Airplane! – Surely the most jokes ever?

Known for its surreal humour, puns and slapstick comedy, Airplane! is a 1980 screwball comedy film parodying the Disaster movie genre (and in particular the films Zero Hour! and Airport 1975).

When the passengers and crew of a jet are go down with a bout of food poisoning, an alcoholic pilot has to work with his ex-girlfriend  to bring the plane to a safe landing. Directed and written by David and Jerry Zucker, it stars Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty and features a breakthrough performance from Leslie Nielsen. 

There are many questions that have puzzled man through history. Why are we here? Does God Exist? Is there life on other planets? Why did they change Marathon to Snickers? Katie Hopkins – simply, why, why, why? Now, however, Graeme Mason will attempt to answer a similarly big question: just how many jokes are there in Airplane!? Well lets count them and find out!

1. This film doesn’t waste any time! The opening sequence is a parody of Jaws with the famous music playing over several aircraft fins poking through the clouds.

2. Tannoy announcers begin to argue – “Listen Penny, don’t start off with your white zone shit again.”

3. “Hello. We’d like to give you this flower from the Church of Religious Consciousness. Would you like to make a donation?” to Hare Krishnas. “We gave at the office.”

4. X-ray machine shows someone’s lungs.

5. Metal objects in tray – man puts in a fake arm and leg.

6. Tannoy announcers still arguing: “You know perfectly well what we’re talking about. You want me to have an abortion.” as Stryker leaps out of his Taxi as an old guy is getting in.

7. That church again. Guy grabs hold of Ted Stryker’s jacket to put the flower on, which he shrugs off.

8. Plane guider chap is guiding an aircraft when he points directions to someone with his lights…

9. Stryker to camera: “What a pisser.”

10. Magazine rack: Fiction. Non-fiction. Whacking material.


11. Captain Oveur picks up and reads Modern Sperm magazine.

12. Tannoy announcement for him to pick up The White phone. No, the white phone!

13. “I’ve got it!”

14. Doctor at heart clinic has a beating heart in a tray on his desk.

15. It starts bouncing around!

16. “Get me Ham on five. Hold the mayo-r.”

17. Stryker punches Church guy.

18. Window cleaner on the cockpit window.

19. He opens the hood of the plane and checks the oil.

20. Falls off trying to shut it.

21. Captain Oveur uses his credit card with a guy outside the cockpit window.

22. Man still waiting in Taxi for Stryker.

23. The smoking ticket.

24. Jive talking, fortunately with subtitles!

25. “wacky” warning translations: no smoking – el no a you smoko and fasten seat belts – putana da seatbeltz

26. “Nervous?” “Yes.” “First time?” “No, I’ve been nervous lots of times.”

27. Lovers on the tarmac with a train guard: “Better get aboard, son.”

28. She runs through crowds as if he’s on a train.

29. Ah. The first “Roger” joke….


30. Then the first “Oveur” one…


31. “Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?”

32. Nun reading “Boy’s Life” magazine/boy reading “Nun’s Life”

33. Some light reading – Famous Jewish Sports Legends.

34. Old lady chats to Stryker about Elaine: “Such firm, supple breasts. It’s a shame you two don’t get along.”

35. Flashback sequence. In the bar, two girl guides start a fight.

36.They all start dancing to the Bee Gees!

37. “Pinch me!”

38. Stabbed guy starts a new dance.

39. Stryker throws his hat away, it comes back and hits barman.

40. Stryker throws his jacket away, adopts Night fever pose. Jacket comes back at him.

41. Elaine thrown in the air. For a long time.

42. She spins Stryker around. He flips over, more Night Fever boogieing and silly Russian dancing.

43. …and juggling.

44. Girl guide slung out.

45. Old Woman next to Stryker has hung herself.

46. More jive talk.

47. Posh scary children drinking coffee. “Cream?” “No, I prefer it black. Like my men.”

48. Ted and Elaine covered in seaweed whilst snogging on the beach.

49. “Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?”


