The High and the Mighty (1954) - Rotten Tomatoes

The High and the Mighty1954

The High and the Mighty (1954)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The High and the Mighty Photos

Movie Info

For The High and the Mighty, director William Wellman made a point of using Cinemascope to heighten the dramatic content of a confined screen space -- in this instance, the cockpit of a plane in flight. Copilot Dan Roman (John Wayne) seems a lot more in control of things than Captain John Sullivan (Robert Stack) when the plane loses an engine during a flight from Honolulu to San Francisco. Wellman crosscuts from the tension in the cockpit to the various subplots involving the plane's passengers, among them May Holst (Claire Trevor), Lydia Rice (Laraine Day), Howard Rice (John Howard), Sally McKee (Jan Sterling), Ed Joseph (Phil Harris), and Humphrey Agnew (Sidney Blackmer) (as a character named Humphrey Agnew -- a remarkable prescient cognomen given the future of the U.S. vice presidency!). Adapted by Ernest K. Gann from his best-selling novel, The High and the Mighty was one of the first (and most profitable) entries in the "terror in the sky" genre. Its theme music, written by Dimitri Tiomkin and whistled incessantly by John Wayne in the film, would later become a best-selling hit throughout the world. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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John Wayne
as Dan Roman
Robert Stack
as John Sullivan
Claire Trevor
as May Holst
Laraine Day
as Lydia Rice
Jan Sterling
as Sally McKee
Phil Harris
as Ed Joseph
Robert Newton
as Gustave Pardee
David Brian
as Ken Childs
Paul Kelly
as Flaherty
Sidney Blackmer
as Humphrey Agnew
Doe Avedon
as Miss Spaulding
Karen Sharpe
as Nell Buck
John Smith
as Milo Buck
Julie Bishop
as Lillian Pardee
John Howard
as Howard Rice
William Campbell
as Hobie Wheeler
Ann Doran
as Mrs. Joseph
John Qualen
as Jose Locota
Paul Fix
as Frank Briscoe
George Chandler
as Ben Sneed
Joy Kim
as Dorothy Chen
Michael Wellman
as Toby Field
Regis Toomey
as Garfield
Robert Keys
as Lt. Mowbray
Robert Easton
as Cargo Clerk
Philip Van Zandt
as Mr. Wilson
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Critic Reviews for The High and the Mighty

All Critics (10)

A multi-Oscar nominee in its day, underrated today.

May 29, 2021 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

There is plenty of tension toward the finish of this widely-read tale...but most of the characters are banal "types," what they say is often uncomfortably corny...

January 28, 2020 | Full Review…

A forerunner of the disaster movies, this cliche John Wayne blockbuster could be described as Grand Hotel in the Air.

May 3, 2007 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

Ocasionalmente promissor, acaba sendo prejudicado por sua narrativa lenta e por sua duração excessiva.

October 3, 2005 | Rating: 3/5

Everyone aboard has so much personal baggage, it's amazing the plane can even get off the ground.

September 2, 2005 | Full Review…

A sharp, tense reading of a mushy script.

August 8, 2005 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The High and the Mighty

Silly bit of John Wayne foolery. It was a standard to put Wayne in non westerns to continue his interpretation of the perfect American frontiersmen in plots outside of the Old West. In most cases, it doesn't work.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer


A good "Danger in the Skies" movie, which features Wayne in a non-western role, playing an "ancient Pelican" that is, an airline Pilot with a grim past. Yet, when something goes wrong on an transcontinental flight, he might redeem himself. The film mixes both what is going on within the faltering plane as well as discusses the passengers lives, through flashbacks, conversations on the plane and voiceovers. While it works superficially, it makes the movie feel episodic sometimes (like an episode of LOST), and flashbacks and voiceovers have never been my most appreciated tools of narration. Especially in an aviation disaster scenario, where density and continuity should be in focus. Still, the cast is solid and Wayne plays as great as ever. And the movie is shot in lushly coloured Cinemascope.

Henrik Schunk
Henrik Schunk

Super Reviewer


Fanastic little disaster film classic of the airborne with John Wayne where it strikes high above the Pacific Ocean at the point of no return. This film has more than enough fine moments generated by a cast of familiar faces to keep me interest. I didn't know this adventure film has six Academy Awards nominated that I was surprised to find out.

Dean McKenna
Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

The High and the Mighty Quotes

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