The Aviator 2004

Critics score:
87 / 100

Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes

Terry Lawson, 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. Read more

Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald: Scorsese has crafted a luxurious entertainment that goes down like a flute of sparkling, silky champagne. Read more

Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune: Sumptuously exciting, glowing with expertise, seething with life, gorgeously designed and thrillingly articulated. Read more

Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times: 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. Read more

David Edelstein, Slate: Few biopics with this kind of crazy scope have ever been so seamless. Read more

Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper: I believe this is now the front runner for best picture of 2004. Read more

Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: It's a wonderful showcase for Scorsese's passion for making movies, which, in a sense, parallels the passion Hughes had for making movies. Read more

Nathan Rabin, AV Club: 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. Read more

Bill Muller, Arizona Republic: Other Scorsese films have carried more passion, but none has so brilliantly captured a lost era, or a lost American icon. Read more

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: The first half -- covering Hughes's high-flying Hollywood years -- is an incredibly filmed treat. Read more

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: Tainted or not, Hughes' life was a remarkable one, and, flawed or not, Scorsese's film version deserves the same accolade. Read more

Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader: 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. Read more

Eric Harrison, Houston Chronicle: 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. Read more

Paul Clinton (, The Aviator is the perfect melding of talent and material. Read more

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: 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. Read more

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: Mostly pays lip service to Hughes' demons, though it does make charged American-movie poetry out of his dreams. Read more

Philip Wuntch, Dallas Morning News: A stunning mosaic of contradictions. Read more

Ella Taylor, L.A. Weekly: Downright squeamish, skimming only the more palatable facts from the several informative biographies that exist of this increasingly secretive and paranoid man. Read more

John Anderson, Newsday: Sexy, inspiring and exhilarating, but perhaps more importantly, it's a generous portrait of a brave man, perhaps an artist, certainly a fractured genius. Read more

David Ansen, Newsweek: 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. Read more

Ken Tucker, New York Magazine/Vulture: The result is an admirably bumpy ride of a biopic, a rare one that leaves you feeling not safe but bracingly unsettled. Read more

Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger: 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. Read more

Jami Bernard, 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. Read more

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: Martin Scorsese's biography of the famously eccentric empire builder Howard Hughes is visually sumptuous if disappointingly hollow. Read more

Rex Reed, 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. Read more

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: It's history and biography and, as Scorsese, Logan and Orson Welles before them affirm, a distinctly American story. Read more

James Berardinelli, ReelViews: A good, but not great, filmed biography, and continues Scorsese's recent flirtation with mediocrity. Read more

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: What a sad man. What brief glory. What an enthralling film, 166 minutes, and it races past. Read more

Stephanie Zacharek, It's stylish and fleet, and even though it's meticulously detailed, Scorsese's devotion to technique never weighs it down. Read more

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: As Hughes, DiCaprio is nimble and appealing. Read more

Jeff Strickler, 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. Read more

Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail: Scorsese's mournful celebration of Hughes's life from the 1920s to the late 1940s could be called Citizen Pain. Read more

Geoff Pevere, Toronto Star: A compelling and occasionally stirring movie experience. Read more

Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine: This handsome movie is an oddly well-behaved one to come from the preternaturally energetic Scorsese. Read more

Geoff Andrew, Time Out: 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. Read more

Mike Clark, USA Today: The first and third hours of this 20th-century epic are as dazzling as big-scale movies get. Read more

Todd McCarthy, Variety: An enormously entertaining slice of biographical drama. Read more

Michael Atkinson, Village Voice: 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. Read more

Desson Thomson, Washington Post: We may enjoy watching the spectacles, but we don't much care for, or even have a feeling for, the guy in the cockpit. Read more

Stephen Hunter, Washington Post: 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. Read more