Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is a Thanksgiving classic starring Steve Martin and the late great John Candy. The story follows a man trying to get home for Thanksgiving dinner, but he is delayed by weather and the lovable but chatty Del Griffith. The two team up to get Neal (Steve Martin) home, employing the services of every method of transportation a person could think of.
John Hughes’ masterpiece is often remembered for its great one-liners from both Steve Martin and John Candy and for its unforgettable twist ending.
Updated on January 16th, 2022 by Mark Birrell: The best Planes, Trains and Automobiles quotes will live on for generations to come thanks to the quality of the heart and humor present in the John Hughes classic.
The odd couple of Steve Martin’s Neal Page and John Candy’s Del Griffith is one for the ages, delivering one of the great examples of screen chemistry in movie history, with Hughes’ writing giving them both tons of unforgettable lines.
Del Griffith’s Great Motto
“Y’know, the finest line a man’ll walk is between success at work and success at home. I got a motto – like your work, love your wife.”
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is, in a lot of ways, a movie about marriage, with Neal Page behaving in all manner of unpleasant ways while justifying it to himself through his love for his wife and family, and his desire to get home to them. Neal loves his wife, but does he truly appreciate her?
Del reveals himself by the end of the movie as a kind of Ghost of Christmas Future for Neal. Del lived a life on the road and now the road is all he has. There’s no home to go back to. It gives Del this painfully real insight that comes off as sweet and maybe even a little naive when it’s heard early on in the film, with the words taking on more meaning by the end once the audience knows the truth of Del’s life.
Neal Is A Desperate Man
“Please. Have mercy. I’ve been wearing the same underwear since Tuesday.”
At the pair’s lowest moment, Del and Neal need to get a room for the night as the car they rented is now mostly destroyed and the temperature getting even lower than usual on their icy journey.
With very little money left, Neal is forced to beg and barter in order to get a room, eventually trading his watch but not before making this hilarious plea to the motel receptionist.
Del Driving Down The Wrong Side of The Highway
“Oh, he’s drunk. How would he know where we’re going?”
In one of the movie’s most memorable sequences, Del gets turned around while on the highway and ends up driving the wrong way. When some onlookers try to tell the oblivious Del and Neal, Del interprets their warning as a suggestion that they’re heading away from their destination and not that they’re on the wrong side of the highway.
Del simply thinks that the other driver and their passenger must be drunk and want to race, brushing them off and driving straight towards two trucks. This results in the iconic moment where Del suddenly looks like the devil to Neal as they narrowly escape a crushing death.
Del Sells Some Shower Curtain Rings
“This is Czechoslovakian ivory.”
When Del and Neal arrive in St. Louis, they’re pretty strapped for cash and running low on transportation options. Del makes some quick money by selling his shower curtain rings to passersby, advertising them as various humorously fake items.
Aside from linking them to celebrities like Walter Kronkite and Diane Sawyer, Del sells some shower curtain rings as “Czechoslovakian ivory”, which the master salesman gets to just roll off his tongue.
Del Lets Neal Have It
After already getting into a pretty serious argument about the habits of the other, Del and Neal start to dig into each other again in their rented car with Del prepared to critique Neal more effectively this time around.
Del points out that Neal has a habit of handling his groin by making this comparison to the skills of basketball legend Larry Bird, flipping the tables on the much more eloquent Neal and leaving him a little lost for words.
Neal Learns To Appreciate Del
“Well, let me just close this conversation by saying you are one unique individual.”
Neal may have a short temper at times, but he certainly hasn’t encountered one someone like Del before. Their drunken banter is hilarious as the two share tequila and Doritos, and as they settle down for the night Neal throws him a compliment.
Unique is the right word to describe Del, the audience never knows what will come next for the two. But the audience does know that Del will deal with it with an optimistic attitude, unlike Neal’s pessimistic view. Opposites do attract.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ Most Famous Quote?
“You can start by wiping that f****** dumb-ass smile off your rosy f****** cheeks. Then you can give me a f****** automobile. A f****** Datsun. A f****** Toyota. A f****** Mustang. A f****** Buick! Four f****** wheels and a seat!”
