The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)
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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 ... 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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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 »

Did You Know?


William Shatner played an elaborate prank on set when he conspired with a friend who was visiting the filming, 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. When Donner ran back in the studio to see what was happening the two men chased each other around the back of the set and wound up atop the plane wing, some 30 feet above the studio's concrete floor. Donner saw a body falling off the wing and Byrnes yelling in terror. Donner said when he ran to the fallen, motionless figure, thinking it was 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. Everyone on set at the time was in on the joke. See more »


While the creature is tearing into the engine closest to the window, the lightning effect shows the leather soles of stuntman Nick Cravat's shoes. See more »


[last lines]
Narrator: [Closing Narration] The flight of Mr. Robert Wilson has ended now, a flight not only from point A to point B, but also from the fear of recurring mental breakdown. Mr. Wilson has that fear no longer, though, for the moment, he is, as he has said, alone in this assurance. Happily, his conviction will not remain isolated too much longer, for happily, tangible manifestation is very often left as evidence of trespass, even from so intangible a quarter as The Twilight Zone.
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Referenced in It's Garry Shandling's Show.: Vegas: Part 1 (1989) 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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