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Film / Air Force One

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And he wants you off his plane.

"Harrison Ford is the President of the United States."

Air Force One is a 1997 film directed by Wolfgang Petersen and starring Harrison Ford.

The United States has just deposed Ivan Radek, the dictator of Kazakhstan. US President James Marshall (Ford) is returning to the United States on the titular aircraft after a conference in Moscow. Little does he know that Radek loyalists have snuck on the plane by disguising themselves as journalists. Shortly after takeoff, the terrorists hijack the plane with the goal of securing Radek's release. Unfortunately for them, Marshall has no intention of surrendering to the hijackers.

The cast includes Glenn Close as Vice President Kathryn Bennett, Wendy Crewson as First Lady Grace Marshall, Liesel Matthews as First Daughter Alice Marshall, Gary Oldman as Egor Korshunov and Jürgen Prochnow as General Ivan Radek.

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    Tropes A-M 
  • Action Politician: After the titular aircraft gets taken over by terrorists, President Marshall, a combat veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, forgoes a chance to escape in order to personally fight back.
  • Action Survivor: Downplayed as she only has one instance of it, but Grace Marshall isn't completely helpless in the climax. It takes some big balls to twist around and push a SIG Sauer P226 pistol away from your own head. Nonetheless, she isn't a combatant like her husband.
  • Actor IS the Title Character: Harrison Ford is the President of the United States, it's the Tag Line and the first thing you see on the poster, above the title.
  • Alliterative Name:
    • Deputy Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell.
    • Boris Bazylev, the terrorist played by Andrew Divoff.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: After the plane is hijacked, the President gets his hands on a mobile phone and uses it to call the White House. After telling the receptionist who he is, she responds with, "And I'm the First Lady".
  • And Starring: "And Glenn Close".
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Petrov and his colleagues after Radek dies.
  • Anti-Villain: Korshunov admits he is a monster by even his own standards, but that his own life and morality are nothing in comparison to his ideals. Becomes a Discussed Trope when Alice tells him that her father is a great man and Korshunov is nothing like him. Korshunov points out that just because her father kills people in a suit with a smart bomb, it doesn't make him less of a murderer than he is.
  • Armed Altruism: When James Marshall frees the staff from a locked room aboard the airplane, the first thing he does is give his gun to the Secret Service man, which makes tremendous sense, regardless of his President Action abilities.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • From Korshunov:
      "When you talk to the President, you might remind him that I am holding his wife, his daughter, his chief of staff, his national security adviser, his classified papers - and his baseball glove!"
    • In response to the last one, a member of the cabinet grumbles, "Dammit! Nobody does this to the United States! The president will get his glove back and play catch with this guy's balls!"
  • Artistic License – Law: The Vice President refuses to invoke the 25th Amendment despite the rest of the Cabinet urging her to do so, as the President is very clearly compromised and unable to properly execute the duties of his office. The issue is that the Vice President then acts as the Commander in Chief anyway, giving orders to military assets, which is illegal as she insisted that the President was still in command.
    • In addition, invoking the 25th Amendment is played as though it means the Vice President will become President automatically. In reality, the Vice President becomes Acting-President unless and until the President is either confirmed dead (in which the Vice President does become President) or declares that he is fit to serve, making the transfer of power temporary in all but the worst situations. The Vice President's reluctance to invoke the Amendment is therefore a highly principled gaffe, and would looked upon poorly by Congress after the situation is resolved.
    • If she refused to invoke the 25th Amendment, then her role as Vice President has no military standing whatsoever. The Vice President is not in the military chain of command, and can't order a service member to so much as sharpen a pencil. In actuality, during such a situation the Secretary of Defense would give orders to the military until such time as the President returns or the Vice President assumes the Presidency.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • When Major Caldwell claims he can't fly a plane, he is obviously lying because his uniform has Command Wings. To rate those wings, Caldwell would have had to be a military pilot for 15 years and logged at least 3,000 flight hours. Even if he wasn't rated for a multi-engine aircraft like AF1, he would have definitely been more qualified to fly the aircraft than Marshall, whose experience is limited to helicopters and small single-engine aircraft from a period dating to the Vietnam War.
    • Members of the Russian Army are prohibited from wearing beards, and only salute with a hand when wearing hats. Radek is a rogue general, though, and presumably the regular rules of the Russian military don't apply to him or his men.
    • On International flights, the pilots of Air Force One wear civilian clothing, not military or pilot uniforms.
    • The F-15s launched from Ramstein, Germany have "EG" tail markings, which means they are from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Aircraft assigned to Ramstein have tail markings "RS." Also, Ramstein does not have fighter aircraft. The nearest US fighter bases in Europe are in Spangdahlem, Germany; Aviano, Italy; or Incirlik, Turkey. Ramstein AB is also referred to as "Ramstein Air Force Base; only installations within the United States are designated Air Force Base.
    • On the canopy of the F-15 whose pilot informs the President of the damage to Air Force One, his rank is shown as "LTC", an Army abbreviation for the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. As the Air Force were the only branch of the armed forces to use F-15s, it should read "Lt Col".
    • The Secret Service agents would likely have used SIG-Sauer P228 or P229 pistols instead of the P226 used throughout the film.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Air Force One crashing into the sea should have resulted in the fuselage shattering upon impact.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Glenn Close as the Vice President.
