• PG-13, 2 hr. 50 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:    Martin Scorsese
  • In Theaters:    Dec 17, 2004 Wide
  • On DVD:    May 24, 2005
  • Miramax

The Aviator Reviews

Richard Corliss
TIME Magazine
Top Critic
February 3, 2010

This handsome movie is an oddly well-behaved one to come from the preternaturally energetic Scorsese.

David Ansen
Newsweek
Top Critic
November 1, 2007

This almost-great epic has one foot in legend: it's a vision of an American titan that could have sprung from the insides of Hughes's own obsessive, perfectionist head.

Geoff Andrew
Time Out
Top Critic
June 24, 2006

Despite a pacy, technically brilliant but otherwise slightly ordinary first half-hour or so, Scorsese's Howard Hughes movie is his best since The Age of Innocence.

Nathan Rabin
AV Club
Top Critic
September 26, 2005

It's a measure of The Aviator's complexity and ambiguity that it can be read equally as a celebration of rugged, capitalist individualism and as a leftist critique of cutthroat free-market competition.

Stephen Hunter
Washington Post
Top Critic
May 20, 2005

Its primary appeal is its speed: It rushes along, from scandal to air crash to movie romance to Senate hearing, each anecdote well realized but never tarried over.

Eric Harrison
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic
April 21, 2005

This undoubtedly is the movie Scorsese set out to make, and he made it exceedingly well. Still, we can fault him for choosing to celebrate its subject instead of examining him.

Jonathan Rosenbaum
Chicago Reader
Top Critic
December 27, 2004

By and large I think this movie's chief function is to give Scorsese an opportunity to indulge in the pleasures of big-time filmmaking and to treat the audience to a heady dose of glamour.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Desson Thomson
Washington Post
Top Critic
December 24, 2004

We may enjoy watching the spectacles, but we don't much care for, or even have a feeling for, the guy in the cockpit.

Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
Top Critic
December 24, 2004

While we leave the film without much more of an understanding of Hughes' legendary obsessions than we did upon entering, we nonetheless leave with a sense of having been glamorously, thoroughly entertained -- which, these days, is a rare pleasure.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic
December 24, 2004

It's history and biography and, as Scorsese, Logan and Orson Welles before them affirm, a distinctly American story.

Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
Tom Long
Detroit News
Top Critic
December 24, 2004

For all the madness and tragedy in The Aviator, this is very much a movie that believes in crazy dreams, in reaching and recklessness and accomplishment.

| Original Score: A
Robert Denerstein
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Top Critic
December 24, 2004

A fast-moving, entertaining movie that boasts a fine performance by DiCaprio, who captures Hughes' brio, as well as the sadness that accompanied the gradual onset of insanity that turned Hughes into a legendary recluse.

| Original Score: A-
Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post
Top Critic
December 24, 2004

Hughes is the conduit for a titan of moviemaking to meditate gloriously on the power of film and flight to transform a nation, a culture, a world.

Michael Wilmington
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic
December 24, 2004

Sumptuously exciting, glowing with expertise, seething with life, gorgeously designed and thrillingly articulated.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic
December 24, 2004

What a sad man. What brief glory. What an enthralling film, 166 minutes, and it races past.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Ty Burr
Boston Globe
Top Critic
December 24, 2004

The first half -- covering Hughes's high-flying Hollywood years -- is an incredibly filmed treat.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
Top Critic
December 23, 2004

Scorsese has crafted a luxurious entertainment that goes down like a flute of sparkling, silky champagne.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic
December 23, 2004

Makes a credible, and often thrilling case that Hughes' greatest creation was the idea of the man who could do anything, but does far less well when rolling in the muck with those who would rather see a crash than a new plateau achieved.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Philip Wuntch
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic
December 23, 2004

A stunning mosaic of contradictions.

Full Review | Original Score: A-
Bill Muller
Arizona Republic
Top Critic
December 23, 2004

Other Scorsese films have carried more passion, but none has so brilliantly captured a lost era, or a lost American icon.

Full Review | Original Score: 4.5/5
Carrie Rickey
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic
December 23, 2004

Scorsese's most accomplished, most disciplined movie since GoodFellas.

| Original Score: 3/4
Jeff Strickler
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic
December 23, 2004

A famous subject. A talented star. A script that combines spectacular special effects with an intimate look at a man slipping into madness. A master filmmaker back at the top of his game.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Eleanor Ringel Gillespie
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic
December 22, 2004

It's a wonderful showcase for Scorsese's passion for making movies, which, in a sense, parallels the passion Hughes had for making movies.

