AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Director: John Hughes (Dir)
Release Date:   25 Nov 1987
Duration (in mins):  93
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Cast: Steve Martin  (Neal Page)
  John Candy  (Del Griffith)
  Laila Robins  (Susan Page)
 

Summary: Two days before Thanksgiving, advertising pitchman Neal Page is stuck in a meeting in New York City, worried about making his airplane flight home to Chicago, Illinois. When the meeting ends, Neal has just over an hour to get to John F. Kennedy Airport from mid-town Manhattan. There’s a long line of people waiting for taxis on Park Avenue, so Neal offers to pay another man to let him have the taxi. However, as they haggle over the price, shower-curtain-ring salesman Del Griffith gets into the taxi with his large trunk and heads to the airport. Unable to hail another cab, Neal takes a bus to the airport, only to find his flight has been delayed. As he sits in the waiting area, he spots Del sitting across from him and confronts him about stealing his taxi. Del apologizes, saying he was unaware he was taking someone else’s taxi and offers to buy Neal a beer and a hot dog to make up for it, but Neal declines. When he gets on the plane, Neal discovers his seatmate is Del, who talks throughout the flight, despite Neal’s stating he wants to nap. When Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is closed due to a snowstorm, the flight is diverted to Wichita, Kansas. Upon landing, Neal telephones his wife, Susan, to tell her of the delay, but Del makes hotel reservations. He assures Neal the motel will have a room for him as well, but when they get to the Braidwood Inn, there is just one room left. They agree to share the room and split the cost. Settling into the room, the uptight, but ultra-neat Neal ends up arguing with the relaxed but messy Del. Neal tells Del he is boring and talks far too much. Del’s feelings are hurt, but he says there are people who like him. As the room only has one double bed, they must share it, but while they sleep, a thief breaks into the room and steals the cash from their wallets. The next morning over breakfast, the two realize all the flights to Chicago will be delayed because of the weather and decide to take the train instead. As they attempt to pay for the meals, they discover their wallets are empty. Fortunately, they still have their credit cards. The motel owner’s son gives them a ride to the train station in the back of his truck. As their seats on the train are not together, they say their goodbyes, wishing each other the best. However, the train experiences mechanical difficulties and stops in the middle of the country. The passengers are forced to walk a mile to get to the road where trucks will take them to Jefferson City, Missouri. When Neal sees Del struggling to pull his trunk across the field, he goes to help him. Once in Jefferson City, they board a bus to Chicago, but discover that their tickets only take them as far as St. Louis, Missouri. All the buses from St. Louis to Chicago are full due to the holidays. To get some cash, Del sells some of his shower curtain rings as earrings to passengers at the bus terminal. Over dinner, Neal suggests they split up to improve their chances of getting home. Del’s feelings are hurt, but nonetheless, he gives Neal half of the money he made from the earring sales. Neal rents a car at the airport, but when the shuttle bus drops him in the remote parking lot, there is no car in the designated space. In frustration, he tears up his rental agreement. With no attendant in the parking lot to help him and the shuttle bus gone, Neal returns to the Marathon car rental office. There, he yells obscenities at the woman working behind the counter, but she can do nothing for him without the rental agreement. An angry Neal walks outside and tells off an airport attendant who responds by punching him in the face. As Neal falls to the ground, Del drives up in a rental car and offers him a ride. Neal sleeps in the passenger seat while Del drives through the night. Del tosses a cigarette butt out the window, but it flies into the backseat. When he tries to take off his winter coat off, it gets stuck in the seat adjustment lever and he nearly drives the car off the road. Getting back on the freeway, he mistakenly goes the wrong direction, heading south in the northbound lanes on a deserted stretch of highway. Drivers in southbound lanes try to signal him, but Del is oblivious to their warnings. Suddenly, two freight trucks riding parallel to each other come over the hill. With no time to react, Del drives between them, so close that the car’s side mirrors are torn off. When the car comes to a stop, neither Del nor Neal is injured. They retrieve Del’s trunk that fell off the back of the car only to see the car burst into flames from the cigarette butt that flew into the back seat. The flames are extinguished with snow and the car is still drivable. They go to a nearby motel and get a room. After initially arguing, the two bond over snack machine chips and mini-bar bottles of liquor. The next morning, Thanksgiving morning, as they push the car out of the snow in the parking lot, Del accidently puts it in reverse and it crashes through the motel’s front window. They drive off in a rush to escape the scene. Later, a state trooper stops them for speeding, saying they were going seventy-eight miles per hour. Examining the car further, the trooper deems it unfit for travel and impounds it. Del arranges a ride to Chicago in the back of an Osh Konoggin Brands refrigerated dairy truck. When they arrive in Chicago, they go to the elevated railway station and say their goodbyes. However, after Neal gets on his train, he feels guilty and goes back to the station to invite Del to spend Thanksgiving with his family. Del admits that he does not have a home, since his wife, Marie, died eight years earlier. Del and Neal take the train to the suburbs where Neal’s family warmly welcomes Del to their Thanksgiving celebration. 

Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures
Production Company: Paramount Pictures
Hughes Entertainment
Director: John Hughes (Dir)
  Neil A. Machlis (Unit prod mgr)
  Mark Radcliffe (1st asst dir)
  Arthur Anderson (2d asst dir)
  Jeanne Caliendo (2d 2d asst dir)
  Thomas A. Razzano (Unit prod mgr, New York crew)
  Pat Burns (Asst dir, New York crew)
  Tom Lisi (Asst dir, New York crew)
  Jimmy Greenhut (Asst dir, New York crew)
  James Giovannetti, Jr. (1st asst dir--2d unit, Chicago crew )
  Bennie Dobbins (2d unit dir)
  Bill Brown (2d unit dir)
  Richard Graves (1st asst dir, 2d unit)
Producer: John Hughes (Prod)
  Bill Brown (Assoc prod)
  Michael Chinich (Exec prod)
  Neil Machlis (Exec prod)
Writer: John Hughes (Wrt)

Subject Major: Airplanes
  Automobiles
  Friendship
  Transportation
 
Subject Minor: Airports
  Buses
  Fires
  Freeways
  Motels
  Police
  Snow storms
  Taxicabs
  Temper
  Thanksgiving Day
  Thieves
  Trains

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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