Hollywood’s Obsession With Destroying New York and L.A.

There’s nothing we enjoy more then seeing lots of buildings going up in flames, getting leveled or being wiped off the map.

Year after year Hollywood has to outdo itself and raise the bar for new ways to destroy landmarks. Simply for our enjoyment, there seems to be two cities that take the biggest hits…New York and Los Angeles. I guess Des Moines wouldn’t really do it for us.

Here’s a look at  nineteen awesome movies where New York and Los Angeles get destroyed, broken down into five common categories; sit back and enjoy the mayhem.


Hollywood loves a good monster flick. What makes these movies better? How about a good monster flick where the monster destroys New York and L.A.

Q (1982)


This cult classic has David Carradine and Shaft (Richard Roundtree) facing off against a winged serpent, aka Quetzalcoatl, an Aztec god resurrected by a cult, in New York City. Q seems to be having a blast running wild in the Big Apple by snatching people up and dismembering them.

Godzilla (1998)


Director Roland Emmerich has a knack for destroying New York and L.A. So it was only natural that he would bring the Tokyo Destroyer itself Godzilla to American soil. Of course, chaos ensues in the city, but a bigger threat was Puff Daddy sampling Led Zeppelin. I don’t think the city has ever recovered.

King Kong (1933)


This was the original monster wreaking-havoc-on-New York movie. Forever immortalized by one of the greatest scenes ever, King Kong climbing the Empire State Building.

Cloverfield (2008)


J.J. Abrams, the man behind Lost, went Blair Witch style with his monster-attacking-NYC film. Whether you like the movie or not, New York gets trashed and there is that ending that could put this film in another category here. Sweet. Two for the price of one.


Maybe we could consider our extraterrestrial cousins monsters, but one thing is for sure, they love to level these cities like any monster found on Earth would.

The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)


The only point of this remake from the 1951 classic is to see the special effects used to destroy New York, and then some. Even if the movie was lame, I don’t think any of us can argue that it didn’t look cool.

War of the Worlds (2005)


H.G. Wells classic sci-fi tale of an alien invasion has been redone numerous times. The best adaptation was when Orson Welles did it on his radio show on Halloween, 1938. People actually thought it was real and panicked. Then in 2005 Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise wanted to make a quick buck and brought us a big budget version. Regardless, NYC, and pretty much the entire Northeast, takes a licking.

Independence Day (1996)


Here’s Roland Emmerich again, with the movie that made him a name in Hollywood.  I don’t care how cliche it is to include this movie on a list, New York and L.A. take a fatal pounding when those lights went green. It never gets old. Bonus points on the destruction of D.C.


For pretty much the last sixty years we’ve had a fascination with nuclear weapons. So it’s no surprise that Hollywood would use them to flatten New York and L.A.

The Watchmen (2009)


Based on Alan Moore’s great 1986 graphic novel, the plot tells the tales of former masked avengers in an alternate 1985, where Nixon is still president and threat of nuclear war is imminent. Ultimately, the use of atomic technology is used in New York to prevent atomic war between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.

Fail-Safe (1964)


Released during the height of the Cold War, the movie creates a nuclear crisis where the President takes a drastic step in preventing all out war, which of course involves New York . Just watch the clip and see how nuts it is.

Terminator 2 (1991)


As if two Terminators running a muck in L.A. wasn’t bad enough, there was that whole Judgment Day business.

Natural Disasters

We all love a good natural disaster film. Hollywood knows this, that’s why they makes so many of them.

When Worlds Collide (1951)


Released decades before Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay, When Worlds Collide has become a trendsetter. The story is basically a gaseous giant of a planet smashes into Earth. Game over, thanks for playing.

Volcano (1997)


Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, and Don Cheadle come to the conclusion that the City of Angels has been hit by something more then your run of the mill earthquake. It turns out that a volcano is forming under the city. We all know where this leads…an awkward romance and a city in ruins.

Deep Impact (1998)


President Morgan Freeman has two plans for the upcoming comets crashing into Earth. 1) Blow them up. 2) Have a lottery where the lucky winners will be hid in an underground bunker. Either way, New York is literally washed away.

Armageddon (1998)


Same year, and kind of same scenario as Deep Impact, Armageddon had a better cast and was directed by Michael “I Like Explosions” Bay. This could only mean one thing, New York was gonna get it good.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)


I told you before, Roland Emmerich has a knack for destroying things. This time around the Earth is under attack from global warming, that means some nasty and weird weather. L.A. gets super tornadoes and New York gets a tidal wave. Very cool.

Dim Future

Sometimes we just like to have a movie with a pretty crappy future. It suddenly makes your life seem not as bad.

A.I. (2001)


Spielberg took over this futuristic project from Stanley Kubrick after a slight case of death. This could of been one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever, but I digress. Anyways, global warming strikes New York again, and as usual, leaves it underwater.

I Am Legend (2007)


In 1954 Richard Matheson released his novel I Am Legend about the sole survivor of a vampire outbreak in L.A. during the late 70’s. Since then there have been several adaptations, like the 1964 film The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price, The Omega Man in 1971 with Charlton Heston and most recently the Will Smith fronted I Am Legend. The Will Smith version moves the story to a desolate New York with more zombie like creatures roaming the streets at night.

Escape from New York (1981)


In 1981 John Carpenter gave us a glimpse of post World War III America, set in the future of 1997. Here New York has become an even bigger cesspool by becoming a maximum security prison. But when Air Force One crashes into the city, Snake Plissken is sent in to rescue the President. Which makes for one of Kurt Russell’s best movies.

Escape from L.A. (1996)


Not to be outdone, in 1996 the sequel Escape from L.A. brought back Snake in a similar plot. Just like New York, L.A. has been transformed into a penal colony after an earthquake separates the city from the mainland. Snake is sent in to rescue the President’s hot daughter this time around.

Planet of the Apes (1968)


This is obviously a sci-fi classic, where a group of astronauts travel to a planet run by damn, dirty apes. But we soon discover that the planet is actually Earth all along, just in the future, after we blow it  up with nukes of course. Who can forget Charlton Heston’s awesome overacting when he discovers the remains of the Statue of Liberty. Timeless.

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  1. Hollywood has been doing that for years.