Top Ten: Movie Explosions

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Guy Fawkes
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Guy Fawkes

One of the best things about Guy Fawkes Night is the plethora of firework displays that take place.  I love fireworks, I genuinely oooh and aaah when a rocket goes up and explodes in a flash of bright colours.  As you can probably guess I’m also a big fan of loud and bright explosions in movies.  I know they aren’t subtle or intelligent but they are great fun.

Below are ten of my favourites – they might not be the biggest or the most technically impressive but they are the ones which gave me something to cheer and come to mind when I think about the best bangs in movies.

1.  Armageddon – Paris Destroyed

Honesty, this isn’t a reaction to my antipathy towards Paris.  Armageddon is one of my absolute favourite action films and there’s plenty of bang for your buck here.  It was a toss-up between this scene and the climatic final destruction of the asteroid.  But Bruce Willis dies in the end and I have been known to cry once or twice so I’d rather have the happy sight of Paris being flattened.


2. Con Air – Cyrus Lets Loose

John Malkovich is an exceptionally good baddie as Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Vance in this brilliant blockbuster.  The idea of transporting so many dangerous prisoners on one flight is clearly nuts and it’s hardly surprising that a high-octane escape is planned.  When Cyrus discovers that one of his fellow prisoners has double-crossed him he casually flicked a cigarette in the direction of the petrol doused criminal.  Nic Cage and John Cusack barely escape, the other prisoners cower but Cyrus is cool, calm and collected as he walks away.  Nasty but very nice.


3.  Die Hard – Geronimo Mother-F****r

There are bigger and better explosions in the Die Hard series than this one but John McClane sending a load of explosives and detonators tied to a computer and office chair down a lift shaft and blowing up the bottom of the Nakatomi Building is brilliant.  What makes this scene such fun for me is the fireball coming back up the lift shaft much to the surprise of the watching McClane.  He might be one of the greatest action heroes of all time but bless him, he clearly isn’t the brightest.


4.  Inception – Paris Explodes

Honestly, this isn’t here just because I hate Paris, but including the city’s destruction twice in the one list does seem a tad obsessive.  In a film where the power of dreams is key to the plot, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb explains to Ariadne that everything is not as it seems.  The power of this scene lies in director Christopher Nolan’s decision to make it as realistic as possible, with very little CGI. DiCaprio and Ellen Page are brilliant, sitting calmly and unaffected by the destruction around them.


5.  Independence Day – The White House Destroyed

This is another one of my favourite action films and it’s chock-full of explosions.  In fact the film is basically one big explosion with a little bit of plot to link them together.  The best moment has to be President Thomas Whitmore and some of entourage (only some though) narrowly escaping the alien attack which see The White House blown to smithereens.  Sadly not all apparatchiks make it out alive….


6.  Mission Impossible – Channel Tunnel Fireball

In the past few years the publicity around Tom Cruise’s love life and religious beliefs have made it easy to forget just how great an action star he actually is.  Hopefully Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol will restore his reputation.  One of Cruise’s best action sequences comes at the end of the first Mission Impossible film when a helicopter explodes in the Channel Tunnel, throwing Tom onto the top of a high-speed train.  Ouch.


7.  Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves – Exploding Cart

Possibly the most bonkers explosion in one of the most ridiculous films ever.  I really, really like it.  It’s convenient that Robin and his feathery hairdo have a Moorish friend who introduces him to the power of gunpowder about 100 years before the rest of Europe.  How else could he rescue his idiot half-brother Will Scarlett and the decidedly middle-aged Marian?  Utterly daft, but still great fun.


8.  Star Wars – Let’s Blow This Thing And Go Home

The destruction of the new Death Star in Return of the Jedi is probably technically superior to this.  Certainly the Millennium Falcon’s race to escape the chasing flames is thrilling but it isn’t quite as satisfying as Luke’s bang on target missile strike, assisted by returning hero Han Solo.  This is the first cheer out loud movie explosion that I can remember.

9.  True Lies – Bridge Bombed

I absolutely love True Lies, I think it’s my favourite film from both James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  If deftly spoofs spy movies and Arnie’s tough guy image while at the same time being a great example of both.  Jamie Lee Curtis is fabulous in her best role since Trading Places as the bored wife looking for a little excitement in life.  She gets more than she bargained for including this great explosion which 17 years on still looks fresh and impressive.


10. V for Vendetta – Fawkes Finally Succeeds

Fittingly there’s a great explosion from this Guy Fawkes themed dystopian thriller in this list.  The film is book ended with two great explosions.  First the Old Bailey is destroyed to the accompaniment of the 1812 Overture and celebratory fireworks.  One year later the Houses of Parliament are blown up in a bigger, better and more significant explosion.  As with Independence Day, the destruction of such a recognisable symbol of power is hugely effective.  And enjoyable.

What do you think? What are the best explosions in movie history?  Let me know in the comments.

Previous and next posts in this series:<< V for VendettaGunpowder, Treason and Plot >>
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