Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Planes trains and automobiles.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Hughes
Produced by John Hughes
Written by John Hughes
Starring Steve Martin
John Candy
Music by Ira Newborn
Cinematography Donald Peterman
Editing by Paul Hirsch
Studio Hughes Entertainment
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • November 25, 1987 (1987-11-25)
Running time 92 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $49,530,280

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a 1987 American comedy film written, produced and directed by John Hughes. The film stars Steve Martin as Neal Page, a high-strung marketing executive, who meets Del Griffith, played by John Candy, an eternally optimistic, overly talkative, and clumsy shower curtain ring salesman who seems to live in a world governed by a different set of rules. They share a three-day odyssey of misadventures trying to get Neal home to Chicago from New York City in time for Thanksgiving dinner with his family.


Neal Page is trying to return to his family for Thanksgiving in Chicago after being on a business trip in New York. His journey is doomed from the outset, with Del Griffith, a traveling salesman, interfering first by leaving his trunk by the side of the road causing Neal to trip when racing a man for a cab, then moments later again by inadvertently snatching the taxi ride that Neal had bought from an attorney just before. The two inevitably pair up later and begin an error-prone adventure to help Neal get back to his home. Their flight from LaGuardia Airport to O'Hare is diverted to Wichita due to a blizzard in Chicago, which ends up dissipating only a few hours after touchdown in Kansas. When every mode of transport (including a train, a bus, and a rental car) fails them, what should have been an 1 hour and 45 minute New York-to-Chicago flight turns into a three-day adventure. To complicate matters even further, on the first night in Wichita, a thief breaks into the poorly-locked motel and steals almost $1,000 aggregate from the two men.

Neal frequently blows up at Del, blaming him for much of their misfortunes, including the robbery of the first night. These ravings are not all unjustified, as Del's carelessly discarded cigarette sets fire to the rental car, melting all but the radio. Del in turn regards Neal as a pretentious and uptight cynic while Del is less afraid to be himself. After much heated argument between the two men, a bond between them forms, and Neal finally manages to overcome his arrogance. Both men pull together to make their way home to Chicago, while Del manages to raise money by selling off his entire inventory of shower curtain rings, to children and adults alike, who think they make good earrings.

Under the assumption that Del has a family of his own (he frequently mentions his wife Marie and puts a framed picture of her on his various motel nightstands), the two men part ways. However, Neal later pieces together some of the things Del had said about Marie during the journey, and realizes that Del is alone for the holiday. He goes back to the train station where the two had earlier parted ways and sees him sitting alone. Del tells Neal that Marie actually died eight years prior and that he has been alone and without a permanent home ever since. Neal, feeling sorry for the man who went out of his way just to get him home for Thanksgiving and having himself become a nicer person during the journey, invites Del to enjoy Thanksgiving with his family. The film ends with Neal finally returning home to his wife, children, parents and in-laws, and introducing Del to the family.


Route taken by Del Griffith and Neal Page in the film


In a 1987 interview, John Hughes said that the movie was inspired by an actual trip he took from Chicago to New York in which he was supposed to return the same evening, but wound up in Wichita and made it home five days later.

Hughes shot over 600,000 feet (180,000 m) of film, almost twice the industry average. The rumored three-hour version of the film does indeed exist, although not in order.[citation needed] Hughes later commented that "it's a mess of footage" that would take "months, maybe even years" to transform into an actual film. The excess footage remains locked away in a Paramount vault, and according to Hughes (who died in 2009), most of it has "probably deteriorated by now".

No transportation company wanted to appear inept or deficient in any way, so crews had to rent twenty miles (32 km) of railway trackage and refurbish old railway cars, construct a set that looked like an airline terminal, design a rental car company logo and uniforms, and rent 250 cars for the car rental scene.

The interior of the Wichita airport scene was filmed on a studio lot in Los Angeles and was the final scene using extras on the shoot.

Hughes had originally selected Kankakee, Illinois (60 miles (97 km) south of Chicago) for its train station for several scenes, but a lack of snow prevented the filming from occurring. Indeed, the winter weather was so warm that film crews were unable to utilize snowmaking equipment. While actors and crews waited for colder weather, several interior scenes were shot in a deserted warehouse in Kankakee using what are called "cover sets". Ultimately, the crew opted for Buffalo, New York for snow scenes.

Local officials in Kankakee that were working with producers worked feverishly to keep the crew in town in the hopes of the arrival of colder weather. The hotel scene in which Candy and Martin share a hotel bed was shot during this waiting period at a hotel in nearby Braidwood, Illinois, thanks to the efforts of the local Convention and visitor bureau.

The hotel which Steve Martin and John Candy stayed in when they drove the rental car into the building, was filmed in Gurnee, Illinois at the El Rancho Motel located on US 41, which has now been converted into studio apartments.

The film is rated R by the MPAA for a scene where Steve Martin goes on a tirade against a car rental agent (Edie McClurg) and says the word "fucking" 18 times in a minute. It ends with the agent stating "Oh, boy... you're fucked." The US is the only body which internationally awarded it a 17+ rating; in most countries (in Canada and New Zealand, for example), the film is rated PG.

