The Aviator

2004

The Aviator

Critics Consensus

With a rich sense of period detail, The Aviator succeeds thanks to typically assured direction from Martin Scorsese and a strong performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, who charts Howard Hughes' descent from eccentric billionaire to reclusive madman.

86%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 222

79%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 207,346
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Movie Info

Martin Scorsese directed this fast-moving, epic-scale biopic documenting the life and loves one of the most colorful Americans of the 20th century, Howard Hughes. The Aviator follows Hughes (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) as the twentysomething millionaire, having already made a fortune improving the design of oil-drilling bits, comes to Hollywood with an interest in getting into the picture business. It doesn't take long for Hughes, with his passion for airplanes, to jump from producer to director of his first major film project, a World War I air epic called Hell's Angels, which took three years to complete thanks to the shift from silent to sound filming and Hughes' relentless perfectionism. However, the film was a massive hit, and the eccentric inventor became a mogul in Hollywood, making Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani) a star and enjoying a romance with Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett). But Hollywood's old-boy network never fully accepted Hughes, and in time his passion for flying began to reclaim his attentions as he began designing new planes, setting air speed records, flying around the world, and risking his life testing aircraft. Hughes also found time to romance Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale) and founded his own airline, Trans-World Airlines, though as his ideas became bolder, his approach became more eccentric, and he gained many powerful enemies, including the head of Pan-American Airlines, Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin), and Senator Ralph Owen Brewster (Alan Alda), who attempted to prove that Hughes' radical design ideas were actually part of an effort to bilk taxpayers for millions of dollars through government contracts. The Aviator's star-studded cast also includes John C. Reilly, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Ian Holm, and Frances Conroy. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Cast

Leonardo DiCaprio
as Howard Hughes
Cate Blanchett
as Katharine Hepburn
Kate Beckinsale
as Ava Gardner
John C. Reilly
as Noah Dietrich
Alec Baldwin
as Juan Trippe
Ian Holm
as Professor Fitz
Alan Alda
as Sen. Ralph Owen Brewster
Danny Huston
as Jack Frye
Gwen Stefani
as Jean Harlow
Jude Law
as Errol Flynn
Adam Scott
as Johnny Meyer
Matt Ross
as Glenn Odekirk
Kelli Garner
as Faith Domergue
Frances Conroy
as Mrs. Hepburn
Brent Spiner
as Robert Gross
Stanley DeSantis
as Louis B. Mayer
Edward Herrmann
as Joseph Breen
Willem Dafoe
as Roland Sweet
Amy Sloan
as Allene Hughes
Kenneth Welsh
as Dr. Hepburn
Nellie Sciutto
as Secretary
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News & Interviews for The Aviator

Critic Reviews for The Aviator

All Critics (222) | Top Critics (50)

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

    Feb 3, 2010 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Nov 1, 2007 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Scorsese gives us a lot more than the Charles Foster Kane of the clouds. He keeps focus on Hughes, the dreamer, who continually reached out, grabbed the future and pulled it toward him.

    Jan 17, 2006 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Sep 26, 2005 | Full Review…

    Nathan Rabin

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    May 20, 2005 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Aviator

  • Jun 22, 2015
    Scorsese and DiCaprio make a formidable duo in this intricate biopic. The Aviator puts together Scorsese's masterful and colorful direction along with DiCaprio's career-defining performance to make for a classical film. 4/5
    Eugene B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 12, 2014
    Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio team up for the Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator. The film follows the rise and personal struggles of notorious playboy Howard Hughes from his early days in Hollywood filming the infamous Hell's Angels to his buyout and launch of TWA as a leading international airline. The plot lacks a traditional structure and instead tries to give an overall sense of Hughes' life. However, the pacing is poor and kills the film's momentum. Still, the all-star cast, which includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, and Alec Baldwin, delivers some incredibly charismatic performances. While it has some production issues, overall The Aviator is a fascinating tale of drive and ambition.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • May 25, 2013
    An interesting biopic well-acted by DiCaprio. Nothing very bold about the film but it is well shot.
    Christian C Super Reviewer
  • Aug 28, 2012
    SMART. Odd to say it, but underrated Scorsese
    Jeff L Super Reviewer

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