Top 10 Deaths by Explosion

Three… Two… One… BOOM!!! Just one of the classic movie devices to set-up the death-by-explosion. In this list Dan Grant takes a look at some creative ways characters bid farewell!

There are some really creative ways to die in film. One of the most interesting is the death by explosion. Most of the time, as this list will show, it seems that the death by explosion in film is a very satisfying way to kill the bad guy. Other times, it’s not so good for the character. This list is obviously full of spoilers, so enter at your own risk.

10. Lethal Weapon (Donner, 1987)

Lethal Weapon, Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Comedy, Buddy, Cop, 1980s,“General McAllister, time for you to die.” These are the words spoken by Sgt. Murtaugh, played by Danny Glover. McAllister is responsible for kidnapping Murtaugh’s daughter, which is a no no in Hollywood films. As Glover and Gibson free themselves from his clutches, McAllister tries to run Murtaugh over, but Murtaugh has other things in mind. He crinks his neck, aims at the car, and fires, killing the driver. With the car out of control, it gets mashed by an oncoming bus and when it catches fire, it blows up as it ignites the grenades in the car. Murtaugh, bent over, in pain and exhausted, chuckles to himself. Brilliant.

9. Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993)

Bill Murray, Groundhog Day, PhilYou have to feel sorry for weatherman Phil Connors. He is stuck in the same day over and over and over again. Phil decides to kill himself and take the groundhog, who he believes is somehow connected to these events, with him. He walks over to the truck with the the groundhog inside, hijacks it and starts a chase with police, while his fellow news team members Rita and Larry follow in their news truck. They all end up at a quarry and the police have cornered Phil by blocking the only way out. As the truck returns, revving up, the mayor tells police to shoot for the head. He of course doesn’t want to injured the groundhog. When Phil drives off the cliff and lands about 100 feet below, seemingly without a scratch, Larry says to Rita, “He might be ok,” and then the truck explodes into a massive fireball. Larry then adds, “Well, no, probably not now.”

8. The Running Man (Glaser, 1987)

RunningMan_killian_deathRichard Dawson plays Killian, the slimiest game show host ever employed. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Richards, a wrongly imprisoned cop who ends up on the Running Man. After finally beating the game, Richards, comes to the empty studio, grabs Killian and puts him into the cart that is used to take “contestants” to the show. He tells Killian that he is going to give the people what he thinks they want. He pushes Killian and he flies out of the studio, in the cart, he crashes into a billboard with his image on it. Despite there being nothing combustible near by, Killian explodes as he hits the billboard. 80’s action at its finest.

7. Aliens (Cameron, 1986)

Gorman and Vasquez sacrifice themselves.Gorman and Vasquez are not fond of each other. Vasquez is the tough Latino woman and Gorman is the wet behind the ears Lieutenant that makes all the wrong decisions and by doing so he puts the troops in harms way. He indirectly causes the death of Private Drake, Vasquez’s best friend. But at the end he redeems himself as he goes back to rescue Vasquez from the aliens. When all hope is lost, he brings out a grenade like device, holds hands with Vasquez, and then right after she tells him “You always were an asshole, Gorman,” they blow up together and take a few of the aliens with them.

6. Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness (Ritter, 1986)

Truth-or-Dare-John-Brace-gunNot many people have seen this 100% independent American horror film. If there was a list of worst films ever made (but were somehow enjoyable), this film would be near the top of the list. In this film, the main character, Mike Strauber, goes crazy and starts randomly killing people when he comes home and finds his wife in bed with his best friend. He ends up in a mental institution where he somehow gets a hold of a hand grenade and plays truth or dare with the inmates. One of the inmates agrees, for no apparent reason, to take the dare of putting the grenade in his mouth and pulling the pin. His head blows off his body. It’s one of the funniest scenes in the film. The film is not supposed to be funny, but with scenes like this, it is.

5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981)

belloq_raiders-of-the-lost_arkBelloq was Indy’s main nemesis in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He stole the idol from him at the beginning, had him chased through the jungle by Hovitos, kidnapped Marian, tried to have him killed in the well of the souls and finally took the Ark from him. So it’s only fitting that he suffer a terrible death when the power of God enters him and blows him into the wind. For a PG, Spielberg film, it’s actually quite intense.

4. Man on Fire (Scott, 2004)

Man_on_Fire_denzel-washington-explosionDenzel Washington plays one of his most intense characters, named John Creasy. He is asuicidal alcoholic and a former spook who has done and seen too many things. When he is hired to be the bodyguard of young Lupita Ramos, played by Dakota Fanning, life becomes worth living again. When she is kidnapped and presumed dead, he hunts down everyone who had anything to do with it and he kills them, no remorse, no clemency, no mercy. When he finally gets the leader of the HAMINDAD, the criminal organization that kidnaps kids for a living, he needs information from him. He places a homemade bomb in the man’s anus and when the man asks for a last wish, Creasy replies, “Wish? I wish you had more time.” And then the bad man explodes from the ass out.

