Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a 1987 American buddy film written, produced, and directed by John Hughes. The film stars Steve Martin as Neal Page, a high-strung marketing executive, and John Candy as Del Griffith, a goodhearted but annoying shower curtain ring salesman. They share a three-day odyssey of misadventures trying to get Neal home to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving with his family.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Planes trains and automobiles.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Hughes
Produced byJohn Hughes
Written byJohn Hughes
Music byIra Newborn
CinematographyDonald Peterman
Edited byPaul Hirsch
Hughes Entertainment
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • November 25, 1987 (1987-11-25)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million
Box office$49.5 million


Route taken by Del Griffith and Neal Page in the film

Neal Page is an advertising account executive on a business trip in New York City eager to return to his family in Chicago for Thanksgiving. After attending a tedious meeting that ends without a decision, Neal unsuccessfully attempts to hail a cab during rush hour. He is further delayed after paying a greedy attorney for a cab that is inadvertently stolen by Del Griffith, a loquacious traveling salesman who sells shower curtain rings. Neal and Del cross paths again at JFK Airport, where they board a plane to O'Hare. Their plane is diverted to Wichita due to a blizzard in Chicago.

Neal, realizing that he must spend the night in Wichita, agrees to accompany Del to a cheap motel. During the night, Neal loses his temper with Del and lambastes him. In response, Del admits that he regards Neal as a cold cynic and says that despite how Neal feels, he likes himself and his wife and customers like him. Neal calms down and the two men go back to bed. As they sleep, their cash is stolen by a burglar.

On the following day, they attempt to reach Chicago by train. To Neal's relief, their assigned seats are in separate cars and they say goodbye prior to boarding. En route, the locomotive breaks down, stranding the passengers in a Missouri field where Del and Neal are reunited. After they reach Jefferson City, Del raises cash by selling shower curtain rings to passers-by, advertising the items as earrings. Del uses the funds to buy bus tickets, but waits until they are on the road to tell Neal that the tickets are only valid to St. Louis. Upon arrival, Neal inadvertently offends Del over lunch and the two part ways again.

At the St. Louis airport, Neal attempts to rent a car, but finds the space at the distant rental lot empty. After a perilous walk back to the terminal, Neal vents his anger at the rental agent to no avail. In desperation, he attempts to hire a taxi to Chicago, but insults the dispatcher, who then attacks Neal. By chance, Del arrives with his own rental car just in time to rescue Neal. While driving, they find themselves arguing again. The situation is made worse when Del nearly gets them killed on a freeway after driving in the wrong direction, scraping between two oncoming semi-trailer trucks.

While they take a moment to compose themselves by the side of the road, Del's carelessly discarded cigarette sets fire to the car's interior. Neal initially gloats, thinking that Del is liable for the damage. Neal's amusement turns to anger when Del reveals he used Neal's credit card to rent the car after their cards were accidentally switched.

With his credit cards destroyed in the fire, Neal barters his designer watch for a motel room for himself. Del is broke and attempts to sleep in the car, which has lost its roof in the fire. Neal eventually feels sympathy for Del and invites him in from the cold and snowy night. They consume Del's collection of airline liquors and laugh about the events of the past two days. The pair resume driving to Chicago the next morning, but their badly damaged car is impounded by the police. They finally make it to Chicago, two days late, in the back of a refrigerator truck.

The two finally part ways at a Chicago "L" station. On the train, Neal remembers cryptic comments Del made during the journey and realizes that he may be alone for the holiday. Struck by compassion, Neal quickly returns to the station, finds Del sitting alone and asks why he has not gone home. Del reveals that he does not have a home and that his wife died eight years earlier. Neal returns home to his family and introduces them to Del, whom he has invited to Thanksgiving dinner.



Much of the film was filmed in Batavia, New York and South Dayton, New York.[2] A scene that takes place in St. Louis was filmed at Lambert International Airport.[3][4]


The film marked a widely noticed change in the repertoire of John Hughes.[5] It was greeted with critical acclaim upon release, a revelation in that Hughes was considered a teen angst filmmaker.[6] It also got two thumbs up from Siskel & Ebert, with Gene Siskel declaring it John Candy's best role to date. It has 93% positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and is featured in Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" collection. Ebert wrote that the film "is perfectly cast and soundly constructed, and all else flows naturally. Steve Martin and John Candy don't play characters; they embody themselves. That's why the comedy, which begins securely planted in the twin genres of the road movie and the buddy picture, is able to reveal so much heart and truth."[7]

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 subgenre 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."[8]

While some reviewers were critical of the sentimentality and silliness seen in the movie, which affected the ability to convey emotional range,[6] most applauded the humor itself.[9][10][11][12] 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."[13] Maltin added that the movie was "hurt by an awful music score."[13]

Box officeEdit

The movie opened in American theaters on November 25, 1987 (a Wednesday) and finished third for the weekend, grossing $7,009,482. After its first five days, the film grossed $10,131,242 and stayed in the top ten for seven weeks. The movie finished its American run on January 22, 1988 with $49,530,280 after a 12-week run.[14] The production budget was almost $30 million.[15][dubious ]


Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Soundtrack album
GenreRock and roll

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. It is currently available for download on iTunes.[16] It is also available on Spotify.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Planes, Trains and Automobiles (15)". British Board of Film Classification. December 7, 1987. Retrieved May 14, 2013.
  2. ^ Greenwood, Marcia (November 22, 2017). "Planes, Trains and Automobiles filmed in Batavia: Behind the scenes". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York: Gannett Company. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  3. ^ "5 Movies With Locations in St. Louis". July 17, 2014. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  4. ^ Gordon, William A. (1995). Shot on This Site: A Traveler's Guide to the Places and Locations Used to Film Famous Movies and TV Shows. Citadel Press. ISBN 9780806516479.
  5. ^ Mathews, Jack (December 15, 1987). "'PTA' Transports John Hughes Beyond His Teen Comedy Image". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. p. 1.
  6. ^ a b Carr, Jay (November 25, 1987). "'PLANES, TRAINS' NEVER GETS OFF THE GROUND". Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts: Boston Globe Partners, L.P. p. 34.
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 12, 2000). "Planes, Trains and Automobiles". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois: Sun-Times Media Group – via
  8. ^ Burchby, Casey (October 20, 2009). "Planes, Trains and Automobiles". DVD Talk. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  9. ^ Boyar, Jay (November 27, 1987). "PLANES, TRAINS' A PERFECTLY GOOFY COMEDY VEHICLE". Orlando Sentinel. Orlando, Florida: Tribune Publishing. p. D1.
  10. ^ Janusonis, Michael (November 27, 1987). "Flights of comedy, down-to-earth characters Martin and Candy are on a roll in 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles'". Providence Journal. Providence, Rhode Island: GateHouse Media. p. D-04.
  11. ^ Maslin, Janet (November 25, 1987). "Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)". The New York Times. New York City: New York Times Company.
  12. ^ Schickel, Richard (November 30, 1987). "Worst-Case Scenario: Planes, Trains and Automobiles". Time. New York City: Time, Inc.
  13. ^ a b Maltin, Leonard (2006). Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. New York City: Signet Books. p. 1009. ISBN 0-451-21265-7.
  14. ^ "Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)". Box Office Mojo. Los Angeles, California: Fandango Media. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  15. ^ Terri Minsky, July 1988, Premiere magazine
  16. ^ iTunes Store Retrieved 2014-12-14.

External linksEdit