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Air Force One (movie poster)
Air Force One theatrical poster
Written by Andrew W. Marlowe
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Produced by Armyan Bernstein
Thomas Bliss
Gail Katz
Jonathan Shestack
Wolfgang Petersen
Starring Harrison Ford
Gary Oldman
Glenn Close
Dean Stockwell
Xander Berkeley
William H. Macy
Paul Guilfoyle
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus
Editing by Richard Francis-Bruce
Studio Beacon Pictures
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
(United States)
Buena Vista International
Release Date July 25, 1997
Rated R
Run time 124 min.
Budget $85,000,000
Grossed $315,156,409

Air Force One is the 1997 action-thriller film. It was released in the U.S. on July 25, 1997. It was written by Andrew W. Marlowe and directed by Wolfgang Petersen.

In this movie, it has President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) is trapped onboard his presidential plane, Air Force One when it was hijacked by Russian terrorists, led by the sadistic Egor Korshunov (Gary Oldman). As terrorists plan to have President Marshall to have the Russian president release vicious dictator of Kazakhstan General Ivan Radek (Jürgen Prochnow), President Marshall, an ex-soldier and a Medal of Honor recipient himself, silently battles Korshunov and his men onboard and save the hostages, including his own family. Meanwhile, Vice President Kathryn Bennett (Glenn Close) handles the crisis from the White House situation room.

Air Force One is unanimously regarded as one of the best Die Hard scenario movies, due in no small part to Gary Oldman's performance.


An American and Russian joint military operation results in the capture of General Ivan Radek, the dictator of a rogue terrorist regime in Kazakhstan that had taken possession of former Soviet Union nuclear weapons. Three weeks later, a diplomatic dinner is held in Moscow to celebrate the capture of the Kazakh dictator, at which President of the United States, James Marshall expresses his remorse that action had not been taken sooner to prevent the suffering that Radek caused. He also vows that his administration will take a firmer stance against despotism and that they will never negotiate with terrorists.

President Marshall, along with his wife Grace, daughter Alice, and several of his Cabinet and advisors, board Air Force One to return to the United States. United States Secret Service agent Gibbs, acting as a mole for a group of six Radek loyalists led by the sadistic Egor Korshunov, sneaks them onto the plane disguised as journalists. Once in flight, Gibbs kills several Secret Service agents guarding the plane's armory, allowing Korshunov and his men to seize control of the plane. When the attackers start a firefight, the pilots attempt to land the plane at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. However, the pilots are killed, and the terrorists take control, diverting the plane towards Kazakhstan. Secret Service agents take Marshall to an escape pod in the cargo hold, while the rest of the passengers are taken hostage by the hijackers. Believing the President has escaped, the hijackers plan to use his wife and daughter as leverage.

At the White House Situation Room, Korshunov contacts Vice President Kathryn Bennett, threatening to shoot a hostage every half hour until Radek is released. Meanwhile, the U.S. military locates the escape pod but finds it empty. Unbeknownst to the hijackers, President Marshall, a retired military aviator, veteran of the Vietnam War, and Medal of Honor recipient, stayed aboard the plane to rescue the hostages. He kills two of Korshunov's men and contacts the White House via satellite phone, reminding Bennett not to negotiate with the terrorists. The hijackers request mid-air refueling after Marshall forces a fuel dump and secures the hostages. Marshall sends a fax to the White House, instructing the tanker to force the plane to drop altitude so the hostages can parachute to safety without suffocating due to low oxygen level. However, the terrorists discover the escape attempt and Korshunov forces the plane away from the refueling tanker, causing the fuel to ignite from the fueling probe and destroy the tanker. He captures Marshall and the remaining advisors.

With Marshall and his family held hostage, Korshunov tortures Marshall and explains his actions, saying that the collapse of the Soviet Union had ruined his country. Bennett is forced to contact Russian President Petrov to endorse Radek's release. Korshunov and his men celebrate as the event is broadcast over the plane's speakers until Marshall escapes. While Marshall shoots down the remaining terrorists, Korshunov takes Grace to the plane's parachute ramp, but is interrupted by Marshall. Korshunov loses his weapon, and is strangled with the parachute chord and has his neck snapped. Marshall then halts Radek's release, and Radek is fatally shot attempting to flee custody.

Marshall directs Air Force One towards friendly airspace unaware that MiG-29s piloted by Radek loyalists follow them. Escorting U.S. F-15s counterattack, but the shrapnel from explosions, and machine gun rounds, destroys Air Force One's tail controls, rendering landing impossible. Marshall pilots Air Force One out toward the Caspian Sea to prevent civilian casualties, and a nearby patrolling Air Force Special Operations Command IMC-130E Combat Talon is called in to rescue Marshall and the others via zip-line. After his family and the injured Chief of Staff Lloyd Shepherd are evacuated, Marshall, Gibbs, and Major Caldwell remain on the plane, with time for only one to be rescued. Caldwell tells Marshall to go, but Gibbs, revealing that it was he who aided the terrorists in hijacking Air Force One, pulls a gun, kills Major Caldwell and a United States Air Force Pararescue, and attempts to save himself on the last remaining zip-line. Marshall overpowers him (having once trusted Gibbs with his life), attaches himself to the line, and unhooks it from the plane before it crashes into the water. The MC-130E crew reel in the President, and Marshall is reunited with his family.