    • Harrison Ford as the President. Kinda goes without saying.
  • Beard of Evil: Korshunov, like many other villains portrayed by Gary Oldman.
    • General Radek has one too.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Alice complained that James didn't take her to see the refugee camp, expressing her desire to see some real gritty shit up close...
  • Big Bad: Egor Korshunov, as he masterminded the Air Force One hijack to have his idol Radek released from prison.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • The escorting F-15 fighters, which returned after being called off earlier just in time to save Air Force One from being shot down by MiG-29s.
      "Haha! Good guys are here!"
    • Especially Halo Two, who "took a bullet" for the President.
  • Big Good: James Marshall.
  • Big "NO!": The co-pilot of Air Force One does this as his Last Words when Korshunov tries to force him to take the plane back into the air. That earns him a bullet.
  • Bilingual Bonus: If you speak Russian (or are one), you are guaranteed to have a few snickers from the rather trippy Russian spoken in the movie. Not to mention the colorful Russian expletives...
  • Bittersweet Ending: President Marshall and his entire family are safe, and everyone rejoices when the nightmare is over, but dozens of innocent lives were lost, and the US government is certainly going to have its hands full trying to figure out how one of its own agents was able to engineer the entire crisis; that's to say nothing of Kazakhstan, where there's sure to be major repercussions in response to what the loyalists of the former dictatorship had tried to pull. MiGs firing on Air Force One is an outright act of war (attempted assassination of a head of state of another nation is not something undertaken lightly, or out of revenge, for precisely this reason), and needless to say Kazakhstan's troubles aren't over.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: President Marshall proves to be far more formidable then the Secret Service agents assigned to guard him. After the terrorists quickly slaughter his guards, Marshall almost singlehandedly kills them all.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal
    Marshall: I trusted you with my life!
    Gibbs: So will the next president!
  • Bond One-Liner: A case of one being delivered by the villain. After executing National Security Adviser Doherty Korshunov tells the Vice President;
    Korshunov: Your national security advisor has just been executed. He's a very good negotiator. He bought you another half-hour.
  • Boom, Headshot!:
    • Gibbs kills two of his own agents this way when he catches them unawares, but he wisely uses body shots on the third who had time to react and started moving.
    • Korshunov executes Doherty this way.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Not only are these guys bullying the greatest world superpower, Marshall is clearly a dragon himself. It doesn't end well for them.
  • Cassandra Truth: President Marshall calls the White House on a satellite phone and says he's the President of the United States with predictable results. Fortunately for him, one of those predictable results is the security procedure that everyone who calls the White House has a phone trace run on them - which leads to considerable surprise when they realize that it actually is the President calling.
  • The Cavalry: Obviously, President Harrison Ford is the Cavalry for much of the movie, not to mention the half-dozen USAF F-15s that come burning in, splashing two MiGs immediately. The second gets just enough time for the pilot to have an Oh, Crap! moment.
    Halo Lead: Four more bandits, heading zero-nine-zero, Engage!
    • The soldiers on the ground at Ramstein AB as well, though they couldn't get to the plane in time. The terrorists know this, remarking that they'd be no match for them.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: During his fight with Krasin, Marshall hits him with a stool.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The satellite cellphone.
    • During Marshall's fight with Boris, one of them smashes a refrigerator door and damages a carton of milk. The carton of milk gives Marshall the idea for forcing the plane to land by initiating a fuel dump.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Marshall's ability to speak Russian. It's also mentioned at one point in the movie that he fought in The Vietnam War as a pilot.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Goddamn" also gets used a lot.
  • Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing: President Marshall tries to stall Korshunov as he cuts his hands free using a shard from a broken drinking glass.
  • Covert Emergency Call: The President is already in the process of calling the White House when he is captured. With the phone in his pocket, he tells his captor that the plane would automatically dodge any incoming missiles - which the Vice President correctly identifies as "an order from your Commander-in-Chief" to fire at the plane.
  • Cut the Juice: One of the paratroopers who raids General Radek's mansion in the opening cuts the power by pulling a switch.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Korshunov, sometimes.
    Korshunov: This is the person who controls Air Force One. The world's most... secure aircraft.
  • Defiant Captive: National Security Advisor Jack Doherty refuses to take any shit from Korshunov after being taken captive and informs him that their plan is going to blow up in their face. Korshunov later executes him to prove he means business.
  • Defiant to the End: Both pilots refuse to take Air Force One back into the air even at gunpoint and are killed.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: Korshunov shoves this in Alice's face when she implies he kills without remorse.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Die Hard On A Plane; in this case Air Force One, and the President Of The United States as the McClane instead of one of the hostages.
  • Dirty Coward: Gibbs blows his cover when it's only him, Marshall and Caldwell left on the plane and only one can be saved.
  • Disney Villain Death: Suffered both by the bad guys and good guys when the hostages are caught jumping off the plane. Played with when Korshunov, whose neck gets broken, floats safely thanks to his parachute.
  • Disposable Pilot: The pilots are executed by the terrorists early on for refusing to cooperate.
  • Don't Celebrate Just Yet:
    • The bad guys are dead, the plane has been secured, and the evil General has been killed before he could return to power. A flight of MiGs has launched from one of the bases loyal to the bad guys, and proceeds to intercept and attack Air Force One.