The rental car was a 1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town and Country with a 2.2L turbo engine that was customized for the film. Modifications included the tail lights, steering wheel, and owner's manual from a Dodge 600, custom paint, custom wheel covers, a very long antenna, a 'D' hood ornament, fender badges that appear to say 'Gran Detroit', 'Turbo', and 'Farm & Country', and a trunk lid that was off of an older K-car convertible due to the luggage rack. In one of the shots during the night-time drive, the original burgundy metallic paint can be seen on the interior of the car.


The film marked a widely noticed change in the repertoire of John Hughes.[2] It was greeted with critical acclaim upon release, a revelation in that Hughes was considered a teen angst filmmaker.[3] It also got two thumbs up from Siskel & Ebert, with Siskel declaring it John Candy’s best role to date. The film was a financial success, grossing over $49,500,000 domestically[4] on a production budget of almost $30,000,000.[5] It has 94% positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and is featured in Roger Ebert's Great Movies collection. Ebert said the movie was "... perfectly cast and soundly constructed, ..."[6]

Casey Burchby of DVD Talk said, "John Hughes, like a lot of other filmmakers who specialized in comedy during the 1980s, knew how to explore a varied range of tones in crafting a full-bodied movie that went well beyond the one-note comedies that are par for the course. Hughes took comedy sub-genres such as the teen film, the buddy movie, the family comedy, and the road film, and boosted these flattened-out, cliché-bound stories with robust characters capable of generating believably absurd cinematic situations. Planes, Trains & Automobiles displays Hughes' powers at their height, as well as Steve Martin and John Candy in two of their very best roles."[7]

While some reviewers were critical of the gushy tones and silliness seen in the movie, which affected the ability to convey emotional range,[3] most applauded the humor itself.[8][9][10][11] Leonard Maltin called the movie a "bittersweet farce," adding that Hughes "refuses to make either one (Martin or Candy) a caricature—which keeps this amiable film teetering between slapstick shenanigans and compassionate comedy."[12] Maltin added that the movie was "hurt by an awful music score."[12]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD in 2000 in a 'bare bones' presentation. A special edition ('Those Aren't Pillows Edition') was released on October 20, 2009. The film was released on Blu-ray Disc on September 26, 2011.


Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Soundtrack album
Released 1987
Genre Rock and roll
Length 34:32
Label MCA

The soundtrack to Planes, Trains & Automobiles features a mix of rock and roll, country and pop. The frenetic musical score by Ira Newborn makes extensive use of the folk song "Red River Valley", including a rock and roll version of the song "Red River Rock", performed by British group Silicon Teens. Among other tracks is a cover version of "Back in Baby's Arms". The song, popularized by Patsy Cline, is performed by Emmylou Harris. Another popular song used in the movie is "Mess Around" written by Ahmet Ertegun and performed by Ray Charles.

The soundtrack album was released in 1987, but has since gone out of print.

  1. "I Can Take Anything" ("Love Theme from Planes, Trains and Automobiles") (David Steele, Andy Cox and John Hughes) – 3:46
  2. "BA-NA-NA-BAM-BOO" (Elizabeth Westwood, Nick Burton & Robert Andrews) – 2:58
  3. "I'll Show You Something Special" (Desmond Morris, Mark Morriss and Steve Brown) – 3:28
  4. "Modigliani" ("Lost in Your Eyes") (Susan Ottaviano, Jade Lee and Theodore Ottaviano) – 3:53
  5. "Power to Believe" (Nick Laird-Clowes and Gilbert Gabriel) – 5:13
  6. "Six Days on the Road" (Earl Green and Carl Montgomery) – 3:06
  7. "Gonna Move" (Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe) – 3:32
  8. "Back in Baby's Arms" (Bobby Montgomery) – 2:02
  9. "Red River Rock" (Tom King, Ira Mack and Fred Mendelsohn) – 3:26
  10. "Wheels" (Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons) – 3:08


  1. ^ "PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 1987-12-07. Retrieved 2013-05-14. 
  2. ^ `PTA' Transports John Hughes Beyond His Teen Comedy Image; [Home Edition] JACK MATHEWS. Los Angeles Times (pre-1997 Fulltext). Los Angeles, Calif.: Dec 15, 1987. pg. 1
  3. ^ a b 'PLANES, TRAINS' NEVER GETS OFF THE GROUND; [THIRD Edition] Jay Carr, Globe Staff. Boston Globe (pre-1997 Fulltext). Boston, Mass.: Nov 25, 1987. pg. 34
  4. ^
  5. ^ Terri Minsky, July 1988, Premiere magazine
  6. ^ "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles", Roger
  7. ^ Casey Burchby. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  8. ^ PLANES, TRAINS' A PERFECTLY GOOFY COMEDY VEHICLE; [3 STAR Edition] Jay Boyar, Sentinel Movie Critic. Orlando Sentinel. Orlando, Fla.: Nov 27, 1987. pg. D.1
  9. ^ Flights of comedy, down-to-earth characters Martin and Candy are on a roll in 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' MICHAEL JANUSONIS Journal-Bulletin Arts Writer. Providence Journal. Providence, R.I.: Nov 27, 1987. pg. D-04
  10. ^ Maslin, Janet (November 25, 1987). "Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Richard Schickel (November 30, 1987). "Worst-Case Scenario.Planes, Trains and Automobiles". Time magazine. 
  12. ^ a b Martin, Leonard (2006). Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. Signet Books. p. 1009. ISBN 0-451-21265-7. 

External links[edit]