We all love a good adrenaline-pumping action series or movie, right? Bonus if there’s a car chase followed closely from the sky by choppers!
In this list, we’re focusing on the latter: the helicopters.
Helicopters are an undeniably fascinating thing, leaving us in awe as they effortlessly blend power, speed, and agility to perform extraordinary feats in the skies. These television shows featuring helicopters have long captivated audiences with their high-octane action, breathtaking aerial stunts, and adrenaline-pumping rescues.
From heart-stopping chase sequences to daring rescue missions in treacherous terrain, these shows demonstrate the versatility and sheer coolness of helicopters in the realm of entertainment.
With their ability to defy gravity and reach otherwise inaccessible locations, helicopters add an exhilarating dimension to the storytelling in these shows, making them an indispensable element in some of the most compelling TV shows to hit the screens.
SCRIPTED TV SHOWS WITH HELICOPTERS
Magnum P.I., CBS (1980 – 1988); CBS/NBC (2018 – present)
Magnum P.I. It tells the story of Thomas Magnum, a former Navy SEAL who works as a private detective in Hawaii.
With the help of veterans Theodore “TC” Calvin and Orville “Rick” Wright, Magnum uses his military skills and sharp humor to solve complex cases.
He frequently encounters dangerous situations that require helicopter piloting experience, using impressive aerial maneuvers to aid in his investigations.
In addition to his compelling work as a private investigator, Magnum struggles with the difficulties of life on a tropical island, dealing with personal issues and forming strong bonds with the locals, including the Higgins family.
Magnum P.I. first aired through the 1980s, but a recent remake is currently ongoing as well! While the remake has some similarities to the parent series, a few modern changes in character have been made (such as Higgins now being a woman!).
Valor, The CW (2017 – 2018)
It’s expected that TV shows with helicopters will revolve around the military, much like The CW’s drama series Valor!
In particular, Valor follows the lives of an elite group of helicopter pilots in the US Army’s Shadow Raider unit as they juggle difficult military missions with personal challenges.
When a high-stakes mission in Somalia goes awry, the team must deal with the consequences of their actions, creating a tangle of secrets and betrayals that threaten to tear apart their close bond.
As the pilots navigate the complexities of military life and the emotional toll of their experiences, they must confront their past and find a path to redemption and solidarity.
Airwolf, CBS/USA (1984 – 1987)
Airwolf revolves around a high-tech military helicopter called the Airwolf, which its creator, Dr. Charles Henry Moffett, has stolen.
Stringfellow Hawke, an experienced pilot, is asked by the US Secret Service to recover the stolen plane. In return, Hawke is contracted to assist the agency on various covert missions.
Along with his partner Dominic Santini, Hawke embarks on a thrilling aerial adventure using Airwolf’s advanced weapons and skills to defeat dangerous enemies and protect the innocent.
As he navigates a series of high-stakes missions and encounters, he must confront personal demons and navigate complex relationships to keep the powerful chopper from falling into the wrong hands.
Blue Thunder, ABC (1984)
Like Airwolf, ABC’s action series Blue Thunder takes its name from the name of the helicopter at the center of the show.
Blue Thunder is an advanced, high-tech helicopter used by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Special Operations Division. Commanded by and piloted by the experienced Frank Cheney, Blue Lightning is used to combat various criminal activities and maintain order in the city.
Equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance systems and weapons, the helicopter plays an important role in tracking down criminals and ensuring public safety.
As the team navigates the complexities of policing a bustling metropolis, they must confront ethical dilemmas and grapple with internal and external challenges that test their limits to uphold justice and protect the city.
Riptide, NBC (1984 – 1986)
Even though this detective action series takes place primarily on the water, Riptide still makes pretty cool use of a helicopter!
The show follows the adventures of Cody Allen and Nick Ryder, ex-military buddies who become private investigators who run their own detective agency aboard a luxury yacht called, you guessed it, Riptide.
With the help of their trusty and intelligent robot, “Roboz,” the two solve a variety of difficult cases and often navigate complex mysteries and dangerous situations.
Cody and Nick use their military-trained skills, sense of humor, and open camaraderie to aid in local investigations, giving them a competitive edge in their pursuit of justice as they’re also often aboard the Screaming Mimi helicopter.
Chopper Squad, Network Ten (1976 – 1979)
Chopper Squad follows the day-to-day life of a helicopter-based emergency medical team in Australia.
Tasked with responding to emergency rescue missions, the team, led by their captain, combines aviation experience and medical skills to save lives in the harsh environments of New South Wales.
Their team of experienced pilots and even dedicated doctors face constant challenges as they navigate the complexities of their busy profession.
From high-risk aerial rescues to ground medical emergencies, Chopper Squad captures the adrenaline-fueled and emotionally charged experiences of this special group and highlights the critical role helicopters play in emergency response.
240-Robert, ABC (1979 – 1981)
Another show that puts an elite team in the center of it is 240-Robert, which follows the work of the eponymous team from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Emergency Services Detail – an elite unit that specializes in high-risk operations and rescue missions that often use helicopters to reach remote and difficult locations.
The team of skilled deputies and helicopter pilots face countless situations, from dangerous rescues in the mountains to apprehending criminals in challenging urban environments.
Faced with the unpredictable nature of the job, 240-Robert demonstrates the power and precision needed to get the job done, highlighting the critical role helicopters play in conducting daring operations that exceed the capabilities of traditional law enforcement methods.
Whirlybirds, syndication (1957 – 1960)
Whirlybirds revolves around the aviation adventures of Chuck Martin and P.T. Moore, owners of the Whirlybird helicopter charter service.
Operating out of their base at the fictional Longwood Field Airport, the duo takes on a wide array of assignments, ranging from medical evacuations and firefighting to aerial stunts for Hollywood productions.
The show highlights the versatility and indispensability of helicopters in various industries as Chuck and P.T. navigate through the challenges of their high-flying profession.
Beyond the thrilling airborne sequences, Whirlybirds explores the camaraderie between the two protagonists and their dedication to using their helicopters regardless of the task at hand.
Medicopter 117, RTL/ORF (1998 – 2002)
The first foreign language series on the list is Medicopter 117, a German series that focuses on the world of German emergency medical services that carry out rescue missions by helicopter.
The Medicopter 117 crew is tasked to respond to a variety of emergency situations, including medical evacuations, accidents, and natural disasters.
The team of experienced pilots and specialist medical professionals demonstrate the vital role that helicopters play in ensuring rapid and life-saving intervention.
Often featuring urgent and often dangerous situations, the show explores the emotional and physical toll of navigating the demanding profession and highlights the critical intersection between aviation and emergency medical services.
HeliCops – Einsatz über Berlin, Sat.1 (1998)
Another German series is HeliCops – Einsatz über Berlin, which shows the daily hard work of a police helicopter unit in Berlin.
The series revolves around the professional and personal lives of the HeliCops team and showcases their efforts in aerial surveillance, tracking, and crime-fighting.
Led by skilled pilots and law enforcement officers, the teams navigate the skies above bustling cities and tackle criminal activities from car chases to emergency rescues.
The show depicts the intensity of the mission and highlights the strategic use of helicopters to maintain order. Set in the Berlin cityscape, HeliCops explores the dynamic synergy between aviation and policing in a busy metropolis.
Always Ready, TVB Jade (2005)
The Hong Kong TV series Always Ready monitors the day-to-day operations of the Government Flying Service, which is responsible for supporting search and rescue (SAR), air ambulance, fire, and police operations.
Led by a team of experienced pilots and rescuers, the series explores the dynamic world of air first aid.
Whether navigating dangerous terrain, conducting search and rescue missions, or responding to emergency medical evacuations, the Always Ready team demonstrates the critical role helicopters play in providing emergency assistance in crisis situations.
Fans of TV shows like Burning Torch and Glory of Heaven will likely love Always Ready as well!
Code Blue, Fuji TV (2008 – 2018)
Code Blue, the Japanese TV show, centers around a helicopter medical rescue team in Japan (which is based on the real-life “Doctor Helicopter” system in the country).
The series follows a dedicated group of pilots, doctors, and paramedics who form a specialized unit tasked with responding to critical medical emergencies.
Operating in challenging environments, from bustling urban areas to remote locales, the team utilizes helicopters to provide swift and life-saving interventions.
The show begins with new doctors in the program who are dispatched with the emergency service helicopter, where they experience unexpected traumatic medical situations that change their lives forever.
HELICOPTER DOCUMENTARY SERIES
Helicopter Wars, Apple TV+ (2009)
The documentary series Helicopter Wars provides an in-depth look at the important role that helicopters have played in various armed conflicts around the world.
Through a comprehensive historical perspective, this series examines the evolution of helicopter warfare and explains the technological advances, strategic innovations, and impact of helicopters on four military operations around the world.
The show takes a close look at the many roles helicopters have played, from troop transport and medical evacuation to reconnaissance and attack missions. Drawing on archival material, expert interviews, and first-hand accounts, Helicopter Wars provides an informative perspective on the contribution of helicopters to the dynamics of warfare in modern history.
Air Ambulance ER, Apple TV+ (2015)
Air Ambulance ER hails from the UK and focuses on the day-to-day operations of a dedicated doctor-led helicopter medical team that responds to life-threatening emergencies.
