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Film / Deadly Mile High Club

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Deadly Mile High Club is a 2020 Lifetime Movie of the Week, a Thriller written and directed by Doug Campbell.

Tanya Jackson (Allison McAtee) is a pilot still haunted by a tragic accident in which she crash-landed a plane, killing her hot boyfriend Jake. Now working as a flight instructor, she's delighted to find that among her new crop of students is...a hot guy named Jake. That's Jake Sherman (Marc Herrmann). Unfortunately for Tanya, he's married. Fortunately for Tanya, it's not a very solid marriage to cute, perky, fedora-loving Annie (Anna Marie Dobbins). Their sex life has dwindled, and she's still close to her mother-in-law Margaret Harris (Diane Robin), a loud, arrogant woman who openly loathes and insults Jake, who she thinks is wasting his time learning to fly when he's supposed to be prepping to take over her family business when she retires.


Tanya aggressively puts the moves on Jake, who seems receptive at first but backs off before anything gets serious. After rejecting Tanya's advances, Jake also decides to take on another flight instructor, stunt pilot Gonzo Rogers (Damon K. Sperber). But Tanya will let nothing or no one stand in her way as she pursues Jake.

Featured in an episode of How Did This Get Made?.

Deadly Mile High Club contains examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Gonzo Rogers at the very least tries to project this image, though when we see him in action it's limited to just a few basic flips and dives.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Margaret couldn't be more of a Jewish Mother stereotype if she tried, with her ultra-nagging attitude, literal finger-wagging, and she accepts Tanya's offer to fly her to Santa Barbara because Tanya says she won't charge her for it. However, her funeral is held at a Catholic church. Did they decide it would violate kosher to have a Jewish Large Ham? (Another possible explanation is that she was born Jewish and converted).
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  • Asshole Victim: Say what you will for Tanya, getting rid of conceited blowhard Gonzo and shrill, bossy Margaret may have done the world-at-large some favors.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Jake definitely seems easily distracted and impulsive. Margaret even calls him out on it, telling him to "Wipe that ADD grin off your face!".
  • Bad Liar: Tanya has so many obvious tells to indicate that she's lying, like getting suddenly anxious, but no one picks up on them.
  • Batman Gambit: A hilariously convoluted and implausible plot by Tanya. To trick Jake into thinking Annie is cheating on him, Tanya hires a model to dress like Annie, hires a hunky male model to play her lover, then arranges to have Jake fly over his house during a training session, where he sees them kissing on their front walk. Thing is, Jake is so dim-witted that he falls for it perfectly.
  • Big Damn Heroes: At the climax inexperienced Annie tries to fly the plane and almost crashes it, but Jake recovers from his Tap on the Head and runs up to the cockpit to take control.
  • Black Comedy: The climax, where Tanya tries to get Jake to dispose of a box which he doesn't know contains his wife Annie from the plane into the ocean, has shades of this, especially Jake's sudden, out-of-nowhere concern over whether the box is biodegradable.
  • Brainless Beauty: Jake is quite good-looking, but has a tendency to be impulsive, dense, and easy to manipulate.
  • Camp: Writer/director Doug Campbell is also responsible for the Stalked By My Doctor franchise, usually considered the high watermark of self-aware wackiness within the confines of a Lifetime thriller, and this movie is definitely in the same spirit, with the delirious fantasy sequences, a twisted Cold Ham Villain Protagonist, and a zany, far-fetched storyline played out in a deadpan manner.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Tanya makes a point of emphasizing the bottle of chloroform that for some reason is in the emergency kit she shows her students. Will she remember it when she needs a form of Instant Sedation to use on Annie? Yes, yes she will.
  • Consistent Clothing Style:
    • We know Gonzo Rogers must be a serious pilot, because he always wears a fur-lined bomber jacket.
    • Pants and loud blazers for Margaret.
    • Because Pink Means Feminine, Girly Girl Annie prefers to wear that color.
  • Corpsing: Marc Herrmann seems like he's trying hard not to laugh at the sheer silliness of the "toss the box into the ocean" scene.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Tanya kills Margaret for trash-talking both Jake and herself.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: In the climax.
    Jake: You killed Margaret?
    Tanya: I liberated you from her!
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: A Deconstructed Trope. Jake has the same name as Tanya's dead boyfriend, but looks nothing like him. They even intercut between the two several times to emphasize this point, but apparently Tanya sees some sort of resemblance, or thinks the old Jake's spirit has taken up a home in new Jake's body, or something, so he becomes the Replacement Goldfish.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: When she goes flying with Tanya and Jake, Annie apparently misses Tanya's blatantly obvious interest in her husband. Annie's reasoning for telling Jake not to take lessons from Tanya anymore is that Tanya is an "adrenaline junkie", not a Yandere.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Jake is correct that tossing a non-degradable box into the ocean is irresponsible, though the more germane point is that he's on the verge of unknowingly assisting in the murder of his wife.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Tanya is a pleasant blonde-haired woman who's maniacally obsessed with a man and commits murder to be with him.
