A 1989 Steven Spielberg film starring Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Brad Johnson, and (in her final film appearance) Audrey Hepburn.Somewhere in the mountain wilds, a crew of aerial firefighters battle forest fires from their World War II-era planes, dropping water and flame retardant on the blazes below. The best out of all of them is Pete Sandich...until one day he gets a little too close and his fuel tank catches fire, causing his plane to explode in midair. Afterwards he finds himself in a burned out forest where a woman named Hap is waiting for him in a patch of new growth. Hap explains that he was killed in the explosion, and sends his spirit back to guide the next young pilot, Ted Baker, who also is putting the moves on Pete's girlfriend, Dorinda. And Pete finds that he is still in love with her.The film is a remake of a 1943 film called A Guy Named Joe, which had the ghost of an expert pilot inspiring a young trainee during WWII.
This film contains examples of:
- Ace Pilot: Naturally quite a few among the aerial firefighters, but Pete stands head and shoulders above the rest, with Ted eventually rising to a similar stature.
- Belly-Scraping Flight: Frequently considering how close they need to get to accurately drop retardant on the forest fires.
- Dead Person Conversation: Pete does this several times, most notably at the end when he finally tells Dorinda he loves her, and releases her.
- Heroic Fire Rescue: The flying kind.
- I See Dead People: The crazy guy at the abandoned airstrip where Ted takes shelter seems to be able to hear Pete. Pete tries to use him to send Ted a message to stay away from Dorinda, but the guy only gets about half of it, so instead of staying away, Ted thinks he's being told to go after her.
- Improbable Piloting Skills: Diving headlong into a blazing forest, with the tips of trees brushing your belly, and coming out in one piece. And Al describes just what they're up against:Al: In a real fire, there's heat! There's heat that can suck you under, flip you over! There's currents that can tie a knot in a windsock!
- Love Triangle: One in which the hypotenuse is already dead but he can't let go of his feelings, and as long as he can't, Dorinda can't either so she can move onto a new life with Ted.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Al when he realises his engine is on fire.
- Pete shortly thereafter when he realizes his fuel tank is on fire.
- Al again when Ted's plane is bearing right down to drop the fire retardant right on him!
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Pete appears just as he did in life, except no one can see or hear him. His purpose is to help Ted become the fire aviator he is meant to be, and put his unresolved emotional issues with Dorinda to rest.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Al gives one to his class after watching them drop too soon, or too late, or right on top of him. He tries to drive home just how hostile a forest fire is to airplanes and how they'll need to be able to hit much better than a small target fire on a clear day come fire season.
- Retirony: Pete has decided to accept the position as commander of the fire school in Flat Rock, when a call comes in about a big burn and a shortage of pilots. He goes out, but makes a risky maneuver to save Al, and winds up blowing his plane up.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Dorinda when she wears "girl clothes".
- Spirit Advisor: Hap explains that this is how it's done, the ones who have learned the skills are sent back to help those who are learning find their place, and sends Pete to be Ted's advisor. Pete finds that, while no one can see or hear him, they do seem to pick up on the things he says and does which influences their thoughts. Initially, Pete thinks it's a game and spends as much time trolling people as helping Ted.
- Tempting Fate: In the beginning as Pete has lost one engine due to low fuel, he radios that his other engine is good just before it clunks out as well.
- Woman in White: Hap appears in a completely white suit.