50. “Joey, did you ever hang round the gymnasium?”


51.Joey identifies actor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (playing co-pilot Roger Murdoch) as a basketball star.

52. “My dad says you don’t work hard enough on defence.”

53. Kareem blows his cover.

54. “Joey, do you like movies about Gladiators?”

55. Elaine remembers how she used to sit on Ted’s face.

56. Sign: US Army Hospital. Pentathol available. Takes all major credit cards.

57. Doctor has STP symbol on his back.

58. “You got a telegram from Headquarters today.” “Headquarters? What is it?” “A big building with generals in it.”

59. Ted painting a ridiculous war picture.

60. “Because of my mistake, six men died on that mission.” “Seven. Lieutenant Zip died this morning.”

61. Guy is posing for the ridiculous picture.

62. “That Lieutenant Horowitz. Severe shell shock. Thinks he’s Ethel Merman.”

63. It IS Ethel Merman!

64. “Jim never has a second cup of coffee at home.”

65. Stewardess hits everyone on the head with the guitar.

66. Guy hanging upside down listening to song.

67. Everyone happy – aaaaaaah…

68. …except the little girl who has had her drip knocked out by the stewardess playing the guitar.

69. She puts it back in only for it to get knocked out again.

70. Ted Stryker sitting next to a Japanese general (James Hong).

71. Another flashback, this time in the jungle. Chief holds out his hands, so Stryker slaps them. Chief punches him.

72. Elaine holds tupperware party in middle of an African village.

73. Stryker “teaches” the villagers basketball . They seem quite good at it already.

74. “I think they’re getting the hang of it.”

75. At last! Stryker’s drinking problem starts. First up, gatorade, all over his face!

76. Japanese General commits hari-kiri.


77. “I haven’t felt this awful since we saw that Ronald Reagan film.”

78. “Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”

79. “Urk. I shouldn’t have had that second cup of coffee.” (throws up)

80. “Jim never vomits at home.”

81. Leslie Nielsen is a doctor. Which is why he’s wearing a stethoscope.

82. He holds out his hand and someone puts a surgical implement in it.

83. Woman brings up an egg. Then another…

84. Doctor smashes it and a chick flies out.

85. “A hospital? What is it?” “It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.”

86. “Captain, how soon can we land?” “I can’t tell.” “You can tell me. I’m a doctor.”

87. “Can’t you take a guess?” “Well, not for another two hours.” “You can’t take a guess for another two hours?”

88. Turbulence. Guy gets dinner in his face.

89. Roger is hauled unconscious from controls. He has basketball shorts on.

90. “I haven’t seen anything like this since that Anita Bryant concert.”

91. “We had a choice. Steak or fish.” “Ah yes I remember. I had lasagne.”

92. Elaine drags unconscious Victor through the cabin and the other stewardess drags Roger.

93. “We both had fish”

94. Captain gets the symptoms as Doctor Rumack lists them including dribbling and flatulence.

95. Jelly, and then boobs wobbling as the plane plummets.

96. Bad time to apply lipstick.

97. Rows 13-51 – no sex

98. The inflatable auto pilot springs up.

99. Lloyds Bridges – at last! “Do you understand?”

100. Stan and Terry joined at the hip.

101. “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking.”

102. Camp guy (Johnny). “How about Mr.Rogers?”

103. Auto Pilot deflates…

104. The doctor is performing a delicate examination…

105. Elaine “blows” the auto pilot back up…


106. Doctor sees this and walks out, embarrassed…

107. Auto pilot has a happy face

108. Then they’re both smoking.

109. “Elaine, is there anyone on board you know that can fly this plane?” Cut to Stryker throwing a glass of water all over himself. “No, no-one I know of.”

110. “Someone who can fly this plane. And DIDN’T have fish for dinner.” Cue lightning.

111. Stewardess drags captain through cabin.

112. “There’s no reason to be alarmed and we hope you enjoy the rest of your flight. Oh, by the way, is there anybody on board who knows how to fly a plane?”

