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 four films which feature an exploding helicopter.

1 - Mike Monty


Exploding helicopter films: 15

    • Raiders Of Atlantis (1983)
    • Tornado: The Last Blood (1983)
    • Slash (1984)
    • The Firebird Conspiracy (1984)
    • Commando Leopard (1985)
    • Double Target (1987)
    • Tough Cop (1987)
    • Phantom Soldiers (1987)
    • Eye Of The Eagle (1987)
    • The Last American Soldier (1988)
    • Dog Tags (1988)
    • The Commander (1988) uncredited
    • Eye Of The Eagle II (1989)
    • Last Platoon (1988)
    • Last Flight To Hell (1990)
    If you are asking yourself ‘Mike who?’, don’t be embarrassed. Unless you are well-versed in exploitation and low budget genre cinema, you are unlikely to have come across Mr Monty’s work. During the Sixties and Seventies, he was a prolific face – often uncredited - in Italian-made schlock, appearing in everything from Westerns and war movies to soft-core porn. However, it was after relocating to the Philippines that Michael O’Donnell – as he was really called – became a key figure in the world of exploding helicopter cinema. The country had become a mecca for the booming ‘Namsploitation’ genre and filmmakers who wanted to make cheap Rambo knock-offs for the home video market. A perennial presence in these films, Mike Monty has racked up a truly formidable number of exploding helicopter films. Sir, we salute you!
        

    = 2 - Dolph Lundgren

    Exploding helicopter films: 11

    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 - Samuel L Jackson

    Exploding helicopter films: 11

    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.

    3 - Jim Gaines


    Exploding helicopter films: 10

    • DNA (1996)
    • Escape To Nowhere (1990)
    • Dog Tags (1988)
    • Robowar (1988)
    • The Secret Of King Mahi’s Island (1988)
    • Phantom Soldiers (1987)
    • Opposing Force (1986)
    • POW The Escape (1986)
    • American Ninja (1985)
    • Apocalypse Now (1979)
    Together with Mike Monty, Jim Gaines was one of the most prolific actors working in the Filipino action movie boom of the 1980s. Having grown up in the Philippines, Gaines fell into the film business as local filmmakers needed American faces to bulk out the casts of the low budget, Vietnam-themed war movies being churned out in the country. 


    = 4 - Gary Daniels

    Exploding helicopter films: 9

    • The Secret Of King Mahis Island (1988)
    • Firepower (1993)
    • Deadly Target (1994)
    • Riot (1996)
    • Epicenter (2000)
    • Retrograde (2004)
    • The Expendables (2010)
    • A Hitman In London (2015)
    • Dancin' It's On! (2015)
    The British beat 'em up star has amassed an impressive number of exploding helicopter over his lengthy action movie career. There are two stand-out moments that we've particularly enjoyed in Mr Daniels work where he has destroyed helicopters in unique ways. In Epicenter he drops a piece of rubble on to the top of a helicopter - simple, but different. However, his finest work is in The Secret Of King Mahis Island where he destroys a helicopter using boomerang.

    = 4 - Donald Pleasance

    Exploding helicopter films 9

    Donald Pleasance starred in a handful of great films (The Great Escape), a few noteworthy ones (THX 1138), and many, many movies of what we shall politely call, questionable artistic merit. Not that we're judging the famously follically challenged actor. That's because it's through his sterling service in genre cinema he has earned his position so high in our list. Through the Eighties, everyone's favourite cat-stroking Bond villain could be relied upon to turn up in dozens of Italian produced exploitation flicks, many of which featured an exploding helicopter.

    = 4 - Arnold Schwarzenegger

    Exploding helicopter films: 9

    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.

    = 5 - Eric Roberts

    Exploding helicopter films: 8

    • Heaven's Fire (1999)
    • The Alternate (2000)
    • The Dark Knight (2008)
    • The Expendables (2012)
    • Skin Traffik (2015)
    • Monster Island (2019)
    • Top Gunner (2020)
    • Ape vs Monster (2021)
    It's no surprise to see the hardest working actor in Hollywood (560 acting credits and rising) on our list. You work in this number of films then you're bound to find yourself starring alongside an exploding helicopter. And with his unrelenting work ethic it's hard not to see him rising even higher in our list.

    = 5 - Charles Napier


    Exploding helicopter films: 8

    • Rambo: First Blood Pt II (1985)
    • Raw Justice (1994)
    • Future Zone (1990)
    • Riot (1996)
    • The Last Match (1990)
    • Cop Target (1990)
    • Armstrong (1998)
    • Indio 2 (1991)
    With his lantern jaw and booming voice, Charles Napier became a go-to character actor for filmmakers looking for someone who could play a sheriff, senator, or some other authority figure type. Having made his name in Russ Meyer’s Seventies sexploitation flicks, Napier picked up work in more prestigious fare like Silence of the Lambs or Philadelphia. But it was low budget genre films that provided his frequent employment and accounted for his frequent appearance in films with an exploding helicopter. 

