Anyone who has ever endured the horrors of holiday travel can appreciate this endearing tale of a man simply trying to get home to see his family. His adventurous and hilarious journey made Planes, Trains and Automobiles, released in 1987, a box-office hit for John Hughes and remains a beloved favorite among millions.
Neil Page is a stressed-out advertising executive who is traveling home from New York to Chicago for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend. He quickly learns that this will not be an easy journey when his efforts to get a cab to the airport are unwittingly thwarted by portly shower ring salesman, Del Griffith (played brilliantly by John Candy). Things only go downhill from there.
Finally at the airport, he learns that the cab-stealing Griffith is seated next to him on his flight. A happy-go-lucky slob, Griffith manages to annoy Neil all the way to Kansas, where the plane is forced to land due to the increasingly bad weather. With all flights eventually cancelled, Neil decides to rent a car, only to be dropped off in the middle of an airport parking lot, his transportation nowhere to be found. After an angry (and hilarious) confrontation with the lady at the rental counter (a priceless scene with Edie McClurg), he decided to join forces with Del, a seasoned traveling salesman with many supposed connections.
Thanks to Neil’s high-strung nature and Del’s laid back demeanor, the pair’s personalities mix about as well as oil and water, especially under the pressure of being penniless. They endure such challenges as bad motels, a robbery, a car fire, highway patrolmen and backwoods hicks, and only their shared love of family will see them through this arduous adventure.
The late John Hughes departed from his usual teen-angst comedies to write, direct and produce this madcap adventure. For his efforts, Planes, Trains and Automobiles became one of the biggest hits of his career, a film adored by all ages. Thanks to a stellar cast of comedic actors, and a charming script that tugged mightily at the heartstrings, the film has become an enduring classic, beloved by millions and shown regularly on television during each holiday season.
If your holiday season wouldn’t be complete without a viewing of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, we welcome your recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to John Hughes for bestowing this special film upon us.