Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Critics Consensus

Thanks to the impeccable chemistry between Steve Martin and John Candy, as well as a deft mix of humor and heart, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a hilarious, heartfelt holiday classic.



Total Count: 55


Audience Score

User Ratings: 182,863
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Movie Info

Were it not for its profanity-laden opening scenes, John Hughes' Planes, Trains and Automobiles might have been suitable family entertainment: certainly it's heaps less violent and mean-spirited than Hughes' Home Alone. En route to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with his family, easily annoyed businessman Neal Page (Steve Martin) finds his first-class plane ticket has been demoted to coach, and he must share his flight with obnoxious salesman Del Griffith (John Candy). A sudden snowstorm in Chicago forces the plane to land in Wichita. Unable to find a room in any of the four-star hotels, Neal is compelled to accept Del's invitation to share his accommodations in a cheapo-sleazo motel. Driven to distraction by Del's annoying personal habits, the ungrateful Neal lets forth with a stream of verbal abuse. That's when Del delivers the anticipated (but always welcome) "I don't judge, why should you?"-type speech so common to John Hughes flicks. The shamefaced Neal tries to make up to Del, but there's a bumpy time ahead as the mismatched pair make their way back to Chicago, first in a balky train, then by way of a refrigerator truck. We know from the outset that the oil-and-water Neal and Del will be bosom companions by the end of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but it's still a fun ride. The best bit: a half-asleep Del thinking that he's got his hand tucked between two pillows -- until his bedmate, Neal, bellows "Those aren't pillows!" ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Steve Martin
as Neal Page
John Candy
as Del Griffith
Michael McKean
as State Trooper
Edie McClurg
as Car Rental Agent
Kevin Bacon
as Taxi racer
Laila Robins
as Susan Page
Carol Bruce
as Joy Page
Martin Ferrero
as Motel Clerk
Matthew Lawrence
as Little Neal Page
George Petrie
as Martin Page
Gary Riley
as Motel Thief
Lyman Ward
as John Dole
Nicholas Wyman
as New Your Lawyer
Ben Stein
as Wichita Airport Representative
John Randolph Jones
as Cab Dispatcher
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Critic Reviews for Planes, Trains and Automobiles

All Critics (55) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (51) | Rotten (4)

