For some men, the sky was the limit. For him, it was just the beginning.
A biopic depicting the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes' career, from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, nudity, language and a crash sequence.
In 1914, nine-year-old Howard Hughes is being bathed by his mother (Amy Sloan). She warns him of disease, influenced by a flu outbreak, "You are not safe." Howard's later life will be greatly affected by his fear of disease.
By 1927, Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) has inherited a fortune, is living in California and is actively involved in the relatively new fields of motion pictures and aviation. He intends to direct the film Hell's Angels at the age of 22. He also hires Noah Dietrich (John C. Reilly) to run the Hughes Tool Company.
Hughes becomes obsessed with shooting the film realistically. As a result, it takes several years and an enormous amount of money to finish. When the film is finally completed in 1929, The Jazz Singer, the first partially-talking film, premieres. Hughes re-shoots Hell's Angels with sound, taking another year and $1.7 million. Despite press skepticism, Hell's Angels is a huge hit. Hughes also produces Scarface (1932) and The Outlaw (1943).
Hughes becomes romantically involved with actress Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett). They live together and she helps alleviate the symptoms of his worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). As Hughes' fame grows, he is linked to various beautiful starlets, inciting Hepburn's jealousy.
Through it all, Hughes' main passion remains the same: aviation. He purchases majority interest in Transcontinental & Western Air (TWA), the predecessor to Trans World Airlines. In 1935, he test flies the H-1 Racer, pushing it to a new speed record, but crashes in a beet field; "Fastest man on the planet," he boasts to Hepburn.
Three years later, he flies around the world in four days, shattering the previous record by three days. A competitor, Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin), chairman of the board of rival Pan American Airlines, is determined not to let Hughes challenge his company's success. Trippe gets his crony, Senator Owen Brewster (Alan Alda), to introduce the Commercial Airline Bill, which would give Pan Am a monopoly on international air travel.
Hepburn and Hughes break up when she announces that she has fallen in love with fellow actor Spencer Tracy. Hughes soon has new love interests: first 15-year-old Faith Domergue (Kelli Garner), then actress Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale).
Hughes secures contracts with the Army Air Forces for two projects: a spy plane and a huge troop transport designed to circumvent the U-boat menace. By 1946, Hughes has o