    • Evidently, nobody told the Kazakh pilot not to celebrate his victory while the battle still rages, especially when outnumbered 2 to 1. One of the American pilots gets in a Pre-Mortem One-Liner as he lines up on the enemy's six and swats him.
      Halo Lead: Not so fast, you son of a bitch!
  • Dragon Ascendant: From a story standpoint Egor Korshunov is this. His boss, General Radek, being in prison elevates Korshunov functionally to the level of an "acting main villain."
  • Dragon Their Feet: At the end of the film, the terrorists have been dispatched and a mid-air zipline transfer is about to take the remaining passengers to the rescue plane, Liberty 2-4. However, the traitor Agent Gibbs pulls a gun and demands that he be rescued over Major Caldwell and President Marshall.
  • Dramatic Irony: Audiences can find out early on who The Mole is, if they pay attention. It takes The Hero and his men until the final 10 minutes to figure it out, and people die during The Reveal.
  • Eagleland: Type 1 flavor. The US President is adored in Moscow, appoints himself a one-man crusader against terrorism, and kicks ass on his own plane. In other countries this overbearing Americana is considered a bizarre point in the film's favor - part of the attraction, as it were. U-S-A! U-S-A!
  • Emergency Refuelling: A tanker (KC-10 model) sent out to the title aircraft to try and save the people on board from the terrorists (as the plane is running low on fuel). What the terrorist don't know is the President had sent the order via fax machine to use the tanker to get both planes down to a safe altitude where the hostages can parachute out. Things get hairy when a terrorist inadvertently causes the title plane to lurch up, damage the KC-10's refueling boom, which leads to a fire, which causes the KC-10 to explode.
  • Escape Pod: The film's version of Air Force One is equipped with one which the Secret Service drag the President to after the hijacking begins. The pod launches, but Marshall didn't get in. As mentioned elsewhere, the real Air Force One does not have this feature.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Korshunov notes that he has parents and children, but Russia will always be his great love.
  • Expy:
  • Face Death with Despair: Gibbs spends his last seconds on Earth before he dies when Air Force Once crashes on his knees and wailing.
  • A Father to His Men: Egor Korshunov takes it very personally when Marshall kills Krasin. General Radek is this, too.
    Korshunov: [holding the dead Krasin's hand] He was in Afghanistan with me for five years. Find out who did this or you lie down next to him.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Korshunov shouts something in Russian after Nevsky reports he was unable to capture Marshall in the initial attack, which gets bowlderised into a Big "NO!" in TV broadcasts.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Melanie Mitchell's execution happens off-screen, sparing the audience the full view of what happens. The entire execution was filmed, but Wolfgang Peterson decided it was "too intense" to use and had it play out over the intercom instead.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: General Radek. The film's antagonists are his subordinates trying to get him released from prison, but Radek himself doesn't act as a direct antagonist in any way and dies without directly interacting with any of the main cast.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Perhaps inadvertently done by a secret service agent as the melee begins - when Alice opens the door of the suite to find out what's going on, one of the guards ends up in front of her, likely saving her and her mother's life.
    • The pilots, who firmly decide to land the plane despite having guns to their heads and get shot for their trouble when they get the plane on the ground. Unfortunately, the terrorists had their own pilot.
      Colonel Axelrod: No matter what happens, we land this aircraft, is that understood?
    • Although he survives, Lloyd Shepard dives in front of the President to take the bullet.
    • Towards the end, when a MiG tries to shoot down Air Force One, one of the fighter planes flies into its path (even managing to look like someone Taking the Bullet).
    • Discussed when Marshall, Major Caldwell and Agent Gibbs argue over who will be rescued from the plane as it's crashing. Marshall insists on taking everyone, but the parajumper says he can only take one more. Luckily Gibbs happens to be The Mole, kills Caldwell, who wanted the President to leave them, and suffers his Karmic Death.
      Caldwell: Mr. President, it's time for you to get off this plane! Go sir, go! Please, go!
  • Hidden Depths: Underneath the generically evil facade, Korshunov is actually regretful of his actions to some extent and realizes what he is doing is unforgivable, but he still continues because he genuinely believes what he is doing is completely necessary.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Gibbs uses a Beretta 92FS equipped with a silencer to kill the agents guarding the armory, with other people a few yards away.
  • Hostage MacGuffin: The villain uses the President's daughter to force the President to do his dirty work. And later tries to use his wife. Fortunately, Harrison Ford is the president.
  • Hypocrite: Pretty much everyone working for Radek, all of whom try to use Appeal to Worse Problems to make the Americans seem similar, but all of them served a brutal dictator that killed hundreds of thousands of people and hurt even more, and decide to try and get said leader released from prison by attacking another head of state's airplane and murdering a number of unarmed people aboard.
  • I Am Not Leonard Nimoy: Even the poster says "Harrison Ford is the President of the United States." The character's name is James Marshall, but you won't remember that. It doesn't help that the character isn't addressed as "Marshall" that often in the film. He's either addressed as "Sir", "Mr. President", or referred to as "the President".
  • I Have Your Wife: And your daughter. And your chief of staff. And your national security adviser. And your classified papers. And your baseball glove!
