Editor’s note: The Fourth of July is but one week away, and though your friends here at Grantland will be taking the day off, we figured we’d start the celebration early with a dazzling array of notable explosions. After all, is there anything more American, or at least more dead-of-summer, than mindlessly watching shit blow up? (If you don’t see the videos, please try another browser. We put them in, we promise.)
Dan Silver: The Mythbusters have since admitted that they probably used too many explosives in this bit. I think that was a good call — this cement truck literally disappears — there’s no debris. And the sound is much closer to a devilish fart than any explosion I’ve ever heard.
The Hunt for Red October
Chris Ryan: The hard part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch. Lucky for us, SCOTT GLENN IS NOT FAMILIAR WITH FLINCHING.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Mark Lisanti: When you think about it, isn’t it the last bits of our beautiful, unwavering faith in the magic-makers of our youth the shit that’s really being blown up here? We are all Harrison Ford, desperately clawing our way out of our lead-lined cocoons, discovering that everything around us has been utterly decimated by the exhausted stewards of our thwarted nostalgia. And what, in the end, could be more patriotic than that?
(I have no idea what I mean by that last part, just trying to stick the landing on the July 4 theme. Cut me some slack — a refrigerator just saved me from a terrible, terrible nuclear death! Can you believe it???)
The Day After
Michael Weinreb: The “Skeleton Wedding Montage” from 3:24 to 3:38 formed the composition of every nightmare I had from 1983 to 1985. (Also, I’m still freaked out by John Lithgow, but that may have more to do with Footloose.)
Breaking Bad, “Crazy Handful of Nothing”
Emily Yoshida: I’ve been revisiting my current favorite show’s greatest hits in these few weeks before it returns to give my Sunday nights meaning again, and while, sure, Season 4 ended on a note that was certainly worthy of this list, this Season 1 moment has left a greater impression with me in the long run. This is Heisenberg’s coming-out party, and it’s the perfect marriage of suspense, violence, and Science! that makes this show so great. (I also watched it for the first time with a former chemistry teacher, and I’ll admit it does help one’s enjoyment to have someone going “oh shiiiit” next to you when the fulminate of mercury is revealed.)
Alex Pappademas: Back in 1981, when David Cronenberg needed to shoot a dude’s head exploding in Scanners, so as to show us that the evil telepaths in his destined-to-be-a-classic psy-fi thriller were not fucking around, makeup artist Dick Smith didn’t fuck around either: He stuffed a prosthetic head with dog food and beef livers and blew it up with a goddamn shotgun. Scanners was filmed in Montreal and directed by one of Canada’s greatest, weirdest Canadians, but it was Dick Smith — born in Larchmont, New York, which is part of America — who put the entrails in the head mold, because Americans get shit done. Some sources say the livers were actually rabbit livers, but whatever, it doesn’t matter, you pedants! It’s still the greatest head explosion ever committed to film — shocking, satisfying, meaty. Endlessly repurposable, too.
Sean Fennessey: I want to place a wager on being the only person with a Michelangelo Antonioni explosion on this lineup. Odds are good, since there’s only one. And it’s a doozy. In this 1970 film, actress Daria Halprin’s character repeatedly imagines her boss’s exploding Dwell-magazine-style abode. This movie is about the end of the ’60s, free love, and idealism. Forget all that for a minute. This scene, a bravura six-minute sequence, is about a massive house in the desert exploding from a dozen different angles, set to Pink Floyd’s “Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up.” Take that, authority and modern architecture!
New Haven Coliseum Implosion
Katie Baker: Am I allowed to go with an im-plosion? If so, please enjoy this clip of the demolition of the New Haven Coliseum in 2007. I won’t spoil what happens, but the New Haven police officers huddling for cover is a nice touch. If only explosions will do, though, I nominate this.
Seattle Kingdome demolition
Jonah Keri: I am what you might call an apologist for most of professional sports’ supposed evils. I empathize with athletes who’ll do whatever it takes to stay in the game, including skirting league PED rules that range from vague to nearly nonexistent. I love characters who keep the game interesting, and support the most ostentatious touchdown dances and save celebrations a player can possibly dream up. Sign stealing? Catch faking? Sure, dude, whatever it takes.
Can’t say the same for the taxpayer-robbing enterprise that is the stadium construction racket. Owners have extorted billions of dollars in public funds to build palaces for their teams, reaping huge profits while footing relatively tiny portions of the bill. (The scam has proven so successful that governing bodies for college athletics are now deploying the same tactics.)
The result is what you see here, a 24-year-old building demolished to make way for a facility that could enrich those who contributed the least to make it happen. Ask most people in Seattle what it was like to watch games in the Kingdome, and they’ll likely make the “who farted” face; ask them what Safeco Field is like on a sunny summer day with a brew in hand, and they’ll light up. But the act of building and tearing down a massive structure all within a span of less than 25 years is something you see in almost no other industry. Perhaps the lack of foresight that led to the Kingdome being ill-equipped to generate adequate revenue wasn’t repeated during the stadium building boom of the ’90s and 2000s. And maybe it won’t be repeated in the future. Maybe after years of empty threats regarding relocation, contraction, and other doomsday scenarios, local governments will have the good sense and the balls to tell hat-in-hand owners to go fornicate themselves.
I’ll believe it when I see it.
The Notorious B.I.G., “Mo Money Mo Problems”
Amos Barshad: Walking away from exploding fiery balls of cash, in slow motion, while wearing all white — ask yourself, was 1997 Puff Daddy our greatest ever American?
Man on Fire
Robert Mays: Since Man on Fire is pretty much two and a half hours of shit blowing up, and since choosing a favorite car explosion is like having to choose a favorite child, I figured it would be best to just use the Dakota Fanning–less section of the trailer. I’m standing by my previous claim that it’s the greatest 60 seconds of movie trailer ever made. It has everything you could want: Christopher Walken being ominous in a way only Christopher Walken can; an epic, building Nine Inch Nails instrumental; and Denzel saying things like, “Forgiveness is between them and God. It’s my job to arrange the meeting.” I will fight anyone who says different.
The Lonely Island, “Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions”
Andy Greenwald: I mean, the title kind of says it all.