Hear me soar: Exploring the best pop culture depictions of Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart’s story is the stuff of legend. As the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932, she might have been the first to fly around the world had her plane not vanished over the Pacific Ocean back in 1937. Many theories have sought to explain her disappearance, including a recent study that claims she died as an island castaway.
Regardless of her mysterious end, Amelia crammed a lot of great moments into her short but impactful life including writing best-selling books about her flying experiences, playing an instrumental role in the launch of The Ninety-Nines, and her highly influential contribution to the National Woman’s Party and support of the Equal Rights Amendment.
All in all, Amelia was an absolute badass who played a vital role both as an aviation pioneer but also as a central figure in the feminist movement. In loving tribute, here’s a ranking of the best fictional TV and film depictions of one of the most important bossbitches in world history.
Relaying her achievements with one hundred percent sass, Amy Adams (Arrival) plays the air pilot in Shawn Levy’s sequel to the original Night at the Museum, where she rightfully explains to security guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) why she is more than just a pilot. “Who are you calling lady!?”
Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry) soars in the central role of director Mira Nair’s film about the life of the legendary American pilot and her attempt to make a flight around the world. Swank co-stars with Richard Gere (Pretty Woman) – who plays Amelia’s real-life husband George Putnam – with both actors giving moving performances.
Unfortunately, Amelia lacks storytelling and as such failed to soar to the heights of Earhart’s spirit.
Star Trek: Voyager (1995) – “The 37s”
In this rather odd shoutout, the Voyager crew discover eight people who were abducted from Earth in 1937, including Amelia who had been cryogenically frozen on a distant planet.
It might be a bit off the wall (this is Star Trek, after all) but it’s also a totally rad tribute to Amelia’s legacy, thanks in part to a scene in which Kate Mulgrew’s Captain Janeway tells her how much she has advanced the place of female pilots. Right on!
Flight for Freedom (1943)
Made just six years after Amelia’s disappearance and four years after she was declared dead, the wounds were still fresh when Lothar Mendes’s movie hit the big screen. The director utilized the drama of the story with this thinly veiled version in which a famed aviator, played by Rosalind Russell (His Girl Friday), breaks world records before crashing in the Pacific as a Navy Spy.
Diane Keaton (Manhattan) received an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for her performance as Amelia in Yves Simoneau’s attempt at telling the pioneer’s story. As made-for-TV movie – based on Doris L. Rich’s Amelia Earhart: A Biography – it was a little heavy handed with its feminist commentary, but overall a fantastic retelling and one that succeeded in bringing Amelia’s story back into the public consciousness.
Amelia Earhart (1976)
George Schaefer’s three-hour made-for-TV biographical film stars Susan Clark (Airport 1975) and John Forsythe (The Trouble with Harry) as Amelia and Putnam respectively, picking up the story with her first flight in a biplane at the age of 23 and following Amelia as she beats many records as a female pilot.
The narrative also delves into her personal life, detailing a rocky relationship with Putnam and hinting towards an affair with close friend and stunt pilot Paul Mantz. Receiving acclaim for its honest depiction of Amelia’s life, Clark’s performance compares favorably among the various Earhart movies.