Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a 1987 American comedy film written, produced and directed by John Hughes. The film stars Steve Martin as Neal Page, a high-strung marketing executive, who meets Del Griffith, played by John Candy, an eternally optimistic, overly talkative, and clumsy shower curtain ring salesman who seems to live in a world governed by a different set of rules. They share a three-day odyssey of misadventures trying to get Neal home to Chicago from New York City in time for Thanksgiving dinner with his family.
Neal Page is trying to return to his family for Thanksgiving in Chicago after being on a business trip in New York City. Del Griffith, a traveling salesman, interferes by leaving his trunk by the side of the road causing Neal to trip while racing a man for a cab, then inadvertently snatching the taxi ride that Neal bought from an attorney. The two meet again on the flight from JFK Airport to O'Hare; the plane is diverted to Wichita due to a blizzard in Chicago. What should have been a 1-hour and 45-minute New York-to-Chicago flight turns into a three-day ordeal, in which everything that can go wrong does.
The pair resort to various means to try and reach Chicago, but all are defeated either by bad luck or Del's incompetence. Forced to share a room in a shabby budget motel on the first night, Neal loses his temper with Del and insults him. In response, Del admits that he regards Neal as an impatient and selfish cynic and says that despite how Neal feels, he likes himself and is liked by others because he is not afraid to be the way he is. Neal calms down and the two men go to sleep. During the night their cash is stolen by a burglar.
The following day they attempt to reach Chicago by train. However, the locomotive breaks down, leaving the passengers stranded in a Missouri field. After reaching Jefferson City, Del sells his remaining shower curtain rings to buy bus tickets, but neglects to tell Neal that they are only valid to St. Louis. Upon arrival, Neal again offends Del over lunch and the two part ways. Neal attempts to rent a car, but finds the rented car's space at the distant rental lot empty. After walking through the cold to the airport terminal, Neal vents his anger at the rental agent to no avail. In desperation, he attempts to hail a taxi to Chicago, but insults the dispatcher and they have a physical altercation. Del arrives in time to rescue Neal with his own rental car. While driving, the pair find themselves arguing again; the situation is made worse when Del nearly gets them killed after spinning the car, driving in the wrong direction in freeway lanes, and scraping between two semi-trailer trucks. While they take a moment to recover by the side of the road, Del's carelessly discarded cigarette sets fire to the rental car. Del reveals he used Neal's credit card to rent the car after they were accidentally switched on the first night.
With his credit cards destroyed in the car fire, Neal sells his designer watch to pay for a motel room for himself; Del is broke and attempts to sleep in the car. Neal eventually feels pity for Del and invites him in from the cold and snowy night. Neal relaxes as the two consume Del's collection of airline liquors and laugh about the events of the past two days. The pair resume driving to Chicago the next morning, but their badly damaged car is impounded by the police. They finally make it to Chicago, two days late, in the back of a refrigerated truck.
The two men part ways at the LaSalle/Van Buren CTA station. While riding the train, Neal pieces together some of the things Del said about his wife during the journey and suspects that Del may be alone for the holiday. He returns to the station, sees Del sitting by himself and asks why he has not gone home. Del reveals that he does not have a home; his wife died eight years earlier. Neal returns home to his family and introduces them to Del, whom he has invited to Thanksgiving.
- Steve Martin as Neal Page, a high strung, stubborn marketing executive who is just trying to home in time for Thanksgiving
- John Candy as Del Griffith, an overly-talkative, optimistic, friendly, clumsy shower curtain ring traveling salesman who helps Neal get him home.
- Laila Robins as Susan Page
- Michael McKean as State trooper
- Kevin Bacon as Taxi racer
- Dylan Baker as Owen
- Olivia Burnette as Marti Page
- Larry Hankin as Doobie
- Richard Herd as Walt
- Matthew Lawrence as Neal Page, Jr.
