Some Romance


An American in Paris (United)

Movies on Your Flights

G-rated. 113 minutes.  A classic romantic comedy that will take you back 70 years to the City of Love, An American in Paris is a film you could discuss with the older generations over the holidays—or the younger ones who embraced Emily in Paris. The Story: World War II veteran Jerry (Gene Kelly) is trying to make it as an artist in gay ol’ Paris. Milo, a lonely heiress, buys some of Jerry’s art, but he suspects she’s more interested in him. To make matters more complicated, Jerry falls in love with his friend’s girlfriend. Sacre bleu! Gene Kelly tapped his way through Montmarte and into everyone’s hearts — An American in Paris won six Oscars, including Best Picture, in 1951.  The film was even selected by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically significant,” as it’s ultimately about starting over in the wake of war.


Past Lives (United, Southwest)

Movies on Your Flights

PG-13.  95 minutes.  An indie film, recently nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama, Past Lives is the movie to watch if you’re heading home and pondering the one who got away.  The Story:  Nora and Hae Sung were childhood friends in South Korea until Nora’s family uprooted to Canada. Reuniting as 30-somethings in New York, they confront the Korean notion of In-yun — destiny — and question the choices that led them to their current state. It’s a deliberately paced movie, but it draws out the tensions between where we come from and where we’ve found ourselves in life.  You might need some tissues – and a chaser from below.


Crazy Rich Asians (United, Southwest)

Movies on Your Flights
Warner Bros. Pictures

PG-13. 112 minutes. For a more escapist romance that will inspire your wanderlust, look for this gorgeous 2018 film that made me want to fly to Singapore. If you’re traveling to meet your significant other’s friends and family, it might feel especially relevant.

The Story:  New Yorker Rachel (Constance Wu) joins her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) on a trip back to his homeland to attend his best friend’s wedding. Not long after they arrive, Rachel realizes he’s been keeping from her. Nick’s family is loaded and he’s considered one of the country’s Most Eligible Bachelors. A few of his friends and relatives let Rachel know she’s out of her depths, but she’s clever, tenacious, and kind, and she’s doesn’t let those snobs break her spirit. Several great comedians round out the cast, including Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Jimmy O. Yang, and Nico Santos. Added perk: Michelle Yeoh’s icy portrayal of Nick’s mother will make you want to hug your own in laws.


Christmas in Connecticut (Delta)

An often overlooked holiday classic from 1945, this is a movie that your grandparents or great great grandparents would Movies on Your Flightshave watched, and it’s about a post-WWII professional single woman, which was somewhat groundbreaking at the time.  The Story: Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is a magazine columnist who writes about all the ways she cooks, crafts, and decorates the ideal home for her family…none of which she actually does, as she lives alone in a cramped apartment in New York City. After her boss decides to invite a war hero and his fiance to his house for a traditional holiday dinner, Elizabeth convinces a friend to join her and play her hubby.  There are songs, sleigh rides, and a very nostalgic Connecticut that will make you realize why Hallmark created a whole genre against similar backdrops.  This one is far more transporting.


When You Want to Laugh


Class Action Park (United)

Movies on Your Flights

Rated R.  90 minutes.  Did you know there was a theme park in New Jersey that had a water slide with a loop?  True story, and this documentary captures all of the wild details. The Story: At its heyday in the 80s, Action Park — better known as Traction Park and Class Action Park — was run mostly by teenagers who had to contend with a steady stream of intoxicated New Yorkers. The filmmakers get to the bottom of how the park came to be, weaving in interviews with a series of comedians who remember getting spit out of the rides. You’ll be wondering how Action Park lasted as long as it did, and if you’re a daredevil, wishing you could have at least visited.


Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby  (United, American, Southwest)

Rated PG-13. 108 minutes.  Like most Will Ferrell movies of the 2000s, Talladega Nights is over the top, which makes it Movies on Your Flightsperfect for a small screen flight watch. It’s also a story that you could nod off in the middle of and jump back in, and you’ll still keep up. The Story:  Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) is a successful NASCAR driver, along with his pal Cal (John C. Reilly).  The two of them always win, until a new French driver (Sacha Baron Cohen) has the nerve to show up and show them up. With lots perfect one-liners (my personal favorite is Cal’s explanation for why he wants the TV and stereo on at the same time: “I like to party”) and Ferrell’s signature physical comedy (yes, he does strip down to his underwear), Talladega Nights is the right-kind-of-mindless film needed for flights.  You’ll find its absurdity oddly relaxing.


