The Terminal

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The Terminal
Movie poster the terminal.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Produced by Steven Spielberg
Walter F. Parkes
Laurie MacDonald
Screenplay by Sacha Gervasi
Jeff Nathanson
Story by Andrew Niccol
Sacha Gervasi
Starring Tom Hanks
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Stanley Tucci
Chi McBride
Diego Luna
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Janusz Kamiński
Edited by Michael Kahn
Distributed by DreamWorks Pictures
Release dates
  • June 18, 2004 (2004-06-18)
Running time
128 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $60 million[1]
Box office $219.4 million[1]

The Terminal is a 2004 American comedy-drama film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It is about a man who becomes trapped in New York City's JFK International Airport terminal when he is denied entry into the United States and at the same time cannot return to his native country due to a revolution. The film is partially inspired by the 18-year-stay of Mehran Karimi Nasseri in Terminal 1 of Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Paris, France from 1988 to 2006.[2]


Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks), a traveler from the nation of Krakozhia, arrives at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, only to find that his passport is suddenly no longer valid due to the outbreak of a civil war in his homeland. As a result, the United States no longer recognizes Krakozhia as a sovereign nation, and he is not permitted to either enter the country or return home as he is now stateless. Due to his inability to communicate in proper English, US Customs and Border Protection seizes his passport and airline ticket.

With no other choice, he settles in at the terminal with only his luggage and a peanut can, much to the frustration of Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), the temporary director of US Customs and Protection for the airport. Dixon is being considered for a promotion as the director of US Customs and protection for that airport and becomes obsessed with getting rid of Viktor. Meanwhile, Viktor befriends and helps airport employees and travelers. Among them, a flight attendant named Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whom he sees periodically and tries to woo, presenting himself as a building contractor who is frequently traveling. Viktor had been hired by an airport contractor and paid under the table after he impulsively remodeled a wall at a gate that was scheduled for future renovation.

One day, Dixon pulls Amelia aside and questions whether she knows Viktor's true situation or what is in his peanut can. Amelia confronts Viktor at his makeshift home, where he shows her that the peanut can contains a copy of the "A Great Day in Harlem" photograph. His late father was a jazz enthusiast who had discovered the famous portrait in a Hungarian newspaper in 1958, and vowed to collect the autographs of all 57 of the jazz musicians featured on it. He died before he could get the last one, from tenor saxophonist Benny Golson. Viktor has come to New York to do so. After hearing the story, Amelia kisses Viktor.

After nine months, his friends wake Viktor with the news that the war in Krakozhia has ended. Amelia also asked her "friend"—actually a married government official with whom she had been having an affair—to get Viktor a one-day emergency visa to fulfill his dream, but Viktor is disappointed to learn she has renewed her relationship with the man during this process. Moreover, Viktor finds out that Dixon must sign the visa. Seizing the opportunity, Dixon threatens to cause trouble for Viktor's friends, most seriously by deporting Indian janitor Gupta (Kumar Pallana) back to India, where he is wanted for assaulting a corrupt police officer back in 1979. Unwilling to let this happen, Viktor finally agrees to go home to Krakozhia. When Gupta learns of this, however, he runs in front of the plane to Krakozhia as it taxies to the terminal, resulting in his deportation, effectively taking the burden off Viktor.

The delay gives Viktor enough time to go into the city. Dixon, watching Viktor leave the airport, decides not to pursue him. Viktor arrives in New York at the hotel where Benny Golson is performing and finally collects the last autograph. Then he gets in a taxi, telling the driver, "I am going home."



The gigantic airport set built for the film.

Some have noted that the film appears to be inspired by the story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who lived in Terminal One of the Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris from 1988 when his refugee papers were stolen until 2006 when he was hospitalized for unspecified ailments.[2][3] In September 2003, The New York Times noted that Spielberg bought the rights to Nasseri's life story as the basis for the film; and in September 2004 The Guardian noted Nasseri received thousands of dollars from the filmmakers.[4][5] However, none of the studio's publicity materials mention Nasseri's story as an inspiration for the film.

Steven Spielberg traveled around the world to find an actual airport that would let him film for the length of the production, but could not find one. The Terminal set was built in a massive hangar at the LA/Palmdale Regional Airport. The hangar, part of the U.S. Air Force Plant 42 complex was used to build the Rockwell International B-1B bomber. The set was built to full earthquake construction codes and was based on the Düsseldorf International Airport. The shape of both the actual terminal and the set viewed sideways is a cross section of an aircraft wing. The design of the set for The Terminal, as noted by Roger Ebert in his reviews and attested by Spielberg himself in a feature by Empire magazine, was greatly inspired by Jacques Tati's classic film Play Time. Hanks based his characterization of Viktor Navorsky on his father-in-law Allan Wilson, a Bulgarian immigrant, who according to Hanks can speak "Russian, Turkish, Polish, Greek, little a bit of Italian, little a bit of french", in addition to his native Bulgarian.[6] Hanks also had some help from a Bulgarian translator named Peter Budevski[7]

