Best Movie Explosions Ever

By Robert Scucci | Published

It goes without saying that an action movie is incomplete without a healthy amount of explosions. And it’s quite fun to watch stuff get blown up on a massive scale when you’re safely removed from the situation. Every day, filmmakers put their lives (or scale models) on the line to entertain us with their visions of the world burning, and we’re here for it.

In order for a movie explosion to truly have impact, there also has to be great storytelling behind it. In other words, an explosion doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things if it doesn’t have any heart or substance.

The five explosions we’re about to get into not only have substance, they’re just really cool to look at.

Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day was the highest-grossing film of 1996 and won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Not only does Will Smith have more snappy one-liners than you could count in this science-fiction action movie, but the explosions are top-notch.

Watching a massive alien ship known as the City Destroyer briefly hover over the White House before completely annihilating the structure like it’s made out of Popsicle sticks is nightmare material, to say the least.

It’s the scale of this movie explosion that makes it have so much impact. If aliens simply came down to Earth with puny little blasters, there wouldn’t be enough conflict to make the film engaging. But when an entire nation’s military has absolutely no idea how to handle the situation, you better believe that audiences will become invested.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator 2: Judgement Day is widely considered to be one of the best action movies of all time, and there’s one explosion that helped cement its legacy. We’re talking, of course, about Sarah Connor’s nightmare in which she imagines a nuclear holocaust by the likes of which we’ve never seen.

This particular dream sequence starts out innocently enough, and is set at a playground. Sarah Connor is watching over the playground from afar as kids are playing on the swings, and spinning on the merry-go-round. She even envisions a past version of herself playing with who we assume to be a young version of her son, John.

Sarah rattles the fence while urgently mouthing the word “no” because she knows that something terrible is about to happen. What starts out as a calm, picturesque scene that could be found in a Lifetime movie quickly becomes ground zero to a massive nuclear explosion that wipes out all life as we know it.

We witness everybody, women and children included, getting rendered into dust by the blast, but only after their skin melts off first.

Though this movie explosion was made possible through the use of scale models and puppets, it looked so real that it still keeps us up at night.

Jaws (1975)

movie explosion

Not only did Jaws cause an entire generation of people to be terrified of swimming in the ocean, but this Stephen Spielberg movie also has one of the best third-act explosions we’ve ever seen.

When Brody finds himself face-to-face with the titular apex predator, he knows he has to act quickly if he wants to survive. He throws an air canister into the great white shark’s mouth, and expertly raises his rifle to deliver the kill shot.

What makes this movie explosion truly iconic is Brody’s ability to remain calm after witnessing Quint get eaten alive while trying to subdue the shark himself. Most of us would have probably given up, and get eaten as well, but Brody simply says, “Smile you son of a…” before pulling the trigger and causing the shark to explode.

An unfortunate reality we have to face is that Slayer’s “Raining Blood” wasn’t released until 1986. Considering that Jaws is a movie that quite literally ends with an explosion that causes blood to rain down from the blast, it would have been a fitting addition to the film’s already amazing soundtrack.

Iron Man (2008)

movie explosion

Not all movie explosions need to happen during a third-act climax to have an impact, and Iron Man is a perfect example of how to start a movie off with a bang.

When Tony Stark travels to war-torn Afghanistan to demonstrate his new Jericho missile to his military liaison, we witness what kind of devastation he’s capable of implementing through the use of advanced military weaponry of his own design.

The Jericho looks like an ordinary missile at first, but quickly splits into dozens of smaller missiles that cause an intimidating amount of collateral damage in a very short amount of time.

At first, Stark is proud of his creation, but after being ambushed and held captive, he has a change of heart (literally). The Jericho missile shows us exactly what’s wrong with the military-industrial complex.

Stark realizes early on that he could use this kind of sophisticated technology to make the world a better place instead of feeding the beast of modern warfare.

The Dark Knight (2008)

movie explosion

When Heath Ledger’s Joker blows up Gotham General in The Dark Knight, it’s not necessarily the explosion that deserves our praise, but rather the Joker’s reaction to it.

At this point in the movie, we know that the Joker simply wants to see the world burn, but it’s his callousness during and after the explosion that truly illustrates this point.

As he slowly walks out of the hospital, the Joker playfully fidgets with his detonator, wondering why the explosion wasn’t bigger, like he planned.

When the final explosion finally pops off, leveling the entire hospital, the Joker shrugs, and happily runs toward his getaway vehicle before fleeing the scene.