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Amelia Earhart in pop culture: Rounding up the best movies, books, and more

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EVERETT COLLECTION

It’s going to be a big weekend for aviation history buffs: HISTORY is premiering a two-hour special uncovering evidence that supports the theory that Amelia Earhart might have survived her final flight, and the Sundance Channel is launching a series titled America in Color that will hone in on Earhart, showing new found footage of the pilot preparing for takeoff.

These aren’t the only pieces of Earhart-themed pop culture, though. Ahead, check out the most notable books, movies, songs, and more about the trailblazer. Sundance’s America in Color debuts Sunday at 8 p.m. ET while HISTORY’s Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence airs the same night at 9 p.m. ET.

‘Last Flight’ by Amelia Earhart, 1937 (book)

Earhart’s husband, George P. Putnam, compiled Earhart’s letters, diaries, and notes and published the collection in 1937. It’s still in print, or you can get it on your Kindle.

‘Flight for Freedom,’ 1943 (film)

This 1943 movie, made only six years after Earhart went missing and four years after she was declared dead, features Rosalind Russell playing a fictionalized version of Earhart in a narrative that mainly sensationalizes her disappearance during her last flight, speculating that she was on a secret U.S. government mission. Buy it on DVD from Amazon here.

‘In Search of Amelia Earhart’ by Plainsong, 1972 (music)

Although not all of the songs on this 1972 album are directly about the aviatrix, Plainsong member Ian Matthews was inspired to honor her after reading a book that posited Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan had been captured by the Japanese, questioned, and died in prison.

‘Amelia Earhart,’ 1976 (TV movie)

The 1976 three-hour special was the first dramatization of Earhart’s life and spanned her whole life, including her childhood in Kansas. Susan Clark earned an Oscar nod for her portrayal of Earhart, and John Forsythe played Putnam.

“Amelia” by Joni Mitchell, 1976 (music)

The second track on Mitchell’s 1976 album Hejira was inspired by her kinship with the pilot. “I was thinking of Amelia Earhart and addressing it from one solo pilot to another…,” she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “…sort of reflecting on the cost of being a woman and having something you must do.”

‘American Experience: Amelia Earhart – The Price of Courage,’ 1993 (documentary)

Kathy Bates narrates this episode of the docu-series American Experience, which uses dramatic re-enactments and commentary from historians to paint a picture of American historical events. Explorer, aerial photographer, and navigator Brad Washburn served as a consultant for Earhart, and says in the episode, “This whole array of information, on the one hand, and what she did with it and how she ignored so many fundamentally important things made you really think that she was pathologically optimistic.” It is not available for streaming, but if you want to dig up your VCR, you can get it on VHS from Amazon here.

‘Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight,’ 1994 (film)

Diane Keaton nabbed an Emmy and Golden Globe nod for this 1994 made-for-TV movie based on Doris L. Rich’s Amelia Earhart: A Biography.

‘Star Trek: Voyager,’ 1995 (TV)

In August 1995, an episode titled “The 37s” took the crew of the Voyager to an Earth-like planet where they found eight humans who had been abducted and cryogenically frozen, two of them being Earhart and Noonan. She has some pretty intense scenes with Kate Mulgrew’s Captain Janeway, in which Janeway tells her how much her flying legacy has advanced the place of female pilots. Watch the trailer for the episode above and a clip of Janeway discussing the Earhart encounter below.

‘I Was Amelia Earhart’ by Jane Mendelsohn, 1996 (book)

This novel imagines what happened after Earhart’s plane took off, proposing that instead of plunging to their deaths or being captured by the Japanese, Earhart and Noonan survived on a small Pacific island. Former EW critic L.S. Klepp said the book contains “some evocative moments (a heat wave, a storm) but no suspenseful or revelatory ones,” and calls it “solemn” and “self-absorbed.”

‘Flying Blind’ by Max Allan Collins, 1998 (book)

The well-received novel in the P.I. Nathan Heller series chronicles the Chicago detective’s assignment to protect Earhart in 1935, a task that turns into a friendship. When the pilot disappears years later, Heller enlists in the Marines to search for her on the island of Saipan.

‘Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,’ 2009 (film)

Academy Award-nominated actress Amy Adams played Earhart in the sequel to the original Night at the Museum, where she uttered hilarious-but-ridiculous lines like “Crimey, we’re jimmy-jacked!”

‘East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart’ by Susan Butler, 2009 (book)

According to EW’s Tina Jordan, this is “the best, most comprehensively researched biography.” Buy it on Amazon here.

‘Amelia,’ 2009 (film)

Hilary Swank took a swing at playing Earhart in this 2009 film she executive-produced. She co-stars with Richard Gere, who played Putnam. The film was panned almost universally — Lisa Schwarzbaum asked in her EW review, “How could so tradition-busting a role model have resulted in so square, stiff, and earthbound a movie?”

‘Elsewhere’ by Jay Faerber, 2017 (comic book, out Aug. 2)

The series from Image Comics features Earhart stranded in an alien civilization trying to make her way home. She also manages to start a rebellion against the local warlord while she’s at it.