Sully is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed and co-produced by Clint Eastwood and written by Todd Komarnicki, starring Tom Hanks in the lead role

The film is about US Airways Flight 1549 and its pilot, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, based on the autobiography "Highest Duty" by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow.

It also stars Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Holt McCallany, Jamey Sheridan and Jerry Ferrara in supporting roles.

It premiered at the 43rd Annual Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2016, and was released in the United States by Warner Bros. in conventional and IMAX theaters on September 9, 2016.

It has received positive reviews and has grossed $45 million worldwide.


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

On January 15, 2009, veteran US Airways pilots Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffery Skiles board US Airways Flight 1549 departing from LaGuardia Airport en route to Charlotte Douglas International Airport and take off. Barely three minutes into the flight, disaster strikes as the Airbus A320 hits a flock of Canada geese, which disables both engines of the A320.

Without engine power and with no airports in range, Sully lands his ill-fated airliner in the frigid waters of the Hudson River. With 155 passengers and crew on board, Sullenberger (against immeasurable odds) successfully ditches the aircraft, sparing the lives of the crew and passengers and he is dubbed a hero by the press for his actions.

Hours later, however, Sullenberger learns that tests conducted for the National Transportation Safety Board suggest that the left engine was not completely disabled, as he claims, but had simply idled. On paper, this would have left Sullenberger with enough power to return to LaGuardia or land at Teterboro.

Furthermore, the NTSB board of inquiry claims that several flight simulations created from all available data of the incident conclude that the plane could have been able to safely land at an airport even with both engines disabled. Sullenberger, however, maintains that neither time nor gravity would have allowed a safe landing.

Against these claims, Sullenberger arranges for the public hearing to happen with the simulator pilots available for a live recreation. At that hearing, he disputes the findings and claims that the simulations are unrealistic without believable accounting for preliminary protocols happening before any emergency maneuvers or basic human reactions to the incident.

When pressed on this, the inquiry board admits that the simulation pilots were allowed several practice sessions of the simulation before the formal recorded simulation for this very rare emergency situation.

Conceding the point, the inquiry board orders the simulation redone, but with a thirty-five second pause after the collision before any emergency maneuvers are attempted; one that approximately matches the time Sullenberger had to react.

The simulation for a landing at LaGuardia ends with the plane slamming into a pier, while the simulation for a landing at Teterboro ends with the plane colliding with a building. Both would have resulted in non-survivable crashes.

After a short recess, the board of inquiry announces that it just learned that the left engine had been recovered from the Hudson. The engine shows indisputable signs that it was completely destroyed by the bird strike.

With this evidence, the board concludes (with Skiles firmly confirming) that Sullenberger performed the best possible actions to avert a fatal crash and that Flight 1549 was an unavoidable accident.


  • Tom Hanks as Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger
  • Aaron Eckhart as Jeff Skiles
  • Laura Linney as Lorraine Sullenberger
  • Anna Gunn as Dr. Elizabeth Davis
  • Autumn Reeser as Tess Soza
  • Holt McCallany as Mike Cleary
  • Mike O'Malley as Charles Porter
  • Jamey Sheridan as Ben Edwards
  • Jerry Ferrara as Michael Delaney
  • Molly Hagan as Doreen Welsh
  • Max Adler as Jimmy Stefanik
  • Sam Huntington as Jeff Kolodjay
  • Wayne Bastrup as Brian Kelly
  • Valerie Mahaffey as Diane Higgins
  • Jeff Kober as L. T. Cook
  • Katie Couric as herself
  • Captain Vince Lombardi as himself
  • Noelle Fink as Emma Cowan


The movie is based on Sully's autobiography "Highest Duty" whose rights were acquired in 2010. From the start, Sullenberger wanted the film to encompass "that sense of our common humanity" as a recurring theme, noting that the events depicted in the film took place shortly after 2008's Great Recession.

Sullenberger explains: "People were wondering if everything was about self-interest and greed. They were doubting human nature. Then all these people acted together, selflessly, to get something really important done. In a way, I think it gave everyone a chance to have hope, at a time when we all needed it."

By June 2015, it was reported that Tom Hanks was already in talks to play the lead role of Sullenberger. Much of the rest of the cast was announced in that August (with Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Holt Mcallany and Jamey Sheridan joining), September (Jerry Ferarra) and October (Max Adler, Sam Huntington and Wayne Bastrup).

The principal photography on "Sully" began on September 28, 2015 in New York City.

On October 15, 2015, filming started in Atlanta where a building in downtown Atlanta was transformed into a NYC hotel. The filming took place in North Carolina, Los Angeles, Holloman AFB, New Mexico and Kearny, New Jersey and concluded on April 29, 2016.

"Sully" is the first film to be shot entirely with Digital IMAX cameras.


Depiction of NTSB investigatorsEdit

The film generated controversy surrounding its depiction of the National Transportation Safety Board as "prosecutorial and closed-minded".

In a promotional video preceding the film's release, director Clint Eastwood claimed that the NTSB was "railroading" Sullenberger and "was trying to paint the picture that he had done the wrong thing." Upon the film's release, NTSB investigators objected to the film's portrayal of them as inaccurate.

After reviewing the factual record and viewing the film, The New York Times wrote that "the film’s version of the inquiry veers from the official record in both tone and substance" and "depicts the investigators as departing from standard protocol in airline accident inquiries."

NTSB lead investigator John Balzano disputed the film's depiction, saying that investigators "weren't out to embarrass anybody at all" and a former NTSB investigator also expressed concern that the depiction would be taken by moviegoers as evidence of "government incompetence".