Not only is this arguably the funniest scene from the movie but it’s generally considered to be the most iconic too. Steve Martin’s performance in this scene alone is often remembered as one of his greatest screen performances, his rant is simply hilarious and convincing considering all he’s been through just to get home for Thanksgiving.
At this point, it doesn’t matter what type of car or method of transportation, poor Neal just wants a way out of the madness that has ensued over the past few days.
Del and Neal Have A Rude Awakening
“Those aren’t pillows!”
Two strangers met at an airport and agreed to share a room for the night because of a blizzard, with one bed. What could go wrong? Everything gets too personal with Neal waking up to find Del’s hand between “two pillows”.
Considering the argument the two had the night before, this was not the morning the two expected to have and their bluster as they attempt to brush the moment off is ultimately charming. It’s easily one of the funniest quotes in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Neal Messes With The Wrong Guy
“If I wanted a joke, I’d follow you into the john and watch you take a leak.”
By this point, Neal has no filter and doesn’t care for niceties with strangers. When someone advises Neal to travel by plane instead of a car, he responds a little too harshly.
The last time Neal was on a plane he was met with the same fake hospitality and kicked to the back of the plane. Neal learned his lesson here and was picked up by his groin as a result and thrown into the road.
“Six bucks and my right nut says we’re not landing in Chicago.”
Travel delays are inevitable at airports, airlines are at the mercy of the weather as impending storms can keep flyers where they are for days. On their descent to what is Wichita rather than Chicago, Del realizes they have a long way to go in order to get home.
But what’s great about this quote is how relatable it is. Millions of people face this situation especially during the holidays when the winter weather settles in.
Del Is Feeling Toasty
“Was that seat hot or what? I feel like a Big Whopper. Turn me over, I’m done on this side.”
The vehicle may not have been fit for highway travel, but it certainly kept the two of them warm. Did a car fire stop the two from getting home? Of course not, and the two were left with a few laughs and some griddle marks on their backs from their seats.
Despite the ups and downs of the journey, the two can share a few laughs at how crazy things got.
Neal Is Not A Go With The Flow Type
“How am I supposed to go with the flow when the rental car agency leaves me in a 100-acre parking lot with keys to a car that isn’t there then I have to hike back 3 miles back to find out they don’t have any more cars?”
This sums Neal’s troubles up in one quote. Del is a “charmed man” whose inside information on all the hotels, motels and diners give him an edge Neal doesn’t have. When Del tells him to go with the flow, he can’t possibly wrap his head around doing so.
Not only that but it speaks to the unpredictability of holiday traveling, people want the impossible when they’re at the mercy of mother nature.
Del Sticks Up For Himself
“I like… I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. ‘Cause I’m the real article. What you see is what you get.”
Arguably the most iconic, heart-wrenching dialogue exchange in the movie (aside from the ending) as Neal tears into Del. But despite Del’s flaws, he knows what he is and what he isn’t. He’s a genuine person whose only problem is being too nice, it’s not too often a person like Del meets a guy like Neal.
When they do the two personalities are bound to clash, it’s inevitable. Neal’s words hurt, but Del doesn’t let them get him down, even if there’s an unavoidable tinge of sadness behind them that Neal only comes to notice in hindsight.
Del Comes Clean
“I don’t have a home. Marie’s been dead for 8 years.”
One of the reasons why Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is often spoken about is its twist ending. Not an M. Night Shyamalan twist, but one that opened America’s eyes to an ongoing problem not many were too comfortable to talk about – homelessness.
Del Griffith had been living on the road for years because there was nowhere else to go. Audiences didn’t see this coming but were glad to see him on his way home with Neal for Thanksgiving Dinner with something he’s missed for 8 years: Family.
Del Misses His Wife
“When am I ever gonna wake up? I wish you were here with me right now. But I guess that’s not gonna happen. Not now, anyway.”
This scene is often overlooked when compared to the others but it possesses a rather grim moment for a key character. Del is left sitting in the broken car with no protection from the blizzard outside.
He’s left to his thoughts, thinking about his flaws, insecurities, and his wife. At the end of the scene, Del closes his eyes as if to go to sleep. This is the real low point of the movie before Neal opens the door to his room and invites Del in, rekindling a spark of friendship between the two.
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