  • I Lied: "Forgive me, I lied." is Korshunov's response when First Lady Marshall pointed out he promised to let them go if the President cooperated.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Radek's Kazakh troops cannot hit at all except one of the commandos in the intro, let alone only two of the six Russian prison guards when Radek was released and killed.
  • It's All My Fault: Halo Flight leader apologies to the president for not protecting AF 1 better. Even though he was ordered to do so, his earlier firing on them caused AF 1 to run out of flares before the last missile. Halo 2's sacrifice saved them, but the damage prevented landing (and he [Halo Leader] lost a man).
  • Just Plane Wrong:
    • An airplane is not a car, and a control yoke is not a steering wheel, however much it looks more like one than a side-stick: when Korshunov shoots the co-pilot, he slumps against the yoke as he dies, which causes Air Force One to careen about the Ramstein AB runway, then onto the apron and flight line. Moving the yoke like this wouldn't have that effect on a large aircraft (like a 747) on the ground; pilots have to manually steer the nose wheel with a separate tiller, which is usually to the side and slightly behind their seats, and in any case is very difficult to move even deliberately - slumping or brushing against it wouldn't cause it to budge.
      • It's possible that the dying co-pilot was pushing on the rudder pedals as well as the yoke; in addition to controlling the rudder, the pedals are also linked to the nosewheel-steering mechanism. This would still be pretty unlikely, though - the few real-life cases of pilot incapacitation resulting in rudder-pedal inputs have essentially all involved seizures, which are much more likely to make the pilot's legs and feet push on something than simply dying is.
    • As Air Force One swerves about Ramstein AB and goes to take off again the terrorists do nothing about the flaps (set at 30 degrees for landing). The increased drag caused by the flaps at this setting wouldn't allow the aircraft to take off in such a short distance.note 
    • When the President opens the panel to short the wires to dump fuel, the wires are all different colors. All aircraft use white wires with printed numbers and letters to identify the circuit.
    • The Air Force One pilot on the ground says that there is no automatic landing capability on the aircraft. All 747s have the capability to land on autopilot. Later model 747s and every 757, 767 and 777 also have semi-auto takeoff.
    • Air Force One does not have an escape pod.
    • The in-flight refueling hardware on the real Air Force One makes a bulge visible below the cockpit window. The Boeing 747 used in the film lacks this bulge. Further, on all KC-10s there is a Boom Operator who flies the boom and monitors and has full control of the fuel that the tanker is receiving or giving at all times. The Boom Operator would have raised the boom as soon as AF1 broke away and cut off the fuel supply long before the fuel could ignite. Further, there is fire suppression equipment for exactly this reason.
    • One scene featured some F-15s switching on their afterburners. This caused these fighter jets to instantly jump from subsonic speeds to Mach 2, like Han Solo turning on the hyperdrive. Real afterburners simply provide a greater thrust force, allowing the aircraft to smoothly accelerate through the transonic rangenote  until it attains a supersonic airspeed — they don't cause Newton's 2nd Law of Motion to be temporarily suspended.
      • However, this could be attributed to just being a camera trick to make the audience 'believe' that the aircraft were accelerating rapidly. Also, the F-15's engines are built around providing a lot of thrust when the pilot wants it, so while it isn't realistic for the aircraft to jump like they did, it can be attributed to the F-15's real life acceleration as well as a cheap CGI camera trick.
    • Also regarding the Eagles, they repeatedly get missile locks with the Sparrow and AMRAAM radar-homing missiles at ranges far too close for the missile to guide properly. This doesn't apply to the enemy Mig-29 Fulcrums, because they were firing infra-red homing AA-8 "Aphid" and AA-10 "Alamo-B" missiles at AF1. They were just about at the known minimum distance for those missiles.
  • Karmic Butt-Monkey: Igor Nevsky, among the terrorists. He gets yelled at for failing to capture the President during the initial hijacking, gets captured by Marshall while guarding the hostages, and finally gets blown out of the plane by Sergei-with no parachute.
  • Karmic Death:
    • The Mole, Agent Gibbs is ultimately left to die aboard the very aircraft he allowed to be hijacked.
    • Korshunov smugly disposes of all the plane's parachutes in front of Marshall so only he escapes alive. A livid Marshall sends him out of the plane, choked to death by a strap with the aid of Korshunov's parachute.
  • Kill and Replace: After AF1 is hijacked, it's mentioned that Moscow police found the bodies of the news crew that Korshunov and his men posed as to infiltrate the plane.
  • Large Ham: As usual, Gary Oldman is this.
  • Leave No Man Behind: When the plane is about to crash, The MC-130 crew says they only have time for one more retrieval after they get the injured Shepherd on board. When the parajumper piloting the plane tries to take President Marshall off the plane, he protests, wanting to take Caldwell and Gibbs with him. Caldwell pleads with him to go without them, unfortunately Gibbs reveals himself as the traitor and kills both Caldwell and the Parajumper before they get the chance.
    Parajumper: Sir, get your harness ready, it's time to go!
    President Marshall: What about the other team?
    Parajumper: There's no time for the other team! I can only take one more!
    President Marshall: No! We're all going!
    Parajumper: That's impossible sir, I have to take you!