In an interview about the controversy, actor Tom Hanks told the Associated Press that Sullenberger reviewed an early draft of the film's script (which identified NTSB investigators in the story by their real names) and asked that the investigators' names be removed.

According to Hanks, Sullenberger felt that the real-life investigators "were not prosecutors" and it was not fair to associate them with changes in the story depicting "more of a prosecutorial process."

Breach of contract allegationsEdit

On July 8, 2016, a lawsuit was filed at Los Angeles County Superior Court by a film's consultant named Scott Heger against Warner Bros. Entertainment, Kiki Tree Pictures and producer Tim Moore for breach of oral contract, fraud and labor code violations.

The plaintiff claimed Warner's declined to pay Heger because he didn't have a written contract and his services were rolled into the airplane procurement agreements with Blair. In addition, the plaintiff also claimed the producers threatened to "blacklist" him if he sued.


"Sully" premiered at the 43rd Annual Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2016 and was released in the United States in conventional and IMAX theaters on September 9, 2016 by Warner Bros.

Box OfficeEdit

As of September 11, 2016, "Sully" has grossed $35.5 million in North America and $9.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $45 million, against a budget of $60 million.

In the United States and Canada, the film was released on Friday, September 9, 2016 across 3,525 theaters, of which 375 theaters were in IMAX & was initially projected to make around $25 million in its opening weekend with Box Office Mojo projecting as high as $31 million due to its large theater count and the film's positioning.

Box office trackers were expecting Sully to launch in the same range as two titles: Tom Hanks' 2013 hostage drama "Captain Phillips" which opened with $25.7 million and the 2012 airline drama "Flight" which debuted to $24.9 million.

The film is opening on the weekend after the Labor Day weekend (which has proven to be a lackluster period of time for a film to accrue large revenue), but noted that this doesn't apply to every film released around this corner and it depends more on the type of film. Sully was one of the four wide releases of the weekend.

According to ticket selling website Fandango, "Sully" outsold Hanks' previous film, "Bridge of Spies" in advance ticket sales. It earned $1.35 million from Thursday previews at 2,700 theaters which marked the biggest of Hanks' career. Box Office Mojo deemed it a strong number considering that it coincided with the first NFL game of the regular season.

On its opening day, it made $12.2 million (including Thursday previews), of which $1.3 million came from IMAX screenings, increasing weekend projections to $35 million.

The film is the second-biggest Friday ever for a wide Eastwood opening (as both an actor or director), trailing behind only the $30 million opening day of American Sniper. In total, it grossed $35.5 million in its opening weekend, which is substantially above projections and is one of the top five September openings of all-time (twelfth in terms of inflation).

The debut is the second-biggest wide release opening for an Eastwood movie (acting or directing) ever, behind the $89 million wide debut of "American Sniper" and Hanks' third-biggest live-action debut ever (not accounting for inflation) behind "The Da Vinci Code" ($77 million in 2006) and "Angels and Demons" ($46 million in 2009).

It also performed exceptionally well in IMAX, having been entirely shot in IMAX. For the weekend alone, it brought in a record breaking $4 million from 375 IMAX auditoriums which is 11% of the total weekend gross. This broke the previous September record held by "The Equalizer" which totalled $3.1 million in 2014.

Outside North America, "Sully" opened across 39 countries simultaneously with its domestic debut and grossed an estimated $9.5 million on roughly 3,900 screens. It scored the biggest opening of any Eastwood film in Russia.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"Sully" has received positive reviews from critics with praise going to Hanks' performance and Clint Eastwood's direction.

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 84%, based on 159 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10.

The site's critical consensus reads, "As comfortingly workmanlike as its protagonist, Sully makes solid use of typically superlative work from its star and director to deliver a quietly stirring tribute to an everyday hero."

On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average to reviews, the film has a score of 75 out of 100, based on 42 critics (indicating "generally favorable reviews"). Audiences gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, according to CinemaScore polls.

Peter Debruge of Variety gave the film a positive review, praising Tom Hanks and saying, "This is Hanks’ show, and he delivers a typically strong performance, quickly allowing us to forget that we’re watching an actor. With his snowy white hair and moustache to match, Hanks conveys a man confident in his abilities, yet humble in his actions, which could also be said of Eastwood as a director."

IGN reviewer Simon Thompson awarded 9/10, writing: "Sully is a beautifully balanced, classily [sic] nuanced and hugely engaging film that avoids all the clichéd pitfalls it could have slipped into. Tom Hanks gives one of the best performances of his career and Clint Eastwood’s direction is beautiful and rich. It’s not just a great movie, Sully is one of the best pieces of cinema that a major Hollywood studio has released this year." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times praised both the film and Eastwood's direction, saying the film is "economical and solid, and generally low-key when it’s not freaking you out."

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised the film by calling it, "[A] vigorous and involving salute to professionalism and being good at your job".

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone praised the film by giving 3.5 out of 4 stats and wrote, "the movie earns your attention and respect by digging deep, by finding the fear and self-doubt inside a man who'd never accept being defined as a hero. It's an eye-opener."

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded it 4 out of 4 stars, praising the film as "an absolute triumph" and Tom Hanks' performance who, "delivers another in a long line of memorable, nomination-worthy performances."

In a negative review, John Anderson of Time wrote, "Inevitable is how Sully feels. That, and a little soggy, given that the storyline is rooted not in the few seconds of Sullenberger’s defining act of heroism, but in the way his conscience, and the National Transportation Safety Board, plagued him in its aftermath."

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