The Top 10 Exploding Helicopter Actors

Here, in the Exploding Helicopter hall of fame, we aim to reveal which Hollywood actor provides the best guarantee of witnessing chopper fireball action in a film.

This list is a work in progress, so we'll be adding names and updating scores as we work our way through the canon of exploding helicopter films.

To qualify for entry, actors must have appeared in at least two films which feature an exploding helicopter and be one of the principal actors in it.

1 - Dolph Lundgren
Number of films with an exploding helicopter: 9
Exploding helicopter films: A View To A Kill, Red Scorpion, Silent Trigger, Bridge Of Dragons, Detention, The Expendables, The Expendables 2, The Expendables 3, Skin Trade

Dolph is one of the few beefcake actors to combine both brawn with brains (he has both a degree and masters in chemical engineering).

Still, science's loss is action cinema's gain. And since breaking into films with a bit-part in A View To A Kill, the blonde lunk has racked up an impressive number of screen credits (even if some of the work has been distinctly less than impressive).

It looked like he was going to see out his days in DTV fare, but The Expendables franchise has resulted in a late career revival.

2 - Arnold Schwarzenegger
Number of films with an exploding helicopter: 8
Exploding helicopter films: Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Predator, The 6th Day, The Expendables 2, True Lies, The Expendables, The Expendables 3
For someone who can't noticeably act, the Austrian word-mangler has enjoyed a spectacularly successful Hollywood career.

Cannily choosing roles which required limited dialogue and emotional range (Terminator, Conan, Red Heat), Arnie only came unstuck when he deviated from this template in the '90s with a disastrous series of film choices.

Were it not for the years he wasted trying to carve out a family friendly comedy career (Kindergarden Cop, Junior, Jingle All The Way) and later as a Republican politician, The 'Neg would no doubt appear higher in our list.

Still, he has contributed some classic moments to the art of the helicopter explosion, with the climax of True Lies providing a bravura example, as he downs a chopper with a rocket propelled terrorist.

= 3 - Liam Neeson
Number of exploding helicopter films: 6
Total number of exploding helicopters: 14
Exploding helicopter films: The Delta Force, Darkman, The A Team, The Dark Knight Rises, Battleship, The LEGO Movie
The Irishman has earned a reputation as an acting heavyweight with award winning performances in a number of highly respected films.

But, as much as we admire his performances in those prestigious projects, it's the films our Liam does to pay the mortgage we like the best - especially as Neeson so clearly hates doing them.

Exploding Helicopter can't think of another actor who makes his contempt for a shoddy script, poor director or untalented co-stars, so readily apparent. One only needs to watch him scowl his way through Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in an unrestrained fug for an example.

Still, we're grateful for those mortgage movies as they're where Neeson has racked up the chopper fireballs that make him the leading exploding helicopter actor. Not only that, he also starred in the Battleship, which features a record breaking 8 helicopter explosions. He may not enjoy making these films, but we certainly enjoy watching them.

= 3 - Sylvester Stallone
Number of exploding helicopter films: 6
Exploding helicopter total: 11
Exploding helicopter films: Rambo II, Rambo III, Cliffhanger, The Expendables 2, The Expendables, The Expendables 3
With an action movie career lasting over 30 years, it's no surprise that Stallone features highly in our list.

Much of Sly's chopper fireball tally is a result of the Rambo franchise which has proven a fertile ground for exploding helicopter fanatics.

The third instalment is particularly close to our hearts as Sly destroys no less than 4 helicopters whilst employing a rich variety of methods, including ramming one with a tank and destroying another with a bow and arrow.

He also throws in a classic 'hero illuminated by an exploding helicopter' shot as sprints away from a soon-to-detonate chopper.

At the turn of the millennium and with a string of flops to his name, it looked like we'd seen the last of the slanty-mouthed one. However, Stallone has recently resumed exploding helicopters in films, most notably in the doddering pensioner action franchise The Expendables. Sly, we salute you.


3 - Michelle Rodriguez
Exploding helicopter total: 9
Exploding helicopter films: Avatar, SWAT, Battle: Los Angeles, Resident Evil: Retribution
Since her breakout role as a boxer in Girlfight, Michelle Rodriguez has established a unique sexy-yet-tough persona. It's to her credit that there are few other actresses who are as credible a presence in an action setting.

While Rodriguez owes the bulk of her tally here to James Cameron's chopper-geddon-fest Avatar, where 6 futuristic helicopters met fiery ends, she’s also notched whirlybird kills in S.W.A.T and Battle Los Angeles.

The only blemish on an otherwise impressive CV is the fact that she’s not been involved in a truly definitive exploding helicopter scene.

However, with links to two well established action franchises (Resident Evil, Fast and Furious), there's every reason to believe that Michelle will not only add to her haul but participate in a film which takes the art of exploding helicopters to a new level.





