In-flight entertainment is a diabolical luxury
The Wright brothers invented and flew the first airplane in 1903. Commercial aviation took off after World War II. By the 1960s, airlines were screening movies for passengers using compact, 16mm projectors. The advent of video made 39,000ft-viewing a mainstay. Everyone involved meant well.
Your standard backseat video screen is a terrible way to watch a movie. It's also effortless. Of course you want to watch free anything on an airplane. In-flight movies provide instant distraction from the guy to your left, whose elbow is slowly caving in your pancreas, and the mother to your right, who can't get her baby to stop farting.
Thanks to expensive deals with Hollywood studios, airlines offer recognizable titles that were in theaters 10 minutes ago. And they're absorbing; unlike the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory -- you know, the one where Sheldon makes a Superman joke and a Star Trek actor cameos -- a 90-minute feature promises substance, sustained plot, and a story that you're guaranteed to finish before landing. If you remember critics and audiences alike praising your choice movie, surely it's good enough to pair with an airplane vodka cranberry. You've been meaning to see it anyway.