The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)
26 user 7 critic

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet 

A man, newly recovered from a nervous breakdown, becomes convinced that a monster only he sees is damaging the plane he's flying in.


Richard Donner


Richard Matheson, Rod Serling (created by)




Episode complete credited cast:
William Shatner ... Bob Wilson
Christine White ... Julia Wilson
Ed Kemmer ... Flight Engineer (as Edward Kemmer)
Asa Maynor ... Stewardess


Bob Wilson is on a flight when he sees a creature of some sort out on the wing of the aircraft. He's only recently recovered from a nervous breakdown and isn't sure that what he is seeing is real. Every time someone else looks out the window, the creature hides from view. When the creature begins to tamper with one of the engines he begs his wife to tell the pilots to keep an eye on the engines. If they see nothing, he agrees to commit himself to an asylum when they arrive at their destination. His paranoia drives him to a desperate act. Written by garykmcd

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Did You Know?


This episode was one of four to be remade for Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). The relevant segment was directed by George Miller. In the movie, John Lithgow played the William Shatner role. Shatner and Lithgow appeared together in the Third Rock from the Sun episode 3rd Rock from the Sun: Dick's Big Giant Headache: Part 1 (1999), where both characters insist they have been on an airplane that a gremlin tried to crash. See more »


Rain water can be seen trickling strait down Bob's window, indicating that the "plane" is not moving. In flight the rain water would be blown straight back. At the speed these old planes flew, you would only see tiny trickles of water, even in very heavy rainstorms. See more »


Narrator: [opening Narration] Portrait of a frightened man: Mr. Robert Wilson, thirty-seven, husband, father, and salesman on sick leave. Mr. Wilson has just been discharged from a sanitarium where he spent the last six months recovering from a nervous breakdown, the onset of which took place on an evening not dissimilar to this one, on an airliner very much like the one in which Mr. Wilson is about to be flown home - the difference being that, on that evening half a year ago, Mr. Wilson's flight was ...
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Referenced in Tales from the Cryptkeeper: Transylvania Express (1994) See more »

User Reviews

A Coup for Shatner
30 September 2008 | by HitchcocSee all my reviews

This is part of Americana. That gremlin on the wing. William Shatner, the only one who can see it. He's suffered a breakdown and is on another plane with his cute wife. She manages to keep her calm for quite a while as he fidgets and twists in his seat. Obviously this episode is way before airline regulations. It wouldn't be hard for some nut case to do just about anything on an airplane. Shatner is pretty good. He is trying so hard to act normally, but the spirits are out to get him. It's a rainy night an he sees that furry thing on the wing, tearing up one of the engines. Things move along quite nicely where he gets so frustrated that he utters the words, "Even if we crash." But he will not be dissuaded. He manages to be a hero, even though no one may know it. This said, the one thing that I can't forgive is the monster. He is about as idiotic looking as one can imagine. He is obviously wearing some kind of pajamas with those feet that girls wore when I was in college. His face is more interesting, but that doesn't help much. I know I am nit picking but it has always bothered me. Match this up with John Lithgow's more frenetic performance in Twilight Zone; The Movie. That creature was a bit more threatening.

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Release Date:

11 October 1963 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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