Hangar 18 (film)

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Hangar 18
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames L. Conway
Screenplay byKen Pettus
Story by
  • Thomas C. Chapman
  • James L. Conway
Produced byCharles E. Sellier, Jr.
CinematographyPaul Hipp
Edited byMichael Spence
Music byJohn Cacavas
Distributed bySunn Classic Pictures
Release date
July 1980
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$11,000,000[1]

Hangar 18 is a 1980 American science fiction action film directed by James L. Conway and written by Ken Pettus from a story by Thomas C. Chapman and Conway. The film stars Darren McGavin, Robert Vaughn, Gary Collins, James Hampton, and Pamela Bellwood.[2]


Hangar 18 is about a cover-up following a UFO incident aboard the Space Shuttle. A satellite, just launched from the orbiter, collides with an unidentified object which, after being spotted on radar moving at great speeds, had positioned itself just over the shuttle. The collision kills an astronaut in the launch bay. The events are witnessed by Bancroft and Price, the astronauts aboard. After returning to Earth, the two are immediately stymied when they try to discuss what happened. They are told by Harry Forbes, Deputy Director of NASA, that "everything is going to be all right".

After making a controlled landing in the Arizona desert, the damaged alien spacecraft has been recovered, taken to an air force base in Texas and installed inside Hangar 18 where scientists and other technicians, headed by Harry Forbes, can study it. Due to an impending presidential election, government officials are anxious that there be no chance of the press or the public getting an inkling of this event.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Harry Forbes, the Air Force puts out a news story blaming Bancroft and Price for the death of their colleague and for the destruction of a satellite. The men know they can prove otherwise by viewing the telemetry tapes which recorded the UFO, but when they see them, all evidence of the object has been erased. Through a friend who works at a remote tracking station, Bancroft and Price are able to see the real telemetry and discover where the alien craft landed. They set out to prove a cover-up and clear their names.

In the hangar, investigators who enter the ship find it to have been crewed by a complement of two, both now dead. (During the collision with the satellite, some chemicals were released producing a short-lived toxic gas). As technicians and scientists work, they discover several things: a woman in some sort of stasis, who later wakes up screaming; symbols on the control panels match those used by ancient Earth civilizations; the ship's computer reveals extensive surveillance footage of power plants, military bases, industrial plants and major cities worldwide. Upon autopsy, the aliens' physiology shows they and humans underwent a similar evolutionary process. A scientist deduces that the ship could not have reached Earth on its own; that it must have launched from a larger, faster and more long-ranged mother ship.

In their dogged pursuit of the truth, Bancroft and Price get closer to Hangar 18 but are targets of government agents. They elude one team of agents, who are killed during a high-speed chase. Later, as they are driving, they realize their rental car has no brakes; after careening along roads, they come to rest on the grounds of a gas refinery. The agents begin shooting at them, so they drive off in an oil tanker. With the agents following them, Price climbs onto the tanker, lets some gas out of the truck, lights an emergency flare, and tosses the flare. This kills their pursuers, but Price is fatally shot in the process, and dies shortly after. When Harry Forbes learns of Price's death, he demands that the air force produce Bancroft at Hangar 18, or he will go to the press with the truth. Their cover-up, and their careers, now threatened, government officials decide to remotely fly a plane filled with explosives into Hangar 18, thereby finally assuring secrecy.

The researchers have determined that the aliens have been to Earth before and that human beings are, in fact, their descendants. Further examination of the video footage reveals that the industrial and military sites are "Designated Landing Areas", suggesting that the aliens are preparing to return in the near future. Bancroft arrives at the base and, after being chased, comes across Harry Forbes who shows him the alien craft. Just as it is revealed that a translation indicates the aliens are about to return, the plane crashes into Hangar 18.

The next day, a news report about the explosion says that Bancroft, Harry Forbes and some technicians survived because, as NASA has stated, they were shielded inside an alien spacecraft. Harry Forbes has scheduled a press conference for that afternoon.



Parts of the movie were filmed in Midland and Big Spring, Texas, and at the former Pyote Air Force Base, as well as the former Webb Air Force Base.[citation needed] Filming also took place in Salt Lake City, Utah.[3]

The title is believed to stem from hoaxer Robert Spencer Carr, who in 1974 named Hangar 18 as the storage location of bodies from the 1948 Aztec UFO hoax.[4][5][6]


Critical response[edit]

When the film was released The New York Times film critic Vincent Canby dismissed the film, writing, "Hangar 18 is the sort of melodrama that pretends to be skeptical, but requires that everyone watching it be profoundly gullible ... It stars ... Robert Vaughn as the ruthless and fatally unimaginative White House Chief of Staff ... In the supporting cast is Debra MacFarlane, who plays a beautiful female specimen found aboard the saucer, a young woman who looks amazingly like a Hollywood starlet. But then, I guess, she is. The flying saucer itself looks like an oversized toy that might have been made in Taiwan."[7]

Christopher John reviewed Hangar 18 in Ares Magazine #8 and commented that "Hanger 18 is the perfect Sunday evening movie for television. If you watch closely, you can even see the spaces they planned for the commercials."[8]


The film was released by Sunn Classic Pictures, an independent U.S.-based film distributor whose library is now owned by Paramount Pictures, notable for presenting what TV Guide called "awful big-screen 'documentaries' [like] In Search of Noah's Ark and In Search of Historic Jesus".[9] Hangar 18 was released on Blu-ray on June 25, 2013.[10]

Hangar 18 was released in US theaters in July 1980.[citation needed] The film was released in Ireland on March 13, 1981.[citation needed] Hangar 18 was one of the very few American films to be theatrically shown in the Soviet Union.[citation needed] It premiered on the TV channel 1 on the New Year night of 1982.[citation needed] Because of the general unavailability of films with elements of science fiction and the action genre, it achieved enormous popularity among Soviet youth.

In May 1989, Hangar 18 was featured in an episode of the movie-mocking television show Mystery Science Theater 3000[11] during the KTMA era.

A version with an alternate ending was televised as Invasion Force. Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide says that the new ending undermines the whole film.[12][13]

Hangar 18 was rated PG in New Zealand for low level violence


  1. ^ "Hangar 18". The Number. United States. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  2. ^ "Hangar 18". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  3. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  4. ^ Carey, Thomas J.; Schmitt, Donald R. (2019). UFO Secrets Inside Wright-Patterson: Eyewitness Accounts from the Real Area 51. ISBN 9781938875182.
  5. ^ "The Saucers That Time Forgot: Robert Spencer Carr and Hangar 18". 29 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Does Hangar 18, Legendary Alien Warehouse, Exist?".
  7. ^ Canby, Vincent (January 10, 1981). "Hangar 18 film review". The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  8. ^ John, Christopher (May 1981). "Film & Television". Ares Magazine. Simulations Publications, Inc. (8): 31-32.
  9. ^ "Hangar 18 film review". TV Guide. United States. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  10. ^ "Hangar 18". Olive Films. June 25, 2013. ASIN B00CFHEEVM. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  11. ^ "Hangar 18". IMDb. 13 March 1981. Retrieved December 4, 2016.[unreliable source?]
  12. ^ DVD Talk, June 25, 2013 - Hangar 18 (Blu-ray), Video & Audio
  13. ^ Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide, By Leonard Maltin - Hangar 18 (1980)

Mystery Science Theater 3000[edit]

External links[edit]