Air Force One (film)

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Air Force One
Air Force One (movie poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Produced by
Written by Andrew W. Marlowe
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Michael Ballhaus
Edited by Richard Francis-Bruce
Distributed by
Release date
  • July 21, 1997 (1997-07-21) (Century City)
  • July 25, 1997 (1997-07-25) (United States)
Running time
124 minutes[1]
Country United States
  • English
  • Russian
Budget $85 million[1]
Box office $315.2 million[1]

Air Force One is a 1997 American political action-thriller film written by Andrew W. Marlowe and directed and co-produced by Wolfgang Petersen. It is about a group of Russian terrorists that hijack Air Force One.

The film stars Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, as well as Glenn Close, Xander Berkeley, William H. Macy, Dean Stockwell and Paul Guilfoyle. A box office success with generally positive critical reviews, the film was one of the most popular action films of the 1990s.


An American and Russian Joint Military Operation results with Special Forces capturing General Ivan Radek (Jürgen Prochnow), the dictator of Kazakhstan. Three weeks later, a diplomatic dinner is held in Moscow to celebrate the capture of the Kazakh dictator, at which President of the United States James Marshall (Harrison Ford) expresses his remorse that action had not been taken sooner to prevent the suffering caused by Radek, whose regime took the lives of 200,000 people. He also vows that his administration will take a firmer stance against despotism and that they will never negotiate with terrorists.

President Marshall, along with his wife Grace (Wendy Crewson), daughter Alice (Liesel Matthews), and several of his Cabinet and advisors, board Air Force One to return to the United States. After takeoff, Secret Service agent Gibbs (Xander Berkeley), who is secretly a mole, enables Egor Korshunov (Gary Oldman) and a batch of Radek loyalists, posing as a news crew who had been cleared to fly on Air Force One, to acquire weapons and storm the plane, killing many of the military personnel before taking everyone else hostage. The terrorists breach the cockpit and prevent the plane from making an emergency landing at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, and have it piloted towards Radek-loyal airspace. Korshunov secures Grace and Alice separately from the other hostages.

In Washington, Vice President Kathryn Bennett (Glenn Close), arrives at the White House, taking command of the situation with Secretary of Defense Walter Dean (Dean Stockwell) and other officials. Korshunov contacts Bennett and demands Radek's release, threatening to kill a hostage every half hour.

On Air Force One, Marshall, who has remained hidden in the cargo hold, manages to kill some of Korshunov's men and then uses a satellite phone to make contact with Bennett. Marshall gains access to the conference room where the hostages are being held and he, along with his military advisors devise a plan to trick the hijackers to take Air Force One to a lower altitude for a mid-air refueling, giving time for the hostages to parachute safely off the plane. As a KC-10 tanker docks with Air Force One, Marshall and the advisors escort the hostages to the cargo hold, where most parachute away; Korshunov discovers the deception and forces Air Force One away, causing the fuel to ignite, destroying the tanker.

As Marshall reunites with his family, Korshunov forces him to contact Russian President Petrov (Alan Woolf) and arrange for Radek's release. While Korushunov and his men celebrate the news of Radek's release, Marshall breaks his bonds, kills Korshunov's last two henchmen, and finally kills Korshunov; Marshall lifts his order, and Radek is subsequently killed when he attempts to escape.

Marshall and Major Caldwell (William H. Macy) direct the plane back to friendly airspace, only to be quickly tailed by a second batch of Radek loyalists piloting MiG-29s. Air Force One sustains major damage to the tail, rudder, and elevator, making it impossible to land safely. A standby USAF special operations MC-130 is called to help, sending pararescuemen on tether lines to help rescue the survivors. Marshall's family and Chief of Staff Lloyd Shepherd (Paul Guilfoyle) are transferred first. When there is time for only one more transfer, Gibbs kills Major Caldwell (William H. Macy) and the pararescueman. Marshall and Gibbs fight for control of the transfer line, and Marshall manages to grab and detach it at the last minute. Air Force One crashes into the Caspian Sea, killing Gibbs. The MC-130 airmen reel Marshall in and announces that it is changing call signs from Liberty 24 to Air Force One, and the film ends with it flying safely away.



