Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Planes-trains-automobiles-web 7101.jpg
You're messing with the wrong guy!!
Neal Page

Uptight advertising executive Neal Page just wants to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, every mode of transportation somehow fails him and he is stuck with Del Griffith, a traveling shower curtain ring salesman who won't shut up. Through delayed planes, broken down trains and burned out automobiles Neal and Del go from at each other's throats to friends.

The film is probably best known for the sole scene responsible for its R rating; in which Neal, after being abandoned in a rental car parking lot where the car he rented isn't there, is forced to walk three miles back to the airport, whereupon he goes on a tirade against the rental agent. But it is not so much said tirade, as the rental agent's response to it. Roger Ebert probably puts it best:


"The other great comic set piece in the movie is responsible for its R rating; nothing else in the movie would qualify for other than PG-13. This is Neal's verbal symphony for the f-word, performed by the desperate man after a rental-car bus strands him three miles from the terminal without a car. He has to walk back through the snow and mud, crossing runways, falling down embankments, until he finally faces a chirpy rental agent (Edie McClurg) who is chatting on the phone about the need for tiny marshmallows in the ambrosia. When she sweetly asks Neal if he is disturbed, he unleashes a speech in which the adjectival form of the f-word supplies the prelude to every noun, including itself, and is additionally used as punctuation. When he finishes, the clerk has a two-word answer that supplies one of the great moments in movie dialogue."


This film featured John Candy and Steve Martin in one of the best comedy performances of the 1980s. The film was directed by John Hughes, best known for teen angst films until that time.

Tropes used in Planes, Trains and Automobiles include:
  • The Alleged Car: After being sideswiped by two semi-trucks simultaneously and set on fire, it still ran.

State Trooper: Do you have any idea how fast you were going?
Del: Funny enough, I was just talking to my friend about that. Our speedometer has melted and as a result it's very hard to see with any degree of accuracy exactly how fast we were going.

    • And the radio somehow still worked as well. Practically nothing else on the dashboard survived, but the radio? No problem.
  • Amoral Attorney: The lawyer at the start.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: The sole reason for Neal's rant. Hughes deliberately wanted the movie to be rated "R", because he felt that if it was rated lower, people would think he was just cranking out another teen angst film.
  • Book Ends: Neal's boss mulling over the pictures.
  • Brick Joke: Three of them -- two with short air times, and one that had been hanging for about an hour -- come together to great effect: A hotel clerk swaps their credit cards, Neal puts his wallet in a rental car's glove compartment asking Del to remind him to remove it, and Del flicks a cigarette out the window only for it to bounce back in unnoticed. Del reveals he had the credit card and returned it to Neal's wallet -- just as the car catches fire incinerating the wallet.
  • California Doubling: Averted. The film was shot on location in New York, Wichita, St. Louis and Chicago.
  • The Cameo: Two from other John Hughes movies; Kevin Bacon competes with Neal for a car, and then Ben Stein announces that all flights have been cancelled...and smiles.
  • Car Meets Hotel: They back their burned out car into the motel room wall, then quickly flee.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Averted, sort of: At the beginning of the film, Kevin Bacon has a Cameo as another commuter who races Neal for a NYC taxicab. Later, there's a scene where Neal's wife is watching television; while you can't see the screen, the audio is of Kevin Bacon in a scene from another John Hughes film, She's Having a Baby.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Neal's rant.
  • Follow the Leader: Due Date, depressingly.
    • Same with Dutch, another movie about a pair of dissimilar people from different class backgrounds struggling to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving... And also written by John Hughes.
  • Groin Attack: "I've never seen a man picked up by his testicles before..."
  • If I Wanted X, I Would Y
  • It Got Worse: After Neal misses his cab at the start everything goes downhill.
  • Karma Houdini: The thief who steals Neal and Del's cash never appears again.
  • Newspaper-Thin Disguise: Used by Del in the airport.
  • Nice Hat: Neil, until he goes ballistic over his rental car not being there. Del has one, too.
  • Psycho Strings: "Hey, Neal, take my socks out of the sink if you're going to brush your teeth."
  • Odd Couple
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Edie McClurg. See Cluster F-Bomb.
    • And Kevin Bacon.
    • And Michael McKean.
      • In fact almost the entire cast could count as this as only Steve Martin and John Candy are in more than at most three scenes.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Neil gives a very harsh one to Del during their first night together.
  • Road Movie
  • A Simple Plan: For God's sake, Neal just wants to get home for Thanksgiving.
  • Someone's Touching My Butt: "Those aren't pillows!
  • Stepford Smiler: Del is revealed to be one of these.
  • The Stinger
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: A rare in-media example! The first time we hear this song is when Neal's luck reaches an all-time low once he misses the fucking ride back to the fucking rental car headquarters and is fucking forced to walk down the fucking highway and across a fucking runway, and again, during the first part of the closing credits, after "Every Time You Go Away."
  • Talking to the Dead
  • Technology Marches On: If mobile phones were as common back when this movie was made like they are today, this would have been a very short movie.
    • And funny enough, there is a cellular phone ad at the L-Train stop at the end of the film. Also worth noting Due Date borrows quite heavily from this film, and that's from 2010.
    • Neal may have been able to contact his wife but he would still have had the inability to get home in time for Thanksgiving; which was his biggest worry throughout the film. A phone wouldn't have made the planes run on time or stopped his car from catching fire.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork
  • Thanksgiving Day Story: The main premise of the story is Neal trying to get home for the Thanksgiving holiday.
  • There Is Only One Bed
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Neal and Del gradually evolve from Type 1 (Del likes Neal, Neal detests Del) to Type 2 as Neal warms to Del and undergoes Character Development.
  • Wild Take
  • The Windy City