Film: The Aviator

The Aviator is a 2004 biopic about Howard Hughes, a 20th century industrialist, film producer/director... and, well, aviator. Martin Scorsese directed it, and Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the titular character; the film also features Cate Blanchett (in her Academy Award winning role), Kate Beckinsale, and a bunch of really famous people playing other famous people.

The story, which takes place smack in the middle of The Golden Age of Hollywood, documents the production of 1930's Hell's Angels, Hughes's relationship with Katharine Hepburn, and his ever-worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder. It won five out of eleven Oscar nominations, including Best Supporting Actress.


  • Affably Evil: Juan Trippe. In spades.
  • American Accents: Leonardo DiCaprio uses a Texas accent while Cate Blanchett does Katharine Hepburn's iconic New England or "Bryn Mawr" accent. Kate Beckinsale also puts on a generic American accent.
  • Author Appeal: Scorsese himself has been known to spend days holed up in his bedroom watching the same film over and over, though he doesn't take it to quite the extremes seen here.
  • Badass Mustache: Errol Flynn (naturally), Johnny Meyer, and later Howard.
  • Berserk Button: Don't ever call the Hercules the Spruce Goose to Howard's face. He won't like it.
  • Buxom Is Better: This is Howard's argument to the MPAA when they object to the prevalence of "mammaries" in his film The Outlaw.
    Glenn Odekirk: Howard, you really think they're gonna let you put out a whole movie just about tits?
    Howard Hughes: Sure. Who doesn't like tits?
  • Camera Fiend: "I need two more cameras by Saturday! Rent them if you can, steal them if you have to."
    • Kate's ex-husband.
  • Chiaroscuro: The screening room.
  • Color Wash: Every scene is supposed to look similar to color film from that year/era.
  • The Consigliere: Odie and Noah Dietrich are - or at least try to be - this for Howard.
  • Cool Plane: One would hope...
  • Courtroom Antic: Howard gets pretty belligerent in the Senate hearing, producing a lot of Disregard That Statements.
    • Also a case of Truth in Television- the Senate scene was actually heavily based off of, sometimes word for word, the actual footage of Hughes during the hearing, who indeed did eventually start interrogating the senator.
  • Dawson Casting: Gwen Stefani plays Jean Harlow, who was 19 at the time the film shows her (she never even lived to be 34, Gwen's age during filming).
  • Drink Order: "Milk, in the bottle, with the cap still on."
  • Downer Ending: The film ends with Hughes relapsing into his madness.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Kate Beckinsale gained a whopping 20 pounds to play Ava Gardner.
  • Ejection Seat: Averted when the XF-11 crashes.
  • Fake Nationality: Australian Cate Blanchett as American Katharine Hepburn, English Jude Law as Tasmanian Errol Flynn, English Kate Beckinsale as American Ava Gardner, English Ian Holm as ambiguously Western European Professor Fritz...
  • Fiery Redhead: Katharine Hepburn.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Howard and Kate can't end up together. Nor can he with any of his love interests in the film. His further descent into madness is also this.
  • Friendly Enemy: Subverted. Juan Trippe and Howard are certainly civil to each other, but you can sense Juan's superior attitude when it comes to Howard. And Howard barely manages to mask his contempt for Juan
  • Get A Load Of That Square: "I don't think I've ever met someone who actually uses the word 'golly.'" See also Gosh Dang It to Heck!.
  • Girl of the Week: Katharine is not pleased about Howard's collection of these.
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: Martha Wainwright's brief appearance at the Coconut Grove. Rufus is also quite glamorous, but he technically doesn't sing during the war.
  • Hollywood Healing: Almost averted: after the plane crash, Howard does develop scars all over his torso, but his face stays in pretty good shape considering the huge fireball that exploded toward it earlier. It helps that he partially hides the scarring with a mustache.
    • The real-life Hughes did in fact start sporting that mustache after the crash to hide a scar on his lip.
