To celebrate Independence Day in the United States, we Americans like to blow things up. We'll line up for hours to watch fireworks, the demolition of old buildings… heck, we'll even sit through 40 minutes of exposition for the chance to see models of famous landmarks destroyed on-screen. All of which explains the enduring popularity of German filmmaker Roland Emmerich, who has made a name for himself by making spectacular disaster movies.
While White House Down did not perform to expectations at the box office, we're sure Mr. Emmerich will feature attacks on some new landmarks in the upcoming sequel to Independence Day. In the meantime, here's a reminder that he was not the first filmmaker to showcase American landmarks under attack, though we will list his first.
Independence Day -- Lots
We must pay homage to Emmerich's most famous scenes of destruction. Before White House Down, he blew the White House UP.
Independence Day -- Empire State Building
But we leave the last words to Harvey Fierstein, who, after all, was only being a good son and trying to help his mother.
The War of the Worlds -- City Hall, Los Angeles
From its completion in 1928 until 1964, City Hall was the tallest building in Los Angeles -- and also representative of the seat of government -- so of course invaders from Mars would want to destroy it, as depicted in the 1953 big-screen version of H.G. Wells' novel.
San Francisco -- San Francisco
Thirty years after the earthquake leveled the city, the event was re-created for a film of the same name, starring Clark Gable, Jeanette McDonald and Spencer Tracy. Though the footage is light on recognizable landmarks, it is unmistakably an American disaster movie.
Deep Impact -- Manhattan
The first of two asteroid-apocalypse movies in 1999, this one had, for our money, a more intriguing angle on the story and more devastating imagery, with more recognizable landmarks getting wiped out.
"Rebel Rabbit" -- State of Florida
Wanting to prove that rabbits are worth more than a bounty of two cents and not "perfectly harmless," Bugs Bunny sets off on a reign of animated terror, turning off Niagara Falls, filling in the Grand Canyon, and, in our favorite bit from this 1949 cartoon, sawing off the state of Florida.
It Came from Beneath the Sea -- Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
An early effort by stop-motion animation master Ray Harryhausen, this 1955 movie warns about the dire consequences of awakening a giant octopus with hydrogen-bomb testing. Watch out, San Francisco!
The Core -- Golden Gate Bridge
Let's skip ahead to 2003, when the Earth's core has stopped spinning, setting off one disaster after another around the globe. This particular one affects some unlucky travelers on San Francisco's most iconic roadway.
Mars Attacks! -- Las Vegas
Tim Burton's translation of trading cards into a pulpy sci-fi comedy never really found its audience in theaters, but its goofy, over-the-top approach feels like a healthy tonic in comparison to many apocalyptic nightmares about alien invasions. Typical is this scene in which Jack Nicholson keeps selling a dream, oblivious to the destruction behind him.
Knowing -- Manhattan
Simultaneously nutty and disturbing, Alex Proyas' film stars Nicolas Cage as a brilliant professor who figures out that the end of the world is coming, but still can't escape his fate. This scene of the destruction of Manhattan is extremely brief, yet powerful.
2012 -- Los Angeles
Finally we circle back to Roland Emmerich. He sent tidal waves to knock down skyscrapers in The Day After Tomorrow, but, honestly, that feels like child's play in comparison to what he did to Los Angeles and too many landmarks to name in his (happily not prescient) movie 2012.
What's your favorite scene of a landmark blown to bits? Tell us below.
Madison Square Garden in Godzilla. Not a very good movie, but a killer explosion.
"Welcome to the party, pal."
"I am serious... and don't call me Shirley."
"When am I gonna learn how to punch?"
"These go to eleven."
"Benjamin, have you ever been severely beaten about the face & neck?"
"Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming."
"You're gonna need a bigger boat."
"Jessica's got cable."
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