= 6 - Bruce Willis
Exploding helicopter total: 6
Exploding helicopter films: Die Hard, Die Hard With A Vengeance, Die Hard 4.0, The Expendables 2, A Good Day To Die Hard, The Expendables
Bruce Willis is arguably the finest open mouthed action star of all time. Nobody can convey adrenalin pumping fear and danger by running around with his mouth agape quite like “Bruno”. The fact that nobody else bothers is merely further evidence of his mastery of the art.

Less convincing have been Bruce’s efforts to deal with his receding hairline. The late 90s were a particularly awkward period in his career as he donned a range of ill-advised, and at times just plain eccentric, wigs and hair weaves (The Jackal provides the high watermark of this period).

Like many of the actors on this list, Willis owes his presence here largely to a franchise - in this case the Die Hard series. He rightly claims a place as a hall of fame member for one of the greatest exploding helicopter kills ever in Die Hard 4.0, where he memorably shoots a chopper with a car, before quipping: "I was out of bullets."

Now reconciled to a grade zero shave and with a prodigious work ethic - often making 6 films in a year - Willis is my tip to become the greatest exploding helicopter actor of all-time.

= 6 - Milla Jovovich
Exploding helicopter total: 6
Exploding helicopter films: Ultraviolet, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Resident Evil: Retribution
Milla Jovovich is the female Rutger Hauer. Like the blonde Guinness salesman, she used the cache from her sole appearance in a bona-fide sci-fi classic (The Fifth Element) to eke out a career as the Queen of mid-budget futuristic action flicks.

Today, the model-turned-actor's career is now largely sustained by the continuing Resident Evil franchise, which much like the zombies that populate its films, staggers on, impossible to kill, and seemingly impervious to all forms of criticism.

That said, we salute Milla as one of the few women with proper exploding helicopter credentials. Action cinema is sadly lacking in ass-kicking females and Milla, if she choose to commit herself whole heartedly to the genre, could have a lengthy and productive career in DTV actioners.

= 6 - Michael Madsen
Exploding helicopter total: 6
Exploding helicopter films: Die Another Day, The Sender, Executive Target, Piranhaconda
As he slouches through films with a detached, insouciant air it's hard to decide if Michael Madsen is the coolest actor ever to grace the silver screen or simply bored out of his mind.

Therein lies the problem for Big Mike. His phlegmatic languidity is both a curse and a blessing. In the right role, he exudes a magnetic charisma. In the wrong one (and there's been an awful lot of those) he can appear to be reading the lines of a character in an entirely different film.

Despite the impressive number of helicopter explosions, Madsen has yet to contribute a unique moment to our beloved micro-genre. Much like his approach to work (225 screen credits and rising) it appears he's prioritising quantity over quality.

= 6 - Michael Caine
Exploding helicopter total: 6
Exploding helicopter films: The Swarm, On Deadly Ground, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Austin Powers In Goldmember
It’s hard not to love Michael Caine. Having sustained a 50 year career through a combination with a combination of hard work and good fortune, he's deservedly earned himself national treasure status.

While two Oscar statuettes sit on his mantelpiece, he has also - by his own admission - been in some terrifically bad films. Yet, even in the ropiest piece of misbegotten dreck you could never accuse Sir Michael of phoning-in a performance.

This unfailing professionalism combined with a prodigious work ethic has seen him thrown some critically lean years, so it’s hard now to begrudge him a lucrative dotage providing “exposition cameos” in Christopher Nolan films.

Caine’s key contribution to exploding helicopter cinema though has to be The Swarm, which features two, unique, bee instigated chopper fireballs.

= 6 - Manfred Lehmann
Exploding helicopter total: 6
Exploding helicopter films: Commando Leopard, The Commander, Codename: Wild Geese, Cobra Mission
Manfred who? Yes, it's fair to say that the German born actor is not a cinematic star, and is only really known to audiences in his home country as the voice artist who dubs for Bruce Willis and Dolph Lundgren.

Despite a career unknown to most, he's racked up one of the most impressive tallies of chopper fireballs we've yet come across. For this Lehmann has to thank the run of European exploitation action flicks he starred in during the mid 80s, often alongside Lewis Collins (also featured in this list).

Onscreen, Lehmann cuts a surprisingly charismatic figure, always bringing a certain joie de vive to his roles. It's good to see an actor who enjoys exploding helicopters as much as we do.

= 6 - Steven Seagal
Exploding helicopter total: 6
Exploding helicopter films: Shadow ManUnder SiegeExit WoundsHalf Past Dead, On Deadly Ground
Whispering Steve made his name in the late '80s, with a series of martial arts classics which featured their star's lightening fast aikido moves and round-house kicks.

More recently, as the years and the heavy pasta lunches have taken their toll, Seagal has delegated most of the actual action work to fat suit wearing body doubles.

Nevertheless, despite spending most of time in films snapping necks and breaking bones, old Totem face has notched an impressive number of exploding helicopter kills. Disappointingly, Seagal's chopper fireballs tend to lack the flair we generally like to see, although the exploding helicopter scene in Under Siege was, according to MTV viewers, the 2nd best action scene of 1992. Fact.


