Which word or words come to mind upon hearing “summer movies”? Blockbuster? Superheroes? Michael Bay? Explosions? Even if you don’t immediately think of that last word, it’s at least a common thread between the first three, and most true-blue “summer movies” out there — i.e., those hoping to become a blockbuster, featuring a superhero, or directed by Bay — offer at least one explosion scene. (Simply go watch the trailers for some of this summer’s most highly anticipated movies!) With THE season officially under way, we took a look back at the best summer-movie explosions of all time. Read on to see what we picked, and note that some of the accompanying clips are graphic. You've been warned!
Ghostbusters: Stay Puft on Fire!
“I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never, ever possibly destroy us … Mr. Stay Puft.” Not long after that line from Dan Aykroyd, and one of the most enduring images from many an ‘80s childhood, the Ghostbusters turn the marshmallow giant into the ultimate s’more, sans graham cracker and chocolate.
NEXT: Terrible Movie, Cool Explosion
Swordfish: Hostage C4 Explosion
Swordfish is best known for two things: Halle Berry’s right boob and left boob (and the $250,000 she reportedly received for baring each of them). That, and how laughably bad it — and John Travolta’s facial hair, and Hugh Jackman’s earring — was. But one scene, in which a female hostage is blown up in visually stunning/disturbing slow motion, was actually memorable … for intended reasons.
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi: Death Star No. 2 Destruction
Sweet nostalgia: The more time that passes by, the more dated this sequence looks — and the more we like it! You may argue that the first Death Star explosion trumps this one, and you’d have a valid argument, but the escape, and the narrow route thereof, that follows this one gives it a slight edge for us.
NEXT: The Sarah Connor Nightmare
Terminator 2: Judgment Day: Nuclear Explosion/Nightmare Linda Hamilton
You could blindly pause James Cameron’s then-technologically advanced CGI masterpiece at almost any scene and happen upon a cool explosion. Our favorite? The one in which Linda Hamilton is torched to skeletal shreds by a nuke. Along with an entire city. It’s just a nightmare, Ms. Connor. Or is it? Dun-dun-dun. (Belated warning/reminder: We’re talking about one of the more disturbing scenes maybe ever. Hit ‘play’ above with caution!)
NEXT: White House Boom
Independence Day: White House Explodes
Will Smith can save the world in this alien-invasion uber-summer blockbuster, but he can’t save the White House (don’t worry, President Pullman was already out). By far ID4’s shining moment, the scene was impressively pulled off thanks to an exact miniature replica of the president’s home office. Amazing when you think about it; less amazing, but still cool to watch, when you see the finished product.
NEXT: So Long, Brach's
The Dark Knight: Joker Blows Up Hospital
We’ve all seen the unadulterated civilian footage of this one; the old Brach’s Candy building (standing in for Gotham General Hospital) in Chicago was actually destroyed during it. The Dark Knight translation: precisely one shot for every single thing to come together without a hitch, from the explosion to Heath Ledger’s Joker-y reaction to it all.
NEXT: Terrible Movie, Cool Explosion: Part II
Stealth: Hangar Blast
Stealth is one of those financial cautionary tales that Hollywood execs tell their kids at night (“ …and $60 million of that was never recouped. The end. Now go to sleep, Sweetie.”), but Columbia Pictures can at least take refuge in the one thing that worked: a positively incredible explosion, certainly one of the biggest ever executed, that results when terrible casting choice Josh Lucas shoots his way out of a hangar using a rocket.
NEXT: Obligatory Michael Bay Entry
That’s right — Michael Bay’s only mention on this list is for a movie that isn’t Transformers. Or Armageddon. Or Pearl Harbor. Those are all fine and good-ish and explosive and even released during summertime (thus eligible for inclusion), but for our money, nothing beats The Rock’s climax, featuring some bomb-droppage on Alacatraz, complete with an amazing shot of fighter jets flying away from the fireball they created and, of course, Nic Cage being blasted into the water.
NEXT: The Blast That Begat a Classic Line
Apocalypse Now: Napalm Drop
You know the famous Robert Duvall line “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”? Yeah, we couldn’t not include the fiery scene that begat it, even if the explosion wasn’t exactly Michael Bay-ian.
NEXT: Slow-Mo Explo
The Hurt Locker: Slow-Motion Explosion
Scenes don’t get much tenser than this — and we’re just talking about the build-up. Once the explosion — whose shockwaves claim Guy Pearce — hits, it’s a slow-mo, details-oriented sight to behold, in a not-so-popcorn-movie kinda way.
NEXT: An Explosion of Comedic Proportions
The lone hilarious explosion on this list — or maybe ever? — comes from one of the few actors capable of pulling off such a feat and in one of the few movies in which it could make sense. We previously mentioned The Dark Knight’s hospital scene; the mishap in Tropic Thunder essentially satirizes the danger of such a grand-scale one-take explosion. Oopsies.
NEXT: "What the Hell Are You?"
So many Ah-nold explosions to choose from — and so many classic lines to accompany them (“Dah. Breedge. Iz. Aut!!!!” from True Lies comes to mind) — but the one from the original Predator, while it may lack the Schwarzenegger-dialogue magic (since “Do eet! Do eet now! Kill Meh!!!” comes earlier in the movie), is our favorite, admittedly due in part to the creepiest laugh ever, which precedes the Predator’s self-destruction.