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See What Remains of the Lost, 3.5-Hour Cut of ‘Planes, Trains, and Automobiles’

Michele Debczak
Steve Martin and John Candy in 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' (1987).
Steve Martin and John Candy in 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' (1987). / Paramount Pictures
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Rewatching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987) is an annual Thanksgiving tradition in many households. At a tight 1 hour and 45 minutes, it’s the perfect movie to put on between the football game and dinner. But there’s an alternative universe where the fast-paced comedy has a runtime closer to a James Cameron film. The YouTube channel Hats Off Entertainment explores that lost version in the video below.

Written and directed by John Hughes, the original script for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles comprises 145 pages. That far exceeds the industry standard of 90 pages for the genre. Instead of condensing the story before production, Hughes shot his lengthy script, resulting in an initial cut that was nearly 3.5 hours long. Titanic (1997) clocks in at 3 hours and 14 minutes, for comparison.

The idea of releasing a holiday comedy with such a bloated runtime didn’t fly with studio executives, and the film went through multiple edits to get to the version released in theaters. The final cut was not only coherent but, even more miraculously, it was a hit. The movie made its budget back several times over.

Based on its success (and complaints about the original runtime from Martin) Planes, Trains, and Automobiles benefited from its merciless edits. But many fans are curious about the old version, especially since all that’s left of the unused footage is one deleted scene and a few lines from the trailer.

Before his death in 2009, Hughes speculated that the original cut was lost for good, but you can find remnants of it in the movie today if you know where to look. In this video, Hats Off Entertainment points out scenes that have been heavily edited by comparing them to the 145-page script. Being aware of jokes, plot points, and even characters that didn’t make it into the film will change the way you view it.

After your annual Planes, Trains, and Automobiles rewatch, keep the Thanksgiving movie marathon going with these titles.

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