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Here, we’re going through our top Air Force movies list and sharing our 15 favorites. Most are U.S. Air Force movies but some involve international air forces. But, if you’re into fighter jets and incredible aviation battles, these are the movies for you.
Best Air Force Movies
15. Twelve O’Clock High
Starring Gregory Peck and co-written by Bernie Lay Jr., this 1949 film focuses on leadership and command. It’s an epic movie that reflects an admiration for the Army Air Corps but without injecting a love interest in the form of a woman, which was commonplace for many other films at the time.
Back when it was made, B-17s were still available. So, they’re used in the film and the extensive battle scenes are quite realistic. This is one of those classic movies about the Air Force you don’t want to miss.
14. Battle of Britain
As you can guess by the title, this movie isn’t about the US Air Force but instead, the famous Battle of Britain during World War II. It features some of the most spectacular aerial footage of planes and fantastic special effects for the time of its release – which was in 1969.
If you’re a fan of epic war movies, this one’s for you with a plotline based on the book called The Narrow Margin.
13. Iron Eagle
Although it’s not what you might expect from a US Air Force movie, it makes the list because many of us can’t deny how much we love it — even if it’s far-fetched and unrealistic. This ‘80s movie has a school kid sneaking onto the Air Force base where his dad works and finds himself fiddling with an F-16.
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The teen also helps with the effort to rescue his dad who’s aircraft was downed and was captured by a middle eastern dictator. Bottom line – it’s not meant to be taken seriously and that’s what makes it great.
12. The Blue Max
The Blue Max was based on the novel by Jack Hunter and was the first aviation film made in color. With great cinematography, superb acting, and a storyline with an unexpected twist, this film from 1966 is a must-see if you’re looking for an Air Force movie.
11. The Great Escape
Considered one of the best heist films and one of the best World War II films is The Great Escape. It retells the true story of a group of Allied POWs who are gathered together in an “escape-proof” Nazi prison due to their impressive escaping abilities.
One of these POWs is Captain Virgil Hilts, based on David M. Jones, of the Army Air Corps whose countless attempts at an escape land him in solitary confinement.
10. Good Morning, Vietnam
This Air Force movie isn’t so much about the battles and flying techniques as it is about sticking it to the man. Airman Second Class Adrian Cronauer is an Armed Forces Radio Service DJ and his unconventional style starts to push the buttons of his superiors.
He gets suspended for it but the rest of the command who listened to his show clamor for his reinstatement. Starring the incomparable Robin William’s with “Gooooooooood morning Vietnam” — his voice is something that we can all still hear ringing in our ears, this classic movie is about the camaraderie of the Air Force and how even those not on the front lines can play an important role in the war effort.
Captain John Yossarin is the main character of the Catch-22, a US Army Air Corps B-25 Bombardier in the Mediterranean during World War II. He’s anxious to get home but the required number of missions to complete in order to do so keeps rising.
He goes to the lengths of trying to declare insanity so that he can stop flying.
Winning the first-ever Academy Award for Best Picture in 1929, Wings was directed by William Wellman, a former member of the Lafayette Flying Corps before serving briefly with the US Army Air Corps after the war.
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These contacts made it so that he was able to convince the Air Corps to produce more than 220 aircraft for the film. Wings featured a goofy love triangle that’s tongue-in-cheek with great acting.
7. Top Gun
Some say it’s one of the best, others say it’s one of the worst, so we stuck it right here in the middle of our list. It’s undeniable that this Tom Cruise flick was a commercial hit. It’s probably the most famous aviation movie of all time and if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth watching just to see what it’s all about.
6. Dr. Strangelove
A dark comedy from 1964 that satirizes the Cold War, Dr. Strangelove includes the iconic character known as Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper. He’s the obsessive Air Force general based on General Curtis LeMay who’s thirst for Soviet blood is uncomfortably intense.
5. Strategic Air Command
With incredible shots of the aircraft and fantastic attention to detail in terms of Jimmy Stewart’s acting chops, Strategic Air Command is certainly a classic Air Force film that you need to see. Stewart’s character, Robert Holland is a St. Louis Cardinals baseball player in the Army Air Corps Reserve who gets recalled into active duty. This means, his life is perpetually on hold.
4. Memphis Belle
Memphis Belle is based on the true story about the World War II crew of the Memphis Belle. They were the first bomber crew to enter the European theater during the war and they survived 25 successful bombing missions (the requirement needed in order to go home).
You’ll also get to see five vintage B-17s in action in Memphis Belle although it was painstaking work to get them back up to scratch to be used in the movie.
3. The Tuskegee Airmen
This incredible movie starring Laurence Fishburne is about the first African-American pilots in the Army Air Corps during World War II. It was actually an HBO movie but it’s definitely still worth a watch.
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Arguably one of the best Air Force movies out there with the main character, Hannibal Lee (loosely based on Robert W. Williams) fighting for respect within his own government as they fly a B-17 over Italy and sink a destroyer.
Based on a true story, Bat*21 is a movie about the shootdown and rescue of Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Iceal Hambleton. It was the longest and most complicated search and rescue operation of the Vietnam War and using golf courses as code, he was able to communicate his intended path to help rescuers.
This incredibly interesting story takes some liberties for dramatic effect but is a great starting point if you want to dive deeper into this amazing rescue mission.
1. The Right Stuff
The Right Stuff follows the astronauts of the Mercury 7 program, but before transitioning to their stories about space life, the first half of the movie is focused on the Air Force icon Chuck Yeager and the life of test pilots.
It’s almost a love letter to the Air Force in making the statement that when anything goes up into the air, or even into space, the Air Force is behind it.