113. Passengers go mental. Includes gratuitous flash of boobies.

114. And a sword fight.

115. And the nun and hare krishna trying to strangle each other.

116. Kramer’s dog Shep attacks airline employee at his house.

117. Kramer (Robert Stack) steps through a “mirror” with the dog mauling continuing in the background.

118. A chap from India is the latest suicide victim (this time dousing himself with gasoline) brought on by Stryker’s flashbacks.

119. “There’s a problem in the cockpit.” “The cockpit? What is it?” “It’s the little room at the front of the plane where the pilots sit.”

120. Indian guy blows out flame as Stryker leaves for the cockpit. It doesn’t save him though…


122. “It’s an entirely different kind of flying. Altogether.”

123. The dials and buttons that go on and on…

124. Guy still waiting in Stryker’s taxi. Meter now reads $11,330!

125. Lloyd Bridges barking orders…to his wife…”and no cheese!”

126. He adopts same pose as picture of himself on the wall behind him.

127. “Keep them at 24 thousand. No, feet.”

128. Kramer runs over a cyclist.

129. Native indians behind Kramer’s car.

130. “Speed 520 knots. Mixture, wash, soap, spin.”

131. “Mr.Stryker is the only hope we’ve got.” Cue more lightning and Jesus figurine on dash covers it’s eyes.

132. “This must turn on the landing lights.” Plane lurches forward.

133. Morning warning sign translation hilarity. This time, Return to seat: Gobacken Sidonna

134. “Mayday? What the hell is that?” “Well that’s the Russian new year…”


135. “Get a hold yourself!” “Stewardess, let me handle this. GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF!”

136. “I’ll take care of this!” Doctor slaps woman.

137. Then the Nun has a go, followed by Hare Krishna, a boxer and a tooled-up jive-talker. And Mata Hari.

138. Kramer assaults all the religious people and do-gooders in the airport.

139. Passengers on the baggage claim.

140. “He’s a menace to himself and everything else in the air. Yes, birds too.”

141. Kramer takes off his sunglasses. He has another pair on underneath.

142. Spear thuds into wall behind Kramer.

143. “You’ll have to talk him right down to the ground!” Water Melon falls and smashes behind McCroskey and Kramer.

144. McCroskey: “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.”

145. Kramer accidentally keeps his finger on the intercom whilst saying “it’s a waste of time they’ve got no chance”

146. Kramer throws cigarette out of the window with explosive results.

147. Unlocking the auto-pilot (he floats off)

148. Plane jolts again, with the woman applying lipstick now looking like a clown.

149. Auto-pilot grabs hold of Elaine from behind and puts his hand on her breasts. The horny devil.

150. “There’s no reason to panic.” Why the long nose, then?

151. “The captain is ill. Slightly ill.” The nose gets longer…

152. “Keep an eye on that number 3 engine gauge. It’s running a little hot.” Gauge flashes “A little hot”

153. Kramer’s “pep” talk. Vulture sits behind Stryker.

154. It’s raining. The Jesus figurine on the dash is holding a little cocktail umbrella.

155. Elaine repeats Stryker saying “It’s a damn good thing he doesn’t know how much I hate his guts” to Kramer over the radio.

156. More Jive. Fortunately, an old lady is on hand to translate this time.

157. “This? Well it could be a hat. Or a brooch. Or a Pterodactyl-”

158. Captain Oveur’s wife is in bed with a horse when the airport calls. “You can let yourself out.”

159. “I’ve got to concentrate. Hello? Echo?”

160. Turning up the air.

161. Checking the radar which is a chicken in a microwave.


162. Lots of instruments in the cockpit: oboe, trumpet, saxophone…

163. “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines.”

164. “Johnny, how ’bout some more coffee?” “No thanks”

165. “Oh it’s a big pretty white plane with red stripes and curtains in the windows and wheels…”

166. The press get some pictures (the ones on the wall)

167. The National Enquirer front page (after all the others have been about the plane): “Boy trapped in Refrigerator eats own foot.”

