The Aviator

7.52 h 50 min2004X-RayPG-13
HD. Martin Scorsese's brilliant, Oscar(R)-winning drama about the life of legendary tycoon and recluse Howard Hughes. Leonardo DiCaprio stars.
Martin Scorsese
Leonardo DiCaprioCate BlanchettKate Beckinsale
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
John C. ReillyAlec BaldwinAlan AldaIan HolmJude LawFrances Conroy
Chris BrighamSandy ClimanColin CotterMatthias DeyleLeonardo DiCaprioCharles Evans Jr.Graham KingDan MaagMichael MannAslan NaderyJoseph P. ReidyVolker SchauzPhilip Schulz-DeyleRick SchwartzBob WeinsteinHarvey WeinsteinRick YornMartin Scorsese
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
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Violencealcohol usesmokingfoul languagesexual content
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4.7 out of 5 stars

3495 global ratings

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Matthew D'SouzaReviewed in the United States on December 10, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
The Mad Genius of Howard Hughes is Captured by American Auteur Martin Scorsese!
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Scorsese’s underrated portrait of a troubled and charismatic genius.

Director Martin Scorsese’s epic biographical drama The Aviator (2004) is so enthralling that after 3 hours I thought, I hope there’s another half hour. The Aviator flies by as you’re so captivated by Leonardo DiCaprio’s charismatic and crazy depiction of Howard Hughes that every scene is ethereal. From the glowing phosphorescent colors to the magnificent set pieces like Howard Hughes’ giant plane: The Hercules being a real thing, The Aviator just gives you everything of the man Howard Hughes. I am shocked at how daring Scorsese’s flight shots and plane crash looks, while his artful direction for Hughes’ dream sequences is startling and hypnotizing. Scorsese’s direction makes you feel like you have OCD, need to wash your hands, and can empathize with an extraordinary man’s chaotic lifestyle.

From brilliant airplane engineer, aeronautics enthusiast, obsessive film director, OCD stricken compulsive, womanizing sleaze producer, charming romantic gentleman, well spoken charismatic orator, millionaire playboy, shrewd businessman, and insane person seeing visions. Scorsese never shies away from Hughes’ eccentricities or strangeness as The Aviator chronicles his life’s achievements and downfalls beautifully. Scorsese’s sterling direction keeps you entertained throughout The Aviator as he is also profoundly honest about who Howard Hughes was as a man.

John Logan’s writing is phenomenal as you effortlessly understand what made Howard Hughes insatiable as an investor, business tycoon, and lover with his manic personality. Logan gets to the heart of Hughes’ OCD through his framing of his mother as an influential force over Hughes’ intolerance of germs in a dirty world. I loved seeing all the Hollywood behind the scenes stuff like Barton Fink from The Coen Brothers or their later picture Hail, Caesar! The Aviator is ahead of its time as I really think audiences should revisit it for further clarity and comprehension over this remarkable man’s life and impact. I mean, we can choose which airline we want to fly because Howard Hughes stood up to congress!

Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a formidable lead performance as the eccentric and erratic Howard Hughes. He takes the time to portray how paranoid Hudges became, how focused he was to his passion projects, how visionary his film and airplane ideas were, and how disturbed his mind devolved into besides the hilarious and sorrowful parts about his germaphobia and OCD. Cate Blanchett is unbelievable as Katharine Hepburn with her loud, fast talking and particular accent of Hepburn’s. She’s very kind, patient, and insistent in her manner that develops into a believable romance with Howard Hughes. Blanchett and DiCaprio have real chemistry together. Likewise, Kate Beckinsale is gorgeous and sympathetic as Ava Gardner in all her glamour and compassion.

John C. Reilly is funny as Hughes’ long suffering financial numbers man Noah Dietrich. Alec Baldwin is fearsome as Pan Am’s ruthless and corrupt CEO Juan Trippe. His tense conversations with Leonardo DiCaprio are fascinating to behold every nuance and double meaning. Alan Alda is a real scumbag as the corrupt Senator Ralph Owen Brewster. Iam Holm is also a riot as Hughes’ weather expert Professor Fitz.

