Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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
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


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, which is in two days' time. 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 LaGuardia 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, dirty 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 long and perilous walk back to the terminal, Neal vents his anger with a profanity-laced tirade at the rental agent to no avail. In desperation, he attempts to hire a taxi to Chicago, but insults the dispatcher, who then punches 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.



Planes, Train and Automobiles was filmed in 85 days,[2] mostly in Batavia, New York and South Dayton, New York.[3] A scene that takes place in St. Louis was filmed at Lambert International Airport.[4][5] Rewrites Hughes did during filming made the amount of footage he shot much larger than what the original screenplay needed.[2]


Argun Ulgen categorized Planes, Trains, and Automobiles as a lively portrayal of in-person interactions between people of different economic classes: "people curse, make out in public, speak in platitudes, and retell the same jokes; generally, they are coarse and loud, imperfect, but not without love."[6]


The film marked a widely noticed change in the repertoire of John Hughes.[7] It was greeted with critical acclaim upon release, a revelation in that Hughes was considered a teen angst filmmaker.[8] 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."[9]

Casey Burchby of DVD Talk said, "John Hughes, like a lot of other filmmakers who specialised 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."[10] While some reviewers were critical of the sentimentality and silliness seen in the movie, which affected the ability to convey emotional range,[8] most applauded the humor itself.[11][12][13][14]

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."[15] Maltin added that the movie was "hurt by an awful music score."[15]

Box office

The movie opened in American theatres 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 twelve week run.[16] The production budget was almost $30 million.[17] The film was released in the United Kingdom on February 12, 1988, and topped the country's box office that weekend.[18]


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 called "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 film also featured the contemporary pop song "Modigliani (Lost in Your Eyes)" by Book of Love, using both the original single and the Requiem Mass Remix. A special instrumental version of "Power to Believe" by The Dream Academy, which the band recorded at John Hughes' request, is extensively used in the film as Del Griffith's unofficial theme, and a cover of "Everytime You Go Away" performed by Blue Room is played over the final scene and the credits; Hughes planned to use Paul Young's well-known hit version but was denied the rights by the record company even though Young approved of Hughes' planned use of the song and wanted to see it included.[19] The latter two songs were not included in the film's soundtrack (the soundtrack instead featured the original version of "Power to Believe" with lyrics). The instrumental version of "Power to Believe" would not be released until 2014 when The Dream Academy included it on their compilation album The Morning Lasted All Day: A Retrospective. Blue Room's cover of "Everytime You Go Away" remains unreleased, though copies of the song cut from the film have been uploaded to YouTube.

The soundtrack album was released in 1987, but has since gone out of print. It is currently available for download on iTunes.[20]

Home media

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles had its first DVD release on November 21, 2000, when a 480i widescreen version of the film was issued on DVD in the United States. The DVD featured its original English soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and English subtitles; but had no foreign language options for subtitles and audio.[21] The same 5.1 English audio track was later included on 576i DVDs issued in European territories the following year.[22][23][24][25][26][27] The UK, Danish and Finnish releases include a stereo version of the German dub and Finnish, Swedish, English, German, Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, and Turkish subtitles.[23][26][27] Both the Italy and Spain editions have the most audio dub options of all DVDs, featuring French, Italian, and Spanish stereo dubs; and have Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, Italian, Croatian, Greek, Hebrew, and Slovenian subtitle settings.[22][24] The Swedish DVD, on the other hand, is the most limited in features, only including the English audio and Swedish subtitles.[25] An American "Those Aren't Pillows!" DVD edition of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles includes a mono Spanish dub and English, French, and Spanish subtitles.[28] The same day, Wal-mart issued an exclusive version of the edition that included a digital copy of the film.[29]

In North American countries, Blu-ray editions of Planes, Trains and Automobiles began life as retailer exclusives. The film's first United States Blu-ray was released on September 25, 2011 as a Best Buy exclusive.[30] Canada's first Blu-ray of the film, also issued on September 25, was a Future Shop exclusive of the "Those Aren't Pillows!" edition.[31] Another Best Buy exclusive Blu-ray, a "Paramount 100th Anniversary" edition, was released on March 8, 2012.[32] It wasn't until November 6, 2012 that Blu-rays began selling at other Canadian and American markets.[33][34] The Blu-ray was released in the United Kingdom on September 26, 2011,[35] Australia on July 31, 2013,[36] and Germany on February 5, 2015.[37] On October 10, 2017, a "30th Anniversary Edition" Blu-ray of Planes, Trains and Automobiles was issued and came with DVD and Digital HD versions.[38][39] Most Blu-ray editions include DTS-HD Master Audio track of the English versions; mono versions of the Spanish and Portuguese dubs; and English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.[33][34][35][36] An exception is the German Blu-ray, which includes only German and English audio and subtitles.[37]