Full Review | Original Score: B+
David Edelstein
Slate
Top Critic
December 20, 2004

Few biopics with this kind of crazy scope have ever been so seamless.

Ken Tucker
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic
December 19, 2004

The result is an admirably bumpy ride of a biopic, a rare one that leaves you feeling not safe but bracingly unsettled.

Geoff Pevere
Toronto Star
Top Critic
December 18, 2004

A compelling and occasionally stirring movie experience.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
Stephanie Zacharek
Salon.com
Top Critic
December 18, 2004

It's stylish and fleet, and even though it's meticulously detailed, Scorsese's devotion to technique never weighs it down.

Bruce Newman
San Jose Mercury News
Top Critic
December 17, 2004

Someone is going to have to prove to me that those events occurred in that order. Watching The Aviator, I didn't buy a minute of it.

| Original Score: 2.5/4
Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic
December 17, 2004

As Hughes, DiCaprio is nimble and appealing.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic
December 17, 2004

Another director would have made an uplifting picture about a great American success. Scorsese, instead, has made the only picture he could, risking studio millions on an intensely personal epic about a dark, complicated failure.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Jami Bernard
New York Daily News
Top Critic
December 17, 2004

Unfortunately, though it may finally gain an Oscar for director Martin Scorsese, it is not his best work. The movie is disappointingly flat.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Lou Lumenick
New York Post
Top Critic
December 17, 2004

The movie equivalent of a lavish coffee-table book, a love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood from one of its foremost students.

| Original Score: 3/4
Liam Lacey
Globe and Mail
Top Critic
December 17, 2004

Scorsese's mournful celebration of Hughes's life from the 1920s to the late 1940s could be called Citizen Pain.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Paul Clinton (CNN.com)
CNN.com
Top Critic
December 17, 2004

The Aviator is the perfect melding of talent and material.

Mike Clark
USA Today
Top Critic
December 16, 2004

The first and third hours of this 20th-century epic are as dazzling as big-scale movies get.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic
December 16, 2004

Tainted or not, Hughes' life was a remarkable one, and, flawed or not, Scorsese's film version deserves the same accolade.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
Manohla Dargis
New York Times
Top Critic
December 16, 2004

Martin Scorsese's biography of the famously eccentric empire builder Howard Hughes is visually sumptuous if disappointingly hollow.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5
Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic
December 16, 2004

Mostly pays lip service to Hughes' demons, though it does make charged American-movie poetry out of his dreams.

Full Review | Original Score: B
John Anderson
Newsday
Top Critic
December 16, 2004

Sexy, inspiring and exhilarating, but perhaps more importantly, it's a generous portrait of a brave man, perhaps an artist, certainly a fractured genius.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Ella Taylor
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic
December 16, 2004

Downright squeamish, skimming only the more palatable facts from the several informative biographies that exist of this increasingly secretive and paranoid man.

Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
Top Critic
December 15, 2004

A big, juicy, gorgeous, high-flying epic.

| Original Score: 3.5/4
David Denby
New Yorker
Top Critic
December 14, 2004

Superbly demonstrates, with abundant humor and obvious sympathy, that this very odd bird once soared on golden wings.

Michael Atkinson
Village Voice
Top Critic
December 14, 2004

The Aviator could've been a Raging Bull brother film, given that masterpiece's crystalline purity of purpose and humiliated courage. But it brakes far short.

James Berardinelli
ReelViews
Top Critic
December 13, 2004

A good, but not great, filmed biography, and continues Scorsese's recent flirtation with mediocrity.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Rex Reed
New York Observer
Top Critic
December 10, 2004

Mr. Scorsese is a great director who often fails, but you have to give him credit for always being on the prowl for new and demanding subjects, even when the results are disastrous, and for remaining true to his own vision, even when it is not shared.

Richard Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
Top Critic
December 6, 2004

I believe this is now the front runner for best picture of 2004.

Michael Rechtshaffen
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic
December 1, 2004

Scorsese has crafted a rip-roaringly gorgeous-looking, beautifully acted biographical epic that is certain to garner Oscar nominations across the board.

Todd McCarthy
Variety
Top Critic
November 29, 2004

An enormously entertaining slice of biographical drama.