A movie is all about telling a story on the screen. A lot of times that means creating people and things and whole worlds that never really existed and, sometimes, destroying them. Usually, that’s all done with special effects, but sometimes it’s easier and more efficient to destroy a thing for real. Other times it just happens by accident. But the end result is the same – something really expensive got smashed apart for our viewing pleasure.
10. Kurt Russell Destroyed an Antique Guitar
Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight came out in 2015 and features a Tarantino rogues’ gallery of some of his favorite collaborators including Sam Jackson, Michael Madsen and Kurt Russell. Russell, who’s been acting longer than anyone else in the film, is pretty much an old pro in front of the camera at this point and you’d think he’d be able to navigate any scene with ease. And that’s true 99% of the time. The only issue is when he doesn’t know what he’s holding in his hands.
In the film. Russell gets into an argument with a character played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. She’s holding an acoustic guitar at the time and he takes it from her and smashes it on a post. Not a big deal, as movie scenes go, but it was this time. The guitar Leigh was holding was an authentic, one of a kind acoustic guitar from the 1870s. Russell was supposed to grab a prop version and smash it. But something went wonky and Russell got the real one instead.
The guitar was insured for $40,000, so if it had a cash value, that was it. But in historical terms, it was something that simply can never be replaced again. The destruction ensured that the Martin Guitar Museum, which loaned Tarantino the instrument, would never agree to loan anything to a film production again.
9. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Accidentally Crashed a Helicopter
Back in 1978, a movie about killer tomatoes was just as weird an idea as it is today. It was a parody of horror films like The Birds or Frogs in which something that has no business being terrifying turns on humanity in a bloody rampage. In this case, it was tomatoes. The movie was made on a shoestring budget, just $90,000, but it gained cult status and even spawned a few sequels, including a 1988 sequel starring George Clooney.
Early in the film, there’s a pretty intense action scene featuring a helicopter crash. For a $90,000 movie in the 70s, it was actually really impressive. And it’s because it was a complete mistake. That was a $60,000 helicopter that they crashed by accident. It cost the production more of the budget than anything else in the film.
On the upside, they got the most genuine helicopter crash on film you’re ever likely to see and no one was seriously injured as a result.
8. Producers of Twister Destroyed Blocks of the Town of Wakita
In the 1990s, the tradition of big summer blockbusters really amped up in movie theaters and one of the biggest of the decade was 1996’s Twister. The production used a lot of effects to bring power and devastation of tornadoes to life, but not everything involved as much movie magic as you might think.
For instance, in the movie, the town of Wakita gets destroyed by a passing twister and Helen Hunt and the others from the movie survey the damage after. Dozens of houses appear to have been destroyed and that all actually happened. The producers of the film bought dozens of old houses in the town of Wakita, Oklahoma, solely to tear them apart.
Two years before filming, Wakita had a genuine weather disaster – a massive hailstorm had destroyed their downtown so badly many of the houses were unlivable. Even the main street was torn up. While the town had plans to gut everything and start over, it was going to be a pricey endeavor for a small town to manage.
When producers offered to tear down all the buildings for them, including 30 more they built themselves, they paid around $7,000 to $10,000 per house. But they also restored all the old buildings, fixed the road and even gave the town the firetruck from the movie.
In total, the production bought up eight blocks’ worth of houses, then rebuilt what was destroyed at a cost likely in the hundreds of thousands.
7. Jessica Biel Destroyed a $300,000 Camera Making Blade: Trinity
The movie Blade: Trinity is mostly known for Wesley Snipes alleged on-set lunacy these days, so the story about Jessica Biel’s archery skills gets lost in the mix. She had to learn to shoot a bow for the film and she learned extremely well. So well, in fact, that the producers made the mistake of having her shoot directly at the camera for one scene.
While an archer shooting right at the camera makes for a great visual, it seems that no one counted on Biel being such an amazing marksman. The camera, forty feet away and fifty feet down from where Biel was positioned, was shielded by plexiglass so no one would get hurt. But to get the shot, they had to leave a two inch by two inch hole open for the camera lens and that’s exactly where Biel’s arrow went, destroying a $300,000 camera in the process.
6. Buster Keaton Destroyed a Locomotive in the Silent Film The General
Most modern audiences don’t think of the silent film era as being chock full of big budget stunts, but that’s not necessarily true. Buster Keaton was a man who wanted to make an impression on film and he did so in the movie The General back in 1926.
In the movie, director and actor Keaton wowed audiences with what would be the most expensive stunt in silent film history. A locomotive would hit a burning bridge and crash right through into the river below.
Today we can see train crashes in all kinds of movies from Wanted to The Fugitive and more. In 1926, Keaton didn’t have the benefit of the special effects used in those modern era films, so he did the next best thing and just crashed a real locomotive.
At the time, the train cost a respectable $42,000. Adjust that for inflation and you’re looking at a $682,000 stunt. It’s also one you can only do once, so it had to be done right. The only concession made to safety was when he agreed to his wife’s demand he not ride on the train himself.
5. The K Foundation Burned a Million Pounds
If you’re a fan of British electronic music from the ‘80s, you may be familiar with The KLF. They’ve been known by a few names over the years, including K Foundation and the TimeLords. But their greatest claim to fame may be the time they lit £1 million on fire.
The duo is known for going to extremes, like dumping a dead sheep at an after show. Back in 1994, they filmed themselves burning the money at a remote cabin in Scotland. And why? No reason at all. To them, it was just part of the art. To the rest of us, it might be crazy. Or brilliant. Decide for yourself.
4. Christopher Walken Destroyed a Banksy in The Outlaws
Christopher Walken recently gave a memorable turn in the series The Outlaws as an old-timey criminal doing community service with a group of others. Their job is to clean up a vandalized community center. At the very end of the series, Walken discovers a painting of a rat signed by famed artist Banksy. He tries to point it out to his supervisor, and she tells him to paint it over. Not knowing what it is, he does so.
It’s a good joke made all the more shocking when you realize it’s a genuine Banksy, made specifically to be destroyed on the show. The value was pegged at around £10,000,000.
3. Furious 7 Destroyed Nine Lykan Hypersport Stunt Cars Worth Millions
The Fast and Furious franchise is coming up on 10 films in over 20 years. In that time, literally thousands of cars have been destroyed on camera and their value is almost impossible to calculate. But we can still give it a try.
The value of the destroyed cars was pegged at $500 million back in 2017, but that came with the caveat of “in real life.” That’s an important distinction because the cars we see on camera in the movie are almost never the real cars. There is actually an entire team of mechanics and effects people who take stunt cars, which are old junkers, and then refurbish them to look like the insanely expensive classic or supercars that you see in the movie.
So while Vin Diesel may get into a 1970 Dodge Charger, when that gets run off the road and shot full of holes, it’s just some crappy junker that got a facelift. Does that mean the movies destroy nothing of value? Not really.
By Furious 7 they had destroyed nearly 1,500 cars. They may not have been classics, but they’re still cars. In that film, they destroyed an insanely rare Lykan Hypersport. The company made ten stunt cars for the movie and 9 were destroyed. The tenth was sold at auction, with bidding starting at $100,000. It got up to over $500,000 and was expected to fetch upwards of $2 million. So that means, at a minimum, that was $1 million in stunt cars and potentially $20 million.
Today we can only guess at the “true” value of all the destruction, but it stands to reason that it’s millions.
2. Michael Bay Blew Up a Real Mansion for Bad Boys II
Few directors love an explosion as much as Michael Bay seems to. The man can make carnage like Mozart made music. Love him or hate him, you have to admit he knows spectacle. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the movie Bad Boys II and the remarkable mansion explosion scene.
The scene is a standout because that was a real $16.5 million mansion. The owner of the property paid the $16.5 million with the intent of actually destroying the building and then subdividing the lot into three new properties. But, rather than destroy it himself, he thought it might be fun to see if anyone making a movie wanted to destroy it, and Michael Bay absolutely did.
There was still some movie magic in play; the house was renovated to give it lighter walls and fake parts that would explode more easily, but in the end the result was the same.
1. The Sands Casino at the End of Con Air
It’s very possible the Nic Cage film Con Air features the most expensive bit of destruction in film history, though that does come with a caveat. In the movie, you can see a massive prison transport plane crash land on the Las Vegas strip and slide headlong into the Sands casino. The Sands, one of the famous playgrounds of the Rat Pack back in the heyday of Las Vegas, was not a model or a fake in any way. They absolutely destroyed that thing.
Though the Sands changed hands a few times over the years, it was sold in 1988 for $110 million. By 1996, the Sands was a relic of a bygone era and the decision was made to destroy it to make way for a modern casino and resort experience. But that meant destroying what was already there.
Though much of the building was demolished by way of implosion, producers of Con Air convinced the owners to hold off on the destruction for a few weeks so they could actually do the stunt seen in the movie which takes out the real lobby. It all needed to be done in one take because you can’t put that toothpaste back in the tube, so 14 cameras were set up to capture all the destruction.
So technically it was a $110 million building that was destroyed, but getting rid of it made room for the $1.5 billion Venetian, which is there today.