168. Television news report via drum.

169. “Counter point” view. Let ’em crash!

170. “Like a little whisky ma’am?” “Certainly not!” (snorts cocaine)

171. “Stop calling me Shirley!”

172. Nun singing Respect to Jivers.

172. “At least I have a husband.”

173. Stryker’s war flashbacks get a little, erm, weird.

174. Shit hits the fan.

175. “It could happen to any pilot.” “It happened to Barbara Stanwyck.”

176. “…and Leon’s getting laaaarger.”

177. Stryker’s drinking problem again.

178. “I guess the foot’s on the other hand now, isn’t it Kramer?”

179. “There’s a sale at Penneys!”


181. More Johnny: “The Tower? The Tower? Rapunzel!”

182. TV screen on the plane showing a flaming plane crash. “Try not to worry.”

183. The captains are introduced by the ref.

184. “Get that finger out of your ear! You don’t know where that finger’s been!”

185. Just like Gerald Ford…”

186. Camp guy (Johnny) consoles Captain Oveur’s wife: “Where did you get that dress, it’s awful…and those shoes…”

187. Two of the Air traffic controllers are playing what looks like Basketball on an Atari 2600 where the radar screen should be. One of them reads out the score and time remaining as a heading to the plane.


188. All the lights poured onto the field (lorry empties table-lamps etc)

189. Emergency vehicles includes a Budweiser truck.

190. …and a cement mixer.

191. Air Israel plane has a massive scarf and beard over the front.

192. Stewardess demonstrates life jacket. When she pulls the cord it turns into a duck.

193. “Disco lives forever!” or rather until Airplane knocks the radio mast over.

194. “You might get hurt in here Sweetheart” – she leaves and falls over.

195. “Captain, maybe we’d better turn the searchlights on now?” Kramer: “No…that’s just what they’d be expecting us to do…”

196. Mrs Oveur fondles Kramer.

197. Dalmatian on the firetruck.

198. “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”

199. McCroskey collapses.

200. McCroskey sits up, looking really spaced out and collapses again.

201. Weird crash positions.

202. McCroskey upside down, still glue sniffing.

203. Johnny pulls out the power cable. “Just kidding”

204. McCroskey: “”He’s comin’ right at us!” (jumps out of the tower)

205. Stick goes out of control.

206. Stryker pulls the brake handle…right out…

207. Doctor pokes his heads round the door to wish good luck…again.

208. Stryker gets very sweaty…jeez this is a long runway.

209. Airport announcer: “Flight 209 now arriving at gate 8…gate 9..gate 10…”

210. Stryker covered in sweat.


211. Gate 13…gate 14…gate 15….

212. Lots of screaming…but the plane stops eventually.

213. Press men bundle over the phone booths.

214. “I just want to tell you both…good luck.” AGAIN!

215. Stewardess wishing “a nice day” to passengers going down the emergency slide and thanking them for flying with them.

216. Kramer pours his heart out to…no-one.

217. The ambulance into which the heart transplant girl was put drives off screen and crashes. Harsh! Cue rolling hubcap.

218. Elaine and Ted kiss and get a wave from the co-pilot…who then takes off!

219. Female inflatable co-pilot appears next to him. He winks, the old dog.

220. The end. With literal and metaphorical fireworks.

221. ..introducing Otto as himself (the autopilot)

222. As usual with Zucker films, there are a couple of gags in the credits. There is a person “generally in charge of a lot of things” and Charles Dickens is credited as the author of A Tale of Two Cities (huh?),

And finally, perhaps the best and very last…


223. Old Guy in taxi: “Well, I’ll give him another 20 minutes. But that’s it.”

Airplane! has a run time is 86 minutes. That’s 2.6 jokes per minute, surely the best gag-per-minute ratio of any film. Unless you know better!



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