= 7 - Lewis Collins
Exploding helicopter total: 5
Exploding helicopter films: Commando LeopardThe Commander, Codename: Wild Geese
Collins was propelled to small screen stardom by 70s espionage action TV series The Professionals. With his dark-haired good looks and tough guy persona, he was once touted as a possible James Bond. Unfortunately, the small matter that - whisper it - he couldn't really act, was to prove fatal to those ambitions.

Regardless, Collins was still able to trade on his screen image to carve out a short-lived film career in the 80s - most notably in Who Dares Wins, a fantastic piece of thick-eared action hokum.

Whilst his chopper fireball tally is bettered by several actors, Collins' record is arguably more impressive when you consider that (excluding TV movies) he only ever made 6 films - 3 of which include at least one helicopter explosion. With a 50% chance of witnessing whirlybird destruction in any of his films, Lewis Collins is truly an exploding helicopter legend.






= 7 - Pierce Brosnan
Exploding helicopter total: 5
Exploding helicopter films: The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Dante's Peak, GoldenEye
Brosnan wouldn't feature on this list were it not for his spell as the famously destructive spy James Bond.

His double 'O' career was a curious microcosm of the Connery and Moore eras. While GoldenEye marked him out as the natural heir to Sean Connery, he had within seven short years taken Bond back to the gadgets and 'Confessions' style sex comedy of the Moore years with the wretched Die Another Day.

Regardless, Brosnan's licence to kill clearly included helicopters, as he racked up some spectacular kills, including downing one helicopter with in-car rocket launchers.



= 7 - Samuel L Jackson
Exploding helicopter total: 5
Exploding helicopter films: Deep Blue Sea, Die Hard With A Vengeance, SWAT, Avengers Assemble, XX2: The Next Level
Having clambered off the bit-part treadmill, our Sam has settled into a well paid existence as Hollywood's character actor of choice, and is seemingly content to see out his days playing exactly the same character in every film.

Quality control does not seem particularly high on Jackson's agenda - if indeed it features at all. If he ever surfaces in a good film you can be sure it’s more by luck than design.

As for his exploding helicopter career, it has been fairly conventional (although the shark related chopper fireball incident in Deep Blue Sea is wonderfully ludicrous). However, with such a scattershot approach to work, he could yet add something truly unique to the genre. Though if he does, it’ll obviously be completely by accident.



= 8 - Mark Wahlberg
Exploding helicopter total: 4
Exploding helicopter films: The Other Guys, Shooter, Three Kings, Lone Survivor
The former rapper and underwear model has successfully carved out an acting career for himself, including a creditable number of films involving helicopter explosions.

Perhaps most impressive is the unusual methods of helicopter destruction which feature in Wahlberg's films. The Other Guys has a chopper destroyed via attack by golf ball, while Three Kings sees one blown up with an American football. Even the method of destruction in Shooter is unconventional. Wahlberg shoots a fuel storage tank which causes an explosion that fatally damages the chopper.

While he may not be the most destructive, Whalberg's chopper fireball CV makes him potentially the most creative exploding helicopter actor working in Hollywood today.


= 8 - Jean-Claude Van Damme
Exploding helicopter total: 4
Exploding helicopter films: Sudden Death, Derailed, The Expendables 2
During the 1980s it seemed aspiring action movie stars needed just three qualities to succeed: bulging muscles, a mullet and an impenetrable accent (see Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, et al).

With a brawny chest, a lustrous neck warmer, and indecipherable English, it was no surprise that Hollywood quickly made the ‘Muscles From Brussels’ a box office star.

One of the frequently entertainingly aspects of JCVD’s early career was the challenge his thick, French-sounding, accent posed to filmmakers who’d be required to weave a dubious explanation into the plot.

Variously, passing himself off as from Quebec, New Orleans, or - ultimate indignity - France, Jean-Claude was curiously never Belgian. Presumably in the belief that no-one even knew it was a country.

Without question JCVD’s towering achievement in exploding helicopters is Sudden Death as he eyeballs the villain as he meets his fiery, slow-motion, doom.




= 8 - Chuck Norris
Exploding helicopter total: 5
Exploding helicopter films: Invasion USA, The Delta Force, The Expendables 2, Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection, Missing In Action 2: The Beginning
We do give Chuck rather a lot of stick on Exploding Helicopter but, in our own curious way, we love the guy.

Certainly you have to give him respect for the being the hairiest man ever to pursue a career in martial arts, and you cannot fault his services to the denim industry over the years (witness his triple denim outfit in Delta Force).

Still, he’s rewarded us with plenty of entertaining moments of bad-ass-ery for which we very grateful. In keeping with much else in a Chuck Norris film, his helicopter explosions tend to be functional affairs. We're still looking for his defining chopper fireball moment.