Guide to the Best Movies/TV shows to Watch on a Plane

When you’re on a long (or even not so long) flight, watching a movie or television show can help pass the time, or, better yet, set the tone for your trip.  There are a lot of lists of things you should or should not watch while flying on the internet.  But a person’s taste in movies, as in books, is very personal. A must see for me could be a must miss for you. I’m not going to tell you what to watch, you’re able to do that for yourself.  Here are a few tips to help you decide what to view while en route or returning from your vacation.

Use discretion when picking video topics.  If your mother were sitting next to you on the plane, would she be proud of what you're watching?
Use discretion when picking video topics. If your mother were sitting next to you on the plane, would she be proud of what you’re watching?

Remember You’re Not Alone

Seats on planes are close to each other.  Close enough that it’s easy to see what the people around you are watching.  Before you choose a movie or TV show to watch, imagine that your mother or your young daughter is sitting next to you.  Would you want to watch an episode of Girls or Wolves of Wall Street with them?  Sitting in a window seat on a recent trip to Chapel Hill I was watching Dallas Buyers Club.  While none of the scenes made me uncomfortable, I found myself turning my computer at an awkward angle so that the man sitting next to me could not see the screen.  Movies or TV shows with graphic sex and violence may not be your best choice to watch on a plane.  There are reasons that the movies shown on airplanes are censored.

Nervous Flyer?  Easily Distracted?

If flying makes you nervous, don’t watch movies depicting hijackings or plane crashes.  Watching Denzel Washington in Flight may not be a good choice.  Airplane, with Leslie Nielsen, would actually be a good choice though.  There are people who recommend that you don’t watch anything you’ve seen before because you’ll be bored.  My husband, on the other hand, loves watching movies he’s seen before because they’re easy to watch and he can start and stop if necessary.  If you have a favorite movie or TV series, by all means watch it, particularly on a long flight when you’re tired and may have a difficult time following plot.  If you sometimes have difficulty focusing or hearing while watching a movie on a plane, be selective when choosing a movie to watch.  Something with a somewhat convoluted plot, like Tree of Life, or something where the dialogue may not be clear, like The Kings Speech, may not be the right thing to watch.

Is A Very Small Screen the Right Format?

Movies known for their special effects or for the grand vistas they  show may not be the right thing to watch on the plane if you are a videophile.  You may want to watch something like Gravity or  Avatar on a larger screen when you’re not wearing headphones.  Because TV shows generally don’t have major special effects, they are easily viewed while traveling.

Set the Mood

Consider watching a film or tv show what takes place where you are going.  You can select something exciting, romantic or funny.  Going to Japan? Consider Lost in Translation or You Only Live Twice.  Seeing Paris? How about Amelie,  Midnight in Paris or Bourne Identity.  If you are visiting Italy you may want to see the classic Roman Holiday or Tea with Mussolini.

Need to Catch Up?

A long flight is the perfect time to binge watch a TV series that you haven’t seen.  We recently watched half a season of Breaking Bad while flying back home from the East coast. Consider watching an older series that’s no longer on air.  Catch up on that series that everyone is raving about, or purchase something from a cable channel that you don’t have access to.  You can rent or buy TV shows in the iTunes Store, or from Amazon.

Still Want a List of Recommendations?

While I don’t necessarily agree with these lists, you may find them helpful.

Mick LaSalle’s list of Movies to Watch in the Air offers a wide variety of films to watch.

GuySpeed’s list of what not to watch is funny and can give you some direction.

The bottom line – load your tablet, laptop or phone with a wide variety of movies and TV shows.  What you want to watch will depend on how tired you are, your mood and what’s going on around you. But, if you leave your seat, make sure you put your electronics away.  You sit in the company of thieves.  They can and will steal your computer or iPad off your seat while you are in the bathroom. Better yet, insure your electronics before you travel and you won’t have to worry about them if they are damaged or stolen.