My Favorite Movies #43 – The Rocketeer

Rocketeer Poster 1The Rocketeer


Directed by Joe Johnston

Quick synopsis… In this stylish action-adventure, a stunt pilot stumbles across an experimental Nazi jet pack that transforms him into a one-man air force — and soon becomes a target for mobsters, spies, FBI agents and millionaire Howard Hughes.

  • How quietly majestic is this movie’s score?
  • Welcome to The Rocketeer, directed by the man who would bring us Captain America: The First Avenger 20 years later.
  • It’s Los Angeles in 1938 and we’re introduced to pilot Cliff Secord (Billy Campbell) who is about to take the plane that he and his mechanic friend, Peevy, built themselves out on its maiden voyage.
  • We’re also introduced to the importance of chewing gum.
  • Cliff takes a piece out of his mouth and sticks it to the plane’s rudder.
  • Peevy fusses and pulls the gum off, but Cliff claims it’s good luck.
  • The test flight is interrupted by gangsters being chased by a couple of FBI agents.
  • They drive onto the runway, shooting back and forth, causing Cliff to crash and destroy the plane.
  • One of the gangsters is killed by a stray bullet, and when he has a moment, the survivor switches out the package that they’re trying to get away with.
  • He then drives into a fuel truck, making the feds think that the package was blown up.
  • Later, Cliff and Peevy find the real package: a rocket pack.
  • They test the rocket by strapping it to a statue of Lindbergh, who flies and then crashes into a field nearby… at this point they decide a helmet will be necessary.
  • Elsewhere in Hollywoodland, we meet Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) and Eddie Valentine (Paul Sorvino).
  • Eddie’s men were the ones trying to steal the rocket, hired by Sinclair.
  • Sinclair is a big star in Hollywood. What does he want with a rocket that you can strap to your back?
  • Anyway, Cliff has a date with his aspiring actress girlfriend, Jenny Blake (Jennifer Connelly).
  • But it doesn’t go well because she gets mad at him for not keeping her in the loop about how the test flight really went.
  • You know… the whole “we need to communicate if this relationship is gonna work” thing.
  • It’s Jennifer Connelly, dude. Communicate. Make it work!
  • Between this and Labyrinth, she was definitely one of my stronger childhood crushes.
  • Anyway, the next day, she’s on set as an extra in a Sinclair movie and Cliff shows up.
  • He’s decided that she’s right, so he wants to tell her all about the rocket he found.
  • Unfortunately, he knocks over part of the set… And is blamed for Sinclair accidentally stabbing a co-star during the sword fight.
  • I have a problem with this… Sinclair stabbed the other actor before anyone knew Cliff was even there.
  • But he blames it on Cliff and demands that this Jenny person is fired.
  • And then he overhears Cliff talking to Jenny about the rocket and decides to charm her… use her… and get to the rocket.
  • Easy to do since she’s extremely upset with Cliff and vulnerable thanks to just being fired from the movie.
  • Back at the airfield, Cliff is late for a clown act in an airshow that he’s supposed to perform.
  • An older, retired pilot, Malcolm decides to take over, worried that Cliff will be fired for being late.
  • But Malcolm hasn’t flown in 25 years.
  • So it’s time for Cliff to strap on the rocket and save the day.
  • Peevy explains the helmet that he made to him. It has a rudder… so wherever he turns his head, that’s the direction he’ll go.
  • Before he takes off, Peevy pulls Cliff’s gum out of his mouth and sticks it to the rocket… for luck.
  • And the Rocketeer is born.
  • The Rocketeer saves the day.
  • This does not make Mr. Sinclair happy.
  • Sinclair sends a henchman… a big Frankenstein’s monster lookin’ guy… to find the rocket.
  • He shows up at Cliff and Peevy’s house, but before he can beat them into submission, the feds show up and a shoot out ensues.
  • In the process, the rocket is damaged, taking a shot that causes it to leak fuel.
  • Sinclair decides to take Jenny out on a date, trying to get more information from her.
  • Cliff decides he needs to fly off to find Jenny, but this is when Peevy notices the bullet hole and the fuel leak.
  • It’s not a quick fix, but he’s able to use that old piece of chewing gum to temporarily patch the hole.
  • Cliff shows up at the club, trying to warn her that Eddie Valentine’s gang is after the rocket, him, and by extension, her.
  • He winds up pulling some Rocketeer shenanigans at the club, but Sinclair drugs Jenny and takes her back to his place.
  • It’s here that she discovers Neville Sinclair’s secret.
  • He’s a Nazi spy.
  • It all culminates with a showdown at Griffith Observatory, where Cliff arrives to trade the rocket for Jenny.
  • One of my favorite moments in the movie is when Cliff reveals to Valentine that Sinclair is a Nazi.
  • Valentine realizes the truth and turns to Sinclair.
  • “I may not make an honest buck, but I’m 100% American.”
  • Then the showdown moves to a huge Nazi zeppelin that flies overhead.
  • In the end, Cliff is forced to hand over the rocket to Sinclair.
  • But he also slyly removes the chewing gum patch.
  • Sinclair takes off, but the rocket malfunctions and explodes, killing Sinclair and giving us another fictional reason why the LAND was taken off of the Hollywood sign.
  • They left this one open to a sequel, with Peevy looking over the schematics that he’d drawn up when he was studying the rocket.
  • He could build another one.
  • But I guess this didn’t do as well at the box office as Disney would’ve liked.
  • There’s still been talk of a sequel every now and then over the years.
  • I think I read at one point there was a story floating around out there about a girl who would’ve gotten her hands on the rocket at some point in the 50s.
  • Recently, there’s been a cartoon on Disney Junior that focuses on a descendant of Cliff Secord who has inherited the rocket.
  • I’d really rather see a movie than watch a cartoon with a 7-year-old protagonist.
  • Anyway…

What are your thoughts on The Rocketeer? Anyone else out there have a thing for Jennifer Connelly? Anyone else wish there had been a proper sequel to this? Probably just me… Let me know what you thought in the comments!

2 thoughts on “My Favorite Movies #43 – The Rocketeer

  1. This was my ex’s favorite movie, or at least tied with Indiana Jones- Raiders of the Lost Ark… every time I went over to his place he had either one playing in the background. Between the 2 I’d say The Rocketeer is my favorite.

    I’ve always thought I was born in the wrong era; that the 20s and 30s were more my style and because of this, even I developed a crush on Jenny (J. Conn.). I would love to see a sequel to this movie though, but it for sure cannot be a cartoon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: My Top 100 Movies | The Confusing Middle

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