Let’s pretend, for the sake of hilarious, fun-filled entertainment, that the flight you are on is hijacked. Needless to say, you are horrified and clueless, and the cabin is in dire need of a hero. But just then, while aimlessly looking towards first class…you spot Liam Neeson. You have to admit, he looks determined.
Would not a small, completely irrational part of your brain expect him to save the day? Would not Neeson himself expect to save the day? After all, he has spent the better part of the last 10 years maiming criminals, albeit on camera, and when he does it it’s scripted and fake. But, you know…still.
It’s hard not to think that the producers of “Non-Stop” had the same thought. There’s comfort in Neeson, and others like him. Who are the top nine actors you’d want on a flight with you if it were hijacked, based on their respective airplane movies?
9. George Clooney (“Up in the Air,” 2009)
It’s certainly possible that the terrorists would be in such awe of Clooney’s presence on their hijacked flight and/or overall level of attractiveness that they’d suddenly believe their plane-hijacking cause was secondary. Heaven knows we would. Other than that, though, we’re just not sure Clooney could do much in the name of fighting back except perhaps entertaining the passengers with his witticisms and his stories from the set of “Three Kings.” Who wouldn’t be at least somewhat calmed by this face?
8. Leslie Nielsen (“Airplane!” 1980)
As a passenger on a hijacked flight, you’d know you were really dealing with some subhuman sociopaths if the late Leslie Nielsen was also on the flight and they couldn’t laugh at his lighthearted jokes. They’d probably even get away with the threat of a hijack if it turned out their hearts were changed by Nielsen making everyone laugh. “Not only do we not want to hijack this plane anymore, we really want to watch the entirety of the ‘Naked Gun’ franchise.” Don’t we all, hijacker. Don’t we all.
7. Leonardo DiCaprio (“Catch Me If You Can,” 2002)
DiCaprio’s character in “Catch Me If You Can” was a swindler, so to speak, and given DiCaprio’s current status as “Best Actor Alive” or at least “Best Actor Alive If You Think Daniel Day-Lewis is Overrated,” it’s reasonable to think DiCaprio could create an empathetic character who could talk the hijackers out of what they intended to do. That, or the hijackers would notice DiCaprio on the flight and feel guilty about depriving the world of future Leonardo DiCaprio movies. Either way, effective. Regardless, as a fellow passenger you’d at least hope he’d make this exact face when presented with the challenge.
6. Denzel Washington (“Flight,” 2012)
While you’d want to pester Mr. Washington before he politely asks the flight attendant if there were any extra available seats, his character in “Flight” would have you thinking that he may not be the best cperson to look to if terrorists were to hijack your flight. Then again, it would be pretty cool to die with Denzel Washington, am I right?
I’m Denzel’s man.
5. Kurt Russell (“Executive Decision,” 1996)
Here’s the thing: Were we still hanging out in 1996, debating Dole’s merits versus Clinton, being 10 years old, etc., then Kurt Russell would have had more to offer us here, especially since this entire movie revolves around him and Halle Berry thwarting terrorists on a commercial airliner (serious bonus points for Steven Seagal’s presence in the film). He literally acted out this scenario 18 years ago. But it was 18 years ago. Sorry, Kurt, you’re only good for fifth place here, but you’ll feel better once you see the top four.
4. Nicolas Cage (“Con Air,” 1997)
If we could get Cameron Poe himself on our flight, he skyrockets to #1 on this list, easy. In fact, were terrorists to hijack our flight and Poe (Cage’s character from “Con Air”) was sitting next to us, we would remove one of our headphones to politely ask a stewardess the meaning of the commotion, give a slight nod to Poe, and go back to sleep listening to Enya’s “Oronoco Flow.” But since it’s Cage himself, and he only summoned the characteristics of Poe over a six-week shoot in 1997, he can only get to four on our list.
Oh good, he’s cool with the ranking.
3. Liam Neeson (“Non-Stop,” 2014)
You might think we’re giving Neeson too much respect from a movie that hasn’t even come out yet and no one has seen. You’re wrong. You are simply a wrong person. Sorry. We all know that whoever decided to kill someone every 20 minutes on this flight f—ed with the wrong air marshal, almost to the point where you feel for his (or her, Julianne Moore) bad luck. And it’s even more remarkable that Neeson is exactly 16 months younger than Russell, and still kicking this much tail. What an American (Northern Irish) badass. We wish he was our dad.
2. Samuel L. Jackson (“Snakes on a Plane,” 2006)
Look: Quite simply, he’s had it with these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday to Friday plane. That’s really the bottom line. In seriousness, can’t you just picture Sam shouting something like “Uh-uh, this is NOT the way I’m going out!” and storming the cockpit if he had to? And wouldn’t Samuel L. Jackson thwarting terrorists on a hijacked plane in real life and saving hundreds of people in the process be the biggest story in the history of the world? We mean like, in the world? Not that we’re rooting for that or anything.
1. Harrison Ford (“Air Force One,” 1997)
You knew it was coming, we knew it was coming, and yet the choice just feels so fulfilling anyway, doesn’t it? Off-topic-but-fun hypothetical: Let’s say the events of “Air Force One” and the events of “Independence Day” happen in the same universe, six years apart. President Harrison Ford and President Bill Pullman subsequently run against each other in the following presidential election (assuming President Ford had opted not to run for a second term years prior, citing exhaustion). Who wins?
The answer, of course, is America.