Martin Scorsese's The Aviator is a lavish spectacle of a motion picture that harkens back to Hollywood's Golden Era in telling the story of Howard Hughes, one of 20th-century America's most pioneering and influential figures. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the eccentric billionaire, Scorsese's biopic concentrates on Hughes's life between the 1920s and the 1940s, when he made some of his most striking contributions to both the film and aviation industries.
At only 25 years of age, Hughes directed the most expensive film ever made up to that point, Hell's Angels (1930), which Scorsese gleefully recreates here in all its sprawling, audacious glory. At the same time, he became known as an unabashed playboy, bedding the likes of Jean Harlow (played by Gwen Stefani), Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale), and Katherine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett). In the mid-'30s, he turned his attention to the aviation industry, where he quickly became a world-renowned celebrity for shattering speed and distance records. He also continued to test the limits of flight technology, building bigger, faster, and stronger aircrafts. All the while, he struggled with an obsessive-compulsive mental disorder that sent him into a full-fledged tailspin after a near-fatal plane crash.