Furthermore, Jude Law cameos as Errol Flynn just long enough to demonstrate what a gross womanizer Flynn was in reality to his dashing heroic swashbuckling film portrayals. Kelli Garner is adorable and devastating as young actress Faith Domergue, who Hughes gets into a pedohilic relationship with when she’s underrage. Willem Dafoe cameos as reporter Roland Sweet in a funny suspenseful scene. I adored Gwen Stefani’s cameo as the lovely platinum blonde actress Jean Harlow. Adam Scott is funny as the persistent and shallow Johnny Meyer and Rufus Wainwright cameos as the Coconut Club’s singer.

Editor Thelma Schoonmaker cuts so sharply and cleverly around Hughes’ mental breakdowns and visionary insights that you always feel in the room with Hughes. 170 minutes passes by very fast when you are happily enjoying a great film and Scorsese gave us quite the picture. I’m glad to better appreciate The Aviator 17 years later now. Cinematographer Robert Richardson shoots modern planes soaring through the air with the same sense of childlike wonder that Hughes felt every time one of his planes took off the ground. I love all these amazing ultra wide shots as much as his creative medium shots of Hughes just ordering people around or talking to himself. You feel like you’re in Howard Hughes’ expansive mind in many shots.

Production designer Dante Ferretti somehow recreates The Golden Age of Hollywood from studios and theaters to other L.A. landmarks. You never doubt you’re looking at old Hollywood areas. Robert Guerra, Claude Paré, Christina Ann Wilson, Luca Tranchino, and Lori Rowbotham’s art direction for The Aviator is incredibly intriguing as colors pop unusually to refer to Hollywood’s classic glamour with an intentional gaudy look.

Francesca Lo Schiavo and William J. Law III’s set decoration captures this sleek roaring 20’s through the 40’s aesthetic with a real fancy flourish to every home. The movie looks like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Crys Forsyth-Smith, Mat Beck, Ron Ames, Robert Stromberg, Julia Frey, Kim Lee, Denise Ballantyne, Louis Morin, Robert Legato, and Pepe Valencia’s visual effects are pretty outstanding for 2004. The plane crash just straight up looks real, while all the ships and planes in the background are believable. The sound design for the crash is terrifying.

Composer Howard Shore leans into the grandiose lifestyle of Howard Hughes with his epic symphonic score. He both harkens back to a nostalgia for Old Hollywood as well as a romantic joy for flying machines like a Hayao Miyazaki anime film. Sandy Powell’s costumes are resplendent as she recreates The Golden Age of Hollywood looks left and right effortlessly. I loved all of Scorsese’s make-up team’s hairstyle choices.

In all, The Aviator remains a classic drama and a fiercely compelling biopic about Howard Hughes that does this interesting man’s distinguished life justice.
2 people found this helpful
Christina ReynoldsReviewed in the United States on April 8, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
A delightful rendering
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𝑫𝒐𝒏'𝒕 𝒕𝒆𝒍𝒍 𝒎𝒆 𝑰 𝒄𝒂𝒏'𝒕 𝒅𝒐 𝒊𝒕.
𝑫𝒐𝒏'𝒕 𝒕𝒆𝒍𝒍 𝒎𝒆 𝒊𝒕 𝒄𝒂𝒏'𝒕 𝒃𝒆 𝒅𝒐𝒏𝒆!!

The Aviator is a 2004 American epic biographical drama film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by John Logan. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn, and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner. The supporting cast features Ian Holm, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law as Errol Flynn, Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow, Kelli Garner as Faith Domergue, Matt Ross, Willem Dafoe, Alan Alda, and Edward Herrmann.
Based on the 1993 non-fiction book Howard Hughes: The Secret Life by Charles Higham, the film depicts the life of Howard Hughes, an aviation pioneer and director of the film Hell's Angels. The film portrays his life from 1927 to 1947 during which time Hughes became a successful film producer and an aviation magnate while simultaneously growing more unstable due to severe obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD).

Itching to put viewers in Hughes’ shoes ( or rather, behind his lens), Scorsese designed each year in ‘The Aviator’ to look the way a colored movie from the featured time periods would appear. This was achieved through digitally enhanced post-production and replicates the appearance of both Cinecolor and two-strip Technicolor. Grainy sepia tones are used for sequences from 1927 to 1930 with bright and vivid colors highlighting the Jazz age of the late thirties and forties. Giving as much attention to detail in the costuming department (which, #funfact, had a budget loan of $2 Million alone), the cinematography and carefully ladled direction serve as adminicles on a quest for authenticity with admiration and equity.

