Airplane! (1980)

Directed by Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams and David Zucker

An ex-fighter pilot forced to take over the controls of an airliner when the flight crew succumbs to food poisoning.

Instead of drawing distinctions between traditional binaries like serious and funny—or, more crucially, smart and stupid—the filmmakers just unload everything at once and trust the viewer to sort it out. […] You could call the result illogic or moronic—or you could call it surrealist. The joy is that Airplane! doesn’t ask you to choose. [And] it’s not enough to say that Airplane! is a “product of its time,” because in its desire to elicit a very modest, essentially adolescent sort of offense, it’s timeless. […] That one of the all-time-great comedies contains a minimum of overtly comic performances is a bit of a contradiction, but ZAZ knew what they were doing. It’s not that the actors in Airplane! aren’t funny; it’s that their funniness, which verges at times on transcendence, is predicated on their embodying the punch line to some larger, conceptual joke. The relentless sight gags and carnivalesque sensibility of The Simpsons probably wouldn’t have been possible without Airplane!’s model, and that goes double for Family Guy. Few American comedies cast a longer shadow, and the irony of a movie that’s stitched together almost entirely out of other movies holding up as something singular and even foundational is precisely the sort of paradox you want in a work of art.

Adam Nayman (The Ringer)