    = 5 - Pierce Brosnan

    Exploding helicopter films: 8

    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.

    = 5 - Bruce Willis

    Exploding helicopter films: 8

    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."



    = 5 - Michael Dudikoff


    Exploding helicopter films: 8

        • Navy Seals vs Zombies (2015)
        • Soldier Boyz (1995)
        • Cyberjack (1995)
        • American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (1990)
        • Air America (1990)
        • American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)
        • American Ninja (1985)
        • Uncommon Valor (1983)
        With no discernible skill in martial arts, Michael Dudikoff was an unlikely man to front an era-defining, chop-socky beat’em-up. Nevertheless, after he was catapulted to fame by American Ninja, Mikey Duds went on to become one of the stars of Eighties action. Alongside Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris, he was one of the ‘faces’ of the Cannon Group - regularly headlining their films until the company spectacularly blew itself up in the early Nineties. After that he worked steadily over the next decade in films of diminishing quality before deciding the game was up and moving into a career in real estate. Still, with his blonde hair and easy-going charisma ‘the Dude’ remains a firm fan-favourite of Eighties action fans.  


        = 5 - Desmond Llewelyn


        Exploding helicopter films: 8

          • From Russia With Love (1963)
          • You Only Live Twice (1967)
          • Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
          • The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
          • A View To A Kill (1985)
          • Goldeneye (1995)
          • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
          • The World Is Not Enough (1999)
          The Welshman owes his appearance in our hall of fame due to his lengthy tenure in the James Bond series. Over the course of 36 years, during which he equipped five different 00s, with the gadget-giver starred in eight films with an exploding helicopter. The only blemish in his career as Bond's quartermaster-in-chief was hiring the lamentable 'R'.

          = 6 - Michael Madsen

          Exploding helicopter films: 7

          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 - William Smith

            Exploding helicopter films: 7

              • Commando Squad (1987)
              • Red Dawn (1984)
              • Bulletproof (1987)
              • Jungle Assault (1989)
              • Taken Alive (1995)
              • Doublecross On Costa's Island (1997)
              • Hell On The Battleground (1988)
              William Smith was not so much as tough guy actor, so much as a tough guy who was an actor. An air force veteran, arm wrestling champion, amateur boxer and weightlifter, Smith never looked anything other than a man who could handle himself. Alongside his imposing physique, Big Bill was blessed with rugged looks and a voice that sounded like he was gargling gravel. These attributes were put to frequent use in films and television whenever there was needed a heavy or villain. With over 400 acting credits and frequently cast in low budget acting films it's no surprise that he found himself starring alongside so many exploding helicopters. 

              = 6 - Chuck Norris

              Exploding helicopter films: 7

              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.

              = 6 - Sylvester Stallone

              Exploding helicopter films: 7

              With an action movie career lasting over 40 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 installment 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.

              = 6 - Don 'The Dragon' Wilson

              Exploding helicopter films: 7

              The former kickboxing champion has racked up an impressive number of exploding helicopter films over his career. His finest exploding helicopter moment came in Ring Of Fire 3 where he takes out a helicopter during a great sequence on top of a skyscraper.

              = 6 - Steven Seagal

              Exploding helicopter films: 7

              Whispering Steve made his name in the late Eighties, with a series of martial arts classics which featured their star's lightening fast aikido moves.

              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.

              = 6 - David Carradine


              Exploding helicopter films: 7

                • POW The Escape (1986)
                • Future Force (1989)
                • Bird On A Wire (1990)
                • Future Zone (1990)
                • Field Of Fire (1991)
                • Double Trouble (1992)
                • Kill Zone (1993)
                With a long and lengthy career in exploitation cinema, it's no surprise to find that David Carradine has racked up an impressive CV of films where helicopters explode. During his 45-year career he navigated many ups and downs. The TV series Kung Fu made him a star, but an attempts to turn himself into a cinema star met with only occasional success, such as The Long Riders or his late career rehabilitation in Tarantino's Kill Bill films. 

                = 7 - Liam Neeson

                Exploding helicopter films: 6

                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.

                = 7 - Michelle Rodriguez

                Exploding helicopter films: 6

                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.

                = 8 - Michael Caine

                Exploding helicopter films: 5

                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.


                = 8 - Milla Jovovich

                Exploding helicopter films: 5

                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.

                = 8 - Mark Wahlberg

                Exploding helicopter films: 5

                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.


                9 - Jean Claude Van Damme

                Exploding helicopter films: 4

                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.

                We'll be updating this list as new information comes in.....