13 best city destruction scenes

Destroyers of worlds

The age of mega-budget actioners is well underway. As the capabilities of special effects transport movies to bigger and better flights of fancy, the boundaries of sheer spectacle are being pushed further to the brink. If its not subaquatic monsters, villainous aliens or irresponsible superheroes causing destruction on a mass scale, then its good ole mother nature.

With this weeks release of San Andreas, starring Dwayne The Rock Johnson as a pilot who goes tet-a-tet with a seismic catastrophe, nows as good a time as any to cast your mind back over the greatest scenes in movie history that are enough to make town planners weep.

Chicago - Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (2011)

The destruction: Theres no Transformers movie complete without a sequence dedicated to mass, over-the-top, city-wide carnage. And what better way to demonstrate the wrath of the Decepticons than by witnessing them trounce the Windy City? The villainous brigade of 'bots destroy Chicago using an advanced arsenal of weapons.

Disaster highlight: The Decepticons massive infantry units designed to resemble one thing that all people fear: spiders.

New York - The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

The destruction: Roland Emmerichs disaster flicks of the noughties placed the blame for their catastrophic events on mankinds ignorance toward climate change. As a result the planet is struck by hideous weather patterns, which includes New York City getting hit by a gigantic tidal wave. Drying off might take a while.

Disaster highlight: A bus driver notices throngs of people clambering across cars. He turns to his rear view mirror - which as we know is a no-no in movies - and spies a colossal tidal wave washing down the street.

Tokyo - Godzilla (1954)

The destruction: In the first outing for Japans biggest cinematic export, Godzilla tears apart his hometown block-by-block. Stomping across the city he takes the occasional pause to derail trains while breathing jets of fiery radiation onto hordes of panicked citizens.

Disaster highlight: Godzilla casually gnawing on a string of train carriages as if theyre toothpicks.

Las Vegas - Mars Attacks (1996)

The destruction: A campy spin on alien invasion flicks from the fifties, a horde of Martians lay waste to the Las Vegas strip. Glamorous casinos and luxury hotels topple, leaving clouds of dust and debris, while shrieking damsels flee from the carnage. It might not boast the biggest effects budget, but damn if those aliens dont get the job done.

Disaster highlight: As the saucers blast relentless laser beams at the city, a group of aliens make their way over a zebra crossing, issuing forth their standard maxim Dont run from us, we are your friends.

New York City - Knowing (2009)

The destruction: Whats referred to as an extinction level event is as scary as it sounds. Earth is blasted by a solar storm. Life as we know it is wiped out in an instant but the real effects are saved for New York City. A slow, creeping wave of fire blankets the city.

Disaster highlight: A bit of a jaw-dropper to watch, as the radius of the solar flare devours everything it touches. The ocean burns.

New York City - Cloverfield (2008)

The destruction: An ancient monster awakens in an ocean trench near Manhattan and on its quest to eat and procreate proceeds to romp across the island. The found footage format, soundtracked by the realistic gasps and shrieks of onlookers, brings a new level of terror to the catastrophe as Clovie takes out some of New York's most iconic landmarks.

Disaster highlight: One of the first glimpses of Clovie is punctuated by a scene crafted specifically for the teaser trailer; the Statue of Libertys head tumbling down 5th avenue.

San Francisco - Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

The destruction: In an attempt to wipe out Starfleet headquarters, Khan purposefully brings down his craft - the cunningly-titled Vengeance - onto San Francisco. He goes a bit wide of the mark so to ensure he definitely hits his target the gigantic saucer is dragged for several miles thorough the bustling city. Buildings collapse, people scream and run, more buildings collapse, repeat.

Disaster highlight: As it skids to a halt - so hardly at full throttle - the ship still slices through skyscrapers like butter.

New York City - Deep Impact (1998)

The destruction: While mankind has a history of overcoming adversity, theres some things we simply cannot combat. Like asteroids the size of Texas. The inevitable damage caused by the impact of that huge rock smashing into the planet is summed up by the complete annihilation of New York city and state.

Disaster highlight: Out of the vast amount of movies dedicated to taking out Manhattan, Deep Impact delivers the most punishing sequence as all of the city - and its outskirts - are hit by a megatsunami.

Washington D.C. - Independence Day (1996)

The destruction: A race of antagonistic extraterrestrials want the entire human race to diiiiiiiie and make good on their word by blowing up several major cities. What starts with a single strike to the White House ends with the whole of the U.S. capitol getting a good blast from the laser. Fire blazes through the streets, thousands of people flee in terror.

Disaster highlight: Air Force One ascending as cloud after cloud of fire chases it up into the sky.

Hong Kong - Pacific Rim (2013)

The destruction: The man vs. monster battle takes to the streets of Hong Kong. A gigantic Kaiju named Otachi tussles with an equally impressive Jaeger named Gipsy Danger, and their fighting methods - ramming each other into buildings - leaves the entire city in tatters. In a matter of seconds a whole city block is in ruins.

Disaster highlight: The Jaeger slams the Kaiju through a skyscraper - and its knuckles just graze an office workers abandoned executive toy still clacking its balls.

Los Angeles - 2012 (2009)

The destruction: Los Angeles is decimated by a double-pronged attack from mother nature, described as a geological AND meteorological super-disaster. Due to the planets rising temperature - and other factors - a polar shift occurs. This involves crust displacement (nothing to do with losing a sandwich) and basically the whole of Los Angeles is split in two by a throbbing earthquake. Then California slides into the ocean.

Disaster highlight: John Cusacks sci-fi writer-chauffeur hustles his family into his stretched limo to they careen across Los Angeles. The baked streets crack and swallow the city while the path of the quakes destruction is in hot pursuit of their car.

Metropolis - Man Of Steel (2013)

The destruction: Zods plan to terraform the Earth into a new Krypton with use of his world engine isnt the most city-conscious. His intergalactic henchmen assist in razing Metropolis to the ground, but thats nothing compared to the damage caused by Supes and Zods end-of-movie battle.

The pair go head-to-head in a full-on rampage across the city, knocking down skyscrapers and cooling towers as if they were made of paper.

Disaster highlight: Zod boots a petrol tanker into a multi-storey parking garage. It bursts into flame sending a rain of fiery cars down upon the grappling foes.

New York City - The Avengers (2012)

The destruction: Chitauris. You leave your portal to another dimension open for one second and theyre in like flies.

Lokis desire to take command of Earth, with the use of that particular alien fleet, turns the Big Apple into a big pile of rubble. Fast mobile units zip around the Avengers, and the Leviathans crush into buildings, making them topple like Jenga.

Disaster highlight: Arguably one of the best destructive scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, its got to be Hulk and Thor smashing Chitauri infantry runts whilst on top of a Leviathan.

Gem Seddon

Gem Seddon is GamesRadar+'s west coast Entertainment News Reporter, working to keep all of you updated on all of the latest and greatest movies and shows on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Outside of entertainment journalism, Gem can frequently be found writing about the alternative health and wellness industry, and obsessing over all things Aliens and Terminator on Twitter.