  • Meaningful Rename: When Liberty 2-4 retrieved President Marshall safely on board, they changed their call sign to Air Force One. (Which is how it works in reality too; Federal Law says any US Air Force aircraft carrying the President automatically becomes Air Force One).note 
  • The Men First: When Liberty 2-4 arrives to evacuate the passengers on Air Force One, President Marshall insists that his family and the wounded be taken off before him. This leaves him and The Mole as the last two people on the plane.
  • Misguided Missile: One of Halo Flight's pilots throws his plane in the path of a missile aimed at Air Force One.
  • Mistaken for Prank Call: The White House Switchboard Operator assumes the man calling her and claiming to be the President is a prank caller messing with her. Marshall tells her to run a trace on the call's location to prove that he really is the President calling from Air Force One.
  • The Mole: Agent Gibbs.
  • Mole in Charge: Agent Gibbs, the traitor assisting the terrorists, appears to be the lead agent onboard since he's shown handing out paperwork to other agents and Shepard directly confronts him over the actions of the "lone agent" (really President Marshall).
  • Monochrome Casting:
    • "Aren't there any Asian people in Central Asia?" Radek's post-Soviet Kazakhstan does feature a Russian minority, but the majority of people in Kazakhstan are Turkic rather than Slavic, highly distinct from Russians in appearance (more similar to East Asians).
    • The case that this is a callback to the government of Soviet Kazakhstan doesn't pass scrutiny either—the Russian ethnic minority before 1991 represented under half the population, but by that time period, government posts in education, economics and the bureaucracy overwhelmingly went to ethnic Kazakhs, as a matter of national policy (even if they could only claim a plurality of the population at the time). For example, the shock and outrage over the removal of Prime Minister Dinmukhamed Konayev, an ethnic Kazakh by Mikhail Gorbachev who replaced him with Gennady Kolbin (an ethnic Russian who'd never even lived in Kazakhstan before his appointment), led to the historic Jeltoqsan Riots.
  • Moral Myopia: Kurshonov seems to view President Marshall as something of an oppressive dictator. Never mind the fact that the general he's trying to get released from prison is an actual oppressive dictator (though with the right politics for him apparently, and that makes it fine).
  • Motive Rant:
    • Done by Korshunov when Vice President Bennett asks him what the terrorists want.
      Vice-President Kathryn Bennett: What are your intentions?
      Egor Korshunov: What arrogance to think you could ever understand my intentions.
      Bennett: I want to understand what it is that you want.
      Korshunov: What do I want...When Mother Russia becomes one great nation again, when the capitalists are dragged from the Kremlin and shot in the street, when our enemies run and hide in fear at the mention of our name, and when America begs our forgiveness...on that great day of deliverance, you will know what I want.
    • Also subverted by Korshunov, actually taking the time to explain himself, not because he snaps, but because he seems to want to justify his patriotic motives to the President's daughter (who happened to just witness the execution of the National Security Advisor). Gary Oldman plays this to the hilt, and at least for that one scene Korshunov becomes somewhat sympathetic.
      Korshunov: That's the first time you ever seen a man killed, huh? You think I'm a monster? That I would kill this man? Somebody's son? Somebody's father? I am somebody's son too. I have three small children. Does that surprise you?
      Alice: Why did you kill him?
      Korshunov: Because I believe. And when I shoot this man I deep was my belief. That I would turn my back on God Himself...for Mother Russia. My doubts, my fears, my own private dissolves in this moment...for this love.
  • Mr. Exposition: Major General Greely, who explains President Marshall's military background to the US command (and the viewers) and how Marshall could be the man who could take on the terrorists.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Working fax on board, someone who knows how to use it, and Jerry Goldsmith scoring to boot!
  • Multitasked Conversation: President Marshall finally gets through to the White House phone line, but is cornered by one of the terrorists. He hides the phone in his pocket, and in what appears to be idle conversation with the terrorist, instructs the Vice-President to order that Air Force One be fired upon, allowing him to take his captor by surprise.

    Tropes N-Z 
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Korshunov. Korshun is Russian for kite, as in "bird of prey".
  • Near-Villain Victory: Korshunov would have won if he would have just parachuted off the plane instead of taunting President Marshall, which allowed the First Lady to knock the gun out of his hands and give Marshall the window to kill him.
    • Also Radek after being released. He chooses to smugly walk towards the chopper instead of running to it and getting the hell out of dodge. By the time he does run towards the chopper?? Marshall has already called to stop the release, which makes Radek a prisoner trying to escape and the Russian guards shoot to kill and succeed.
  • Neck Snap:
    • Accomplished rather realistically by the President, who is understandably unsettled after doing it, considering it is probably the first time he has killed with his bare hands.
    • Also the fate of Korshunov, courtesy of his parachute strap getting caught on his neck when Marshall kicks him off the plane.
  • The Needs of the Many: The Central Theme.
  • Neutral Female: Grace Marshall in the climactic fight between James and Korshunov and with good reason as her hands were bound and she's not a trained shooter. She grabs a gun after getting Korshunov's gun away from her head and points it at them, but is understandably too scared to shoot for fear of hitting her husband. Ultimately, she never has to fire the gun.
  • New Era Speech: Marshall's speech in Moscow when his character is introduced when he explains America's new hardline stance on terrorism.