- Edie McClurg as St. Louis car rental agent
- Bill Erwin as Man on plane
- Ben Stein as Wichita airport representative
- Diana Dill as Peg
- Lyman Ward (uncredited) as John
- William Windom (uncredited) as Bryant
The film marked a widely noticed change in the repertoire of John Hughes. It was greeted with critical acclaim upon release, a revelation in that Hughes was considered a teen angst filmmaker. It also got two thumbs up from Siskel & Ebert, with Siskel declaring it John Candy's best role to date.
The film was a financial success, grossing over $49.5Â million domestically on a production budget of almost $30 million. It has 94% positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and is featured in Roger Ebert's Great Movies collection. Ebert said the movie was "... perfectly cast and soundly constructed, ..."
Casey Burchby of DVD Talk said, "John Hughes, like a lot of other filmmakers who specialized in comedy during the 1980s, knew how to explore a varied range of tones in crafting a full-bodied movie that went well beyond the one-note comedies that are par for the course. Hughes took comedy subgenre such as the teen film, the buddy movie, the family comedy, and the road film, and boosted these flattened-out, clichÃ©-bound stories with robust characters capable of generating believably absurd cinematic situations. Planes, Trains & Automobiles displays Hughes' powers at their height, as well as Steve Martin and John Candy in two of their very best roles."
While some reviewers were critical of the gushy tones and silliness seen in the movie, which affected the ability to convey emotional range, most applauded the humor itself. Leonard Maltin called the movie a "bittersweet farce," adding that Hughes "refuses to make either one (Martin or Candy) a caricatureâ"which keeps this amiable film teetering between slapstick shenanigans and compassionate comedy." Maltin added that the movie was "hurt by an awful music score."
The soundtrack to Planes, Trains & Automobiles features a mix of rock and roll, country and pop. The frenetic musical score by Ira Newborn makes extensive use of the folk song "Red River Valley", including a rock and roll version of the song "Red River Rock", performed by British group Silicon Teens. Among other tracks is a cover version of "Back in Baby's Arms". The song, popularized by Patsy Cline, is performed by Emmylou Harris. Another popular song used in the movie is "Mess Around" written by Ahmet Ertegun and performed by Ray Charles.
The soundtrack album was released in 1987, but has since gone out of print. It is currently available for download on iTunes. or is available on Spotify.
- "I Can Take Anything" ("Love Theme from Planes, Trains and Automobiles") (David Steele, Andy Cox and John Hughes) â" 3:46
- Performed by ETA featuring Steve Martin and John Candy
- "BA-NA-NA-BAM-BOO" (Elizabeth Westwood, Nick Burton & Robert Andrews) â" 2:58
- Performed by Westworld
- "I'll Show You Something Special" (Desmond Morris, Mark Morriss and Steve Brown) â" 3:28
- Performed by Balaam and the Angel
- "Modigliani" ("Lost in Your Eyes") (Susan Ottaviano, Jade Lee and Theodore Ottaviano) â" 3:53
- Performed by Book of Love
- "Power to Believe" (Nick Laird-Clowes and Gilbert Gabriel)* â" 5:13
- Performed by The Dream Academy
- "Six Days on the Road" (Earl Green and Carl Montgomery) â" 3:06
- Performed by Steve Earle & The Dukes
- "Gonna Move" (Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe) â" 3:32
- Performed by Dave Edmunds
- "Back in Baby's Arms" (Bobby Montgomery) â" 2:02
- Performed by Emmylou Harris
- "Red River Rock" (Tom King, Ira Mack and Fred Mendelsohn) â" 3:26
- Performed by Silicon Teens
- "Wheels" (Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons) â" 3:08
- Performed by Stars of Heaven
- The album features the full vocal version of the song. The instrumental version actually used in the film was eventually released in 2014 on the Dream Academy compilation album The Morning Lasted All Day: A Retrospective.
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles at the Internet Movie Database
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles at the TCM Movie Database
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles at AllMovie
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles at Box Office Mojo
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles at Rotten Tomatoes
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles at Metacritic