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The Aviator (2004)

PG-13  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  25 December 2004 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 241,590 users   Metascore: 77/100
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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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Cast overview, first billed only:


The script begins as a young Hughes directs one of Scorsese's favorite films, Hell's Angels. Hughes was so obsessed with perfection in the aerial sequences that he waits forever for perfect conditions, right down to cloud formations. The Aviator ends in 1946, when Hughes was still a dashing young man and romancing actresses like Ava Gardner and Katharine Hepburn. Written by Ryan McIntosh <>

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  »

Filming Locations:


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?


Two scenes were filmed aboard the retired ocean liner RMS Queen Mary, permanently berthed in Long Beach, CA, to take advantage of the vessel's still-extant 1930s Artdeco interiors. The "Hell's Angels" wrap party was filmed in the ship's Observation Bar. The scene introducing the H-4 Hercules ("Spruce Goose") scale model to the military was shot in the former First Class main lounge, now called the "Royal Salon." The real "Spruce Goose" was on display in a domed hangar adjacent to the Queen Mary from 1980-1992. See more »


In a newsreel account, Howard Hughes himself says that the H-1's top speed was "approximately 370 miles an hour", and that the engine failed when the plane was "20 feet above the ground". In the movie, the H-1's top speed is 352 MPH, and the engine fails in mid-air. 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

There are two different Panavision credits used: the "Filmed with Panavision Cameras and Lenses" credit, and after that, the "Filmed in Panavision" credit, despite being shot in Super 35. See more »


References Scarface (1932) See more »


I'll Be Seeing You
Music by Sammy Fain
Lyrics by Irving Kahal
Performed by Martha Wainwright
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

An Interesting Muddle
22 January 2005 | by (New Jersey, USA) – See all my reviews

"The Aviator"--a biopic of Howard Hughes-- is clearly one of Scorsese's lesser works. Still, a lesser work from Scorsese is far superior to the greatest work of your average director. Here's the rundown:

The first quarter of the film is a total triumph, showing the young Hughes' bold endeavors in film when he produced what was at the time the most expensive and lavish film ever made. Scorsese tipping his hat to old Hollywood is the most fun he has had since "Goodfellas." The costumes, set designs, and pacing of this portion of the film are stunning and suck the viewer in.

The rest of the film, despite Scorsese's amazing and vivid attention to detail, is a muddled mess, giving us glimpses into Hughes' obsessive (and compulsive) ways, his womanizing, his ambitious foray into aviation and the early days of commercial flight, his fight against Congress at the end of WWII, and the notorious plight and ultimately single flight of his infamous "Spruce Goose." It's all semi-educational and semi-entertaining, but in the end I think the complicated life of Hughes remains a mystery.

As for the performances, they are amazing (thanks in most part to Scorsese, the ultimate actor's director). Leonardo Dicaprio in the title role gives yet another performance that goes against my natural loathing of him, and although he seems a bit too boyish playing Hughes in the latter years (and the film really suffers for it), he's impeccable for the better part of the film. Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn is simply stunning and steals every moment she is on screen. Her look, her mannerisms, and her speech perfectly match the screen legend to a haunting degree. Alan Alda and Alec Baldwin in supporting quasi-villain roles are methodically perfect. And the nicest surprise was Kate Beckinsale, a normally flaccid actress, playing Ava Gardner. She came across as gorgeous, intelligent, and maximized her minimal screen time without ever overtly stealing her scenes. Like Sharon Stone in "Casino" and Cameron Diaz in "Gangs of New York" Scorsese once again coaxes a great performance out of an otherwise unremarkable pretty face.

In the end, "The Aviator" flies high thanks to Scorsese and the acting, even if the real person it depicts remains lost in a muddle of half truths and speculation.

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