AFI Movie Club: PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES – American Film Institute
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Film Still - Steve Martin and John Candy



PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES – the hilarious road trip comedy mapping an unlikely friendship – features the talent of AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Steve Martin. Director John Hughes and cinematographer Don Peterman trained AFI Fellows at AFI’s Harold Lloyd Master Seminars.

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Watch Catherine O’Hara announce the film:

Movie Trivia about TODAY’S FILM

DID YOU KNOW? PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES was based on John Hughes’ real-life experience traveling from Chicago to New York, where he worked in advertising.

DID YOU KNOW? PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES was John Hughes’ first comedy for adults after achieving success with teen-targeted films and marked John Hughes’ first R-rated film. When Paramount contested the rating, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) upheld its decision, citing a scene in which the F-word was used 19 times. Steve Martin defended his character’s use of profanities, and the scene stayed in the final cut.

DID YOU KNOW? The movie was initially slated to be shot entirely in Chicago, but a lack of snowfall forced a change in location to New York, with additional scenes shot in Los Angeles.

DID YOU KNOW? PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES was intended to include a theme song by Elton John. Although the songwriting process was underway, the singer had to drop out of the production due to contractual conflicts.

DID YOU KNOW? Due to its holiday theme, PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES opened on Wednesday, November 25, 1987 – the day before Thanksgiving.

DID YOU KNOW? PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES grossed over $10 million in its first five days of release and nearly $50 million across its theatrical run.

DID YOU KNOW? Emmy Award®-winning set decorator Linda Spheeris is the sister of filmmaker Penelope Spheeris and has worked as a set decorator on myriad films and television series including POINT BREAK, EMPIRE RECORDS and DEXTER.

DID YOU KNOW? Oscar®-nominated production designer John W. Corso worked on seven John Hughes films. Early in his career, Corso started out as an uncredited set decorator on Alfred Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN.

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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– PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES accentuates the class differences between Neal, a successful marketing executive, and Del, a traveling salesman. Can you name some visual cues that define their disparity, and some opposing aspects of their behavior? In what ways are Neal and Del different, and how are they similar? Is their antagonism and their friendship believable to you?  

-Comedy, absurdity and laughter have long been used by playwrights and filmmakers as a device to evoke an emotional response from audiences, helping them to identify with characters and stories that may be considered inappropriate or unacceptable to social norms. In this way, comedy has stood as an agent for empathy and openness to cultural change. Do you see political undertones reflected in PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES?  

-Does humor help you connect with Neal and Del?  

-Do you think you see their story differently today than audiences may have understood it in 1987, when President Ronald Reagan was well into his second term?  

– PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES explores the trials and tribulations of traveling at the holidays. Do you have any stories about family holiday vacations? Have you ever had to take an unexpected route to your final destination? What happened?    

– PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES finds humor in portraying worst case scenarios. Why are these funny?  

– PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES received positive reviews, and grossed over $10 million in its first five days of release. Why do you think it was so successful?  

-Were you surprised by the big reveal of Del’s real story? Did you notice clues along the way that hinted at Del’s dishonesty about his past?  

-PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES was made before 9/11, the internet and cell phones. What differences do you notice about travel and communication in 1987 compared to today?  

-After starring in PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, John Candy appeared in two other John Hughes films before his untimely death in 1994. Can you name them?  


Watch Steve Martin’s acceptance speech in this exclusive AFI Archive video from AFI’s Life Achievement Award:

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