Prior to filming DiCaprio prepared by spending time with the real life Jane Russell (whose first role was in Hughes’ 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑶𝒖𝒕𝒍𝒂𝒘) to hear her memories and to get an impression of Hughes. Awestruck by DiCaprio following this visit - Hughes’ reputation as a reserved but extremely bull-headed man is captured on screen with the longevity of poise and ill-fated intensity. Stealing scenes at times with a desire for credibility in stride, Blanchette's cheerfully stylized performance as Hepburn makes her more than deserving of the Oscar she received for it( which, funny enough, also makes her the first person to win one for playing a real-life Oscar winner). Balancing moments in which Hughes and Hepburn act like oil and water with those in which they seem compatible beyond Compare: a relationship muddled by codependency finds Its way on screen and avoids being an out-of-place contraption.

Ultimately a biopic intended to capture Hughes’ influence on the cinematic and aviation industry - it is a relief to know that these are shown rather accurately. Hell’s Angels (which did really go massively over-budget) stands out as a pioneering effort in the realm of realism and special effects. Much of Hughes involvement as it relates to Aviation is oversimplified, but his achievements (like breaking records) and setbacks (like potentially life-threatening crashes - which he was in a total of four) are given a fair chance to shine. What isn’t addressed as comprehensively is Hughs’ tumultuous relationships and his ongoing struggle with mental illnesses. The tendency for an intimate partners to distance themselves as a result of Hughes’ “quirks” and his obsession with perfection is intermediately dangled, but ‘The Aviator’ omits the fact that he was married twice during the periods covered (amongst other things). In addition to this the origin and development of his OCD is lightly sanitized as being related to his upbringing and there is no mention of factors that now reportedly excavated this condition; in example are the fact that Hughes contracted syphilis and also became addicted to pain medication following a significant injury, but I imagine a story with these elements present would be lacking in sympathy despite being garnished with understanding and bedridden insight.