Cast and characters[]

The President and his family[]


Air Force One passengers and personnel[]

U.S. Government[]

  • Glenn Close as Vice President Kathryn Bennett
  • Dean Stockwell as Secretary of Defense Walter Dean
  • Spencer Garrett as White House Aide Thomas Lee
  • Bill Smitrovich as General Northwood
  • Philip Baker Hall as U.S. Attorney General Andrew Ward
  • J.A. Preston as White House general
  • Richard Doyle as Colonel Bob Jackson


  • Alan Woolf as Russian President Petrov
  • Don R. McManus as Colonel Jack Carlton, F-15 "Halo Flight" Leader
  • Timothy Carhart as Secret Service Agent at Checkpoint (uncredited)


A large part of the crew took a tour of the real Air Force One before filming. They based some of the film's scenes, where the terrorists disguised as journalists survey the plane's layout and begin to take their seats, on the touring experience. The character of Deputy Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell was based largely on their real life tour guide, and the crew felt uncomfortable having to film the character's execution by the terrorists.

Scenes explaining why Agent Gibbs was the mole were cut from the final script. According to director Wolfgang Petersen, Gibbs was a former CIA agent who lost a lot after the end of the Cold War and thus became angry with the American government. The hijackers never reveal to anyone Gibbs' true identity, to the point where they also tie him up along with President Marshall, Major Caldwell, and Chief of Staff Lloyd Shepherd.

Gary Oldman did not stay in character between the scenes. The director later said he called the filming experience 'Air Force Fun' because of how comic and genial Oldman would be off-screen. He also said that Oldman would suddenly return to the menacing film persona like a shot.

General Radek's palace, seen in the film's opening, was portrayed by two locations in Cleveland, Ohio: the exterior was Severance Hall, and the interior was the Cuyahoga County Courthouse. The Russian prison where Radek was incarcerated was the Ohio State Reformatory, previously seen in The Shawshank Redemption.

F-15 Eagle aircraft from the 33d Operations Group were used in the movie.


Air Force One received generally positive reviews from critics, with an overall "fresh" rating of 79% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 7/10. . Peter Travers]of Rolling Stone awarded the film 3.5/4 stars, describing it as "superior escapism", and concluding, "Air Force One doesn't insult the audience. It is crafted by a film-maker who takes pride in the thrills and sly fun he packs into every frame. Welcome to something rare in a summer of crass commercialism: a class act." Todd McCarthy of Variety described the film as "a preposterously pulpy but quite entertaining suspense meller" that is "spiked by some spectacularly staged and genuinely tense action sequences." He lauded the film's antagonist: "[Gary] Oldman, in his second malevolent lead of the summer, after The Fifth Element, registers strongly as a veteran of the Afghan campaign pushed to desperate lengths to newly ennoble his country."Mick Laselle of the San Francisco chronicle gave the film 5 stars out of 5 saying it is a gamble.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4, writing, "The movie is well-served by the quality of the performances...Air Force One is a fairly competent recycling of familiar ingredients, given an additional interest because of Harrison Ford's personal appeal while his partner Gene Siskel gave the film 3 stars out of 4." Conversely, Adam Mars-Jones of The Independent called it "so preposterous that it begins to seem like a science-fiction artifact...the product of a parallel-universe 1990s which somehow by-passed the decades since the 1950s.

The film was a major box office success, earning $172,650,002 (54.9%) domestically and $142,200,000 (45.1%) in other countries. It grossed a total of $315,156,409 worldwide in the box office. It was the year's fifth highest-grossing film worldwide.

President Bill Clinton saw the film twice while in office and gave it good reviews. He noted, however, that certain elements of the film's plane, such as the escape pod and the rear parachute ramp, did not reflect actual features of Air Force One. In the audio commentary, Wolfgang Petersen reflected that although the real plane did not have those features at the time of the filming, it would—according to him—be probably added by future governments.

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards; one for Best Film Editing, the other for Best Sound Mixing (Paul Massey, Rick Kline, Doug Hemphill and Keith A. Wester). It lost both of them to Titanic


Randy Newman was initially hired to write the film score; however, Petersen considered his version to be almost a parody and commissioned Jerry Goldsmith to write and record a more somber and patriotic score in just twelve days, with assistance from Joel McNeely. After the harried experience, Goldsmith vowed never again to take on such a last-minute task.

Newman used some of his material from the rejected score in Toy Story 3.

Varèse Sarabande released a soundtrack album featuring Goldsmith's music (McNeely receives a credit on the back cover for "Additional Music in the Motion Picture", but none of his work is on the CD).

  1. The Parachutes (5:14)
  2. The Motorcade (2:40)
  3. Empty Rooms (4:02)
  4. The Hijacking (7:30)
  5. No Security (2:59)
  6. Free Flight (4:41)
  7. Escape From Air Force One (5:25)
  8. Welcome Aboard, Sir (2:06)

At the 2009 Presidential Inauguration, the USAF Band played part of the score for exiting President George W. Bush.

On August 11, 2012, Paul Ryan was introduced as the Republican vice presidential running mate by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to the score of Air Force One in Norfolk, Virginia.


  • Due to the movie's growing inclusion into pop culture, various movies, TV shows and film buffs have parodied the film's notable quote: "Get off my plane!"
  • In the pilot episode "Yankee White" to the TV series "NCIS", the show's protagonist prevents a hijacking of Air Force One when he deducts that the original attack occurred after a virtual copycat plan of the same plan as shown in the 1997 movie.

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