2004 Certificate: 12


The life of playboy aviator Howard Hughes takes off thanks to a mesmerising turn from Leonardo DiCaprio and a return to form for director Martin Scorsese. The spikily intelligent Katharine Hepburn (Oscar winner Blanchett, superb) is the love of his life while Kate Beckinsale gives good hair-toss as Ava Gardner. The stunning aerial sequences, particularly Hughes' roof-shattering crashlanding in the Hollywood Hills, won't disappoint.


  • Martin Scorsese


  • Leonardo DiCaprio

  • Kate Beckinsale

  • John C Reilly

  • Jude Law

  • Alan Alda

  • Alec Baldwin

  • Cate Blanchett


American multi-millionaire Howard Hughes was nuts about flying. He was nuts about glamorous starlets. He was also nuts about movies. He was basically nuts.

The nearest thing we have to the eccentric Texan playboy - whose fortune was derived through his father's drill bit business - is Richard Branson.

Where the bearded entrepreneur has Virgin Atlantic and a penchant for ballooning, Hughes ran US airline giant TWA and test flew all his self-designed aircraft.

However, while Branson has a fondness for colourful woolly pullies, Hughes was cursed by a dirt phobia, a fear of crowds and a weakness for Hollywood's leading ladies.

Director Martin Scorsese puts the disappointment of Gangs of New York behind him and keeps faith with Gangs star DiCaprio to breathe life into the complex industrialist.

Only lingering on Hughes' childhood to cast light on his cleanliness obsession (his mother terrified him with tales of cholera), Scorsese skilfully sketches in the character of the man courtesy of his sideline as movie producer.

So we see the young movie mogul blowing millions on the World War I flying feature Hell's Angels, badgering a rival studio for cameras and ordering Ian Holm's meteorologist to "find clouds".

The movie had to be re-shot to accommodate the new-fangled soundtrack and also cost the lives of three stunt pilots...but proved a box office smash.

Unencumbered by doubt and driven by an uncompromising quest for perfection, the obsessive maverick would go on to apply his obsessive standards to the Hughes Aircraft Company and subsequently TWA.

The aircraft obsessed mogul also enjoyed a high-flying personal life, squiring the likes of Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow and Bette Davis.

The spikily intelligent Katharine Hepburn (an Oscar winning performance by Blanchett, superb) is the irascible love of his life while Kate Beckinsale gives good hair-toss as Ava Gardner.

Focussed and beatifully paced, this doesn't disappoint visually with some stunningly shot aerial shots, particularly Hughes' roof tile shattering crashlanding in the Hollywood Hills.

The Academy was as impressed with Scorsese's efforts as critics. The film garnered Oscars for Best Actress (Blanchett); Art Direction; Costume Design and film editing.

Hughes was such a larger-than-life character that he needed a director with larger-than-life skills to capture his spirit. Scorsese is well up to the task.

Go fly with him.

Tim Evans