  • Hope Spot: After successfully standing up to Congress and getting the Hercules to fly, it seems like Hughes has finally overcome his mental instability. However, at the end of the film he relapses into his madness.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Howard: '''Hey Odie! Take it easy!" (after telling him to fire a janitor because he was staring at him)
  • Jar Potty: Part of Howard's first major breakdown.
  • Kill It with Fire: Howard does this to all his clothes after Katharine leaves him, presumably to get rid of her germs.
  • Kinda Busy Here: Howard says this on the phone during an argument with Katharine.
  • Madness Mantra: One of the symptoms of Howard's OCD.
  • Mangst: Practically Howard Hughes's middle name, especially as he tries to combat the symptoms of his obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Man on Fire: when the XF-11 crashes.
  • Married to the Job: The reason Katharine Hepburn dumps Howard.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: We get to see Howard's mother plant the seeds of germophobia in his mind when he's a kid.
  • The Missus and the Ex: Howard goes to dinner at Katharine's parents' house; her ex-husband is inexplicably hanging out with her family. You can guess how that turns out.
  • Name's the Same/Similarly Named Works: This film has no connection with the 1985 Christopher Reeve film also titled The Aviator.
  • Neat Freak: Oh boy.
  • No Ending: As men in black suits start walking towards him (or at least he thinks they're walking towards him) he starts saying "The way of the future" repeatedly. Brief flashback, then he says "the way of the future" a few more times. Roll credits.
  • Playing Gertrude: Leo, playing a late-thirties Howard Hughes.
  • Practical Voice Over:many scenes are narrated by news reports coming through a radio somewhere.
  • Precision F-Strike: Alec Baldwin's last line.
  • Pretty in Mink: Given all the old hollywood movie stars in this film, many mink coats and fox wraps are worn.
  • The Professor: Howard thinks Professor Fritz should be like this, introducting him as a "mathematician" and expecting him to be able to improvise some legitimate-sounding BS despite being a meteorologist.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Howard thinks Katharine's family is this trope. Viewers might consider Howard to embody it as well.
  • Romance on the Set: This film depicts Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy hooking up on a movie set while she's still in a relationship with Howard; in reality, she and Howard had already broken up. See also Rule of Drama.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: This is pretty much Howard's approach to every endeavor. "I've got a tiger by the tail here and I'm not about to let go!" That or...
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: the only reason he's able to say "Screw the Money!" is because he has so damn much.
  • Sleazy Politician: Senator Brewster operates in the interest of Pan-Am so that he can be a committee chairman.
  • Smug Snake: By the time Senator Brewster is deliberately arranging a hotel room to set off Hughes' OCD, you'll hate him just as much as Hughes.
  • Super OCD: This is Howard's biggest obstacle, but the film also implies that the manic attention to detail made him a famous billionaire. Knowing his planes down to the last bolt, being able to figure out the math of a corporate takeover in minutes, keeping meticulous records to use during his Senate testimony; it may not have helped his social life, but it did make him a financial success.
  • Tabloid Melodrama: Averted when Howard bribes a paparazzo not to publish photos of Katharine Hepburn and the married Spencer Tracy cavorting on a boat.
  • Tickertape Parade: Howard Hughes gets a tickertape parade after his around-the-world flight.
  • Title Drop: Done by Hughes in the immediate aftermath of the XF-11 crash. Also demonstrates what he considered important at the moment.
    Hughs: I'm Howard Hughes... The aviator.
  • Tomboy: Katharine Hepburn plays golf and wears slacks. See also Wholesome Crossdresser.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Howard Hughes has severe OCD, a very poor sense of financial responsibility, is an utter control freak, and looks like Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • Troubled Production: In-universe with the long, long production of Hell's Angels.
  • Verbal Tic: "Show me all the blueprints." "Come in with the milk." "The way of the future."
  • Yandere: Faith Domergue.