Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
Detroit Free Press:
Makes a credible, and often thrilling case that Hughes' greatest creation was the idea of the man who could do anything, but does far less well when rolling in the muck with those who would rather see a crash than a new plateau achieved.
Scorsese has crafted a luxurious entertainment that goes down like a flute of sparkling, silky champagne.
Sumptuously exciting, glowing with expertise, seething with life, gorgeously designed and thrillingly articulated.
While we leave the film without much more of an understanding of Hughes' legendary obsessions than we did upon entering, we nonetheless leave with a sense of having been glamorously, thoroughly entertained -- which, these days, is a rare pleasure.
Few biopics with this kind of crazy scope have ever been so seamless.
Eleanor Ringel Gillespie,
It's a wonderful showcase for Scorsese's passion for making movies, which, in a sense, parallels the passion Hughes had for making movies.
It's a measure of The Aviator's complexity and ambiguity that it can be read equally as a celebration of rugged, capitalist individualism and as a leftist critique of cutthroat free-market competition.
Other Scorsese films have carried more passion, but none has so brilliantly captured a lost era, or a lost American icon.
The first half -- covering Hughes's high-flying Hollywood years -- is an incredibly filmed treat.
Los Angeles Times:
Tainted or not, Hughes' life was a remarkable one, and, flawed or not, Scorsese's film version deserves the same accolade.
By and large I think this movie's chief function is to give Scorsese an opportunity to indulge in the pleasures of big-time filmmaking and to treat the audience to a heady dose of glamour.
This undoubtedly is the movie Scorsese set out to make, and he made it exceedingly well. Still, we can fault him for choosing to celebrate its subject instead of examining him.
Paul Clinton (CNN.com),
The Aviator is the perfect melding of talent and material.
Hughes is the conduit for a titan of moviemaking to meditate gloriously on the power of film and flight to transform a nation, a culture, a world.
Mostly pays lip service to Hughes' demons, though it does make charged American-movie poetry out of his dreams.
Downright squeamish, skimming only the more palatable facts from the several informative biographies that exist of this increasingly secretive and paranoid man.
Sexy, inspiring and exhilarating, but perhaps more importantly, it's a generous portrait of a brave man, perhaps an artist, certainly a fractured genius.
This almost-great epic has one foot in legend: it's a vision of an American titan that could have sprung from the insides of Hughes's own obsessive, perfectionist head.
Another director would have made an uplifting picture about a great American success. Scorsese, instead, has made the only picture he could, risking studio millions on an intensely personal epic about a dark, complicated failure.
New York Daily News:
Unfortunately, though it may finally gain an Oscar for director Martin Scorsese, it is not his best work. The movie is disappointingly flat.
New York Times:
Martin Scorsese's biography of the famously eccentric empire builder Howard Hughes is visually sumptuous if disappointingly hollow.
New York Observer:
Mr. Scorsese is a great director who often fails, but you have to give him credit for always being on the prowl for new and demanding subjects, even when the results are disastrous, and for remaining true to his own vision, even when it is not shared.
It's history and biography and, as Scorsese, Logan and Orson Welles before them affirm, a distinctly American story.
A good, but not great, filmed biography, and continues Scorsese's recent flirtation with mediocrity.
What a sad man. What brief glory. What an enthralling film, 166 minutes, and it races past.
It's stylish and fleet, and even though it's meticulously detailed, Scorsese's devotion to technique never weighs it down.
Minneapolis Star Tribune:
A famous subject. A talented star. A script that combines spectacular special effects with an intimate look at a man slipping into madness. A master filmmaker back at the top of his game.
Globe and Mail:
Scorsese's mournful celebration of Hughes's life from the 1920s to the late 1940s could be called Citizen Pain.
This handsome movie is an oddly well-behaved one to come from the preternaturally energetic Scorsese.
Despite a pacy, technically brilliant but otherwise slightly ordinary first half-hour or so, Scorsese's Howard Hughes movie is his best since The Age of Innocence.
The first and third hours of this 20th-century epic are as dazzling as big-scale movies get.
An enormously entertaining slice of biographical drama.
The Aviator could've been a Raging Bull brother film, given that masterpiece's crystalline purity of purpose and humiliated courage. But it brakes far short.
We may enjoy watching the spectacles, but we don't much care for, or even have a feeling for, the guy in the cockpit.
Its primary appeal is its speed: It rushes along, from scandal to air crash to movie romance to Senate hearing, each anecdote well realized but never tarried over.