I tried watching 5 different movies on our transatlantic flights. I have some thoughts.

On our first trip to Europe in 2016, one of the unexpected pleasantries of the long flight was watching movies on the plane. I guess I knew this was a feature of a long haul flight, but I didn’t expect how much I’d want to watch a movie. I normally just kick back with my ear buds in and read most of a trip. Nine hours is a long time to bury your nose in a book, however, so about three hours in, that little screen in the seat back in front of me started to look pretty good.

The flight we were on had a limited movie selection unless you wanted to pay for their upgraded entertainment package. On the way over there, we didn’t. So my husband and I watched the same three movies, in a different order, that were available for free. On the way home we decided the best way to burn the last 8 euro we had jingling around in the bottom of our backpack was to upgrade to better movies. This was enough to purchase the movies for one of our seats, so we shared a pair of ear buds and cuddled over the armrest to watch a “better” selection of movies together on our way home.

Though I was prepared for a similar experience on our most recent flight, I was pleasantly surprised at the extensive selection of entertainment that Icelandair offered. I’ll say this much about our Icelandair experience…they didn’t feed you on the plane, and two of our four flights with them encountered some kind of delay, and they only gave us eight minutes to make our connecting flight in Keflavik, but they had a lot of free movie choices, so I’m willing to forgive some of those other things. I also think that it reveals some of their priorities, but whatever.

seat bakcs

Over the course of our four flights, I watched five movies. Actually, I slept through parts of some of them because, one, we flew overnight which was hard, and two, I flew sick which was harder, so sometimes the film was just a catalyst for checking out enough to catch a few winks. Other times, I was laughing out loud on the plane, which I’m sure was unnerving for the people sitting around me. I had some genuine background knowledge and interest in each movie that I started, but I have to say, not everything was exactly as I expected. I also have to say that I often felt like the people sitting around me judged me based on the movies that I picked. Not that it’s likely that these people actually cared a speck about what I was watching, but there’s something about that “This movie contains mature content for adult passengers only” that made me feel self-conscious despite the fact that I’m 30 years old, thus an adult passenger, and that all of the movies were major Hollywood pictures that played in theaters around the country. And no…none of them were Fifty Shades of Grey.   

So here are my thoughts on the inflight movies I watched. I’m not sure how much of my viewing experience was affected by the fact that I was mid-flight, but let’s assume it was only a minimal factor. How many would I have happily paid eight euro for in an entertainment package upgrade…well, maybe Icelandair is onto something avoiding those complaint letters!

1. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

three billboardsNothing like starting the flight with a nice, heavy, expletive laden drama. This was the first film I picked, and one that I wanted to see. It was critically acclaimed and well reviewed. It was nominated for a plethora of awards. It was…the kind of movie that made me glad I had my headphones in so that people around me couldn’t be as shook by some of the language as I was. I don’t swear like a sailor, but I’m also not generally offended by the use of a well placed swear word, and I’ve already confessed that a little too much wine brings out my potty mouth. What I’m not great about is gratuitous cussing (I mean, can we not get any more creative with the English language?!) and the repeated use of the C*** word, both of which littered this movie. Also, if I’m being perfectly frank, while the premise of the movie intrigued me because of its “based on a true story” status, I felt like the plot moved painfully slow and it became clear somewhere in the middle that the story couldn’t have any real resolution at the end. There is a “twist” that seems like it will bring closure, but it’s not that kind of movie, and I pegged it as a red herring right away. At that point, I turned the movie off. That’s right, I didn’t finish the critically acclaimed movie nominated for seven Oscars and I don’t feel badly about it.
Pay the extra eight euro on your flight to watch it? No
Watch it for free? No
How many stars? * of 5

2. The Shape of Water

shape of waterBecause I had so much success with my first Oscar nominated film, I decided to go with the Academy Award Best Picture winner for my second pick. For those of you who don’t know, this is the one about the woman who falls in love with the sea creature. It also features Octavia Spencer, whom I find delightful in films. In truth, her acting was a bigger appeal than the idea of the woman falling in love with the fish man. I had an awkward experience with this movie because I started it at about 11:00pm and I fell asleep part way through it. (It’s not a hard movie to fall asleep during. The main character is mute, and the soundtrack is pretty chill.) I woke up twice while the movie continued to play, and both times the woman was having sex with the sea creature which made me feel like, again, people around me were judging what I was watching. And then I woke up a final time with about 15 minutes to go and watched the ending. I can confidently say that by watching the first 30 minutes, the two fish man sex scenes, and the last 15 minutes I feel like I understood the whole movie. I can’t imagine what the hour I slept through contributed to the story!
Pay the extra eight euro on your flight to watch it? No
Watch it for free? Maybe, it was weird but not terrible
How many stars? *** of 5

