10 Movies That Aren’t Con Air

Ten great movies that nonetheless aren't Con Air.

Nicolas Cage in Con Air
Photo: Touchstone Pictures/Getty Images

This article contains spoilers

Con Air is one of the greatest movies of the last 30 years. Starring Nicolas Cage at the peak of his action career and directed by Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), Con Air is an audacious, wildly entertaining thrill ride that has few cinematic peers, and that’s what we’re here to discuss today.

It’s time to face facts: not every film can be Con Air. In fact, only one film is Con Air, and that’s Con Air. As a result, we can deduce that all the other movies in the world are not Con Air.

Here are ten of the best films that nonetheless aren’t Con Air

Ad – content continues below

10. Star Wars

In George’s Lucas’ seminal 1977 space opera Star Wars, later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, The Imperial Forces capture Princess Leia in an effort to stop a rising rebellion against the Galactic Empire, and it’s up to the rag-tag duo of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo to band together and rescue her, while bringing freedom back to the galaxy.

Along with Luke and Han, there are characters with names like Grand Moff Tarkin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Chewbacca. Indeed, the saga is well-cited for its relentlessly silly names, but for every creatively-titled Glup Shitto in Star Wars, that’s one less powerful name like Billy Bedlam, Garland Green, or Cyrus “The Virus”. Worth bearing that in mind straight away when we’re talking about movies that are simply not Con Air.

9. 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey was a ground-breaking sci-fi movie, there’s no disputing that. Stanley Kurbick’s epic feature, co-written with author Arthur C. Clarke, is not only visually stunning, but explores heavy themes like human evolution, the impact of technology and A.I., and even the possibility of life on other planets. The film contains many memorable sequences, but are any of them as daring as when Swamp Thing is forced to land the Jailbird on the Las Vegas Strip, causing mass destruction and killing Johnny 23 in the process? Unfortunately, Kubrick had neither the vision or the tenacity to create such a sequence, so 2001 isn’t Con Air. Not by a long shot.

8. The Age of Innocence

1993’s The Age of Innocence stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder, and follows the courtship and marriage of Newland Archer, a rich society attorney, to a respectable young lady called May Welland. But complications ensue when Archer meets the beautiful Countess Olenska. Needless to say, things get breathy, neck sniff-y, and extremely corset-y.

As directed by Martin Scorsese, The Age of Innocence scooped many awards, including an Oscar, a BAFTA, and a Golden Globe. Alas, the movie didn’t go hard enough to win a “Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property” award at the Razzies in the year of its release, ergo we can conclude that the movie does not meet the standards of Con Air.

7. The Breakfast Club

There’s an action-packed bit in Con Air where the National Guard arrives and the prison inmates launch an assault. U.S. Marshal Vincent “Vince” Larkin (John Cusack) has to defend the surviving troops on the ground using a bulldozer as a makeshift shield. I regret to inform you that nothing even remotely like that happens in The Breakfast Club. Instead, a bunch of teens just kinda sit around during a Saturday detention under the quasi-watchful eye of a school vice-principal.

Ad – content continues below

Despite this lacklustre plot, The Breakfast Club was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2016. They said it was “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” And Con Air isn’t? What a broken world we live in.

6. The Notebook

Remember when Cameron Poe found Pinball’s corpse trapped in the landing gear? He had a really smart idea, and wrote a message to Vince Larkin on Pinball’s body before throwing it out of the plane. It landed on some poor folks’ car, and they got an awful shock. But Larkin did get the message Cameron wrote, and that allowed him to divert to Lerner air force base and contact the National Guard. Ryan Gosling didn’t do anything that brave as Noah Calhoun in The Notebook, but it still made people cry about what a good and handsome man he was. People are so weird. Poe literally texted a man using a corpse. That’s way cooler than reading a book or whatever sorry.

