Have you ever strolled through an airport terminal and wondered, “Hey, wasn’t this airport in that movie I watched?” You’re not alone. Airports have been a prime filming location for iconic movie scenes over the decades. From LAX Airport to Changi and all points in between, airports provide filmmakers with diverse settings for cinematic storytelling.
As a film buff, FlightChic is always delighted to spot an iconic airport in a movie scene. Here’s a list of airports seen on the big screen, offering a perfect blend of aviation and cinema for enthusiasts of both.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): Hollywood’s Hometown Runway
Thanks to its proximity to Hollywood, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) boasts a filmography of 325 productions on IMDB at the time of writing. Its futuristic design is an ideal setting for movies like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Red Eye, and, of course, the Christmas and AvGeek classic Die Hard. The airport’s modern architecture and renowned observation deck have become iconic film elements.
But, in FlightChic’s opinion, the most memorable LAX movie scene takes place in a more humble location. In the opening credit sequence to 1967’s The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman passes through an LAX concourse connection tunnel as The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel plays in the background. The scene doesn’t show much of the airport but is painfully relatable. Who hasn’t had a moment like this on a moving walkway at an airport somewhere sometime?
Of course, LAX also features prominently in the ultimate AvGeek comedy: Airplane!
John F. Kennedy International Airport: Iconic Airline Brands
The TWA Hotel at JFK International Airport uniquely blends modern luxury and vintage aesthetics. Preserving the famous TWA Flight Center designed by Eero Saarinen, the hotel has been honored with prestigious World Travel awards. No wonder filmmakers chose this backdrop for classics like Catch Me If You Can and Ocean’s 8. TV shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Project Runway have also been filmed there and the hotel is a hotspot for celebrities. The TWA Flight Center boasts 14 film credits on IMDB and JFK has 53 film credits.
Newark International Airport: Arching Architecture
One of the busiest US airports, Newark International Airport, offers filmmakers a spacious and modern setting. Featured in movies such as Scent of a Woman, Serendipity, and You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, the airport is also a recurring spot on the reality TV show The Amazing Race. In all, Newark boasts 23 film titles at the time of writing. Its arching architecture and lighting make it a go-to location for movie scenes requiring grandeur and sophistication. The airport’s recent updates, with its Terminal A having just reopened this year, offer passengers even more space.
LaGuardia Airport: New York’s Oldest Commercial Hub
New York LaGuardia Airport, part of the country’s largest airport system alongside JFK and Newark, has also been a film staple. LaGuardia was the setting for Coming to America and Die Hard with a Vengeance, Sully, and The Terminal. IMDB credits LaGuardia as the setting for 19 titles in all. The oldest airport in New York City, which launched operations in 1939, was originally called New York Municipal Airport-LaGuardia Field. In 1953, the city renamed the airport “LaGuardia Airport” after the mayor of New York at the time, Fiorello La Guardia. LaGuardia has undergone a breathtaking transformation in recent years.
O’Hare International Airport: The Cultural and Historical Hub
Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport‘s central location in the Midwest makes it a hub for connecting flights across the country and the globe. Named after American war hero Edward O’Hare, the airport has always emphasized showcasing its historical and cultural roots. The airport often features public art collections across mediums on display across terminals. O’Hare is the location for movies like Sleepless in Seattle, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, and Home Alone. In all, O’Hare boasts 30 titles.
Heathrow International Airport: The UK’s Cinematic Runway
The largest airport in the UK and the world’s most connected airport, Heathrow International is also the world’s second-most filmed airport. Heathrow creates a unique backdrop for cinematic classics such as Love Actually and Bend It Like Beckham. IMDB credits Heathrow with 210 film and TV titles. The airport’s design focuses on natural lighting, sustainability, and a mix of modern renovation and historical preservation. It offers a wealth of attractive settings.
Another bit of film buff and AvGeek trivia: Heathrow also plays a candid role in the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece Dr. Strangelove. The photographic mural in General Ripper’s office is not an aerial view of the fictitious Burpelson AFB. It’s an aerial view of Heathrow. Dr. Strangelove was filmed at Shepperton Studios, near the airport.
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport: The Iconic Innovator
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, an architectural masterpiece by French architect Paul Andreu, is third in most filmed airports, with 108 titles filmed at CDG. Titles include Taken, Lucy, and The Devil Wears Prada. The iconic French airport, just twenty minutes from the heart of Paris, is also a leader in passenger experience. With self-check-in kiosks, a mobile for navigating to terminals, and even AI customer service solutions, it is an attractive choice for travelers.
Other Memorable Airports in Film
Bonus: An Iconic Airport Film Scene That Wasn’t an Airport Afterall
Fans of the sci-fi classic 12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam will remember the airport scene’s critical role in the film. If you’re wondering which airport that was, here’s a fun fact: it was the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
A Look Back at the Top 20 Airports Featured in Films and TV
In 2017, I reported on Air New Zealand’s list of the top 20 airports featured in films and television. It showed Hollywood’s home airport—Los Angeles Airport LAX—as the most filmed airport ever. LAX is still at the top, but competition is fierce, judging from the rise in the number of productions credited to these airports. It’s safe to say the world’s airports will continue to be huge stars on screen and in the skies.
Whether you’re an AvGeek or a film buff, these airports offer something special for everyone. Next time you’re in one of these terminals, don’t forget to take a good look around. You might be standing in the middle of a cinematic masterpiece.