All things considered: Scorsese's aptitude for treating most easily polarized figures as percontation and not absolutes is here in full display. It is through a substantially collaborative effort that Hughes’ intricacy is feasibly digested, and it is a delightfully rendered reminder that taking the risk of falling with experience is better than not reaching for great heights at all. Far from being the most accurate portrayal of Hughes’ life with the exclusion of many defining facts: ‘The Aviator’ captures the essence of who Hughes was, who Hughes wanted to be, and why his story should matter.
6 people found this helpful
michael b.Reviewed in the United States on October 18, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Really great.
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Stellar in all respects.
Fitzherbert FarnsworthReviewed in the United States on July 6, 2009
3.0 out of 5 stars
Nice Try BUT....
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Several things disturb me about this film. I shall start with this chap DiCaprio. DiCaprio simply looks nothing like Howard. His eyes are quite blue and all the women who fell in love with Howard (which was all of the ones he pursued with the exceptions of Jean Simmons, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford and Ingrid Bergman) commented on his seductive "liquid" deep, sad brown eyes. The director should at least have had the actor wear brown contact lenses. I think this point is important because his Adonis-like appearance wielded considerable influence over both men and women (Both genders fell for him in equal measure). In fact, the director William Desmond Taylor desperately wanted to put Howard in pictures as a leading man, but Howard's interests lay behind the camera instead.
DiCaprio is too young for the gravitas and profundity that was Howard Hughes. Additionally, DiCaprio's portrayal of Howard presents him as brash, gauche and impolite, spouting profanity - the ugly American stereotype, if you will. Howard's mother was an Aristocratic highly refined Victorian lady. Indeed, a true blue blood - one of her relatives was a general in the Civil War, I believe, and she had geneological connections to George Washington etc... She had a prodigious and comprehensive influence on Howard's tastes, values and behaviour. As a result, Howard grew up with the reserve and refinement possessed by men of his class. He was always at pains to be polite and was quiescent and INORDINATELY SHY besides. This is one of the first things about him mentioned by those who knew him. The scene in the picture in the Cocoanut Grove where DiCaprio brazenly invites a cigarette girl up to his hotel room is something Howard would never have done. He would have found it vulgar. Howard was in awe of beautiful women and would always seek out a proper introduction from a third party before approaching a lady he coveted. Even with Faith Domergue: He first met her incidentally when she was accompanying a friend whom Howard was then seeing. He was mesmerized by her and took her for a sailing trip during which he sat on the boat simply staring at her (not speaking) for hours.
Several scenes in the picture show DiCaprio wearing tennis shoes. Now, if the producers had simply bothered to listen to the last interview Howard gave from the Bahamas in 1971, they would have known better: As the well-bred man he was, Howard wore tennis shoes only on the tennis court. During the war, when leather was rationed, shoes were made from non-strategic material which was a sort of canvas. Howard had a pair of these which he liked and wore, but which some newsman termed "tennis shoes," hence this idea that he wore tennis shoes in public was born. He never did. Another inaccuracy: The filmakers show DiCaprio requesting milk as his beverage of choice. While Howard eschewed alcohol, his preferred beverage was usually water or vegetable juice.
Yet another inaccuracy in the picture : Howard attended the opening of "Hell's Angels" not with Jean Harlow as depicted in the picture, but with Billie Dove, arguably the greatest love of his life. There were several instances in the picture where others around him appeared to direct or guide him, in other words they had the upper hand. I feel this doesn't ring true. Howard was nothing if not always in control. This was one of his problems. He simply HAD to have control over people and situations. Because of this and also because of his greater wisdom, discernment, savoir faire and high IQ, everyone looked to him for leadership and guidance, not the other way around.
I felt the extent of DiCaprio's attempts to embody Howard were limited to the constant scowl or frown he maintained resutling in the ubiquitous and deep ridge between his eyebrows. I just felt the actor was attempting a role that proved too much for him. This becomes more obvious when he is in scenes with Alan Alda or Cate Blanchett, much better actors. I felt his job was amaturish and I wish the producers had acquired a more seasoned actor to portray this remarkable man.
However, I will allow that if DiCaprio shines anywhere in this film it is during his portrayal of Howard during the Senate hearings. The moustache helps. The actor obviously assiduously studied the videotapes of the hearings. I also applaud him for simply trying to imitate a man who was inimitable.
And why did the filmakers not portray Howard's trip around the world more fully? This was remarkable and did a tremendous lot to advance the idea that commercial aviation was a plausible idea. He was very proud of this accomplishment.