5. Gremlins

Probably the most memorable moment in Con Air features violent prisoner Billy Bedlam (Nick Chinlund) rifling through a box of Cameron Poe’s belongings and finding enough to expose him as a “good guy”. Billy reads a letter that reveals Poe is a free man, and manhandles the stuffed bunny toy that Poe is bringing home as a gift for the daughter he’s never met. Poe’s reaction to seeing Billy holding the toy is to rightfully demand he put the bunny back in the box.

It’s good advice for anyone holding onto something dangerous in such a pivotal situation. For example, in Gremlins, Billy (different Billy) gets a mogwai from his dad as a Christmas present, but instead of putting the mogwai back in the box and returning it to its owner, Billy’s family recklessly mess with an animal they don’t understand. If Gremlins was Con Air (which it isn’t) the mogwai would have immediately been put back in the box under Poe’s stern advice. Absolutely no question. Billy Peltzer just isn’t as aggressive or as confrontational as Billy Bedlam, and would have been no match for Poe regardless.

4. Misery

Misery is one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever made. The 1990 psychological thriller boasts a tour-de-force performance from actress Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes, an obsessive fan who keeps novelist Paul Sheldon trapped in her house and forces him to write ridiculous content, a situation any average work-from-home listicle creator can relate to.

Though Annie later became cruel and full of rage, she initially took care of Paul after a car accident left him with broken legs and a dislocated shoulder. That sort of kindness reminds me of how Cameron Poe took care of his diabetic cellmate Mike “Baby-O” O’Dell in Con Air. But Poe never turned on Baby-O, so arguably Con Air is the superior movie.

Ad – content continues below

3. A Few Good Men

When you’re making a list of the best courtroom movies, A Few Good Men has gotta be on there. It’s about the court-martial of two U.S. Marines who have been charged with the murder of a fellow Marine, and the lawyers who represent them as their case goes to court. Crackling with Aaron Sorkin dialogue and stellar performances, the climactic showdown between lead lawyer Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Colonel Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) makes for one of the greatest climaxes of our time.

Con Air ends shortly after the Jailbird crashes on the Las Vegas strip because it’s a completely different film. Prisoners Grissom, Diamond Dog, and Swamp Thing manage to escape on a fire truck, and Poe and Larkin have no choice to pursue on police bikes as the thrilling soundtrack wails into gear. The hectic chase ends with the deaths of all three of the escapees, and Poe and Larkin get a chance to bro down before Poe finally meets his daughter and gives her the bunny in a truly crowd-pleasing moment. No one is found guilty of “conduct unbecoming”.

2. Ring

Imagine if the vengeful ghost of Sadako had emerged from her well during Ring, crawled through the TV in that unnatural way she does, confronted the man who didn’t copy her rage video by asking “do you know what I am?”, and he’d replied “ugly all day?” without missing a beat. That’s a burn of such magnificent quality, she’d have scuttled back into the TV and down the well, never to show her face again. There’s no coming back from that.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen in Ring, its prequel, or any of its sequels. Neither does it happen in the Ju-on/Ring crossover movie, Sadako vs. Kayako, or the American remakes. None of those films are Con Air, so they don’t have that incredible dialogue. Pretty sad, when you think about it.

1. Home Alone

Home Alone is the closest thing on this list to Con Air, as both movies follow a plucky protagonist who is out to thwart some bad guys while roping in unlikely allies. In Home Alone, little Kevin McCallister rigs his house with booby traps to catch burglars Harry and Marv at Christmastime, while in Con Air, Cameron Poe intervenes when a career criminal called Cyrus tries to divert a plane full of high-risk convicts, including mass murderer William “Billy Bedlam” Bedford, serial rapist John “Johnny 23” Baca, and serial killer Garland “The Marietta Mangler” Greene, to a non-extradition country.

But that’s where the eerie similarities end. Though Home Alone clearly comes very, very close to being Con Air – and has therefore snagged the number one spot on this list – at the end of the day, it isn’t Con Air.

Ad – content continues below

Join us next time for another ten films that aren’t Con Air.