Everything functioned in the set as in real life. There was real food, ice cream and coffee in the appropriate outlets. The escalators were purchased from a department store that had gone bankrupt. Each of the outlets featured in the concourse building was actually sponsored by the real company. Many stores are seen and Viktor seeks a job at the Brookstone, la Perla and Discovery Channel stores, eats at the Burger King, buys his New York City guide book at Borders and buys his suit at Hugo Boss. Enrique proposes to Dolores at Sbarro.[citation needed]

Most exterior shots and those featuring actual aircraft were shot at Montréal–Mirabel International Airport: additional interior shots were also done there including the mezzanine overlooking the immigration desks and the baggage carousels directly behind them, the jetways showing Aéroports de Montréal signs, and many Air Transat planes in the background: New York is not one of their regular destinations. Additional pre-production shooting was done at Los Angeles International Airport and at Spielberg's offices at DreamWorks. Montreal is also mentioned on the loudspeaker at the beginning of the film, around the point where the customs officer tells Viktor to wait in a special line.[citation needed]

The 747 was provided by United Airlines. The Star Alliance was a major sponsor and provided uniforms, equipment, and actors in addition to those cast. In spite of the heavy presence of the Star Alliance airlines, a Delta Air Lines pilot passes Viktor in a scene during the last five minutes of the film.[citation needed]


The Terminal: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The terminal soundtrack cover.jpg
Film score by John Williams
Released June 15, 2004
Genre Soundtrack
Label Decca
John Williams chronology
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The Terminal
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
The Terminal: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
No. Title Length
1. "The Tale of Viktor Navorski"   4:12
2. "Dinner with Amelia"   8:02
3. "A Legend Is Born"   3:16
4. "Viktor and His Friends"   4:43
5. "The Fountain Scene"   5:33
6. "The Wedding of Officer Torres"   5:01
7. "Jazz Autographs"   3:45
8. "Refusing to Escape"   3:01
9. "Krakozhia National Anthem and Homesickness"   1:49
10. "Looking for Work"   3:17
11. "Gupta's Deliverance"   3:18
12. "Finding Coins and Learning to Read"   4:02
13. ""Destiny"... "Canneloni"... and The Tale of Viktor Navorski Reprise"   5:05
14. "A Happy Navorski Ending!"   2:47
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars
Empire 5/5 stars
Filmtracks 5/5 stars
Movie Wave 3.5/5 stars
SoundtrackNet 3/5 stars
  • The clarinet piece, "Viktor's Tale", also composed by John Williams, is taken from the movie's soundtrack.


Rotten Tomatoes reported that 61% of 198 sampled critics gave the film positive reviews and that it got a rating average of 6.2 out of 10.[8] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 55 based on 41 reviews.[9] Michael Wilmington from the Chicago Tribune said "[the film] takes Spielberg into realms he's rarely traveled before."[10] A. O. Scott of The New York Times said Hanks' performance brought a lot to the film.[11] However, Joe Morgenstern from The Wall Street Journal thought that "The Terminal is a terminally fraudulent and all-but-interminable comedy."[12]

The film grossed $77,872,883 in North America and $141,544,372 in other territories, totaling $219,417,255 worldwide.[1]


Krakozhia (Кракозия or Кракожия) is a fictional country, created for the film, that closely resembles a former Soviet Republic or Eastern Bloc state.

The exact location of Krakozhia is kept intentionally vague in the film, keeping with the idea of Viktor being simply Eastern European or from a former Soviet Republic. The film presents a reasonably accurate picture of the process of naturalistic second language acquisition, according to professional linguist Martha Young-Scholten.[13]

John Williams, the film's composer, also wrote a national anthem for Krakozhia.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Terminal at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ a b Ethan Gilsdorf, Behind 'The Terminal,' a true story, The Christian Science Monitor, June 21, 2004, Accessed December 5, 2010.
  3. ^ Life in the lounge, BBC
  4. ^ Matthew Rose, Waiting For Spielberg, The New York Times, September 21, 2003, Accessed June 12, 2008.
  5. ^ Berczeller, Paul (September 6, 2004). "The man who lost his past". The Guardian. Retrieved May 5, 2007. 
  6. ^ "Season 12 Episode 9." Inside the Actors Studio. Bravo. 14 May 2016. Television.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "The Terminal (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 5, 2010. 
  9. ^ "The Terminal reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 5, 2010. 
  10. ^ Movie review: 'The Terminal'. Retrieved on July 1, 2008.
  11. ^ Movie review: The Terminal, by The New York Times Retrieved on July 1, 2008.
  12. ^ Review summary from the Wall Street Journal Retrieved on July 1, 2008.
  13. ^ Young-Scholten, Martha. "Hollywood: smarter than you think? Maybe". Retrieved December 25, 2007.  Abstract for talk given at the University of Leeds Department of Linguistics and Phonetics, 26 April 2006.
  14. ^ The Terminal soundtrack review at

External links[edit]