It’s time to take to the skies for some daring fighter pilot action! Filming effective aerial action, more so than on land and sea, faces a host of unique challenges. From the early days of choreographing fighter planes to the more modern decisions about CGI and how best to employ it, staging a compelling battle in the wild blue yonder that an audience can actually track is an impressive cinematic achievement. So here are our picks for the Top 10 Aerial Dog Fights in the history of film.
From Cinema’s earliest days and even it’s very first Academy Awards, films like Wings, Aces High and The Blue Max helped define the cinematic language of the aerial dogfight. World War I and World War II eras brought some new technology to bear on the cinematic sky skuffle and established choreography that’s still used today, see also Christopher Nolan and Dunkirk, where his need to put Tom Hardy in a mask was outweighed only by the challenge of how to mount an IMAX camera on a plane from the 1940s. From Pearl Harbor (not the Michael Bay one) to the Korean War on through to the cold war made famous by Top Gun in the 1980s and into the science fiction fueled space skies of Rogue One and the rest of the Star Wars galaxy far, far away, aerial battles continue to evolve on the big screen.
This Movie List was written by Billy Jackson and Edited by Justin Donaldson.
10 – World War I – Wings (1927) dir. William A. Wellman, Harry d’Abbadi d’Arrast
9 – World War 2 (European Theater) – The Battle of Britain (1969) dir. Guy Hamilton
8 – World War 2 (Pacific Theater) – Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) dir. Richard Fleischer, Kinji Fukasaku, Toshio Masuda
7 – International Film – Dark Blue World (2001) dir. Jan Svěrák
6 – Air to Ground – The Bridges at Toko Ri (1954) dir. Mark Robson
5 – Cold War Era – Top Gun (1986) dir. Tony Scott
4 – Animated – Area 88: Act III (1986) dir. Toriumi Hisayuki
3 – Helicopter Fights – Blue Thunder (1983) dir. John Badham
2 – Modern Era – Top Gun: Maverick (2022) dir. Joseph Kosinski
1 – The Future… err A Long Time Ago… err Science Fiction – Rogue One (2016) dir. (Gareth Edwards)
For more tangentially related CineFix – IGN Movies and TV, be sure to subscribe AND check these out!
Mad Max: Fury Road, Lord of the Rings and 5 Brilliant Moments of Action – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3_d5Y0Gr3c&t=21s
The Matrix, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and the Top 10 Movie Shootouts of All Time – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIJ3NKHfi4U&t=2s
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Bruce Lee and the Top 10 Movie Fight Scenes of All Time – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_nML1CNDDA
Mission: Impossible, Goldeneye and the Top 10 Stunts of All Time – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVm1qoGWGxk
Ghostbusters, The Goonies and the Top 10 Movie Teams of All Time – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ6xdI19jmM