3. The Lion King

After a bit more sleep on the plane, I had about an hour and 45 minutes left before we landed, and having watched two partial movies that did not leave me feeling upbeat and vacation ready, it was time for a boost. Yes, I do mean The Lion King as in the classic, Disney animated film. Yes, it was good. No, I didn’t worry about the people around me judging that I was watching an animated film. I figured anyone who saw me watching fish man sex scenes was relieved that there was still good and light in my soul. I’m not actually going to review this movie. It’s The Lion King; you know it’s good.
Pay the extra eight euro on your flight to watch it? Probably
Watch it for free? Definitely
How many stars? Oh, come on! ***** of 5

4. Game Night

game nightI watched Game Night on the flight from Milan to Keflavik. Our flight had been delayed three hours; I had been sick for 24 hours; I wasn’t sure how I was going to make the flights home. This was not the highlight moment of the trip. Thank God for this movie because it was, by far, the highlight of my inflight entertainment. I felt like garbage, and this movie still had me laughing out loud! Basic premise…a group of friends who meets regularly for game nights finds themselves in a real life thriller when a kidnapping live action role play game goes horribly wrong. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as the lead couple, and they have surprisingly good on-screen chemistry. I hadn’t seen Jesse Plemons in anything since Friday Night Lights, and he’s hilarious as well! My husband watched this movie first and was cracking up in his seat. I watched it under the worst of traveling circumstances and found it just as hilarious.
Pay the extra eight euro on your flight to watch it? Yes!
Watch it for free? No question!
How many stars? ***** of 5…and I’d give it a bonus 6th * for being funny when nothing felt funny!

5. Black Panther

black pantherI’m going to get hate for this review, and I’m sorry. I could blame the fact that I was sick and just wanted to get home. I should confess that I’ve only ever really liked two super hero/comic based movies: Guardians of the Galaxy and Wonder Woman. I didn’t love Black Panther. Actually, I fell asleep during Black Panther and unlike Shape of Water, there’s a lot going on that should have held my interest. This was, perhaps, the problem. There was almost too much going on, and once I dozed off once, it was impossible to jump back into the story and figure out what was happening, how Wakanda worked, etc. The graphics were good. I totally support the diversity of the cast. I don’t know that I would have loved it more even after seeing the whole thing or not being sick. Like I said, comic movies tend not to be my thing. As far as Marvel movies go, I don’t think it was the worst one ever done (I’m looking at you The Incredible Hulk). Lots of people think it’s a top 5 Marvel installment. If that’s your jam, then by all means, watch away!
Pay the extra eight euro on your flight to watch it? If that’s your thing, do it.
Watch it for free? If it was one of my few choices, I’d give it another shot.
How many stars? *** of 5

The one movie that came out while we were traveling that I wished we could have seen because we were practically on sight of where it was filmed…Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. I’ll being seeing that tonight, stateside, but I can’t wait to relive some of the highlights of our Greek island adventures, on the big screen, with the music of ABBA (which probably helps you understand my movie niche a little bit better and why Black Panther was just, meh!) That review will be for another time. Until then, dig in my dancing queens!

Disagree with my reviews? Have movie you think I should watch on a plane or on my couch? Let me know in the comments!


Published by Kate

A former Wisconsinite, Kate now resides in southeast Minnesota with her husband where she teaches high school English and theater. She recently completed her master's degree in learning design and technology, and continues to study and advocate for arts integration in the classroom. A recipient of the RISE America grant for high school theater, Kate is working to innovate and expand theater opportunities for the students at PIHS. An avid distance runner, concert pianist, and want-to-be wine aficionado, Kate's blog "ink." is a passion project, embodying all the best parts of life: friends, food, wine, thoughtful conversation, style, and sass!

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