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The Aviator


MPAA Rating:


Run Time:



Leonardo DiCaprio

Cate Blanchett

Kate Beckinsale

Alec Baldwin

Jude Law

Still shot from the movie: The Aviator.

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Overall C+
Run Time170

Making the Grades

Good financial backing and youthful self-confidence can go a long way in making things happen---especially when those two qualities come together in a man as compelling as Howard Hughes.

Inheriting the major interests in his father's tool company at age nineteen, Howard (Leonardo DiCaprio) finds himself orphaned but independently wealthy. Leaving the Texas-based business in the hands of his new assistant Noah Dietrich (John C. Reilly), he indulges himself in making movies, including the time-consuming and costly Hell's Angels. Always the risk taker, his later films pushed the rating board's standard of good taste and decency.

However, the Aviator focuses for the most part on Howard's other passion. (No, it isn't women, although the string of Hollywood bombshells he hobnobs with might imply otherwise.) In reality, the wealthy young industrialist loves airplanes.

Working together, he and his chief engineer Glenn Odekirk (Matt Ross) develop numerous innovative ideas and make many modifications to their planes. Always demanding perfection, Howard continually pushes his crew until the outcome is exactly what he wants. As a result, he repeatedly makes aviation history in speed trials.

But while Howard ably bails himself out of financial fiascos and continues to triumph in the sky, his personal life is in a definite downward spiral. Pan Am president Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin) and Senator Orin Brewster (Alan Alda) are bearing down on his company's defaulted contracts. Involved with the likes of Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett), Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale), and the fifteen-year-old Faith Domergue (Kelli Garner), his romantic interests are also hampered by his increasingly erratic and eccentric behaviors.

For audience members, his plummeting mental health translates into several scenes where a longhaired and bearded DiCaprio lounges in a darkened room completely naked. (While there is no frontal nudity, there are plenty of behind shots.) Nervous tics, hallucinations and compulsive hand washing also haunt the increasingly germ-phobic Howard.

Covering a profanity-packed twenty years of the entrepreneur's life and a limited number of his business adventures, the script portrays several self-defining moments including a fiery and horrific crash during a flight test.

While the capitalist portrayed in this film openly uses his money to influence others, he also comes clean under oath and doesn't step down from a challenge. Given the immense amount of mystery surrounding this eventual recluse, it may be hard to fully appreciate his contributions to the aeronautic industry, but his passion for flying can never be denied.

For parents, weighing the historical significance of this man against the film's content concerns will determine if they are ready to push forward or pull back on the throttle when it comes to taking a flight with this Aviator.

Discussion Ideas After The Movie

Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Aviator.

Why do you think many of the people associated with Howard continued to be loyal to him despite his increasingly erratic and sometimes abusive treatment of them?

How did his mother’s concerns when he was a child and the early death of his parents contribute to his personality? Do you think his later behaviors are also a direct result of those influences?

Wealth can be used many different ways. How wise do you think Howard was with his money? Did he always use it appropriately? What would you do if you were suddenly given a large inheritance?

For more information on Hughes’ incredible crash, go to:

Canadian Movie Ratings

PG Coarse Language, Nudity
AB PG Mature Content, Not Recommended for Young Children
MB PG Mature Theme
ON Not Rated Coarse Language, Mature Theme, Not Recommended for Children, Disturbing Content
QC Not Rated Not Suitable for Children
Not Rated

Canadian Home Video Rating: PG

Watch @ Home

Details on home video releases of The Aviator...

Warner Home Video presents The Aviator on a two-disc DVD set (available in either wide or full screen), that is almost as large as Howard Hughes himself. Examine the man behind the legend with the bonus features: The Role of Howard Hughes in Aviation History, Modern Marvels: Howard Hughes (a documentary by the History Channel) and The Affliction of Howard Hughes: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Find out everything you ever wanted to know about the movie by listening to director Martin Scorsese’s commentary, or viewing the featurettes, A Life Without Limits (The Making of The Aviator), The Visual Effects of The Aviator, The Work Of Howard Shore (Scoring The Aviator), The Age of Glamour (The Hair And Makeup of The Aviator), The Work of Sandy Powell (Costuming for The Aviator), and The Work of Dante Ferretti (Constructing The Aviator). If that isn’t enough you can checkout a deleted scene (Howard Tells Ava About His Car Accident) and a Still Gallery.

Fans of the film and the man will also appreciate: An evening with Leonardo DiCaprio and Alan Alda, OCD Panel Discussion With Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, and Howard Hughes’ Widow Terry Moore and The Wainwright Family - Loudon, Rufus and Martha.

Audio Tracks are available in English (Dolby Digital 5.1) and French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), with subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

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