    Marshall: Never again will I allow our political self-interest to deter us from doing what we know to be morally right. Atrocity and terror are not political weapons. And to those who would use them, your day is over. We will never negotiate. We will no longer tolerate and we will no longer be afraid. It's your turn to be afraid.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Halo Flight Leader personally fires on Air Force One, under orders, to cause the automatic defense system to shake-up the plane to give Marshall the opportunity to take out his captor. Unfortunately, because of this, the defense system fails later when the MiGs fire on the plane.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: At the end of the film, Air Force One is losing height and is about to crash. President Marshall insists on taking everyone with him even though the pararescue man says he can only take one more. Caldwell insists that the President should be the one to leave. Gibbs winds up solving that problem by killing Caldwell so that Marshall only has to save himself.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The Russian president is clearly a Boris Yeltsin expy, being depicted as a well-intentioned but weak man who struggles to control all the different factions of post-Soviet Russia.
    • Walter Dean, the Secretary of Defense, bears several similarities to Ronald Reagan's initial Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, who was accused of trying to usurp control of the government from vice-president George H. W. Bush after Reagan was seriously injured in an assassination attempt three months into his presidency.
  • Noose Catch: The climactic fight ends with the baddie shoved off the plane by the President, with a cargo strap wrapped around his neck.
    The President: Get off my plane.
  • No Party Given: It barely matters, but Marshall is not given a party affiliation in the movie. The novelization averts this by explicitly stating that he's a moderate Republican.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • Korshunov makes this case to the president's daughter at the end of his subverted Motive Rant:
      Korshunov: You think I'm a monster? That I would kill this man? Somebody's son? Somebody's father? I am somebody's son too. I have three small children. Does that surprise you?
      Alice: Why did you kill him?
      Korshunov: Because I believe. And when I shoot this man I deep was my belief. That I would turn my back on God Himself...for Mother Russia. My doubts, my fears, my own private dissolves in this moment...for this love. You know your father has also killed, is he a bad man?
      Alice: That's not true.
      Korshunov: Why? Because he does it in a tuxedo with a telephone call and a smart bomb?
    • Alice hits back with a non-violent Shut Up, Hannibal!: "You ARE a monster...and my father is a great man. You are NOTHING like my father."
    • Korshunov also responds to First Lady Marshall arguing with him about war:
      Grace: This isn't war! You just murdered an unarmed woman.
      Korshunov: You, who murdered a hundred thousand Iraqis just to save a nickel on a gallon of gas, are going to lecture me on THE RULES OF WAR?! DON'T!
  • Novelization: By Max Allan Collins. An audiobook was released alongside it, read by Edward Herrmann.
  • Official Presidential Transport: The titular aircraft is the setting for much of the film, its hijacking being the core plot issue.
  • Offstage Villainy: General Radek's heinous crimes are never revealed to the audience.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Vladamir Krasin (the first terrorist killed) has this reaction when he realizes he's fighting President Marshall.
    • The White House secretary when she hears Marshall being held at gunpoint onboard the plane whispers "Oh my god" before presumably running to take the phone to the command.
    • Gibbs right before Air Force One crashes with him still onboard.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: After being cornered by a terrorist aboard Air Force One, the president starts boasting about the plane's defensive capabilities. Unbeknownst to said terrorist, he's also using a sat-phone hidden in his back pocket to tell the plane's escorts to invoke said defenses.
    General: He's asking us to [fire at] Air Force One?
    Bennett: He isn't asking. Your commander in chief has issued a direct order. DO IT!
  • The Operators Must Be Crazy: President Marshall finds a satellite phone and attempts to get through to the Vice President, but is thwarted by the White House switchboard operator who refuses to believe the caller is actually who he says he is, until they get a trace on his phone and put him through...just as he is discovered by one of the hijackers.
  • Orbital Shot: Used when the White House staff celebrates after the plane has been retaken.
  • Papa Wolf: Don't threaten President Marshall's staff. His loved ones. Or his baseball glove!
  • Patriotic Fervor: On both sides of the line. Korshunov and his comrades love for Mother Russia and Marshall and his entire cabinet for the USA. Neither side takes it lightly.
    • Hell, the entire appeal of the movie itself can be summed up as "watch President Harrison Ford kick all kinds of terrorist ass in the name of America." The only way you could make this more patriotic would be if Marshall had a bald eagle sidekick and went out for burgers with Captain America afterwards while discussing the football game he was watching before things went to hell.
  • Pet the Dog: Korshunov gets a moment during his explanation to Alice about his actions.
    Korshunov: That's the first time you ever seen a man killed, huh? You think I'm a monster? That I would kill this man? Somebody's son? Somebody's father? I am somebody's son too. I have three small children. Does that surprise you?
    Alice: Why did you kill him?
    Korshunov: Because I believe. And when I shoot this man I deep was my belief. That I would turn my back on God Himself...for Mother Russia. My doubts, my fears, my own private dissolves in this moment...for this love.
  • Pistol-Whipping: During the initial takeover, one of the secret service agents gets his lights knocked out by Nevsky when he gets hit in the head with the butt of a submachine gun.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: After killing lead terrorist Egor Korshunov, retaking the plane, and fending off MiGs in a dogfight, Agent Gibbs tries one final attempt to kill the protagonists during the movie's ending escape sequence.
  • Precision F-Strike: Done in brilliant Gary Oldman fashion when Korshunov holds Marshall at gunpoint.
    Marshall: [after Korshunov demands him to release Radek] I'll do anything to save my family. Don't ask something I can't give!
