Honored by inclusion into the National Film Registry as one of the 150 significant films of 100 years of American cinema.

On July 1, 1976, the first giant screen film directed and produced by MacGillivray Freeman Films, To Fly! premiered at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum as the centerpiece of the museum’s grand opening celebration. It has played continuously there since its release. It is estimated that over 100 million viewers have seen To Fly! in IMAX screenings throughout the world, with over 15 million viewing the film in one theatre alone, an all-time record for any film in any format.

A stunning overview of transportation and flight in America, To Fly! thrills audiences as its imagery engulfs them in the sensations of flying from floating in a helium balloon to flying in an original barnstormer bi-plane to hang gliding across the sky. To Fly!, which has since become honored as the film of the decade, is the second-highest grossing IMAX Theatre film in history and the most successful corporate-sponsored film of all time.

Produced by MacGillivray Freeman Films for Francis Thompson Inc.

Sponsored by Conoco, a subsidiary of DuPont

Release date: 1976; special anniversary edition released in 1996

Runtime: 27 minutes

Format: filmed in 15 perforation/70 mm, 8/70, Dome-customized 15/70

Where to Watch

Stream the full film on Movies for Families

Honors and Reviews

“The longest running and most universally popular film of the last five years, To Fly! is a poem to noiseless, disinterested, infallible one-person flight. It is an irresistible fantasy.”
– The New York Times

“It’s a National Monument.”
– The Washington Post

“Hollywood had better watch out. To Fly! … is an absolutely spellbinding picture, easily this year’s most exciting movie-going experience. In terms of visual and aural technique, it is arguably the most advanced motion picture to date. The huge image has unparalleled depth and clarity; one experiences what the Cinerama and 3-D movies of the 50’s hinted at but couldn’t quite deliver. The audience sighs, gasps, oohs and, in a surprising number of cases, cries at the beauty.”
– Washington Calendar Magazine

“ To Fly! is a must.”
– Business Week

“So realistic that some viewers get airsick.”
– Time

“Spectacular—viewed on the vast screen, especially designed for the IMAX images with their pin-pointed sharpness and their implication of a third depth dimension, To Fly! is a thrilling tour of the skies and of earth’s bounties seen from the skies.”
– Los Angeles Times

  • Inducted into the IMAX Hall of Fame – Voted in by members of the Giant Screen Theater Association, September 2001
  • Selected for the National Film Registry Library of Congress – America’s film archive. The first large-format film granted entrance and one of only 25 films selected in 1996 from over 1,100 nominees. Best Film Of The Decade Award – The Information Film Producers of America
  • Golden Eagle Award – Cine Golden Eagle
  • Best Film Award and Special Jury Award (Cinematography) – The Chicago International Film Festival
  • First Place – Berlin Inforfilm Festival
  • Grand Place – Bicentennial Festival of Films on Aeronautics and Space
  • Special Jury Award – Festival of the Americas
  • Chris Bronze Plaque Award – The Columbus International Film Festival
  • To Fly! was screened as a special presentation during the Inauguration Ceremonies of President Reagan (1981), who later presented a copy of the film as a gift to the Soviet Union’s General Secretary Gorbachev.
  • To Fly! has been seen in special performances by diplomats and the heads of state of many countries, including: Soviet Union, Spain, Great Britain, Egypt, Indonesia, United States, Greece
  • The second-highest grossing giant screen documentary film of all time (after Everest)

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