  • Foreshadowing: Tanya's fantasy about pushing Annie from the plane is what she ends up doing to Margaret.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: At the very end of the movie Annie lets slip that she was having an affair after all, with her college professor, meaning that had Tanya just dug into Annie's life rather than concoct the whole silly scheme with the model, she could've gotten her desired outcome anyway.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Tanya (Cold Ham) and Margaret (Large Ham) have an impressive fight of this nature in their sequence together.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Horrible as Margaret is, we see she's absolutely right about Jake. The guy just ain't very bright, constantly falling for Tanya's manipulations.
    • Tanya's characterization of Gonzo as a "macho knucklehead" is shown to be accurate too.
  • Large Ham: Margaret, possessor of No Indoor Voice, is a wildly overacted character, almost a parody of the My Beloved Smother trope. How Did This Get Made? compared her to a character from a comedy sketch (and specifically to Linda Richman).
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Tanya's intent in sabotaging Gonzo's plane, but she also pulls off an unintentional example when she pushes Margaret out of the plane, since the body happens to fall in front of a downtown Los Angeles building notorious for attracting suicidal jumpers, so the death is written off as a suicide.
  • Mile-High Club: It's in the title, after all, but to justify the title there are scenes where Tanya performs oral sex on Jake while he's flying (though it cuts away before we can see anything), then later they put a plane on autopilot so they can have sex atop a box in the back though Jake isn't aware that a drugged and gagged Annie is in the box.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Tanya is approaching middle age, Jake seems to be in his 20s.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: The final act is centered around a very extreme Tanya plot to murder Annie, though there are also some She Knows Too Much motives.
  • My Beloved Smother: Margaret butts into Annie's life constantly, confident that she knows exactly what her daughter should be doing. However, we eventually see that she acts like that with everyone.
    Margaret: I told you not to marry him! Did you listen? No!
  • Nice Hat: Annie's pink fedora (or trilby; there's dispute over which type of hat it is), which becomes an important plot point.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Margaret is pretty much every married man's nightmare mother-in-law. Argumentative and pushy, she flat out insults him to his face.
    Margaret: I don't like you very much, Jake. You wanna know why?
    Jake (sarcastically): Oh, do tell!
    Margaret: Because you've got the mental capacity of a donut!
  • Red Herring: At first you think that Jake is going to strike up a relationship with one of Gonzo's sexy assistants, risking the wrath of Annie and Tanya, but it never happens.
  • Serious Business: Apparently the flight school community in Southern California is cutthroat. Instructors are eager to poach students from other instructors, to the extent of sending "shot girl"-like young women out to rival schools to seduce male students into transferring to their school.
  • Sexy Stewardess: Gonzo's gorgeous assistants wear uniforms in this style.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Signature Style: This was made by Johnson Production Group, a major provider of movies for Lifetime, with their frequent director Doug Campbell at the helm, and it has all the hallmarks of their house style: an overbaked, preposterous premise; an Idiot Plot that's heavy on contrived coincidences; a memorable, almost sympathetic villain versus Flat Character heroes (and Johnson tends to prefer female villains); then top it all off with a couple of steamy, very softcore sex scenes. This is all executed with a knowing tone of high Melodrama that often feels like pure Camp.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Tanya is smitten with Jake from first sight, and quickly evolves from Stalker with a Crush to this.
  • Sitcom Archnemesis: Gonzo Rogers is one to Tanya Jackson.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • Doug Campbell has reused the "private instructor for a leisure activity is actually a murderous Yandere" plotline for Lifetime twice. 2021's Driven to Kill is practically a scene-for-scene remake of Deadly Mile High Club (right down to certain lines of dialogue), except it swaps out vehicles (race cars instead of planes) and does a Gender Flip (male instructor, female student). There are even Expies of Margaret (much duller and blander) and Gonzo Rogers (even wackier, since he's a dashing, oily Italian racing legend), but it never really replicates the insanity of its predecessor. 2022's Swim Instructor Nightmare hits most of the same story beats—no Margaret this time, and the Gonzo figure is female—and restores the "female instructor pursues a married man" angle, but throws in some variations like the instructor being hired to teach a young girl (then falling for the father and targeting the mother), and the instructor being established upfront as obsessive and violent.
    • 2021 also saw Lifetime's Deadly Due Date, with Diane Robin once again playing a shrewish mother-in-law who's Margaret in all but name (Alice, in this case). And again, despite obviously being a Jewish Mother, the film tries to pass her off as a shiksa (with the surname O'Donnell, even).
  • Tap on the Head: Tanya knocks Jake out with a fire extinguisher in the climax.
  • Third-Person Person: Gonzo Rogers has a habit of talking like this when he's flying.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Several thousand feet in the air, as a passenger in a two-seat plane, on a flight that was graciously offered to you for free, it's probably best to not insult the pilot or to make a mean remark about an accident she was in, as Margaret learns, to her misfortune.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: As a scheme to get Jake to go back to her school, Tanya snips some wires on Gonzo's plane.
  • Villain Protagonist: Tanya is the lead character, while Annie is the Hero Antagonist.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Gonzo and his flight school disappear after he crashes his plane, though the movie never really establishes whether he's dead or not.
  • Yandere: Tanya takes obsessive love and deranged behavior far beyond even what's to be expected in a Lifetime movie.