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The Aviator (2004)

PG-13 | | Biography, Drama | 25 December 2004 (USA)
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A biopic depicting the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes' career from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s.



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Won 5 Oscars. Another 74 wins & 115 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:


Biopic of billionaire Howard Hughes, starting with his early filmmaking years as owner of RKO studios but mostly focusing on his role in designing and promoting new aircraft. Hughes was a risk-taker spending several fortunes on designing experimental aircraft and eventually founding TWA as a rival to Pan AM airlines owned by his great rival Juan Trippe. When Trippe's politico Senator Ralph Owen Brewster accuses Hughes of being a war profiteer, it's Hughes who gains the upper hand. Hughes also had many women in his life including a long relationship with actress Katharine Hepburn. From an early age however, Hughes was also germophobic and would have severe bouts of mental illness. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Imagine a life without limits. See more »


Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, nudity, language and a crash sequence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

| |  »




Release Date:

25 December 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El aviador  »

Box Office


$110,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$858,021 (USA) (17 December 2004)


$102,608,827 (USA) (27 May 2005)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Cate Blanchett had three different red-hair wigs for this film. See more »


The posters outside the viewing room where Howard locks himself change when he leaves. Before he leaves, the Scarface poster is on the left and the Hell's Angels poster is on the right, but by the time he's gone they have switched. See more »


[first lines]
Allene Hughes: Q-u-a-r-a-n-t-i-n-e.
Young Howard Hughes: Quarantine. Q-u-a-r-a-n-t-i-n-e. Quarantine.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The Warner Brothers logo is the classic shield version, and is shown in 2-color Technicolor, rendered as a static painted card instead of the modern 3D animated sequence. See more »


Featured in Siskel & Ebert: The Best of 2004 (2005) See more »


St. Louis Blues
Music and Lyrics by W.C. Handy
Performed by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra
Courtesy of The RCA Records Label, a unit of BMG
Under License from BMG Film & Television Music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Falling Short of Greatness...Again
21 December 2004 | by (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

Scorsese has such an encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of cinema that every shot, however inventive and daring, is effortlessly composed. The direction, editing and cinematography are all the first-rate work by individuals who are clearly masters of their profession and the production design, costumes and makeup are the best you'll see all year. Their efforts combine to create a world of rich and lavish color, of excitement and glamour. Who wouldn't want to visit THIS Cotton Club in 1935? It's hard to imagine who could trump the technical team for Oscars this year.

With such a perfectly realized world in which to perform, the actors universally do an outstanding job. Despite the criticism of the hardcore DiCaprio-haters, the unprejudiced will observe an excellent performance that takes genuine risks and convincingly conveys the passing of more than twenty years. Importantly, DiCaprio more than holds his own when paired with Cate Blanchett and especially Alan Alda, who both give equally note worthy performances. Blanchett's interpretation of Katherine Hepburn seems spot on, and anyone familiar with the late actresses mannerisms will appreciate the hard work that clearly went into the recreation. Alda, one of the most consistently underrated actors around, delivers another masterclass in restrained character building as he oozes ambition and political dishonesty from every pore.

And yet, despite the obvious talent of all those involved and Scorsese's ability to effortlessly fill three hours, something about The Aviator fails to completely satisfy. Without wanting to sound like a film student, movies should, ultimately, be ABOUT something; love, honor, courage, redemption, the BIG ideas and themes that are the fuel of the plot. What was the drive of The Aviator? A rich guy recklessly spends lots of money to indulge his personal obsessions and gets away with it. We're never told how his experiences change him, and without change there's no journey. Considering the screenplay was written by John Logan, who usually displays a keen interest in showing the emotional evolution of his characters, the oversight is inexplicable. Ultimately then, much like Gangs of New York, The Aviator is simply the sum of it's parts, and however brilliantly those parts are realized, there doesn't seem to be a bigger theme to underpin and drive them.

The Aviator is a perfectly realized recreation of the era and one well worth experiencing. But the lack of a real emotional journey suggests 'all gloss and no substance', and ultimately prevents the movie from being truly great.

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