    Korshunov: The most powerful man on the earth. Suddenly, there are things you can't do. This is very curious. Stop with your fucking lies!
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Played With. When Korshunov executes the National Security Adviser, we see a fairly neat hole in his forehead, but with the implication that most of the back of his skull was blown out. Quite a few of the hostages get covered in blood from it, even when standing several feet away.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: The terrorists don't realize that it's the President kicking ass, believing that it's a Secret Service agent who's holding out. Justified since Marshall was a former officer in the United States Air Force.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: President James Marshall reportedly earned the Medal of Honor flying combat rescue missions in The Vietnam War.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Subverted by Chief of Staff Shepard, who, after spending the entire film disagreeing with everything Marshall does, takes a bullet for him. However, he manages to survive and is rescued.
  • Redshirt Army:
    • The Secret Service detail are quickly wiped out when the terrorists launch a sudden attack (under the cover of a smoke grenade and fire) by grabbing the plane's weapons and body armor. However, the Secret Service do succeed in holding back the terrorists long enough to get the President to the escape pod in the belly of the plane, thus succeeding at their primary objective.
    • Radek's Kazakh guards at the beginning of the film, as most are easily gunned down by the special forces extraction squad, and only one manages to actually score a hit on the commandos. Justified in this case as the SEAL team in question would have likely rehearsed the mission for weeks, or months before actually carrying out the mission. Something that they do in Real Life.
  • The Remnant:
    • Korshunov and his team, all former Soviet soldiers and patriots who hate what The New Russia has become since the fall of the Soviet Union.
    • Possibly Radek's Kazakhstan, in-universe: it's portrayed as a post-Soviet dictatorship hanging on to its nuclear arsenal, ethnically cleansing its population, and with a hostile relationship to the democratic government in Moscow; also, its leader commands Korshunov and his men's loyalty.
  • Renegade Russian: The Russian terrorists are opposed to the Russian government and, apparently, want to re-create the USSR.
  • The Reveal: There's a mole on board.
  • Rule of Cool: The features on the plane in the film (the escape pod and the parachute ramp), are not on the real planes that transport the US President but can be explained by this.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: National Security Advisor Doherty is a quintessential Defiant Captive who loves to rub it in the villains' faces that their plans have gone to shit, which leads to Korshunov executing him to show he means business.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Major Caldwell, played by William H. Macy.
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • Give yourself up and provide the terrorists with the bargaining chip they need or let your Deputy Press Secretary, begging for her life, be killed?
    • Let the US President, the First Family and several other VIP's die or release the genocidal general?
    • Let your wife and daughter die or order the release of said general?
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After the dogfight with the MIGs, half the squadron breaks off the attack when the other is killed.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: The Secret Service detail sacrifices themselves to get the President to the escape pod, only for Marshall to render their deaths pointless by staying on the plane.
  • Shout-Out: When Air Force One is hijacked, the Secret Service hustles the President to an escape pod in the cargo bay.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Korshunov delivers one to the First Lady after he killed the Press Secretary.
    First Lady: This isn't war. YOU JUST MURDERED AN UNARMED WOMAN!
    Korshunov: You, who murdered a hundred thousand Iraqis just to save a nickel on a gallon of gas, are going to lecture me on THE RULES OF WAR?! DON'T!
  • Slipped the Ropes: Marshall does this with the aid of a shard of glass.
  • Smoke Out: A minor example when Gibbs uses a smoke grenade to signal Korshunov and his men that the armory is open.
  • Smug Snake: Korshunov.
    "Whatever happens, you lose, and I win!"*
  • Spanner in the Works: Korshunov's plan is nearly derailed before it gets off the ground by Air Force One's pilots who try and very nearly succeed in landing it in a Ramstein Airbase. This is before Marshall, his target ironically, gets around to thwarting it.
  • State Visit: It begins with President Marshall in Moscow commemorating a joint US-Russian operation that captured Khazakstan dictator General Radek. This sets the stage for Radek's followers to hijack Air Force One in an attempt to secure his release.
  • Step Three: Profit: What exactly did the villains plan to do if their plan succeeded? Retribution against them and any nation even suspected of helping them would have been dire, easily to the point of total nuclear war. That may be their aim, though.
  • Straw Misogynist: Korshunov mocks Vice-President Bennett's gender.
    "How's your blouse?"
  • Stupid Evil: Terrorist Sergei apparently doesn't know what explosive decompression is. To get through a locked door he jams a fire extinguisher in the handle and shoots it. On a plane. This results in at least five people (including a restrained terrorist) getting sucked out of the plane (although we see three people have chutes safely opened). And the President almost fell out. Unfortunately, Sergei isn't one of them. This also leads to the explosion of the tanker plane that was refuelling Air Force One at the time, and could easily have killed EVERYONE if not for the pilot's quick thinking.
  • Taking the Bullet: One of the F-15's protecting Air Force One intercepts a missile headed for the titular plane, sacrificing himself and saving everyone on it. In a subversion the shrapnel still damages the tail, making the plane unable to continue flying; but this is still less damage than the missile itself would have caused.
    • Played straight with Lloyd Shephard, Marshall's Chief of Staff.
    • As the melee begins and Alice opens the door of the suite to find out what's going on, one of the guards ends up in front of her, likely saving her and her mother's life.
