main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Film: The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)

"I told you there would be no difficulty in building this aeroplane. I also told you it would require an outstanding pilot to fly it. The only thing outstanding about you, Mr. Towns, is your stupidity."
Heinrich Dorfmann

The Flight of the Phoenix is a 1965 The Film of the Book about the crew and passengers of a downed plane in the Sahara desert who, once realizing that rescue is not coming, attempt to build a smaller airplane out of the remaining parts of their aircraft.

The film was quite popular, garnering Academy Award nominations for best supporting actor (Ian Bannen) and film editing.

Another version of the book was released in 2004.

Tropes in this 1965 film include:

  • The Alcoholic: Lew is the co-pilot, and has a drink while they are in the air. Later Capt. Towns accuses him of being drunk the night before the flight and skipping the preliminary checklist - which is why they didn't have a working radio.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Subverted in that Dorfmann says he wasn't involved in the war and no one has a problem with that. He does get called a Nazi once in the film, though.
  • And Starring: Includes several levels of this. The opening credits begin as follows: "An Associates and Aldrich Company Production starring / James Stewart / Richard Attenborough / Peter Finch / Hardy Kruger / Ernest Borgnine as Trucker Cobb / in The Flight of the Phoenix". But Borgnine's credit is just the beginning - they continue with "Co-starring Ian Bannen / Ronald Fraser / Christian Marquand / Dan Duryea as Standish". And they're still not done, moving on to "Also starring George Kennedy / Gabriele Tinti / Alex Montoya". And that's still not the end, as they continue with "Featuring Peter Bravos / William Aldrich / and Barrie Chase as Farida". Worth noting, perhaps, that Bravos and Aldrich die in the crash immediately after the opening credits, and Chase only appears in a flashback/hallucination.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: Subverted - the nomads prove to be hostile.
  • Belly Dancer: Sgt. Watson hallucinates about one he saw once.
  • But I Read A Book About It: Dorfmann says he has experience building and designing aircraft. He later reveals he works with model aircraft, but it turns out the principles are much the same, just on a smaller scale.
  • California Doubling: Filmed in California and Nevada, representing the Sahara.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Trucker Cobb.
  • Conflict Ball: As in the page quote, Dorfmann just starts telling Captain Towns that he's stupid for no obvious reason.
  • Covers Always Lie: Don't knock it, this really is an awesome movie... just not quite as action-packed as the above poster implies.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ratbags Crow (and how!). He also doubles as a Violent Glaswegian.
    • Although Crow is a pretty unsympathetic character (less so than Watson, maybe), it should be noted that unlike some of them, Crow worked very hard during the ordeal and never could be accused of cowardice. Or bringing any detriment to the group.
    • Dorfmann also definitely counts:
    Towns: I said, are you trying to be funny?
    Dorfmann: That is precisely the reaction I would have expected from a man of your obvious limitations.
  • Dirty Coward: Sgt. Watson fakes a leg injury to get out of going with Capt. Harris on his attempt to walk to civilisation; Carlos, his replacement, does not survive the expedition. When Harris returns, dehydrated and half-dead, Watson is the first to find him but decides not to tell anyone (Dorfmann, the second person to discover Harris, is not as discreet). Finally, he bluntly refuses to join Harris in trying to make contact with the nomads; neither Harris nor Renaud, Watson's replacement, survive the encounter. Watson, meanwhile, does survive the film.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Trucker Cobb.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Dorfmann has a chance to boast when his insistence that a full-size plane and a model are built with the same proportions, and will therefore have the same result during flight.
  • Fanservice Extra: The above belly dancing trope. The hallucination is the only woman in the entire movie, and was advertised on the poster despite her one-minute scene.
  • Floating Head Syndrome: The DVD release cover.
  • Germanic Efficiency / Science-Related Memetic Disorder: Dorfmann
  • The Great Repair: The main plot.
  • Idiot Ball: Captain Towns and Lew, being pilots and all, shouldn't have been so shocked that the principles of flying model aircraft and full size aircraft are the same - but the tension needed to be there.
  • Jerkass: Quite a few have their moments, but Ratbags Crow stands out as the biggest.
  • Laughing Mad: Lew has a fit of this when he realizes that Dorfmann has no "real airplane" building experience.
  • Mauve Shirt: Gabriel, the injured worker, and Trucker Cobb.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: The DVD cover.
  • One Bullet Left: In both versions of The Flight of the Phoenix, they have 5 cartridges to start the rebuilt plane's engine - the first three times it stalls, the fourth cartridge is expended to clean out the cylinders, and the last one works perfectly.
  • Only Sane Man: Lew in his best moments, negotiates the conflicting egos of Towns and Dorfmann.
  • The Phoenix: The rescue plane is built from the parts of the original.
  • Playing Sick: Sgt. Watson feigns a leg injury to get out of accompanying Capt. Harris on his attempt to walk to civilisation; Harris takes Carlos instead. Unfortunately for Watson, he gives himself away when, on discovering that Cobb has gone after Harris, he runs to inform the other passengers.
  • Red Shirt: The unfortunate saps that get crushed by heavy equipment during the plane crash and Carlos, the guy who gives George Kennedy his monkey in case he doesn't make it back.
  • The Resenter: Sgt. Watson has a long-standing grudge against officers that finally blows up when he outright refuses to obey Captain Harris' orders.
  • Survivor Guilt: Capt. Towns has this when he loses two people and one is gravely injured in the crash.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!Films of the 1960sFrankenstein Conquers The World

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy