In the Around the World in 80 Days (2004) movie, when Phileas Fogg meets the Wright Brothers in an American desert:

Orville: Mr. Fogg, my name is Orville Wright. This is my brother, Wilbur. We're big fans of yours. Fan's a strong word. Better way to say it's we got a lot of money riding on you to win your bet. We're gonna use our winnings to build this.
Wilbur: Orville, maybe now is not the time. Let me explain it to Mr. Fogg. Just one second. Forgive my brother. He's got his head up in the clouds. He's one of these dreamers who thinks man's gonna go swooshing around on the planet like a little hummingbird.
Fogg: Yeah, we're all gonna fly. He thinks so, too.
Wilbur: It's kind of sad. I'm sorry. He's kind of a moron. He's mastered the cable steering system. The drag-and-lift ratio.
Fogg: This is brilliant. Thank you.

From this conversation, it's clear that Wright Brothers had yet to invent the airplane.

But, later, when Phileas Fogg was crossing the Atlantic to reach London in time to win the bet:

Captain: Mr. Fogg. I'm sorry to say, we've burnt the last of the coal. But I've had a word with the crew, and all of them have agreed to burn their shoes.
Fogg: The effort is appreciated, Captain.
Captain: Unfortunately, we've gained a mere six hours. Even shoes cannot help us now. Must be something we can do.
Fogg (after seeing flying birds): That's it. I've got it. Birds.
Captain: Excellent idea! We'll burn birds!
Fogg: No, we'll fly to London. We follow the laws of physics mastered by the birds millennia ago and combine it with the Wright Brothers' steering system.
Captain: Most people would laugh at you. But not us. We care about you.
Fogg: Captain, I'm afraid I have to ask permission to dismantle your ship to build this machine.

After that, he really built a flying machine and reached London in time. But, I can't say for sure if the date falls before or after December 17, 1903. Maybe, Wright Brothers' first successful flight happened the day after they met Fogg, but I doubt it, because they didn't have money at that time to build the machine.

Do we have conclusive evidence to establish who invented the airplane first: Phileas Fogg or Wright Brothers?

I haven't read the original 1873 book by Jules Verne, but I am sure the quotes I have given aren't in the books because the author couldn't know about the cable steering system and Wright Brothers being inventor of airplane.

  • 10
    There is no flying in the Jules Verne book at all. Fogg won in the end because he forgot to calculate timezone changes in his travel plans and "won" a day by crossing the international dateline. The plane was added for the movie. – Eike Pierstorff Apr 21 '17 at 15:43
  • In the 1956 film version, there is a balloon, not a plane. Ballooning was well known and practiced prior to the Wright Brothers. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Around_the_World_in_80_Days_(1956_film). Also - the depiction of the Wright Brothers in conflict over flight is entirely specious. They had been working on flight for years prior to their first powered flight. While money was possibly a concern, it almost certainly wasn't to the degree shown in the film. Probably best to ignore everything about history and this film – NKCampbell Apr 21 '17 at 16:46
  • In the 2004 version, there was a balloon as well. That was the scene I remember best even. Wonderful. I had to do a lot of explaining to my fellow moviegoers though, because they all missed it. – Mr Lister Apr 21 '17 at 18:43
  • 1
    @NKCampbell I might note that Verne's first novel was Five Weeks in a Balloon, which was unsurprisingly about people in a balloon =) So he was well aware of ballooning and even wrote about it in his books. No planes though, of course. – heather Jul 24 '18 at 8:44
  • A balloon also shows up in Verne's The Mysterious Island as the means by which the heroes found themselves stranded on the Island without even a knife to their name. But no baloons in the original 80 Days – Arcanist Lupus Jul 26 '18 at 6:56

According to Wikipedia:

William Thomson is already ennobled as Lord Kelvin:

There, Fogg is insulted by the other "brilliant minds", in particular Lord Kelvin, who believes that everything worth discovering has already been discovered.


The statue of Liberty is under construction in NYC:

A battle against Fang and her minions commences in the workshop where the Statue of Liberty is being constructed


Queen Victoria is still alive:

In the process he insults Queen Victoria, who arrives on the scene


And as I Love You says, the Wright brothers have already Worked out the plans for a workable flying machine.

William Thomson (1824-1907) was made Baron Kelvin in 1892.


The statue of Liberty was constructed in France in 1876-1886 and the parts shipped to NYC and erected in 1886.


Queen Victoria died 22 January 1901.


Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) and Orville Wright (1871-1948) began their flight research and experimentation in the 1890s and begin manned gliding experiments in 1900 at Kitty Hawk, making their first powered flights there on 17 December 1903.


It is obviously impossible for any date in real history to meet all four of those plot requirements.

Since the whole movie happens during 80 days, and since the protagonists meet the Wright brothers late in the movie, the Wright brothers have only a few days time to make their first flight before the protagonists.

On the other hand the protagonists make a successful flight in a flying machine based on the Wright brother's plans, so the Wright brothers could have had a flying machine ready to go and flown it before the protagonists.

On the third hand when Orville says:

Orville: Mr. Fogg, my name is Orville Wright. This is my brother, Wilbur. We're big fans of yours. Fan's a strong word. Better way to say it's we got a lot of money riding on you to win your bet. We're gonna use our winnings to build this.

He's claiming they won't have enough money to start building their plane until Fogg wins his bet, and so Fogg must have flown before the Wright brothers, landed at the Royal Academy of Science, and still been forgotten by history!

On the fourth hand maybe the Wright brothers had their flyer ready and were leaving for Kitty Hawk next day but pretended to less ready than they were, to keep a rival inventor from trying to beat them.

Thus the movie offers few clues as to who flew first in its fictional alternate universe.

  • The answer needs some serious formatting.. – Lobo Jul 26 '18 at 2:20
  • 1
    If Fogg landed at the Royal Academy of Science it's no wonder his contribution to aviation was forgotten. This institution doesn't exist in the UK. The Royal Society, yes, but not a Royal Academy of Science. There are Royal Academy of Sciences in France, Spain and other European nations, but not the UK. Perhaps, in its fictional alternative world Fogg is hailed as the first flier. Did the movie get anything right? he said rhetorically. No, don't bother answer. – a4android Jul 26 '18 at 8:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.