Boom and Bust: 10 Best Michael Bay Explosions - Rolling Stone
Home Movies Movie Lists

Boom and Bust: 10 Best Michael Bay Explosions

He’s made critical bombs but some awesome blockbuster carnage — here’s the cream of the director’s kabooms


Jaimie Trueblood/Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

Action-movie auteur/helmer of international blockbusters/strong contender for the most hated man in film-fanatic circles Michael Bay has never hidden his affection for things that go boom, things that produce fireballs and flaming debris, things that go oh my god, do you think everyone on the pyrotechnics crew is okay?!? You can debate whether his work is Big Dumb Fun at its supersized summer-movie best or the nadir of lowest-common-denominator Hollywood filmmaking; if nothing else, Bay's signature style has given us plenty of massive cinematic explosions that double as awe-inspiring eye candy.

Summer Film Preview 2014: The Season of 'Fierce'

So in honor of the director's latest sturm und drang assault on filmgoers who frequent air-conditioned multiplexes during the summer months — Transformers: Age of Extinction — we've ranked the director's 10 very best on-screen explosions. Guard your eyes and cover your ears, people: You’re about to get Bay-bombed. By Kate Erbland

Play video

10. ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’: Driller Destroys Chicago

Bay didn’t invent Drillers (they're long-time members of the Transformers mythos) but they sure feel like something he'd cook up. The only thing that would make one of these Cybertron mecha-beasties feel more like a Baysian creation is if they were actually outfitted with megaton bombs, but even that doesn’t really matter. Why? Because as the big battle for Chicago ratchets up in the third Transformers film, this Driller blows his way through damn near everything – buildings, city blocks, lead characters — as the appetizer to one final big blast.

Play video

9. ‘Armageddon’: Goodbye Paris

There will never be a more "Michael Bay" movie than this 1998 interstellar disaster flick, which still boasts the most total blasts of any of his features. That’s probably because the director refused to limit his destruction to outside the Earth's hemisphere, despite setting most of the film on an actual asteroid. Not content to do away with a less picturesque European city or even to smash his space junk "near" France's metro capital as promised, Bay just takes out the whole City of Light in less than 30 seconds. We'll never have Paris. 

Play video

8. ‘Transformers’: Base Attack

Bay's first entry into his seemingly unkillable Transformers franchise may be the funniest of the trilogy – remember all that stuff about Shia LaBeouf and his family Chihuahua? – but that doesn't mean it's not packed with plenty of formidable explosion sequences. The best of the film's booms effectively flatten an entire military base and destroy Tyrese Gibson's kicky beret.

Play video

7. ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’: Chicago Invasion

Perhaps Bay is just a country boy at heart – that could give us a little insight into why he so adores demolishing entire cities for his narrative needs. There's something strangely artful about the Decepticon attack that takes out much of Chicago in the third Transformers film, thanks to both its operatic score and slow-moving bad guys. Still, this is Bay doing his favorite thing: blowing up skyscrapers before moving on to the next block. 

Play video

6. ‘Armageddon’: New York Meteor Shower

The Paris of Armageddon may have gone up in the most poetic (and oh-so-brief) of ways, all destroyed Eiffel Tower and genuinely miffed gargoyles. But Bay gave no such grace to New York City: This is a full-body assault on Gotham (home to so many film critics), punctuated by a well-placed "whoa!" and "look at that!" and "we at war!" from a stunned, but still salty, cab driver. Do you have a favorite place in Manhattan? Odds are good that Bay eradicated it during his brutal meteor shower.

Play video

5. ‘The Rock’: Goodbye Alcatraz

"May God have mercy on their souls." We've only been lucky enough to get a single pairing of the monstrous, maniacal talents that are Michael Bay and Nicolas Cage. Fortunately, both were working at the height of their nutty powers in the director's action film about – what else? – destroying beloved American landmarks. Bay may give the star an inch to work with as the film winds down, but Cage takes a mile – which then totally blows up in his face.

Play video

4. ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’: Air Strike

Though it's still not entirely clear why the second Transformers film decamped to the Middle East for so long – something about pyramids and teleportation? – it did provide Bay with a literal sandbox to play in. It also gave the man behind the camera the chance to stage a full-scale air strike, one rendered with the sort of loving attention most directors expend on the naked female form.

Play video

3. ‘Bad Boys II’: Cuban Mansion

You know who probably doesn't have homeowners insurance? Drug dealers, especially ones that own sprawling Florida mansions populated by guys in paramilitary uniforms with bad aim and baddies who scream, "Oh, my God! No! No!' when everything goes up in flames. There's no claim to be had here, and that makes it even more entertaining. Oh, and the two guys bickering in the Hummer don't hurt, either.

Play video

2. ‘Pearl Harbor’: The Attack

Bay's panache for blowing things sky high might seem like a natural fit for a war movie. That, however, doesn't mean he's well-suited for more sensitive material — like, say, a big-screen retelling of a day that will live on in infamy. Were you to look for a silver lining to this critically panned dark cloud, you might focus on Bay's meticulous attention to different kinds of explosive devices — especially during his staging of the bombing of the U.S.S. Arizona, which he presents from the perspective of the falling bombs! No one could accuse him of subtlety.

Play video

1. ‘Armageddon’: Bruce Willis vs. the Evil Asteroid

Technically speaking, the detonation that rocks the literal giant rock at the center of Armageddon isn't Bay's most impressive FX feat; the kaboom looks conspicuously fake and obviously crafted on a computer. Yet it's also dizzyingly over-the-top and the natural culmination of Bay's facility for choreographing big bangs – an explosion that's emotionally charged, saves the entire world and involves hallucinations about Liv Tyler. It's not his most jaw-dropping moment of cinematic destruction, but from a storytelling point of view, it's arguably his best. Plus anything that starts with Ben Affleck cry-screaming, "I love you!" is an automatic winner.

In This Article: Michael Bay

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.