Theater Camp (American)

PG-13.  93 minutes. A recent summer release, this mockumentary will throw you back and leave you in stitches. It’s also a film you’ll have to pay for on the streaming services, so Movies on Your Flightsconsider it a flight perk.  The Story: Two theater camp counselors and best friends, Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon) and Amos (Ben Platt) announce that this year’s original musical will be based on the life of the camp’s co-founder Joan, who is in a coma. The stakes are high as the production has to go well to raise money to save the camp. Some of the best moments come from Noah Galvin, who plays the theater’s head techie and has no choice but to run around putting out fires. Its an oddball adventure that will drop you into summer camp at its most campy, and it stars the two Evan Hansens, Noah Galvin and Ben Platt (who are now engaged, which makes my inner musical theater nerd sing).


Isn’t it Romantic? (United)

Rated PG.  88 minutes.  Not every parody of a romcom has been a success, but Isn’t it Romantic? is a perfect send up Movies on Your Flightsof the genre that will appeal to anyone who’s overdosed on Hallmark over the holidays. The Story:  Natalie (Rebel Wilson) wakes up one morning to discover she’s been dropped into a romantic comedy. Her suitor? None other than a Hemsworth (Liam), who is of course a billionaire ready to sweep her off her feet. Her gay best friend announces that he only exists to help her, and her second love interest (Adam Devine) somehow manages to woo the stunning Priyanka Chopra, a nod to how goofy guys end up with the babes in romcom land. My favorite bit is the idealized version of New York Natalie finds herself in, which is immaculate and magically chipper. I have watched this movie on a plane, and it’s the perfect balance of sweetness and satire.


When You Want to Forget You’re Flying


The Matrix (United)

Movies on Your Flights
Warner Bros. Pictures

R (due to its martial arts violence). 2 hours 16 minutes.  If you missed the original Matrix movie or it’s been a while, the end of 2023, the year of AI, is a good time to jump into the film that influenced so many others – not to mention the worlds of VR, fashion, and even politics.  You could say the Wachowski siblings’ original even predicted our current algorithmic and AI-driven ageThe Story:  Computer hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) discovers that his entire life has been a computer-generated simulation, dreamed up by computer overlords in the far off future. He joins a resistance movement to free humanity from lives of machine-driven brainwashing. A melding of sci-fi, martial arts, and action thriller, The Matrix’s suspense and prescient themes will fully immerse you.


Harry Potter – the entire series  (United, American, Southwest)

Movies on Your Flights
Warner Bros Pictures

PG & PG-12.  130-160 minutes.  What better way to forget you’re on a flying bus than to disappear into the world of Hogwarts. Given the season, you might want to consider starting with the first two films — The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets — which feel more like storybooks come to life and include a few festive holiday scenes to get you in the spirit.

If you’ve got a super long flight, you can watch all eight films. But I’m partial to the third film in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, which has a more perilous, moody atmosphere and the best teacher in Hogwarts history: Remus Lupin. Oh and lest you forget, the later films – once he-who-must-not-be-named returns – take a turn toward darker, more turbulent territory.


Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves   (United, American)

Movies on Your Flights
Paramount Pictures

PG-12. 134 minutes.  In case you are wondering, no, you do not have to have played Dungeons & Dragons to enjoy this film (but it doesn’t hurt). It might even appeal to never-gamers, as it’s a parody of fantasy genres and it stars the dreamy duo of Chris Pine and Rege Jean-Page.  The Story:  Set in the Forgotten Realms, a wild fantasy world, a charming thief and his best friend set out to rescue the thief’s daughter. Hijinks ensue as they assemble a merry band to help along the way. Dungeons & Dragons not only parodies the fantasy epics, it’s has some fun with the D&D game itself, and Jean-Page is hilarious as a send up of every epic fantasy hero archetype. In addition to the laughs, Dungeons & Dragons will transport you to several fantastical worlds – and you don’t even need to roll a twenty-sided die to do so.


Movies on Your FlightsMrs Davis (JetBlue)

Odds are you missed this wildly original genre mashup when it debuted on Peacock earlier this year.  If there’s one perk to flying JetBlue, it’s the airline’s deal with Peacock. So take advantage of the flight to sample this highly praised comedic thriller about a woman who gets kicked out of a convent and ends up on a mission with her ex to take down an AI named Mrs Davis. All the timely topics around 2023’s big obsession are wrapped in a great big joyride.


When you want to prep for Awards Season


1923 (United, American, Delta)

Movies on Your Flights
Paramount Pictures

TV-MA.  60 minute episodes.  The prequel to Yellowstone, which delivers the double legends of Helen Mirren and Harrison Ford, was just nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Drama.  The Story:  Ford stars as patriarch Jacob Dutton, the great great grand uncle of John Dutton (Kevin Costner), as his family faces prohibition, a drought, a pandemic, and the beginnings of the Great Depression — which hit Montana long before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, a fact not usually covered in history class. One of the most fascinating parts of the series is how well it captures the feel of this critical time in American history, from the stoicism of the characters to the clothing to the sprawling Montana landscape. You feel like you’re really stepping back into an important turning point, which is given extra gravitas from the performances of Mirren and Ford.


