The Best Quotes from Airplane!

Comedy Lists Airplane!
The Best Quotes from Airplane!

“Striker, listen, and you listen close: Flying a plane is no different than riding a bicycle, just a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes.”

It was 40 years ago today that Airplane!, the greatest disaster parody film all of all time, hit theaters, thrusting traumatized war vet Ted Striker (Robert Hays) back into the cockpit to land a commercial airline in a storm. Directed by the ZAZ trio of Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams and David Zucker of the Kentucky Fried Theatre troupe, the movie was packed with jokes, often delivered by veteran actors like Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Peter Graves and Lloyd Bridges, who were much better-known for their dramatic roles.

With a budget of just $3.5 million, the now-classic comedy grossed $158 million worldwide, thanks to its rapid-fire humor, running gags and complete embrace of absolute goofiness.

Here are the best quotes from Airplane!, the greatest parody of film of all time:

Who’s on First? Redux

Roger Murdock: Flight 2-0-9er, you are cleared for take-off.
Captain Oveur: Roger!
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Tower: L.A. departure frequency, 123 point 9’er.
Captain Oveur: Roger!
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Victor Basta: Request vector, over.
Captain Oveur: What?
Tower: Flight 2-0-9er cleared for vector 324.
Roger Murdock: We have clearance, Clarence.
Captain Oveur: Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?
Tower: Tower’s radio clearance, over!
Captain Oveur: That’s Clarence Oveur. Over.
Tower: Over.
Captain Oveur: Roger.
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Tower voice: Roger, over!
Roger Murdock: What?
Captain Oveur: Huh?
Victor Basta: Who?

Don’t Call me Shirley

Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can’t be serious
Rumack: I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.

Rumack: I won’t deceive you, Mr. Striker. We’re running out of time.
Ted Striker: Surely there must be something you can do.
Rumack: I’m doing everything I can… and stop calling me Shirley!

That’s not important.

Rumack: You’d better tell the Captain we’ve got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.
Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it?
Rumack: It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.

Elaine Dickinson: You got a letter from headquarters this morning.
Ted Striker: What is it?
Elaine Dickinson: It’s a big building where generals meet, but that’s not important.

The wrong week

Steve McCroskey: Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.

Steve McCroskey: Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking.

Steve McCroskey: Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

Steve McCroskey: Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines.


Passenger: Nervous?
Ted Striker: Yes.
Passenger: First time?
Ted Striker: No, I’ve been nervous lots of times.

Ted Striker: It was at that moment that I first realized Elaine had doubts about our relationship. And that, as much as anything else, led to my drinking problem.
[pours Gatorade into glass and splashes it onto the left side of his own face]

Ted Striker: My orders came through. My squadron ships out tomorrow. We’re bombing the storage depots at Daiquiri at 1800 hours. We’re coming in from the north, below their radar.
Elaine Dickinson: When will you be back?
Ted Striker: I can’t tell you that. It’s classified.


Elaine Dickinson: Ladies and gentlemen, this is your stewardess speaking… We regret any inconvenience the sudden cabin movement might have caused. This is due to periodic air pockets we encountered. There’s no reason to be alarmed, and we hope you enjoy the rest of your flight.

Elaine Dickinson: Would you like something to read?
Hanging Lady: Do you have anything light?
Elaine Dickinson: How about this leaflet, “Famous Jewish Sports Legends?”

Elaine Dickinson: Ted, the altitude! We’re falling, Ted! We’re falling! The mountains, Ted! The mountains!
Ted Striker: What mountains? We’re over Iowa!
Elaine Dickinson: The… The cornfields, Ted! The cornfields!


Air Controller Macias: Captain, maybe we ought to turn on the searchlights now.
Rex Kramer: No… that’s just what they’ll be expecting us to do.

Rex Kramer: Striker, listen, and you listen close: flying a plane is no different than riding a bicycle, just a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes.


Steve McCroskey: Johnny, what can you make out of this?
[Hands him the weather briefing]
Johnny: This? Why, I can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl…

Controller: Bad news. The fog’s getting thicker.
Johnny: [jumps to an overweight controller] And Leon is getting laaaarger.

Reporter: What kind of plane is it?
Johnny: Oh, it’s a big pretty white plane with red stripes, curtains in the windows and wheels and it looks like a big Tylenol.

Rex Kramer (reading newspaper): Passengers certain to die!
Steve McCroskey (reading newspaper): Airline negligent.
Johnny (reading newspaper): There’s a sale at Penney’s!

Ted Striker: Mayday! Mayday!
Steve McCroskey: What the heck is that?
Johnny: Why, that’s the Russian New Year. We can have a parade and serve hot hors d’oeuvres.

Steve McCroskey: [to Mrs. Oveur] Now your husband and the others are alive, but unconscious.
Johnny: Just like Gerald Ford.

Steve McCroskey: I need the best man on this. Someone who knows that plane inside and out and won’t crack under pressure.
Johnny: How about Mister Rogers?

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