A large part of the crew took a tour of the real Air Force One before filming. They based some of the film's scenes, where the terrorists disguised as journalists survey the plane's layout and begin to take their seats, on the touring experience. The character of Deputy Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell was based largely on their real life tour guide, and the crew felt uncomfortable having to film the character's execution by the terrorists.[2]

For the exterior scenes, the producers rented a Boeing 747-146 aircraft, N703CK from Kalitta Air and repainted it to replicate the iconic Air Force One livery.[3] A 747–212B, rented from Kalitta Air, was the title subject of the 1997 film Air Force One, portraying the real 747–200-based VC-25 that transports the U.S. President.[4][5]

Scenes explaining Agent Gibbs' motivation for being the mole were cut from the final script. According to director Wolfgang Petersen, Gibbs was a former CIA agent who lost a lot after the end of the Cold War and thus became angry with the American government and wanted revenge. He knew the terrorists from his CIA days, so they included him in their operation. The scene was considered too long to tell, so it was cut from the film. The director also felt that it was unnecessary to add in the film so it was removed as it was irrelevant to the plot. He felt its something insignificant that the audience doesn't really need to know about.[2]

Gary Oldman did not stay in character between the scenes. The director later said he called the filming experience "Air Force Fun" because of how comic and genial Oldman would be off-screen. He also said that Oldman would suddenly return to the menacing film persona like a shot.[2]

General Radek's palace, seen in the film's opening, was portrayed by two locations in Cleveland, Ohio: the exterior was Severance Hall, and the interior was the Cuyahoga County Courthouse. The Russian prison where Radek was incarcerated was the Ohio State Reformatory, previously seen in The Shawshank Redemption. Ramstein Air Base, Germany was portrayed by Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio.

F-15 Eagle aircraft from the 33d Operations Group, 33d Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Florida were used in the movie.[6]


One of the most popular action films of the 1990s, Air Force One received generally positive reviews from critics, with an overall "fresh" rating of 78% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[7] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone awarded the film 3.5/4 stars, describing it as "superior escapism", and concluding, "Air Force One doesn't insult the audience. It is crafted by a film-maker who takes pride in the thrills and sly fun he packs into every frame. Welcome to something rare in a summer of crass commercialism: a class act."[8] Todd McCarthy of Variety described the film as "a preposterously pulpy but quite entertaining suspense meller" that is "spiked by some spectacularly staged and genuinely tense action sequences." He lauded the film's antagonist: "[Gary] Oldman, in his second malevolent lead of the summer, after The Fifth Element, registers strongly as a veteran of the Afghan campaign pushed to desperate lengths to newly ennoble his country."[9]

In a lukewarm review, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and found it flawed and cliché-ridden yet "well-served by the quality of the performances ... Air Force One is a fairly competent recycling of familiar ingredients, given an additional interest because of Harrison Ford's personal appeal."[10] Adam Mars-Jones of The Independent was more critical, calling it "so preposterous that it begins to seem like a science-fiction artifact...the product of a parallel-universe 1990s which somehow by-passed the decades since the 1950s."[11]

The film was a major box office success, earning $172,650,002 (54.9%) domestically and $142,200,000 (45.1%) in other countries.[12] It grossed a total of $315,156,409 worldwide in the box office.[13] It was the year's fifth highest-grossing film worldwide.[14]

President Bill Clinton saw the film twice while in office and gave it good reviews. He noted, however, that certain elements of the film's version of Air Force One, such as the escape pod and the rear parachute ramp, did not reflect features of the actual Air Force One (though since many Air Force One features are highly classified and "need-to-know", these features cannot be completely ruled out).[15] In the audio commentary, Wolfgang Petersen mused that although the real plane did not have those features at the time of the filming, they would probably be added by future governments.

In December 2015, then presidential candidate Donald Trump revealed his admiration for "Harrison Ford on the plane ... He stood up for America." When Ford was told during a TV interview of Trump's compliment, he turned to the camera and said "Donald, it was a movie."[16][17]

A Wall Street Journal poll in 2016 named Harrison Ford's James Marshall as the greatest fictional president.[18]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


Award Category Subject Result
Academy Awards[20] Best Sound Mixing Doug Hemphill Nominated
Rick Kline Nominated
Paul Massey Nominated
Keith A. Wester Nominated
Best Film Editing Richard Francis-Bruce Nominated
ACE Eddie Best Edited Feature Film Nominated
ASCAP Award Top Box Office Films Joel McNeely Won
Bambi Award Direction Wolfgang Petersen Won
Actor Harrison Ford Won
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actor - Action/Adventure Nominated
Favorite Supporting Actor - Action/Adventure Gary Oldman Nominated
Favorite Supporting Actress - Action/Adventure Glenn Close Won
Bogey Award Won
Broadcast Music, Inc. BMI Film Music Award Jerry Goldsmith Won
Japan Academy Prize Outstanding Foreign Language Film Joel McNeely Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Fight Harrison Ford Nominated
Gary Oldman Nominated
Best Villain Nominated
Satellite Award Best Editing Richard Francis-Bruce Nominated


