A blissful airplane ride with the right entertainment. Illustration by Quintana Jones.

Very soon I will be embarking on a whopping 21 hours of travel. Aside from not forgetting my passport, traveling safely, and finding food that won’t stink up the whole aisle, I am also contemplating what sort of entertainment I shall indulge in.

For anyone perhaps feeling embarrassed by the craving for less refined movies, I offer you this: an airplane is a lawless land of napping on strangers, so what happens in the air stays in the air. And so, I request of you the same decency. These recommendations are for that special kind of distraction one may require to make it through the trip, but I will throw in a few gems because who knows, maybe you’ll be in an especially contemplative mood. From a film student’s perspective, all movies can teach you something, the good ones and the crap ones. 

Regardless of when they were released, something these movies have in common is their rich plots. From murder mysteries to soccer prodegies, heists and “virgins who can’t drive,” this list embodies the business of entertainment. When you have nowhere else to escape, a twisting story can be perfect, because it’s all about the journey right? This is my way of saying, maybe it’s a great time to test your attention span with a longer movie, but not a boring one because I wouldn’t do you that way. 

Additionally, I strongly advise against movies with sexy scenes. This can even be awkward during an innocent scene in a rom-com, because if you’ve ever been on a plane, you know that people’s eyes tend to wander, and there are kids on planes. I learned this lesson the hard way when I downloaded a movie without reading anything about it. The mother behind me gave me the stink eye on my way to the bathroom. I was going to recommend “Boogie Nights,” in which Mark Walberg plays a budding adult film star, and then I realized this could get messy, although it is exactly the perfect sort of winding timeline we are in search of.

I shall begin with a movie of the recent past, that perhaps you didn’t get a chance to catch in the theaters, “The Lost City.” Honestly, Sandra Bullock movies are all pretty much great for planes. This new variety of action rom-com is quite the fun flick if you are looking for something light hearted with great physical comedy. Channing Tatum plays a lovable and soft-at-heart novel cover star who seeks to save the broken-hearted Sandra Bullock, a novelist who is kidnapped by billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliff) for use of her knowledge of “The Lost City.” There are of course a few movie magic moments where the situation is not quite believable, but let’s call that part of the blockbuster charm. 

Similar in grandiose setting, yet more on the mysterious and dramatic side, is “Death on The Nile.” When scorned Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey) appears on numerous occasions to haunt her past lover, Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle (Gal Gadot) starts to feel uneasy around her fiance’s ex. One murder after another occurs, leaving the members of the honeymoon party stuck on a cruise ship in the Nile with the killer. This immersive period piece has some great twists, and if you’re like me, will leave you guessing the killer is every character before it’s revealed who done it. 

Romanticizing the past can be especially enthralling, and one of the best movies of the year was certainly Steven Speilberg’s “West Side Story.” The spectacles of dance, fashion and romance collide, creating a wonderful update while still staying true to the original. Speaking of remakes, “Little Women” (either Gretta Gerwigg’s 2019 adaptation OR Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version) is a treat for the soul. Jo March, the second eldest of the four sisters, is one of those characters that has stuck with me throughout my life because of her magnificently stubborn nature. 

To be honest, I love movies in which you fall in love with all the characters. There’s something about “Crazy Rich Asians” that is crazy rewatchable, and that may be the root cause. Highlighting class and cultural clashes, “Crazy Rich Asians” is a feast of decadence buried in rom-com glory. 

If you’d rather go the route of collecting others’ riches, one could choose “Molly’s Game,” the directorial debut by screenwriter extraordinaire, Aaron Sorkin. “Molly’s Gameoffers a story about high stakes gambling, Olympic skiing, and FBI investigation. 

Along similar lines of espionage is “Sexy Beast.” Being one of my favorite movies ever, this psychological black comedy crime film has a unique flavor of a heist movie. Set in the idyllic Spanish Countryside, you’re bound to wish as though you could meet these retired gangsters at poolside for a drink as they reveal anecdotes of life in high crime.

While we are on the serious side of the list, “Saving Private Ryan” is one of the few war films I enjoy. Tom Hanks embodies a true hero surrounded by corruption and disaster. This movie certainly has moments that are hard to swallow, but made even the cold hard soul of young Quintana cry. It is more violent than other options, which you can weigh in your selection depending on your mood.

Swinging the pendulum to the opposite corner of the entertainment universe, there’s “Clueless,” a cult classic rom-com following Cher (Alicia Silverstone), a wealthy student who finds love where she doesn’t expect. Loosely based on Jane Austin’s “Emma,” “Clueless” is like majorly hilarious. 

Finally, another cult classic, “Bend it Like Beckham,” is the story of a young Indian American, Jesminder (Parminder Nagra), a talented soccer player who struggles to convince her parents that she belongs on the pitch. This movie leaves you feeling triumphant, excited, maybe a little in love with Kira Knightley, and aftertastes of its charming British twang.

Wherever you are headed, may it be by plane, river raft, unicycle, mo-ped, armadillo, skipping, skateboard, bus, carriage, or parade float, consider these films for your enjoyment! And remember, it’s all about the journey.

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