Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A man must struggle to travel home for Thanksgiving with a lovable oaf of a shower curtain ring salesman as his only companion.

  • All that Neal Page wants to do is to get home for Thanksgiving. His flight has been cancelled due to bad weather, so he decides on other means of transport. As well as bad luck, Neal is blessed with the presence of Del Griffith, shower curtain ring salesman and all-around blabbermouth who is never short of advice, conversation, bad jokes, or company. And when he decides that he is going the same direction as Neal....

  • In New York the marketing executive Neal Page wants to travel home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. He has difficulties getting a taxi and his flight is cancelled. He meets in the airport the clumsy and talkative shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith who has taken his cab and they travel side-by-side to Chicago. However the bad weather shuts down O'Hare Airport and they land at Wichita, Kansas. They both want to go to Chicago and they decide to travel together. Along their journey Neal changes his viewpoint about Del Griffith and his own behavior.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Neal Page is in New York where his company is trying to finalize a marketing image for cosmetics. After several hours of not even getting the design finalized, the men in charge say they'll continue after the holidays. Neal heads off to the airport to catch the 6pm flight to Chicago. Though as it's the beginning of the Thanksgiving rush and everyone is leaving work, Neal is unable to find a cab. Just when he thinks he's found one, someone else seems to 'steal' it out from under him.

    Finally making his way to the airport, Neal runs into the same guy waiting for the same flight as him. The man jovially introduces himself as Del Griffith, a seller of shower curtain rings. Already in a bad mood, Neal is hardly up for any of Del's good-nature ribbing or jokes. Things don't get any better when Neal's flight is delayed, and he's bumped from 1st Class to Coach. And just as before, his path crosses with Del, who ends up sitting next to him on the plane.

    Unfortunately, due to heavy snow in Chicago, the flight is diverted to Wichita, KS. The flight is canceled soon after, and Neal is forced to face facts that there are no more hotel rooms available in the City. Being polite Del agrees to help him find a room where he's staying if Neal will pay for the cab fare.

    Upon reaching their hotel, only one room with a Queen-size bed is available. Neal quickly grows annoyed with Del's habits and hygiene, and soon after lashes out at him. Del is hurt by this, but calmly holds his ground that while he may seem annoying, he still is a nice guy. Neal concedes, and the two eventually fall asleep.

    The next day, while eating at the hotel's diner, they find that their money has been stolen, most likely by someone who broke into their room in the middle of the night. Del suggests that they just use charge cards to get home. He also suggests using the train to get to Chicago, only to learn that Wichita does not use passenger trains. After hitching a ride to Stubbville, they manage to get on a train. However, as the train passes through Missouri, the main engine breaks down, and the passengers are forced to find other transportation.

    Del and Neal then take a bus, which gets them as far as St Louis. Still uncomfortable with Del, Neal suggests they part ways. Neal heads to the St Louis airport to rent a car...only to find that the car he rented is not there! Angrily, he throws away the rental agreement, which does not help his case when he angrily storms up to the rental car desk. On his way out of the airport, he again runs into Del, who has obtained a rental car.

    Late in the night, Del ends up getting mixed up, and almost kills himself and Neal by going the wrong way on the highway. Shortly afterward, a cigarette that Del had not put out ignites in the car, setting the passenger compartment aflame...along with Neal's wallet which was stuck in the glove compartment.

    After getting the fire out, the two make their way to a hotel. Neal manages to use his watch and some cash to get a room, but Del is not so lucky. Though Neal finally takes pity on Del, and allows him to stay in the room as well.

    On the road the next day, the two are pulled over when their vehicle is clocked going over the speed limit. The vehicle is impounded, but Del finds an alternate transportation mode in the back of a semi.

    Finally arriving in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day, Neal and Del part ways, with Neal grateful for Del's help. On the elevated train system, Neal thinks about Del, carting around his large trunk, and remembers him saying he hadn't been home in years. Returning to the station, Neal finds Del sitting by himself. Del admits that his wife Marie has been dead for 8 years, and he has nowhere to go.

    Neal then brings Del home with him for Thanksgiving Dinner, and Del is overjoyed to meet Neal's family.

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