The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)
21 user 5 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)

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Episode complete credited cast:
William Shatner ... Bob Wilson
Christine White Christine White ... Julia Wilson
Ed Kemmer 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 him 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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Release Date:

11 October 1963 (USA) 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 »

Did You Know?


Richard Matheson originally wanted Patricia Breslin to play Bob Wilson's wife, because she had played the wife of another William Shatner character very well in The Twilight Zone: Nick of Time (1960), a story also written by Matheson. See more »


Even in 1963 the airlines would not let someone afraid to fly sit at the emergency exit. See more »


Bob Wilson: There's a man out there.
See more »


Featured in Pioneers of Television: Science Fiction (2011) See more »

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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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