Audience Reviews for Planes, Trains and Automobiles

  • Apr 18, 2016
    A thoroughly engaging and zany comedic masterpiece. The mesmorizing chemistry between Steve Martin and John Candy is a near perfect comedy pairing. John Candy is in true form in one of the signature roles of his career; the deeply funny, mostly clueless and thoroughly kind Del Griffith. The perfect foil to Steve Martin's crass, pessimistic and sarcastic Neal Page. Weaker actors might not have been able to elevate this pairing to such lofty heights, but these two comedy legends deliver. John Hughes was also well in touch with his inner muse when he penned this outrageously funny and surprisingly emotional screenplay. John Hughes was a master at crafting loveable and believable characters. The dynamic between the clueless bungler and the cold cynic works so well because you cannot help but love both characters for what they are and what they represent. I've always believed Hughes had an uncanny ability to beautifully capture something profoundly real and human in all his movies. This special touch elevates what on paper is an excellent comedy into something special and memorable. Hughes makes you feel not just the laugher and joy of a great piece of cinema, but, if ever so briefly, draws you into the narrative as if you are hearing the story from a loved one or reliving the comedic memories of a close family member. This warm core is what pushes planes above the usual comedic fare. A remakeable and hilarious film.
    Shane S Super Reviewer
  • Mar 03, 2016
    Planes, Trains and Automobiles is funny, charming and a great movie to pop in during the holiday season! Check this gem out!
    Mr N Super Reviewer
  • May 01, 2014
    "National Lampoon's Thanksgiving Vacation"! Well, I don't suppose this film is all that Griswold, but, in all seriousness, it's hard to not think of that when looking at this film's premise, and the fact that John Hughes did, in fact, write the script for "National Lampoon's Vacation". Shoot, he wrote the short story upon which "Vacation" was based, and I know that's hard to believe, because as absurdist as "Vacation" is, it's hard to imagine that there was a point in which it was literature, but hey, at least it's a little less disconcerting than Hughes' certain April Fools' Day stories for "National Lampoon" magazine. Yeah, Hughes can get a little edgy with his "family" entertainment, or at least his material about family, but with this film, he cuts the whole family stuff out. I don't so much mean that this film is as edgy as Hughes' contributions to the "National Lampoon" franchise, as much as I mean that he really wanted to prove his diversity as a filmmaker by cutting all of that teen angst junk and making a film about men being men. Granted, he ended up making a film that leans closer to being about a manchild, but hey, that's to be expected when the slightly immature focus in question is played by a guy whose last name is Candy. Man, John Candy was awesome, and as this film reminds us, Steve Martin certainly knows how to pull his own, substantially lighter weight, but neither of them can completely carry the film away from its shortcomings. With all my jokingly likening this to something along the lines of a "National Lampoon" flick of its '80s era, absurdity is limited, and that makes things all the more unnerving when the film's comedy does go a touch over the top, challenging the buyability of certain set pieces and plot points, while finding color contradicted by some subdued spots in pacing. Storytelling is plenty lively on the whole, but John Hughes' direction is often not especially brisk in its momentum, and when material to the scripting lapses, engagement value goes with it, as Hughes' almost dry storytelling, on its own, has trouble sustaining entertainment value and pacing. There's something kind of repetitious about Hughes' storytelling, and not just the directorial kind, as Hughes's script also gets to be a little driven by filler, to the point of losing focus that it probably can't afford to lose much of when looking at a runtime of merely over an hour-and-a-half. The film runs a brief, but repetitious course, giving you time to either lose investment or ponder upon how the course isn't even especially unique, as momentum goes further retarded by familiarity, and quite frankly, that's probably the worst thing than you can say about the final product. I suppose the pacing and believability problems are there, as surely as the also limited lapses in a sense of freshness, but they're barely worth complaining about when discussing a film that is generally so entertaining, so what ultimately holds the film back is simply its concept. Natural shortcomings to this fun, but inconsequential comedy opus overwhelm, and while I won't go so far as to say that the final product isn't entertaining enough to be memorable, it's not consistent, unique or intriguing enough to go all that far. Nevertheless, the film gets by as a classically enjoyable, if inconsequential comedy, with an adventurous side which goes sold by a good taste in, if nothing else, location. Certainly, the filler-driven narrative would feel a little more dynamic if the locations were a little more dynamic, yet a sense of progression in the leads' sloppy adventure is sold by certain settings that feel distinguished enough to immerse you into the plot, which sustains enough of your attention on paper, that is, to a certain extent. What most holds back this film is its story's relative inconsequentiality, but to say that this isn't an interesting story is dishonest, because as a portrait on opposites struggling to get through a mutual conflict while their dynamics clash, it's thematically intriguing, and as a simple modern adventure narrative, it's lively, even in concept. As for the execution, John Hughes' direction is somewhat subdued in a manner which clashes with the lively writing and retards momentum, - though not as much as it does when it sees lapses in writing material - until the thoughtfulness goes accompanied by a celebration of Ira Newborn's upbeat score and Paul Hirsch's snappy editing that actually drives entertainment value. Yes, despite the aforementioned occasional slow spells, the film is not much if not entertaining, thanks to Hughes' direction, which, as I've said, needs colorful material in order to have its color thrive. This, of course, means that through all of the unevenness in believability and pacing, Hughes' script is colorful, with plenty of memorably clever lines, and even more genuinely memorable and endearing set pieces, backed by a colorful drawing of two distinguished leads, who go brought to life by their distinguished portrayers. The film is truly driven by the dynamic of Steve Martin and John Candy, who end up being the most consistent strength in the final product, with Martin's sometimes loopily dynamic portrayal of a grounded man who can't quite catch a break meeting Candy's trademark boisterous portrayal of a well-intentioned, but clumsy eccentric with an appealing contradiction that results in electric chemistry. Therein lies the real fun of this film, which doesn't offer much outside of fluff, but has enough memorable color on and off of the screen to endear, despite its shortcomings, both natural and consequential. In conclusion, there are moments that are a little too absurdist and moments that are a little slow, all behind a narrative that is neither all that unique nor all that consequential, yet there also enough memorable locations and highlights in John Hughes' direction and writing, and enough dynamite charisma and chemistry between Steve Martin and John Candy to make "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" a thoroughly entertaining, if naturally lacking classic in buddy comedy adventure flicks. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Feb 04, 2014
    A set of highly improbable catastrophic events is unleashed in one of John Hughes's best films, although not necessarily his most iconic. Hughes is the father of many comedic trademarks that were subsequently used and recycled countless times in the Hollywood treatment of the genre, but the freshness of the whole product feels better and more entertaining than today's attempts to pull off shocking R-rated crude stunts and to push forced humor down your throat. It doesn't stop there. Steve Martin and John Candy make perfect chemistry since the very beginning, and with dramatic vignettes added to the insanity of this adventure rather interestingly, he discreetly develops the characters with which we are meant to spend half an hour through an odyssey that comes off as extremely unpredictable. Even the pair of actors can act with seriousness when it is required, so the opportunity to show that we are dealing with authentic human beings is not missed by the director! Maybe the jokes have already been told in the past, but the delivery is the one that counts. So, it is not that you know the jokes or the gags. It is how you tell them. And they were told with a hell of a creativity. Also, it is not the fact that you already know the path. It is walking the path that counts. And the journey is endless fun. To top things, the conclusion is very heartfelt and filmed beautifully, offering a positive message that holds today. Especially if you have the best f-bomb of all times. 88/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer

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