The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)
28 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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Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


William Shatner played an elaborate prank on set when he conspired with a friend who was visiting the filming, actor Edd Byrnes, to trick director Richard Donner into thinking Shatner died. Between takes, and when Donner was off set getting coffee, Shatner and Byrnes staged a fake fight on the set, which was suspended some 30 feet above a giant, empty tank. When Donner ran back in the studio to see what was happening the two men chased each other around the back of the airplane set and wound up atop the plane wing. Donner saw a body falling off the wing and Byrnes yelling in terror as it impacted the concrete floor. Donner said when he ran to the fallen, motionless figure, thinking it was a dead or grievously injured William Shatner, he was greeted with laughter the moment he realized it was just an articulated human dummy the two men had found in another part of the studio and threw off the wing. Donner later joked, "Honestly, my first reaction was, 'Don't tell me I have to shoot the whole show over again.'" See more »


Even if Wilson had been able to aim the revolver directly at the gremlin as depicted, the relative wind blasting past an aircraft flying 300 to 400 knots would have diverted the paths of the bullets rearward, well behind the body of the gremlin. See more »


Bob Wilson: There's a man out there.
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Twilight Zone Theme
(theme song)
Composed by Marius Constant
(seasons 2-5)
See more »

User Reviews

A TV Classic. One of the best Twilight Zone episodes.
22 March 2007 | by blanbrnSee all my reviews

"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" directed by Richard Donner one of his first works, is just wonderful it features William Shattner as a panic stricken man on an airplane. This episode is wonderfully done, and well remembered for one of the Twilight Zone's best and is well known over the years in pop culture memory. The plot has the Shattner character as a man that's just recently gotten out of rehab, because he had suffered a mental and nervous breakdown, and getting on a plane will almost certain test his limits. In fact his last breakdown was due to a flight. And boy does his imagination take a turn for the worst when he sees outside on the wing of the plane a furry like creature! This creature stares him in the face! The big question is it really real, or just a test of imagination, because he's the only one to see it. Really a well done episode mostly remembered for Shattner and the terror on a plane with a creature on the wing, this episode just plays with your mind and imagination so well.

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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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