Abbott Elementary (United, Southwest)

PG. 22 minute episodes.  As a former teacher, let me just say that Abbott Elementary is eerily accurate. From the constant Movies on Your Flightsstruggle to pay for things to eccentric students and clueless admin staff, Abbott Elementary captures the modern day experience of teaching in America. But this is also an Emmy-winning sitcom that has helped save broadcast primetime. From Tyler James Williams’s concerned looks at the camera to Janelle James’s outrageous behavior as the principal, the jokes fly fast. And it’s hard not to fall in love with these teachers, who only want what’s best for these teachers.

Abbott Elementary just scored a 2024 Golden Globe for Best TV Series-Musical or Comedy, so this is the perfect time to check out the series.


Barbie (United, American, Southwest, Delta, jetBlue)

PG-13.  114 minutes.  If you have yet to see it, well you could save yourself some money by watching it on your flight, and you’ll finally see what all of the billion dollar hype is about…and whether you’re Kenough.  The Story, if you managed to somehow escape it:  One of the Movies on Your FlightsBarbies in Barbieland (Margot Robbie) finds herself suddenly in the midst of an existential crisis, and decides to venture into the real world — which is a huge shock. She learns a lot of tough lessons, while Ken discovers the real world sadly does not involve horses. Barbie’s owner, Gloria (America Ferrera), delivers a monologue that is the pep talk many women need during the holidays. As she points out, it is impossible to please everyone.  Above all, Barbie is fun–from the dreamhouses to the bubbly soundtrack to the send up of so many peoples’ childhood make believe lands, consider this your bubblegum pink respite in the sky.


Scrapper (jetBlue, American)

Movies on Your FlightsWinner of a Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, this one’s a moving British comedy that will disarm you. The Story: 12-year-old Georgie (Lola Campbell) has been keeping a secret: she’s been living alone in a London flat since her mom died, pretending to social workers that she lives with her uncle. When her estranged dad arrives, the ruse is up, and she resists his newfound role in her life, as the two of them have to find their way into a new reality. This one’s ideal for the small screen and a shorter flight.


When You Want to Feel Like a Kid…

or You’re Traveling with Them


The Super Mario Bros Movie (United, American, Southwest)

Movies on Your FlightsPG. 92 minutes.  Don’t worry: this is not the disastrous live-action Super Mario Brothers movie from the 90s. This is the new animated take on our favorite Brooklyn plumbers is an origin story of sorts for Mario and Luigi, who are transported to the Mushroom Kingdom to help Princess Peach battle Bowser.

Thankfully, Chris Pratt, who voices Mario, does not attempt an Italian accent, and strangely enough, Seth Rogen’s voice is perfectly suited for Donkey Kong. The star, so to speak, is Bowser, voiced by Jack Black, who sings the best love song of 2023 about Princess Peach. Highlights from the games themselves are included, like Rainbow Road. The film is ideal for a shorter flight, or a longer one if you want something to zone out to and keep your kids entertained.


Rise of the Guardians (United, American, Delta)

PG. 97 minutes.  One of the most overlooked DreamWorks Animation films, Rise of the Guardians has the scope and Movies on Your Flightsimagination of The Avengers — if the Avengers were mythological creatures instead of superheroes. The Story:  Based on the book by William Joyce, the film follows guardians Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, and the Easter Bunny who enlist Jack Frost to help them take down the sinister Pitch Black from engulfing the world of darkness. That’s a wild plot, and it gets even wilder thanks to Hugh Jackman, who voices the Easter Bunny and gives him a Crocodile Dundee flair. And Santa is Russian (and voiced by Alec Baldwin). How was the film not more of a hit?  A topic you can debate with the younger generations over the holidays.


Ghostwriter (American)

Movies on Your Flights
Apple TV+

Rated G. Rare is the TV series that will inspire kids to want to read, but this Apple TV+ show for kids 8+ will appeal to the English teachers, the parents, and the kiddos.  The Story:  After moving to a new town, Rubin finds himself dropped into a series of mysteries with characters who’ve stepped out of the classic and modern books in his Grandpa’s bookstore. With a new squad of friends, it’s up to them to return them and their stories to the pages in their respective stories. The stories relate to the issues that kids face, as as a remake of the 90s series, this one will appeal to parents as well.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (United, American)

PG. 101 minutes.  The latest adventure involving our favorite reptiles named after Italian Renaissance painters was written Movies on Your Flightsby Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, bringing more edge — as well as more appeal for the parents.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a bright and fun addition to the turtle-verse. Voiced by teenagers, they face teenage concerns, like wanting to leave their sewer and see the outside world.  There’s some meta-commentary, like Donatello questioning why his weapon is just a big stick. The biggest theme of the film is the importance of family and acceptance, two important ideas to keep in mind as you get dropped deep into the holidays.

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