One of the most iconic “Twilight Zone” episodes ever produced, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” follows a man who, while on a flight, sees a strange creature wreaking havoc on the wing of the plane. He tries to warn the other passengers, but no one believes him, causing him to question his sanity. Besides the goofy-looking creature, it’s wonderfully suspenseful and delivers a terrific reveal at the end. But “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” gained recognition for more than just its stellar premise; it featured top talent both in front of and behind the camera. Legendary sci-fi author Richard Matheson wrote the episode, which starred a pre-“Star Trek” William Shatner in the lead role. The director? Richard Donner, who later helmed such films as “The Omen,” “Superman: The Movie,” “The Goonies,” and the “Lethal Weapon” series.
Unfortunately, Donner endured a hell of a time shooting the episode, despite having directed TV shows for several years at that point. This episode required multiple special effects, which were incredibly difficult to oversee. According to the director, “A man flying in on wires. Wind. Rain. Lightning. Smoke, to give the effect of clouds and travel and speed. Actors. You couldn’t hear yourself think because of the noise of the machines outside. And fighting time, all the time. It was just unbearable. If any one of those things went wrong, it ruined the whole take.”