5 Most Suspenseful Bomb-Defusing Scenes in Movies

The most suspenseful bomb-defusing scenes include movies like The Hurt Locker, Executive Decision, and The Abyss

By Rick Gonzales | Updated

There is nothing like a good countdown in movies. A ticking clock that ultimately will lead to some bad things happening. When there is a bomb at the end of that clock, it only ups the drama, suspense, and the ante. Lives will be lost, in some cases many, which also include our hero or heroes.

Some films know exactly how to mine suspense to the hilt with their bombs and the attempts to defuse them, so we have decided to present the five most suspenseful bomb-defusing scenes in movies.

What makes a good bomb-defusing scene are the stakes involved. It could be a roomful of people, a city filled with unknowing potential victims, or it could even be just our hero and the bomb. Either way, the stakes need to mean something, or the scene loses its power.


The Abyss (1989)

Director James Cameron went deep to prove he could take the ticking time bomb to new depths. In The Abyss, he places blue-collar workers and Navy SEALS in an untenable position of having to dive deep to disarm a nuclear warhead. The film stars Ed Harris as Virgil “Bud” Brigman, the man who will go to great lengths (and depth) in order to save everything near and dear to him.

In this instance, Bud finds himself, his estranged wife, his crew, and a group of Navy SEALS in harm’s way when an Ohio-class submarine, the USS Montana, encounters an unidentified submerged object and ends up sinking. The sub is carrying a nuclear payload, so the Soviets are keen on getting their hands on the sunken sub.

Cameron rachets up the tension when it is determined that the nuclear warhead must be disarmed. The only problem is that the warhead now lies over two miles under the ocean’s surface. Bud becomes the chosen one and when he finally reaches the warhead, he uses a yellow glow-stick as his light.

Opening the warhead, Bud has a decision to make, cut either the black and white wire or cut the blue and yellow wire. The problem is, the yellow glow stick light makes the wire coloring look the same. It is total drama that can only be solved by taking an informed guess.

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Kathryn Bigelow’s 2008 war film, The Hurt Locker, is what bomb movies are all about. It tells the story of Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) who becomes part of the U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team during the Iraq War. Needless to say, business is booming.

One of the most intense bomb scenes comes early on when SFC James is proving his worth (along with his dare-doing stupidity). James comes across a trunk full of explosives and knowing that his suit won’t make a difference, he decides to remove his suit and all of his gear so he could be comfortable while defusing the bomb or losing his life.

It’s a causal approach, one that has his superiors up in arms, but one James feels necessary. As one of the five most suspenseful bomb-defusing scenes, it is handled brilliantly, keeping tension at a high, while also sprinkling in some tension-relieving humor.

Executive Decision (1996)

Stakes are high for Kurt Russell in Executive Decision, a 1996 suspense thriller that just so happens to include one of the most suspenseful bomb-defusing scenes on film.

Russell plays Dr. David Grant who, along with engineer Dennis Cahill (Oliver Platt), joins a team of Special Ops soldiers whose mission it is to get onto a plane carrying a Soviet nerve agent and a terrorist who plans to detonate a bomb loaded with the nerve agent in US airspace.

As the action unfolds and nears its conclusion, one of the Special Ops members Cappy (Joe Morton), the man sent to defuse the bomb, has been badly injured, so he is unable to complete his mission.

Instead, Cahill finds himself sitting in front of the bomb while Cappy tries to talk him through disarming the bomb. Things appear to go well until they realize that the bomb also has a remote-controlled trigger. Someone else on the plane has the ability to set off the bomb.

The one scene between Cahill and Cappy has enough tension for the whole movie, but as an added bonus, the scene is extended once they discover the remote trigger.

The Manhattan Project (1986)

This film was not a box office winner by a large margin, but it does hold one of the most suspenseful bomb-defusing scenes filmed. The Manhattan Project tells the story of a brilliant high school student who decides to construct an actual atomic bomb for the national science fair in order to expose a secret government lab.

The intense bomb-defusing scene comes at the climax of the film when the bomb made by the high school student arms itself due to the radiation from the plutonium and starts its countdown in rapid form.

The student suggests moving the bomb to a quarry outside of town but is told that the refining process of the plutonium has made the bomb five times more powerful than the one that went off in Hiroshima.

It is tense action as the student, the doctor who refined the plutonium, and the rest of the group work together to try to disarm the bomb.

Juggernaut (1974)

This bomb-defusing film is set on the high seas as a cruise ship finds itself at the mercy of “Juggernaut,” an Irish terrorist who claims to have planted seven bombs around the luxury liner and they will explode, sinking the ship and killing the 1,200 on board if his demands are not met. He immediately proves his point by blowing up one of the seven explosives.

Juggernauts says if his financial demands are met, he will offer instruction on how to disarm the bombs. Of course, things don’t go as planned so when Juggernaut is eventually caught and forced to give up the details on how to disarm the bombs, his instructions are met with hesitancy.

Do they follow his lead or choose to take their own path, risking the lives of all on board? The climactic bomb-defusing scene will have you on the edge of your seat.

Bomb Defusal Honorable Mentions

The above are just the five most suspenseful bomb-defusing scenes in movies, though there are more that deserve an honorable mention.

How about Goldfinger, the 1964 James Bond movie with Sean Connery as Bond? In it, Bond must defuse a large bomb as it counts down to destruction but after opening the bomb, he literally has no idea what he’s looking at. As the timer heads towards zero, Bond is fumbling and fiddling, unsure of what to do. Suddenly, a hand reaches in and flips the off switch on the bomb. The timer reads 0:07.

Then there is Galaxy Quest with its fun bomb-defusing scene. After moving through numerous cliched traps, Tim Allen’s Jason Nesmith and Sigourney Weaver’s Gwen DiMarco arrive at a bomb that is quickly ticking down. They complete the instructions given to them, but that doesn’t stop the timer. As it heads toward zero, Jason begins to profess his love for Gwen, thinking the bomb will kill them. But as the bomb hits 1, the timer stops. Heroes always stop the clock with one second left. This timer stopped on it own.

Finally, there is the sarin gas chamber in the film The Rock. Nic Cage finds him and his partner in peril early on when they are trying to defuse a sarin gas bomb. As the gas begins to shoot out, Cage is working on the bomb, so it won’t explode, releasing the gas to all outside the chamber. The countdown is on as the gas inside the chamber is slowly eating away at Cage’s protective suit.