The Italian Job (1969)
He was only supposed to blow the bloody doors off, but Arthur obliterated the entirety of that retro white van.
It’s good ol’ pyrotechnics at its best, but the moment is made by Michael Caine’s brilliantly timed one-liner.
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008)
This entry secures its place on the list by means of complete ridiculousness. The ever-resourceful Indy, caught in the middle of a nuclear blast, somehow survives by hiding in a fridge.
The scene introduced the phrase ‘Nuke the Fridge’ to the English language as a synonym for ‘Jump the Shark’, originally coined from the TV show Happy Days to mean a series had passed its peak. Considering it occurs near the beginning of the film, that’s a damning indictment.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
This scene from Ben Stiller’s thoroughly meta comedy parodies the core idea behind movie explosions.
Hapless film director Steve Coogan accidentally gives a signal to pyrotechnics technician Danny McBride, who promptly blows up half the Vietnamese jungle… and the cameras aren’t even rolling.
McBride makes the scene with his orgasmic utterances as the flames rise to the sky. “I’m trying to put Tiger Balm on this jungle’s nuts.”
V For Vendetta (2006)
Accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture’, the titular masked vigilante makes his way underneath the Houses of Parliament via a tube-train packed with explosives.
The ultimate anti-establishment payoff, the government capital comes tumbling down under a sky of fireworks.
Hundreds of fellow masked protestors take off their guises in salute to the event, including Stephen Fry. Didn’t he die earlier in the film? Oh wait, we get it.
The Birds (1963)
It may not be the biggest explosion on the list, but the gas station scene from Hitchcock’s suspense-filled masterpiece is one of the most brutal.
After Mr Ron is engulfed in the flames the film cuts to a birds-eye-view (appropriately) of the ensuing carnage, with the desperate shouts barely audible above a flock of screeching seagulls.
If you ever wondered why petrol pumps contain a ‘No Smoking’ caution, here’s why.
Angels And Demons (2009)
The entirely CGI-engineered examples are never quite as cool as the ones that use pyrotechnics, but this anti-matter implosion is a spectacle nonetheless.
Sending debris flying across St Peter’s Square as well as taking out a chunk of the Vatican, the blasphemous blast aims for the religious jugular.
The final shot of the aftermath looks almost God-like, perhaps in an attempt to make a profound point. Others may regard it as a black hole, like the one that devours Vulcan in Star Trek .
Last Action Hero (1993)
There are many Schwarzenegger films that contain brilliant explosions, and while this one may not be as colossal as the one in, say, Commando , it gets preferential treatment because of the ingenious plot-device and the immortal line “It’s a bauhm!”
The fact that it takes the Austrian powerhouse until the penultimate card to realise what’s happening suggests he’s a little slow on the uptake – who here hadn’t figured out what was happening by the time he got to card number ‘3’?
Con Air (1997)
As The Lonely Island told us, cool guys don’t look at explosions. In this scene John Malkovich confirms this by barely flinching as he struts away from a gigantic fireball.
His character, Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom, causes the blast by flicking a lit cigarette onto a gasoline-drenched Jesse Borrego. He takes the promptly engulfed Mexican’s last words out of his mouth – “Cy” [ Malkovich butts in ] “onara.” Totally cool.
Fight Club (1999)
The ending of David Fincher’s schizophrenic drama features several bombs triggering at the same time, taking down multiple skyscrapers.
It’s accompanied by The Pixies’ song ‘Where Is My Mind’? The music makes the moment, contrasting with the standard explosion soundtrack by overshadowing the sound effects.
It may be entirely CGI, which makes it a little less potent, but it would have been a logistical nightmare to actually blow up all those buildings. We’ll let them off the hook this time.
One of the hugest and fieriest explosions on the list. When Josh Lucas shot a missile at that hangar door in a bid to escape he may not have been expecting such a dramatic result. The ensuing fireball engulfs about twenty men, as well as sending several vehicles soaring into the air.
It seems a bit unlikely that he would be able to take off, and fly right through, such a high temperature blast – but this is futuristic technology we’re looking at, who knows what level of fire-proofing we might be capable of?