Air Force One: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Jerry Goldsmith
Released July 29, 1997
Genre Film score
Length 34:37
Label Varèse Sarabande
Jerry Goldsmith chronology
Fierce Creatures
Air Force One
L.A. Confidential

Randy Newman was initially hired to write the film score; however, Petersen considered his composition to be almost a parody and commissioned Jerry Goldsmith to write and record a more sombre and patriotic score in just twelve days, with assistance from Joel McNeely.[21][22] After the harrowing experience, Goldsmith vowed never again to take on such a last-minute task.[23]

Newman used some of his material from the rejected score in Toy Story 3.[24]

The music label Varèse Sarabande released a soundtrack album featuring Goldsmith's music. McNeely receives a credit on the back cover for "Additional Music in the Motion Picture", but none of his work is on the CD, although his cues include the material heard when Air Force One is under attack.[25][original research?]

The first track of the soundtrack, "The Parachutes", was used by Donald Trump during his campaign for President of the United States in 2016. The song was played in the background at Trump Tower in New York City prior to Trump's victory speech, following Hillary Clinton's concession.[26]


A novelization of the film was published in June 1997 by author Max Allan Collins. Though the book has the same central plot and outcomes as the film, its main storyline has additional scenes and lines than the film. The book develops characters more than the film and unlike the movie, Gibbs's identity as the traitor is not revealed until the end of the book. It also presents a slightly alternate ending; Air Force One crashes in the Russian countryside, whereas in the film, Air Force One crashes into the Caspian Sea.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Air Force One (1997)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 26, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c Wolfgang Petersen audio commentary.
  3. ^ Larson, George C. (September 1997). "The Making of Air Force One". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 29 November 2015. 
  4. ^ Larson, Gary (1 November 1997). "The Making of Air Force One". Air & Space/Smithsonian. Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  5. ^ Maslin, Janet (25 July 1997). "Just a Little Turbulence, Mr. President". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 January 2010. 
  6. ^ "Local crew called on to defend 'Air Force One|(film),'" Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, 13 July 1997, p. 1B.
  7. ^ "Air Force One Movie Reviews, Pictures — Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 21, 2009. 
  8. ^ Travers, Peter. "Air Force One". Rolling Stone. July 25, 1997. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  9. ^ McCarthy, Todd. Air Force One. Variety. July 26, 1997. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Air Force One". Chicago Sun-Times. July 25, 1997. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  11. ^ Mars-Jones, Adam (September 11, 1997). "Get me out of here - Air Force One - Review - The Independent". London. Retrieved October 5, 2010. 
  12. ^ "G.I. Jane' Proves Its Mettle in Second Week at Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. September 2, 1997. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  13. ^ "Air Force One — Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information — The Numbers". The Numbers. Retrieved August 21, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Air Force One (1997)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  15. ^ "The Dark Side of Gary Oldman. "Air Force One (1997)"". Archived from the original on 2012-02-23. Retrieved 2016-09-28. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "44 Fake Presidents From Worst to Best". WSJ. Retrieved July 24, 2016. 
  19. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 20, 2016. 
  20. ^ "The 70th Academy Awards (1998) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-11-19. 
  21. ^ Southall, James. "Jonathan Broxton, Air Force One (rejected score) (review) from Movie Music U.K., 1998". Archived from the original on December 6, 2008. Retrieved August 21, 2009. 
  22. ^ ""Air Force One (rejected score)" (review) from Soundtrack Express, 1998". Soundtrack Express. Archived from the original on 2002-08-11. Retrieved August 21, 2009. 
  23. ^ "Christian Clemmensen, "Air Force One (review) from Film Tracks, 1997". Retrieved August 21, 2009. 
  24. ^ "Newman: Toy Story 3". 2010. Archived from the original on 23 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-17. 
  25. ^ "Air Force One (film score)". Filmtracks. Archived from the original on 2013-12-31. 
  26. ^ Mullin, Gemma (November 9, 2016). "Victorious Donald Trump walks out to Air Force One movie soundtrack as he's elected US president". Daily Mirror. Retrieved January 20, 2017. 
  27. ^ "Air Force One review". Good Reads. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 

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