The series follows the crews of various air ambulance units, demonstrating the intensive and time-consuming nature of their work and highlighting the challenges of providing emergency medical services in a variety of environments.
Air Ambulance ER combines live footage with interviews with medical experts and pilots to capture the urgency, accuracy, and emotional complexity of the field of aeromedical evacuation, from the choppers themselves to the life-saving medicine and procedures used to save lives.
Helicopter ER, Apple TV+ (2016 – 2017)
Like the previous shows, Helicopter ER provides an intimate look into the fast-paced and critical world of air ambulance services.
This time, the focus is on the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and the life-saving procedures done by some of the bravest emergency responders in the country.
The show follows the daily operations of helicopter emergency medical teams as they respond to life-or-death situations across diverse landscapes and really brings to light the skills and expertise needed in this field.
Focused on real-time rescues and medical evacuations, the series captures the urgency, precision, and challenges of providing immediate medical care in often remote and inaccessible areas.
Helicopter Heroes, BBC One (2007 – 2015)
BBC One’s Helicopter Heroes is one of the longest-running documentary shows on the list, having nine seasons covering operations in both the UK and Australia (the latter being the last two seasons of the series).
In a way, Helicopter Heroes is the predecessor to the previously mentioned Helicopter ER as it follows the Yorkshire Air Ambulance as well.
The show’s presenter was the first journalist and TV presenter, Richard Hammond, as a way to say thanks after the service rescued him after a car crash!
Helicopter Heroes is true to its name as it highlights the aviation and medical heroes on the team as they deal with severe trauma in the medical field.
Emergency Helicopter Medics, Channel 4 (2018 – 2022)
Emergency Helicopter Medics is also set primarily in Britain, though on a broader scale as it follows various emergency medical teams!
When you can’t bring a patient to the hospital, you bring the hospital to them – and that’s exactly what this series shows!
The show takes viewers into the heart of critical emergency situations, following helicopter medical teams as they respond to a variety of life-threatening incidents.
Through a combination of real-time footage and interviews with dedicated professionals, including pilots, paramedics, and doctors, the series highlights the intense and time-sensitive nature of their work.
Sky Cops, BBC One (2006 – 2008)
Shifting now from medical aviation to law enforcement, Sky Cops offers an inside look into the strategic use of helicopters in law enforcement, showcasing their role in pursuits, surveillance, and tactical operations.
With a focus on the collaboration between aviation and ground units, the series provides an engaging and informative perspective on the critical contribution of helicopters to modern policing efforts.
Follow along in the adrenaline-pumping chases after criminals – all from the perspectives of the cops and pilots in the sky.
Emergency Rescue: Air, Land & Sea, Channel 4 (2020)
Emergency Rescue: Air, Land & Sea is a documentary TV series that delves into the multifaceted world of emergency response teams operating across, as the title suggests, air, land, and sea within the UK.
The show follows the dedicated professionals who form these specialized units, showcasing their training, equipment, and coordinated efforts to save lives in challenging scenarios.
It explores the critical role played by helicopters in performing high-stakes rescues, often in remote or difficult-to-reach locations, whether it be for medical evacuations or maritime operations.
Everest Rescue, Discovery (2017)
While you could never get me to climb Mt. Everest, attempting to climb this infamous mountain is high on many people’s bucket lists. Not only is it a challenging climb, but it’s also in one of the world’s toughest regions in terms of climate and access, and this is where Everest Rescue comes in.
The show follows a team of elite helicopter pilots and medics who risk their lives to save climbers and trekkers facing emergencies on the world’s highest peak.
Through a combination of breathtaking aerial footage and interviews with the rescue team, the series captures the physical and emotional challenges of conducting life-saving operations in the harsh conditions of the Himalayas.
Air Rescue, Apple TV+ (2013)
Air Rescue is a documentary series that takes a compelling look at the high-risk world of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service operating in Australia.
The show follows special air rescue teams who respond to a variety of critical situations, from medical emergencies and search and rescue missions to disaster relief efforts.
Each episode features a few missions across the various teams and really brings to light how high-stakes their job is, as it documents the skill and drama behind the scenes. Their missions range from shark attack victims to extreme sports enthusiasts, each one more daunting than the last.
Inside Combat Rescue, National Geographic Channel (2013 – 2016)
Last but definitely not least is Inside Combat Rescue, which provides an intense, unfiltered look into the day-to-day life of US Air Force Rescue Pararescuemen (PJ) and USAF Security Forces deployed to Afghanistan.
The show follows elite special forces as they perform high-risk helicopter rescue missions to save wounded soldiers and civilians in combat.
Combining original footage and interviews, the series captures the physical and emotional impact of the work and highlights the courage, camaraderie, and unwavering loyalty needed in these harsh and hostile environments.