The 25 Most Epic Explosions in Cinema

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Explosions are like the cherry on top of our favorite action sequences. They add that little extra pizzazz for your viewing (and audio) pleasure. Join us as we countdown the 25 most epic explosions in cinema.

Explosions can be one of the most exciting effects to witness in a film. Likewise, they can also be one of the most dangerous and expensive to produce. To honor everything that is involved with making things blow-up on set, I decided to rank the 25 most epic explosions in film. I considered almost one hundred of the best explosions I could think of, and then narrowed them down based on a qualitative score assigned to each of them.

Each category could be awarded a maximum of ten points, and final ranking is at least partially based on the final average score for each explosion. The categories I used to compare explosions are as follows:

  • Importance – In terms of plot of the film
  • Scale – Size of explosion
  • Quality – Special effects and overall quality of the film the explosion is featured in
  • Memorable – How memorable and prominent in film/pop culture

I used my own prerogative for the final ranking. With that in mind, here’s how my picks stacked up!

***WARNING – SEVERAL OF THESE EXPLOSIONS COULD BE CONSIDERED SPOILERS!***

Five explosions that just missed the cut:

  • Spectre – Destruction of Blofeld’s Compound
  • Aliens – Colony Destruction
  • Jaws – Exploding Shark
  • Children of Men – Terrorist Attack 
  • Bad Boys II – Mansion Explosion

25. Speed – Bus Explosion

  • Importance: 8
  • Scale: 5
  • Quality of Film: 7
  • Memorable: 8

Speed is about a movie where a bus can’t slow down or else it will explode. That exploding part is teased the entire film. When it finally happens at the end, our expectations are met.

24. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – Nuke Town Escape

  • Importance: 4
  • Scale: 9
  • Quality of Film: 5
  • Memorable: 9

Ok, so the fourth Indiana Jones film is very forgettable, with one exception; this very big explosion. Maybe it’s not so realistic, but that doesn’t make it any less small.

23. Blown Away – Ship Explosion

  • Importance: 8
  • Scale: 8
  • Quality of Film: 4
  • Memorable: 8

Perhaps the least recognizable film on this list, but a film you remember because of the explosion. It held the world-record for largest film explosion for more than 20 years until 2015’s Spectre.

22. A Long Kiss Goodnight – Bridge Bomb

  • Importance: 8
  • Scale: 8
  • Quality of Film: 7
  • Memorable: 7

This 90’s action movie highlight is memorable for its female lead, but also going out with a really really big bang.

21. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Air Strike

  • Importance: 7
  • Scale: 8
  • Quality of Film: 6
  • Memorable: 7

Michael Bay’s first entry onto this list is also a world-record holder for the largest explosion with actors present on the set – i.e. Megan Fox running in slow motion.

20. Kingsman: The Secret Service – Exploding Heads

  • Importance: 8
  • Scale: 9
  • Quality of Film: 7
  • Memorable: 8

One of two non-traditional explosions on this list, the first Kingsman film earns its spot with a colorful yet brutal, creative yet excessive, and very widespread take on the explosion.

19. Die Hard 2 – Plane Explosion

  • Importance: 6
  • Scale: 7
  • Quality of Film: 8
  • Memorable: 8

Die Hard is the father of the modern action movie, and so it only makes sense for one of the series’ big explosions to make this list. (Die Hard’s rooftop bomb sequence almost made it too). Yippie Ki-Yay.

18. Fight Club – The Ending

  • Importance: 8
  • Scale: 8
  • Quality of Film: 9
  • Memorable: 8

David Fincher films always have a stellar ending, and this one came with big explosions before an unforgettable twist. We won’t soon forget.

17. Alien – The Destruction of the Nostromo

  • Importance: 7
  • Scale: 9
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 7

The end of the original Alien film is very similar to the ends of all the other Alien films – a big explosion. Here we honor where the series started, one of the biggest space explosions we’ve seen in cinema so far.

