The Langoliers (1995) — The ultimate liminal space

the langoliers

“You could say that the Langoliers are purpose personified.”


Andie’s rating: 5 out of 5 scampering little boys

Andie’s review: The Langoliers is a made-for-TV-movie which came out in 1995 and I just recently purchased. While rewatching it, I forgot how eerie it is. It’s based on a Stephen King novella and, as with any King book made for TV, the acting isn’t the greatest and the ending isn’t that great, but the overall premise is very cool and it does have some really great parts to it.

In the movie, 10 strangers awaken amidst their flight from LA to Boston. All the other passengers are gone — as are the crew and the pilots. The plane is fine and luckily one of the survivors is a pilot. At first they assume that the plane landed and everybody else got off, but the pilot points out that there’s no way a plane could land or take off without a pilot. They also start to realize that there’s no one on the ground, because the radio only picks up static and the lights of major cities, like Denver, can’t be seen from the plane. If I tell much more plot, it’ll give away the neat parts of the movie, but this is definitely one of my favorite Stephen King movies.

There are some great performances given by Bronson Pinchot (Balki from Perfect Strangers) and Dean Stockwell (Al from Quantum Leap). I never knew Balki could be so creepy. Also, the whole concept behind what happened to these 10 people isn’t something that had ever even crossed my mind until I saw this movie.

I’m not saying it’s the greatest movie ever, but I liked it a lot and it’s worth viewing.

Justin’s rating: One nom and a backup nom just in case

Justin’s review: I have a particular soft spot for Stephen King miniseries from the ’90s, whether it be It, The Stand, or even The Shining. And there’s something even more precious when King decides to go into a rare journey into scifi territory. That’s why I couldn’t miss out on The Langoliers, a two-part miniseries that tackled one of his stranger high-concept tales.

An overnight flight from LA to Boston flies through mysterious lights, instantly vaporizing everyone who’s not asleep at the moment of entry. This leaves only 10 people on board the entire plane, including a spare pilot, a neurotic businessman, a blind girl, a special agent, a teacher, a mystery writer, and a handful of others. As they wake, the group puzzles over all of the left behind articles, the overly silent plane, a dark outside world, and the growing worry that they may be in much greater danger than they suspect.

It’s not the rapture or an alien abduction, but something even more crazy. Without spoiling too much — as the unfolding mystery is the main attraction — I will say that it has to do with becoming unstuck in time and leave it at that. What’s happened to these people isn’t normal, and they’re going to have to work together under a shrinking deadline to get back to reality.

The group starts to get answers to their questions as they land in Bangor, Maine… and find an airport just as deserted as most of their plane. As a growing sound on the horizon signals coming doom, one particular passenger experiences a mental break of the absolute worst kind.

The Twilight Zone-style mystery is helped along by a fairly capable cast, including Dean Stockwell, Patricia Wettig, David Morse, and Bronson Pinchot. Pinchot is especially amazing as the unhinged (yet sympathetic) Toomey, which is about as far from his well-known role on Perfect Strangers as could be. The cast here is just the right size to give us enough variety for all of the conversations and interactions that this isolated crew will experience over the three-hour runtime. Some patience is needed to endure the “here is my character backstory” exposition that’s injected to pad this out to miniseries length, however.

They’re not all Oscar performances, I’ll admit. A few eyerolls are due for the presence of a trademark Stephen King psychic kid who knows too much and speaks like someone is stuffing words in her mouth. And I couldn’t help but inaudibly groan whenever the secret agent guy tried to talk “British” with as much grace as a punch-drunk bear during happy hour.

What I stuck around for what the tone. As the lengthy runtime goes on, it’s hard to escape the feeling of “not rightness” that pervades the airport and a desire to get out before something really bad emerges. The character do have to make a few Batman-style leaps of logic to arrive at the horrible truth of their situation, but when they finally get there, it’s a neat scifi twist that makes you think a bit about the passage of time.

Unlike King’s usual bestiary, the Langoliers themselves aren’t malevolent but simply presented as a ruthless force of nature. It’s here that the weakest spot of this miniseries rears its head in the form of not-even-good-at-the-time CGI to portray these creatures. I don’t know what they could’ve done to represent the true threat with mid-90s special effects, but what’s chosen here ends up being a letdown after a terrific buildup — and what a lot of people unfortunately remember the most.

And that shouldn’t be, because 95% of The Langoliers is an excellent mystery box adventure. The eerie atmosphere of this miniseries is accentuated not by what’s on screen, but by what’s not and should be: people. It capitalizes on our fear of being left alone, abandoned in endless liminal spaces that might be home to something quite… unnatural.

Some people love to trot this miniseries out to mock even today, but there are those of us who have a soft spot for it. Sure, it could benefit from its runtime being cut in half and much better modern special effects applied to the final stretch, but The Langoliers has something to offer the scifi adventurous who don’t mind a bit of camp in their life.


  • Losing $43 million seems like a big deal
  • “There’s something strange inside that man’s head.”
  • The leftover articles is pretty creepy
  • “Vulcan sleeper hold?”
  • The creepy masks the disturbed guy sees on everyone: “We all look like monsters to him.”
  • This blind kid doesn’t talk like a kid
  • Bad CGI plane flying and bad synth score require your forgiveness
  • If they slide out of the plane, it’s gonna be a hard go getting back into it
  • Stephen King has a pretty funny cameo towards the end of the movie.
  • How much King relies on kids and the infirmed as heroes?
  • Laurel claims that Los Angeles is deserted, yet cars can be seen moving.
  • That paper ripping is creepy
  • How many times do they have to knock the psycho out before learning their lesson?
  • “And don’t look back.”

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