  • Taking You with Me: In the original script, the parajumper who gets shot by Gibbs manages to kill him before dying. Also counts as a Mutual Kill.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: The motivations for Special Agent Gibbs' betrayal of the President and in doing so his nation to Korshunov is never addressed, nor his prior history in aiding the terrorists in boarding the plane.
  • That's an Order!: Said by Vice President Bennett after President Marshall has ordered the escorting jets to fire on Air Force One.
    White House General: Is he saying what I think he's saying?
    Vice-President Bennett: If we're going to act, we have to act now.
    Defense Secretary Dean: It's too risky.
    Bennett: The president is up there with a gun to his head!
    General Northwood: He's asking us to do that to Air Force One?
    Bennett: He's not asking. Your commander-in-chief has issued a direct order. Do it!
  • Threat Backfire: When Marshall calls the White House with a satellite phone, the operator completely disbelieves that it's him and Marshall asks her to trace the call, as is standard procedure for prank calls. Cut to the operator working on her computer and saying:
    Operator: Okay, mister, if you want to turn this into a federal crime, then (as she presses the last three keystrokes to start the trace) fine... by... me!
    (On the meanwhile, Marshall is being threatened by a terrorist as he waits for her to end the trace)
    Secretary: (over the phone, having done so) I traced the call, sir. Are you there? Oh, my God... I'll put you right through, Mr. President.
  • Throwing Out the Script: At the beginning of the movie, Marshall ditches his previously written self-congratulatory speech about the successful capture of a Kazakh dictator by Russian and American special forces in favor of a frank confession on how his capture was too little too late since said dictator's regime had killed hundreds of thousands of innocents and the United States did nothing besides token trade sanctions until their own national security was threatened. He then vows that the United States will launch a new policy against terrorism unbounded by self-interest.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Mig-29 pilots loyal to Radek decide to attack Air Force One for no explained reason besides hate for the USA and didn't expect any consequences.
  • 25th Amendment: Fairly early in the movie, when it's discovered that the President is still on Air Force One, the Cabinet quickly drafts a letter stating the intent to invoke this, as the President is compromised. The Vice President, however, refuses to sign it, considering it an affront to the situation on the plane. At the end of the film, she tears it up. However, the document in the folder to invoke the 25th amendment is actually just the text of the 25th amendment. Section 1 is listed accurately; however, Section 2 of the document is actually Section 4 of the amendment. Also, if this was an actual document invoking the 25th amendment, it would need to be signed by a majority of the cabinet.
  • Vice President Who?: National Security Advisor Jack Doherty discusses this trope while being held hostage. "The Vice President in this case is like the Queen of England. You can't even buy airline tickets without talking to someone like me."
  • Villain Has a Point: Korshunov is correct that the United States has engaged in regime change wars for oil, and as such, has no right to lecture other nations on the rules of war.
  • Villain Killer: President James Marshall as played by Harrison Ford proves why he earned a Medal of Honor as he outsmarts and eventually kills most of the terrorists that overtook his plane.
  • Villainous Friendship: Korshunov is shown to have a close bond with most of his crew, sharing hugs as they head home after hijacking the plane and screaming in anguish as some are killed.
  • Western Terrorists: Special Agent Gibbs.
  • Wham Shot: After it's established that President Marshall wasn't in the Escape Pod, the scene cuts back to the baggage deck with the two dead Secret Service agents in front of the escape pod bay... and Marshall emerges from a nook just behind the door.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Korshunov is shown lamenting the death of one his henchmen, saying that they served together in Afghanistan.
  • Why We're Bummed Communism Fell: While having the President finally at his mercy, Korshunov lays into him about how bad Russia has become since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and how the President helped create it with forcing "Americanization" on his people and the results it has created for the Russian and other former Soviet peoples.
  • Wire Dilemma: Naturally, there's No Time to Think, and so President Marshall cuts all the wires except for the Red, White, and Blue. The novelization explains it away as Marshall noticing that there is a patriotic in-joke in the design (the wires that are vital have the colors of the flag) from being told to cut one of the cables with other colors before the call cut off and going for it... with a lot of finger-crossing, of course.
  • Would Hit a Girl: To make a point about how willing he is to go through with his plan, Korshunov puts his gun to the First Lady's head. Later on, he personally shoots Melanie Mitchell when Marshall doesn't surrender.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!:
    • Within the first 20 minutes of the movie, it seems the President has safely ejected from Air Force One, and Air Force One itself is about to land safely at the Rammstein AB in Germany, this can't be it, right?
    • Also happens with General Radek as he's leaving prison; as he makes grandiose victory poses to his fellow prisoners, the call comes in that the terrorists who "negotiated" for his release were neutralized and the prison guards shoot him dead in full view of everyone present as he tries to flee.
  • You Monster!: Alice says this to Korshunov.
    Alice Marshall: You are a monster. And my father is a great man. You're nothing like my father.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: From the First Lady to Korshunov, who promised to release his hostages if the President cooperated.


Video Example(s):


Igor Nevsky

Igor Nevsky, among the terrorists. He gets yelled at for failing to capture the President during the initial hijacking, gets captured by Marshall while guarding the hostages, and finally gets blown out of the plane by Sergei-with no parachute.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / KarmicButtMonkey

Media sources: