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Top Five Movie Explosions

Monday 29th June 2009 by Ivan Kander

Transformers: Insert Generic Subtitle Here has opened across the country, and whether or not you consider it to be a blockbuster masterpiece or a cliché-ridden piece of pedestrian cinematic feces, one thing is certain—the movie blows up things real nice. So, in honor of artful destruction, I’ve compiled the following list—the top five movie explosions. That’s right, folks, the following list doesn’t bother itself with stupid things like character development or narrative subtlety. It cares only about the act of blowing—something that, coincidentally, your Mom is also very familiar with *Chest bump. Takes swig of beer*

Terminator 2: Judgment Day – T1000 in a semi-truck
For many, James Cameron’s Terminator 2 is the greatest action movie ever made. The story is smart. The science fiction elements are cool. And, the action is —for lack for a better word— badass. The explosion worth mentioning here happens in the first third of the movie. The T-1000 has been chasing a teenage John Connor and the Governor of California in a giant semi-truck. Needless to say, things eventually go boom in a spectacular and pyrotechnic way. But, that’s not what makes the explosion so cool. Much like the fat girl sitting at the end of a crowded bar, things only get better looking the longer you wait (and drink).

After the initial sweet explosion, we get to see the T-1000 exit the flaming wreckage as a humanoid figure of liquid metal goo, and then reassemble himself in real time back into the visage of Robert Patrick. Not only is the effect really cool, but it also introduced the world to a level of special effects and CGI that would later become an everyday part of Hollywood life—much like cocaine and scientology.

Scanners – Some Dude’s Head Explodes
Now, for something completely different, I turn to David Cronenberg’s Scanners. While napalm and mushroom clouds are certainly fun, they’re also just a tad generic. With Scanners, Cronenberg, being both a talented director and a creepy freak, showed moviegoers everywhere a telepathic explosion…of someone’s head. That’s right, in the movie, a person’s head explodes on screen in a delightfully disgusting mix of sticky matter and brain particles. It really is an impressive site. I mean, I haven’t seen a head explode with such a forceful projection of sticky human matter since the last time I got my hands on a Sears Victoria’s Secret Catalog. *Cues rim shot* Try the veal, people…

Link to visual awesomeness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HY-03vYYAjA

Armageddon – Paris Goes Boom
No list about the art of blowing things up would be complete without Mr. Boom himself, Michael Bay. Bay’s entire career has been based on two things: Big explosions and really f-cking big explosions. And, while Transformers and Transformers 2 both have their fair share of pyrotechnics, I think Armageddon sort of wins the competition here. For one, Armageddon isn’t so much a movie as it is a series of random scenes interconnected by giant balls of fire. Heck, I’m pretty sure Billy Bob Thornton doesn’t even realize he’s in a movie, let alone “the motivation” of his character.

But, amidst the quick cuts and bad Aerosmith songs, Armageddon does one thing really well: and that thing is he make thing go kablooey all pretty-like. The scene that stands out for me happens as we watch Paris get bombarded with an asteroid firestorm of cosmic death. From the vantage point of Notre Dame, the city of lights turns into a city of fire. I guess it’s a good thing that—as always—America comes in to save the day. I mean, for all its flaws, at least Armageddon is historically accurate. *looks down at American flag tank top and lack of pants, wipes tear* God Bless the USA!

Fun Fact: Michael Bay always loses at chess because he keeps moving his pieces to C4.

Star Wars
Star Wars – The Death Star Explodes
Nowadays, George Lucas is a punch line — a man obsessed with CGI prairie dogs and retarded Jamaican aliens. But back in the day he was a king and his kingdom was Star Wars. Upon its release, Star Wars was more than just a movie — it was a revolutionary film that changed the landscape of cinema in all arenas, from its role in pop culture to special effects. Speaking of which, no explosion is quite as nostalgic and satisfying as the destruction of the Death Star at the end of Episode 4. Even before Lucas got all frisky and added a CGI ring of fire to the shot upon the movie’s re-release in the 90’s, the explosion stiill looked so cool that it even managed to make Mark Hamill not look completely gay. In fact, it’s moments like this that remind us all that there was a time when George Lucas was more concerned with making movies than the all you can eat dinner buffet at the Sizzler.

Independence Day – Simultaneous Blue Pulse Ray of Doom
If Michael Bay had a soul mate it would be director Roland Emmerich — a man who has also made a career out of destroying the hell out of things for the sake of entertainment. In 1994, I was young and impressionable. That year I also just happened to see a tiny little film called Independence Day (you may have heard of it). And, let me tell you, I was stunned. Things exploded! Will Smith was Black/sassy! Bill Pullman’s voice was extra-raspy! It was the greatest movie ever made.

At the end of the first act, Emmerich simultaneously blows up the White House, the Empire State Building, and all of downtown Los Angeles with a sweeping blue alien pulse ray of doom. Now, that’s an explosion worth talking about. I’m just glad the dog managed to jump from the fireball into Vivica A. Fox’s outstretched arms in time. I was worried there for  a second…

Every disaster movie since, even Emmerich’s own movies, have simply attempted to mimic the sheer pyrotechnic joy of Independence day. Therefore, it’s the number one movie explosion in my book (and, let’s face it people, I’m always right).

Fun Fact: Roland Emmerich’s favorite TV station? TNT.

I’ll be here all week. You’re welcome.

Ivan Kander

Ivan is a filmmaker, video editor, and motion graphic artist from the Washington, DC area. He is an avid movie watcher and podcast listener. He’s also quite handsome and charming (at least that's what his Mom says). For more information about Ivan, visit Lucky 9 Studios.