I was also displeased by the portrayal of Howard's alleged OCD. While it is important to educate people about this condition and find ways to help sufferers, Howard was an extremely private man and would absolutely abhor anyone knowing about his personal problems. We all have problems - but this man was exceptional: exceptionally intelligent, exceptionally kind and generous (despite publicity to the contrary), exceptionally handsome, exceptionally capable, exceptionally strong and brave, exceptionally savvy and discerning, exceptionally obstinate and sedulous, exceptionally wealthy. I feel it is more important and moreover it is what we owe him as custodians of his legacy to publicize his genius and unique gifts which advanced civilization with regards to aeronautics, commercial aviation, filmaking, technology and research. I fear the scenes of his aberrant behavior only served to make him look silly and ridiculous. For years he has been called a "madman" and I am sick of this. HE WAS NEVER "MAD" as we normally use the term. Recall how after a "spell" of aberration, he was able to take on the malfeasance of Senator Brewster and Brewster's attempts to ruin him and in turn ruin Brewster instead! Could a madman have accomplished this??? Indeed, after Howard had vindicated himself in Washington, Brewster was unable to get even a job as a legal clerk!! While I am glad the picture does indeed show Howard's heroic vindication, I am afraid that, because of the sensationalistic nature of the medium and most people's desire to voyeristically observe others they consider "freaks", I fear the "madman" tag will continue to overshadow the absolute and unique brilliance of this man. If you see this picture, please realize that this is Hollywood sensationalism, whatever else it may be. Howard was at once gentle and kind, sensitive and generous - obstinate, determined, wily, rapacious and could be Machiavellian in his attempts to get what he wanted. He had his personal problems, but this is not what is notable about him. Please remember him as he would have wished: As a pioneering aviator, an engineer, inventor,wise, courageous brilliant man who cared about contributing his unique gifts in ways which would advance civilization, which is what he did.
8 people found this helpful
Tammy MeadeReviewed in the United States on November 27, 2022
3.0 out of 5 stars
Good movie if there wasn't so much fowl language in it!
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Foul language made the movie less appealing to me
Sophia RedmilesReviewed in the United States on August 12, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Acting superb.
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Think this is probably one of DiCaprio's very best films. Kate Blanchett was no slouch either. DiCaprio's Howard Hughes character was extremely challenging in portraying his OCD, yet it was so expertly executed that no one could miss it. Kate nailed Hepburn's looks, personality and voice extremely well. A great period film and presentation of Howard Hughes' life his pioneering contributions to aviation.
Stella CarrierReviewed in the United States on May 14, 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars
DiCaprio's Intense Portrayal of Howard Hughes
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I am lucky to have originally watched my first showing of "Aviator" back in 2005 through a movie theater in San Diego California (I use to live in California when I was still in the military). Aviator is a captivating movie that highlights Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as Howard Hughes. The film captures Howard Hughes rise in wealth and fame during his lifetime through his work in aviation and the Hollywood film industry. There are multiple popular celebrities that featured in this film such as: Cate Blanchett, John Reilly,Kate Beckinsale, Alan Alda, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Gwen Stefani, Ian Holm, Danny Huston, and Brent Spiner. I admit that I purchased this dvd due to being a fan of DiCaprio's acting and noticed the great bonuses which include:
Disc One:
Feature commentary by director Martin Scorcese, Editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and Producer Michael Mann, an image of Leonardo DiCaprio pictured with Kate Beckinsale
Disc Two (many multiple features such as):
Deleted Scene: Howard tells Ava about the car accident. A Life Without Limits: The Making Of The Aviator. The Role of Howard Hughes in Aviator history. There is also the image of Leonardo DiCaprio walking through a beach wearing a suit.
Modern Marvel Feature: A History channel documentary on Howard Hughes. A feature titled "The Affliction of Howard Hughes: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD panel discussion with director Martin Scorcese, Leonardo DiCaprio, and feature of widow Terry Moore. An Evening with Leonardo DiCaprio and Alan Alda. The Visual effects of "Aviator" and Constructing the Aviator (the work of Dante Ferretti.
More disco two bonus features: Leonardo DiCaprio pictured with Gwen Stefani (in a scene from the movie) and another image of Kate Beckinsale. Costuming the Aviator: the work of Sandy Powell, and The Age of Glamour: The Hair and Makeup Of the Aviator. Scoring the Aviator: The Work of Howard Shore,The Wainwright Family-Loudon, Rufus, and Martha, The Aviator Soundtrack Spot and Still Gallery featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and many of the other celebrities in Aviator.
7 people found this helpful
TafkaswfReviewed in the United States on April 29, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Very Good Movie, Shows Descent into Mental Illness
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The Aviator is a beautifully filmed, almost epic film about Howard Hughes in the 1930s and 1940s. Lots of plush, opulent scenes and a story line that keeps your interest. Anyone over 50 knows the history, companies, and movie stars this film covers.

It also does a very good job of showing you how Howard Hughes' mental illness gradually increased. The Aviator makes you pivot between feeling sorry for Howard Hughes and wondering how anyone could put up with him. People treated him poorly (the Katherine Hepburn family was despicable!) and he was difficult too.

I didn't give this movie five stars because it simply went on too long (almost 3 hours), because some of the actor portrayals weren't believable, and because some scenes just weren't plausible. Leonard DiCaprio just didn't look like Howard Hughes. Alec Baldwin as the Pan Am CEO was just too pretty. Congressional Committee Chairmen don't let witnesses at a Congressional hearing hijack the hearing (they especially don't let the witness start questioning them instead!).

This movie also implies Howard Hughes' mother caused his mental illness, and that's just not believable either. The more you watch The Aviator, the more you suspect Howard Hughes' mental illness was organic. And his mother just aggravated whatever he was born with.

But this is still a four star movie, and any five star rating isn't unreasonable. The Aviator makes you want to see the next film showing Howard Hughes in the second half of his life. Because The Aviator does a very good job with the first half.
8 people found this helpful
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