16. Armageddon – Opening Asteroid Impact

  • Importance: 6
  • Scale: 10
  • Quality of Film: 6
  • Memorable: 9

Michael Bay is known for, uh, making things explode. So we had to include the biggest explosion in Michael Bay’s most explosive film (which occurs only 40 seconds in!). Michael Bay’s name HAD to appear right before the impact, and even title of the film explodes.  

15. Iron Man – Showcase

  • Importance: 6
  • Scale: 8
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 8

The ego of Tony Stark is on full display with this sequence – helping to define the character but also set up his fall.

14. Hospital Bomb – The Dark Knight

  • Importance: 7
  • Scale: 8
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 8

The surprise of the explosion not happening, and then happening in a big way, makes this one so memorable.

13. Inception – Cafe Demonstration

  • Importance: 5
  • Scale: 8
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 10

An atypical explosion, this one doesn’t have any fire. It’s one-of-a-kind, totally fitting for the mind-blowing narrative of the film.

12. The Hurt Locker – IED Death

  • Importance: 9
  • Scale: 5
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 9

This film uses an explosion as an introduction to a deadly reality. It’s a wake-up call, an emotional kick in the face that will forever leave its mark.  

11. Destruction of Alderaan – A New Hope

  • Importance: 7
  • Scale: 10
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 7

What can be bigger than an entire planet exploding? A star going supernova? 

10. V for Vendetta – Parliament Explosion

  • Importance: 8
  • Scale: 8
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 8

V For Vendetta is about fighting to make the world a better place, and making the world a better place apparently means destroying a historical landmark representing “The Man” in a gloriously colorful way.  

9. Pearl Harbor  – The Attack

  • Importance: 10
  • Scale: 9
  • Quality of Film: 5
  • Memorable: 9

Michael Bay’s most awesome explosion is technically a series of them, and with historical context! The fact that the film was such a terrible flop and yet still this explosion ends up on this list is proof of how intriguing it is.

8. The Matrix – Helicopter Crash

  • Importance: 8
  • Scale: 6
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 10

One of the most expensive and complicated shots in The Matrix is a great example of the film’s ingenuity used to bring the audience an exciting movie-watching experience unlike they’ve had before.

7. Mad Max Fury Road – Tanker Explosion

  • Importance: 8
  • Scale: 7
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 9

Fury Road was a practical stunt tour de force, and that included the explosions and fire. This just happened to be the biggest one.

6. Bridge Over River Kwai – Bridge Destruction

  • Importance: 8
  • Scale: 7
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 10

This wartime epic film leads up to this spectacular finale. Still exciting even after all of these decades.

5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Bad Dream

  • Importance: 8
  • Scale: 9
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 9

It’s the nightmare which motivates the main character. A reality if she doesn’t succeed, a reminder of the stakes.

4. Apocalypse Now – Napalm in the Morning

  • Importance: 9
  • Scale: 8
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 10

Explosions can be kind of poetic too. It makes a statement about skewed normalcy during war, and the perversions therein.

3. Independence Day – White House Destruction

  • Importance: 10
  • Scale: 9
  • Quality of Film: 8
  • Memorable: 10

The best explosion in modern blockbuster history is also an early example of what would come to define this type of film – a spectacle of noise and fire.  

2. Dr Strangelove – Slim Pickens Rides the Bomb

  • Importance: 10
  • Scale: 9
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 10

There are few movie moments more iconic than Slim Pickens riding an A-bomb down to oblivion. It is a great example of imagery from this masterpiece of Cold War satire.

1. Death Star Explosion – A New Hope

  • Importance: 10
  • Scale: 10
  • Quality of Film: 10
  • Memorable: 10

The best explosion in all of film is from the film that changed movies forever. It introduced audiences to the importance of special effects, and so of course the climax of the film is a spectacular FX-fueled explosion. Over the years it even got some CGI enhancement.