Explosive movies don’t necessarily mean a continuous rain of fire and debris; on the contrary, in the right hands, this genre can bring out the best in the energy and creative commitment of filmmakers.
Since action is the most popular genre out there, it can be arduous to navigate the endless landscape of available titles, so let me help you choose them carefully.
As far as action is concerned, I would like to offer you something from my beloved 1990s, the last decade of the past millennium that was also the end of a cinematic era, mutating thereafter into an ocean of remakes, reboots and the unstoppable rise of the strand dealing with superhero comic books.
Yet even from the money-making heartland of post-2000 Hollywood, occasionally come explosive action gems like the movies Mad Max: Fury Road by George Miller, the sci-fi Avatar saga by James Cameron or even the excellent John Wick quadrilogy by former stuntman Chad Stahelski.
Enough talk though, action dominates in this article, so watch where you put your feet because at every turn you will find a movie that is a bombshell of entertainment.
Table of contents
Live Wire (1992)
The adventure begins in the heart of American democracy, Washington, where several senators start blowing up one after another.
In charge of the case is Danny O’Neill, an expert artificer squad leader with inevitable family trauma at the top of his resume, who, however, cannot explain these strange explosions.
Indeed, at each crime scene, he finds no trace of explosives or detonators, and even the few surviving witnesses claim that the senators apparently were literally blown up on the spot.
When another victim bursts right before his eyes after drinking a simple glass of water, O’Neill finally understands the bomber’s method.
The killer exploits a special odorless and tasteless mixture, which, once inside the human body, reacts in a matter of seconds with a deadly destructive blast.
There remains only one last target for the revenge behind the attacks, the obnoxious Senator Frank Traverse, O’Neill’s personal enemy, whom he nevertheless must protect to finally solve the case.
Directing this forgotten exemplar of 90s explosive mayhem is Christian Duguay, author of the delightful sequels to David Cronenberg‘s Scanners or the little cult Screamers, one of the best cyberpunk movies based on the novels of Philip K. Dick.
His confidence behind the camera makes the difference in comparison to other similar terrorist action flicks, along with an excellent leading actor like the charming and passionate Pierce Brosnan, shortly to become the new face of James Bond.
We also have the foolproof Ron Silver to play the stereotypically slimy politician of the day, whom the hero must work unswervingly hard to save despite sleeping with his wife.
In short, a priceless low-budget B-Movie revolving around a single new original idea, expertly leveraged from the first to the last scene.
Under Siege (1992)
One of the most iconic movies of my childhood was the explosive 1988 Die Hard, the first videotape I bought at a yard sale.
Under Siege repurposes the same concept of the hero trapped against terrorists but moving the combat arena inside the massive Navy battleship USS Missouri.
It is now time for the glorious fighting vessel’s farewell, so Captain Adams leads his final voyage home before the send-off.
Also joining the celebration is the commander’s birthday greeting, beloved by the crew, who throw a surprise party for him, complete with a sexy Playboy playmate.
However, amid the cheer and spree, a commando assaults the ship and takes control, successfully imprisoning all the crew except the onboard cook, the combative Casey Ryback.
Indeed, the sailor is not just a cook and the captain’s best friend but also a multi-decorated Navy SEAL who fell apart after savagely beating one of his superiors.
Having freed some of his comrades, Ryback plans to spoil the party for the invading commando, aiming to steal the precious cargo of Tomahawk missiles still aboard the ship.
Directing this floating circus is Andrew Davis, perhaps not the most famous cinema director, yet someone who knows his job from the days of his Chuck Norris movies.
The stoic Steven Seagal leads the show, whose excellent martial arts skills we admire in some terrific fight scenes against the villainous Tommy Lee Jones and his right-hand man Gary Busey, two highly respectable villains.
In short, nothing we can say is unforgettable, but simply one of those pure 90s-style entertainment examples that never gets old and always stands the test of time.
Blown Away (1994)
Let’s stick with old tough guy Tommy Lee Jones, once again the villain in a story boasting the largest number of explosive sequences I have ever seen in a single movie.
This time the great actor plays Ryan Garrity, an IRA fanatic thrown in jail for 20 years after causing a massacre in a Belfast folk market.
The radical terrorist succeeds in escaping and immediately flies to the United States, where, however, he does not find the peace he hoped for.
Indeed, after moving to Boston, a city known for its high Irish population, Gaerity sees on television his old friend, Liam McGivney, a young accomplice and the best of his bomber pupils.
McGivney now lives under the fake name of James Dove and, ironically, has become the police bomb squad chief.
Believing him guilty of his friends’ deaths and the long time he spent in jail, Garrity starts hitting his fellow cops one by one and then even threatens McGivney’s wife and daughter.
Needless to speak again of the talent of Tommy Lee Jones, here an alienated lone bomber against another heavyweight of world cinematography, the mighty Jeff Bridges star of such absolute cult hits as The Big Lebowski or Tron.
Hopkins pushes the full throttle on the tension by stretching the anticipation spasmodically before each bombing, such as the moving sequence where it will die Jeff’s father, the hilarious Lloyd Bridges we know well from comedies like Airplane! or Hot Shots.
Spectacular and thrilling like a few others, this movie absolutely cannot be missed in the collection of every explosive enthusiast in this world.
The next movie doesn’t need any introduction, given its explosive success at the box office in the 1990s; however, it’s always a pleasure to remember and talk about it.
It all begins with the enthusiastic and impulsive young cop Jack Traven screwing up the plans of the vicious terrorist Howard Payne, who wanted a massive sum of money not to blow up some people inside an elevator in a Los Angeles skyscraper.
Everyone thinks he is dead, but Payne is still alive and more pissed off than ever, arranging another blackmail and threatening to destroy a bus along the city’s crowded streets.
Obsessed with revenge on Traven, he engages him by daring him to rescue passengers and imposing he must never go below 50 miles per hour, or the device under the bus will automatically detonate.
In a wild race against time, the cop and beautiful driver-for-a-day Annie Porter overwhelm anything in their path to keep the speed above the fatal limit imposed by the mad Payne.
Speed is the spectacular debut of Jan de Bont, an experienced cinematographer of numerous blockbusters such as Die Hard, where he learned how to construct thrilling and incredible action scenes.
Putting a face on the villain is the exuberant Dennis Hopper, another world-famous star from Easy Rider to Apocalypse Now; here evidently amused at playing a maniacal bomber.
Finally, the movie was also the launching pad for the career of young Sandra Bullock, subsequently never more beautiful and spontaneous than in this fun, full-speed adventure.
So, are you rushing to see it, or should I put a bomb under your seat?
Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
Since we’ve been talking about Die Hard, why not look at the latest chapter that really is noteworthy in this saga?
Indeed, after the explosive beginning with the first movie in a Los Angeles skyscraper and an entertaining sequel in a Washington airport, the third episode begins in the middle of an ordinary morning in New York City, where a powerful explosion devastates a department store.
Not even time for the smoke to clear and mad bomber Simon calls the police, threatening to detonate more devices if our beloved hero John McClane does not do precisely what he wishes.
McClane, therefore, must run desperately from one end of city to the other along with Zeus Carver, a shopkeeper who saves him from a gang assault in Harlem provoked by the racist slurs the cop was forced to wear.
Except the mad Simon actually has a whole other plan in mind, while the bombings and revenge against McClane are just a red herring to hide his real intentions.
This time directing, we have one of the most beloved and respected blockbuster experts of the 80s and 90s, the great John McTiernan, who is the mastermind behind progenitors of such highly successful sagas as Predator, The Hunt for Red October, or Die Hard.
A saga that, as I said, will see its fame progressively worsen in bland sequels devoid of any pathos, where the iconic Bruce Willis remains as the protagonist of thrillers increasingly empty of ideas and cinematic talent.
This third episode remains the last movie in the saga that many fans want to remember, where Willis jigs through the busy streets of New York along with the funny Samuel L. Jackson, paired for a day against another outstanding psychopath as the immortal Jeremy Irons.