3. Wanted Dead or Alive (1986)

wanted-dead-or-alive_rutger-hauerThis hidden gem came out during the Rambo age in the 80’s. It was soon forgotten about but it’s always been one of my favourite films. Rutger Hauer plays Nick Randle, who is the grandson of Josh Randle, played by Steve McQueen in the 1958-1961 TV series of the same name. Gene Simmons, of KISS fame, plays Malach El Rahim, a terrorist intent on blowing up southern California. Randal is a bounty hunter so he makes his terms. One of the terms is that he receives a $250,000 bonus for bringing El Rahim in alive. After he catches him, puts a grenade in his mouth, ties his hands behind his back, with the FBI and CIA looking on, he says to Rahim, “F*** the bonus.” and pulls the pin and walks away as his head blows off.

2. The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008)

Rachel-Dawes-maggie-gyllenhall-dark-knightIn one of the biggest WTF moments, Rachel Dawes is killed in The Dark Knight. Her and Harvey are at different locations and Batman and the authorities are on their way. But only one of them is going to make it out alive. We, the audience think Rachel will be saved by Batman, he made the Joker tell him where she was located. But just as Rachel tells Harvey that she wants to be his wife, a massive fireball hits her as the drums of kerosene engulf her in flames. There are several shocking moments like this in The Dark Knight and this is one of the more gut wrenching. It’s one of a plethora of reasons why The Dark Knight should have won best picture and why The Dark Knight Rises is one of the biggest disappointments of 2012. It doesn’t have one single moment in that film that can come close to the emotional brilliance of The Dark Knight.

1. Scanners (Cronenberg, 1981)


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Michael Ironside is famous for playing intense and strong villains in film and TV. You can thank David Cronenberg for the genesis of that. In Scanners, a company called Consec decides to have their first semi-public demonstration of the results of their Research and Development program to create telepaths. The good guy or tametelepath engages in a mental battle with a man seemingly picked at random from the crowd. Unfortunately for this “Scanner”, Consec are completely unaware that Darryl Revok (Ironside), the person chosen, is himself a Scanner, only much more powerful than Consec’s man. As a result, the head of the Consec Scanner explodes under the pressure of Revok’s telepathic powers. It’s one of the most iconic images from any horror film.

Written and compiled by Dan Grant.

About the Author
Dan Grant is an author and horror film fan from Canada. His first novel Terrified and Defenseless is now available for e-download from Amazon. Follow Dan on Twitter @baumer72.

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  1. Avatar
    Mark Reply

    Nice list ….

    A few other contenders:

    Bruno Cremer and Amidou when their nitro-laden truck (called Sorcerer) plunges into a ravine in William Friedkin’s Sorcerer.

    George C Scott failing to dismantle the bomb that brings down The Hindenberg in Robert Wise’s film of the same name.

    Linda Hamilton gets incinerated in a kiddies’ park when a nuke explosion rips through the LA basin in James Cameron’s Terminator II.

    The bad guys on the boat after a trained dolphin connects a bomb to their hull in Mike Nichol’s The Day of the Dolphin.

    The bus being blown up at the start of Ed Zwick’s The Seige.

    The handcuffed biker who gets the choice of either sawing through a limb or being blown to bits with his motorbike at the end of George Miller’s Mad Max.

    When an idiotic prison guard sets off a hidden bomb, despite being told not to touch anything by John Cusack, in Simopn West’s Con Air.

    Peter Van Eyck and Folco Lulli’s offscreen deaths in HG Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear. The inital force of the explosion when their nitro-laden truck comes to its end silently blows the tobacco out of a cigerette being rolled by Charles Vanel in the following vehicle; later they (Vanel and Yves Montand) come across the small crator caused by the explosion, which has also fractured a roadside oil pipe. Arguably one of the best portrayals of death by explosion ever committed to celluloid.

  2. Avatar
    Evan Crean Reply

    I’m glad that Lethal Weapon made it on this list, because two of my other favorite explosion deaths come from Shane Black movies: The Last Boyscout and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Love when the baddie picks the wrong suitcase in The Last Boyscout and blows himself away. It’s also amazing in The Long Kiss Goodnight when the truck explodes taking the bridge and villains with it. Come to think of it, I think the villain blows up in Iron Man 3 as well. I’m starting to see a trend here with Shane Black haha.

    It’s by no means a good film, but I feel like I should also mention the scene in Under Siege 2 when Steven Segal tosses a bomb at some guy rigged to a pager. Right before the bomb goes off, the beeper displays a message saying “You’re f***ed.” Hilarious. Although, not as much if you’re the henchman on the receiving end of that.

  3. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Wow! Some really nice mentions there guys. I’m sure we could do another 20 films with excellent death by explosion.

  4. Avatar
    Alex Withrow Reply

    A great list here. Nothing could top that Man on Fire one for me. Poor bastard.

  5. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Another one of my favourites is in Rambo II when Rambo fires one of his explosive arrows at Captain Vinh and he nails him in the chest, causing his to explode and scatter into the wind.

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