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The Inspiration Behind Final Destination Isn't What You Think

When Final Destination premiered in early 2000, it was destined to fly into franchise-land; yes, that's a pretty terrible aviation pun. The movie had all the makings of a teen horror sensation in the era of the Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer: the pic was brimming with popular young actors, it was a truly scary concept with shocking and visceral death scenes, and there was plenty of room to continue the story beyond the credits. The premise of Final Destination was novel enough. The movie opened with a high school student named Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) boarding his flight for a class trip to Paris before he suddenly experienced an extremely graphic vision of the plane exploding and killing him and all of his peers and teachers. When he came to just before takeoff, Alex had an epic meltdown that resulted in him and several others being kicked off the flight, which eventually exploded just as he predicted. Despite his premonition saving them from the Flight 180 calamity, Alex and his friends were still on Death's list, and the Grim Reaper persisted in hunting each and every one of them down to finish what it started in uniquely and grisly ways.

Some sci-fi fans might have noticed a potential connection between the plot and visuals of Final Destination and a classic episode of television, but the real inspiration behind the film might just surprise you.

A key TV episode comes to mind, but that's not Final Destination's inpiration

Fans of The Twilight Zone might have noticed that the early shot of Alex and the other survivors watching their doomed flight go up in flames from the gate window is similar to the final moments of the classic episode, "Twenty Two." That episode features a woman who is hospitalized for exhaustion and begins to experience a recurring nightmare in which she walks to the morgue (room 22) and is told by a nurse, "Room for one more, honey." Liz believes it is a warning and finds out she's right when she goes to board a plane, and the flight attendant looks just like the nurse from her ominous dream and says the same phrase. Liz panics and leaves the jetway and watches helplessly as the plane explodes after takeoff.

Some have wondered if this small screen moment inspired the film, but screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick insists that's not where his movie idea came from. In 2020, he told Red River Horror, "People have asked me about The Twilight Zone. But honestly, I didn't see any of those growing up... I never got caught up on Twilight Zone until later in life." Notably, the episode in question is one of several stories that borrowed from E.F. Benson's 1906 short story "The Bus Conductor," which features a different crash premonition, but Reddick has pointed to a real-life story as his true inspiration while writing the script for Final Destination.

A real-life plane crash inspired Final Destination

Though Reddick vehemently denied drawing any inspiration from the tragedy of the TWA flight 800 crash that happened just a few years before Final Destination hit theaters — though the similarities were striking enough to irk critic Roger Ebert  — he did get his idea for the film from reading up on another real-life crash that a person avoided thanks to a gut feeling.

Reddick explained in a 2013 interview with The National Student, "The original kernel for the idea came on a flight home to Kentucky. I was reading an article about a woman on holiday in Hawaii... her mother called her and said don't get on the plane because I have a bad feeling about it, and she actually got on another plane. The plane she was meant to be on crashed. That really put the idea in my head." He then wrote it as a spec script for The X-Files it was never used and he later released the original draft to Bloody Disgusting in 2015. "I never sent it off, but my friend at New Line Cinema thought it would make a good feature so I started fleshing the idea out," he told The National Student. "I started thinking she could have died on that plane... and what if she was supposed to die?" And the rest is horror movie history.