On October 18, 2004, the UK DVD was issued as part of a Digipack Paramount Pictures' collection I Love 80s Movies: John Hughes Classic 80s, which also included Pretty in Pink (1986), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), and Some Kind of Wonderful (1987).[40] On May 13, 2014, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles was part of a North American Blu-ray collection that also featured two National Lampoon films.[41][42] The US DVD was part of the Warner Bros. set 5 Film Collection: 80's Comedy, issued on September 30, 2014 and also including Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), Airplane! (1989), and Police Academy (1984); the collection also included digital files of the films.[43]


  1. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles (15)". British Board of Film Classification. December 7, 1987. Retrieved May 14, 2013.
  2. Hullfish, Steve (April 13, 2019). "ART OF THE CUT with Oscar winner, Paul Hirsch, ACE". Pro Video Coalition. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  3. 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.
  4. "5 Movies With Locations in St. Louis". July 17, 2014. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  5. 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.
  6. Ulgen, Argun (November 14, 2017). "'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary at a Time We Need It Most". PopMatters. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
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  8. Carr, Jay (November 25, 1987). "'PLANES, TRAINS' NEVER GETS OFF THE GROUND". Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts: Boston Globe Partners, L.P. p. 34.
  9. Ebert, Roger (November 12, 2000). "Planes, Trains and Automobiles". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois: Sun-Times Media Group via
  10. Burchby, Casey (October 20, 2009). "Planes, Trains and Automobiles". DVD Talk. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  11. Boyar, Jay (November 27, 1987). "PLANES, TRAINS' A PERFECTLY GOOFY COMEDY VEHICLE". Orlando Sentinel. Orlando, Florida: Tribune Publishing. p. D1.
  12. 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.
  13. Maslin, Janet (November 25, 1987). "Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)". The New York Times. New York City: New York Times Company.
  14. Schickel, Richard (November 30, 1987). "Worst-Case Scenario: Planes, Trains and Automobiles". Time. New York City: Time, Inc.
  15. Maltin, Leonard (2006). Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. New York City: Signet Books. p. 1009. ISBN 0-451-21265-7.
  16. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)". Box Office Mojo. Los Angeles, California: Fandango Media. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  17. Terri Minsky, July 1988, Premiere magazine
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  19. Paul Young on Twitter
  20. iTunes Store Retrieved 2014-12-14.
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  24. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles DVD (Un biglietto in due) (Italy)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  25. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles DVD Release Date November 7, 2001 (Raka spåret till Chicago) (Sweden)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  26. "Planes, Trains & Automobiles DVD (Røvtur på 1. klasse) (Denmark)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  27. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles DVD (Vauhdilla Chicagoon) (Finland)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
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  29. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles DVD Release Date October 20, 2009 (Wal-Mart Exclusive)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  30. "Planes, Trains & Automobiles Blu-ray Release Date September 25, 2011". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  31. "Planes, Trains & Automobiles Blu-ray Release Date September 25, 2011 (Future Shop Exclusive) (Canada)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  32. "Planes, Trains & Automobiles Blu-ray Release Date March 8, 2012 (Best Buy Exclusive)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  33. "Planes, Trains & Automobiles Blu-ray Release Date November 6, 2012". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  34. "Planes, Trains & Automobiles Blu-ray Release Date November 6, 2012 (Canada)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
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  36. "Planes, Trains & Automobiles Blu-ray Release Date July 31, 2013 (Australia)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  37. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles Blu-ray Release Date February 5, 2015 (Ein Ticket für zwei) (Germany)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  38. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles Blu-ray Release Date October 10, 2017 (30th Anniversary Edition) (Canada)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  39. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles Blu-ray Release Date October 10, 2017 (30th Anniversary Edition)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  40. "I Love 80s Movies: John Hughes Classic 80s Collection DVD Release Date October 18, 2004 (United Kingdom)". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  41. "Planes, Trains & Automobiles / National Lampoon's Vacation / National Lampoon's European Vacation Blu-ray Release Date May 13, 2014". Retrieved November 25, 2019.
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