Monday 22 June 2009

Blue Thunder

Roy Scheider plays a burnt out, Vietnam veteran, working for the Los Angeles police department. 

We know Scheider is a borderline nut-job as he has suffers from cool, helicopter-related Vietnam flashbacks which force him to check his sanity using his wristwatch (of all things).

Anyway, whilst flying helicopters for the LAPD's air support division, he's recruited to test a new high-tech, ultra sophisticated chopper. However, Scheider soon discovers that the state-of-the-art whirlybird is part of a high level political conspiracy.

Ultimately, his attempt to expose the secret plot leads him into a helicopter dog-fight with an old Vietnam comrade, played with icy sangfroid by Malcolm McDowell.

When Scheider's chopper malfunctions our hero looks doomed. Fortunately, he's been given a back-story that involves looping a helicopter. Before you can say "looping a helicopter is an aerodynamically impossible feat", our boy Roy has pulled a 360 allowing him to exorcise his Vietnam demons by blowing McDowell out of the sky. 


One of the most satisfying helicopter explosions in cinematic history.

Scheider's aerobatic trickery makes McDowell’s copter a satisfyingly easy target. Riddled with machine gunfire it explodes whilst travelling vertically up. It’s forward momentum checked, it drops like a stone to the ground.

If this wasn't enough for exploding helicopter connoisseurs, Blue Thunder includes a further treat - train vs helicopter action. 

Scheider, in an effort to prevent the aerial power of his prototype helicopter being used for ill, lands the craft in front of an oncoming train.

For a moment it looks as if Scheider is going to be smashed to pieces along with the helicopter. However, Scheider's able to escape and we're able to enjoy watching the train languorously smash into the helicopter as Roy casually walks away from a deliciously primitive chopper fireball.

Number of exploding helicopters

Two. A number of other helicopters are shot down throughout the film, but sadly they don’t explode.

Artistic merit

Good. We get to see Blue Thunder explode in slow motion. The rotor blades continue to turn in a cool way.

Exploding helicopter innovation

By looping his helicopter, Scheider defies the rules of aerodynamics to blow up McDowell’s chopper. It's the only time I've seen it done in a movie.

Use of a train to explode a helicopter.


The entire film is about helicopters. What’s not to love?


Scheider turns his back on the exploding Blue Thunder in the time-honoured tradition of action heroes walking away from explosions.

Favourite quote

"Catch you later!"

Interesting fact

When a barbecue shack is blown up, chickens are seen to rain down on the street. Apparently real chickens were used in this sequence because rubber ones would have been far more costly to use. 

Review by: Jafo

You can listen to the Exploding Helicopter podcast about Blue Thunder on iTunes, YourListen, Stitcher or Podomatic.

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