Chazz, Rex and Pip are in a Los Angeles metal band called The Lone Rangers who are continuously turned down as they try to get their demo tape heard by producers. After scolding him for being lazy, Chazz's girlfriend Kayla kicks him out of her apartment. They decide to try to get the local rock station KPPX to play their reel-to-reel tape on the air and attempt to break-in through the back door. After several unsuccessful attempts, a station employee comes out to smoke and they keep the door from shutting behind her.
Once inside, laid back DJ Ian "The Shark" begins talking with them on the air. Station Manager Milo overhears them and intervenes but Ian continues broadcasting. After Milo insults Rex, by calling him "Hollywood Boulevard trash," he and Chazz pull out realistic looking water pistols and demand airplay. After setting up an old reel-to-reel for the demo, the tape begins to play but is quickly destroyed when the player malfunctions. The guys try to run but Doug Beech, the station's accountant, had already called the police and they see the building is surrounded.
They negotiate with the police who are now tasked to find Kayla who has a cassette of the demo. Since the station never went off the air, news of the hostage crisis travels quickly and numerous hard rock/metal fans begin showing up outside the radio station interfering with police. A SWAT team has also arrived whose leader prefers using force over negotiation tactics. His team secretly passes a gun through a roof vent to Beech who has been hiding in the air ducts. During the crisis, it is revealed that Milo had secretly signed a deal to change KPPX's format to Adult Contemporary, which includes having to fire Ian and most of the other employees. When this comes out, Ian and a few employees side with the band and turn against Milo.
The police find Kayla who arrives at the radio station to deliver the tape. She and Chazz get into an argument which escalates quickly resulting in the studio console being destroyed dashing any hopes to play the tape on the air.
As some of the items the band demanded from police are brought into the station, the door shuts on Rex's plastic gun revealing it to be fake. Seeing this, some of the hostages run out; one telling the SWAT team the band's guns aren't real. As the team assembles to storm the station, Beech corners the band from a low hanging air vent. Ian, knowing he no longer will have a job at the station, knocks down Beech's gun. This causes the weapon to wildly fire several rounds and the police are forced to back off. Ian picks up the gun but gives it to a somewhat confused Chazz in a final act of anti-establishment rebellion.
Jimmie Wing, a self-serving record executive who had previously turned Chazz down, comes to the radio station and offers the band a contract. They reluctantly agree to the deal knowing they have no more options. Wing arranges an entire stage and sound system to be airlifted to the roof where the band will play their song for the now huge crowd outside. To the band's dismay, they find only the PA is real and everything else is just props. Refusing to lip sync as their tape is played, they instead destroy their instruments in protest to the delight of the crowd and stage dive into the hands of the cheering audience.
The Lone Rangers are next seen playing a gig inside the prison where they are incarcerated. The concert is being shown live on MTV. Ian, now their manager, says on the phone the band will start touring in six months, or "three months if they behave themselves." Their album LIVE IN PRISON goes triple platinum.Brendan Fraser as Chazz Darby/Chester Ogilvie, the lead guitarist and lead vocalist of The Lone Rangers
Steve Buscemi as Rex, the bassist of The Lone Rangers
Adam Sandler as Pip, the drummer of The Lone Rangers
Joe Mantegna as Ian "The Shark"
Michael McKean as Milo Jackson
Chris Farley as Officer Wilson
Ernie Hudson as Sgt. O'Malley
Judd Nelson as Jimmie Wing
Amy Locane as Kayla
Nina Siemaszko as Suzzi
Marshall Bell as Carl Mace
Reg E. Cathey as Marcus
David Arquette as Carter
Michael Richards as Doug Beech
Michelle Hurst as Yvonne
Harold Ramis as Chris Moore
Allen Covert as Officer Samuels
Rob Zombie as Himself
Kurt Loder as Himself
Lemmy Kilmister as School Magazine Editor Rocker
Rich Wilkes as Corduroy Pants Rocker
John Melendez as Constant Masturbating Rocker
Vinnie DeRamus as Dungeons & Dragons Rocker
The band Galactic Cowboys perform in the film under the name "The Sons of Thunder". Their sole musical contribution to the film, "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful", was omitted from the soundtrack and is not available anywhere. Even the band does not have a copy.
Mike Judge plays the voices of Beavis and Butt-head, who call in to the radio station.
White Zombie appear in the bar scene with Chris Farley searching for Amy Locane, playing the track they recorded for the film "Feed the Gods".
Lemmy Kilmister makes a brief appearance in the crowd outside the radio station as the editor of his school magazine.
The soundtrack, featuring a new song by White Zombie and re-recordings of songs from Motorhead and Primus, would go on to chart on The Billboard 200 and peak at Number 157. While all the songs on the Arista release are on the film, a number of songs that were featured were omitted from the album.
Songs that were played in the movie but weren't included on the soundtrack are:"Baby Huey (Do You Wanna Dance)" by Dim Stars
"Shamrocks and Shenanigans (Boom Shalock Lock Boom) [Butch Vig Mix]" by House of Pain
"Unsatisfied" by The Replacements
"Rocks" by Primal Scream
"Janie's Got a Gun" by Aerosmith
"Wheezing" by David Byrne
"Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful" by Sons of Thunder (Played by Galactic Cowboys)
The song played by The Lone Rangers in the film, "Degenerated", was actually originally by hardcore punk band Reagan Youth. The version in the film featured Jay Yuenger and Sean Yseult from White Zombie with Fraser on vocals, and was produced by Yuenger and Bryan Carlstrom.
The movie debuted in 10th place, grossing $1.9 million US in its opening weekend. Airheads earned negative reviews from critics and currently has a score of 21% "Rotten" on Rotten Tomatoes based on 33 reviews. The film has gained a cult following.