The Top 10 Exploding Helicopter Directors

Simply put, here are the directors who have done more to bring you exploding helicopter action than anyone else.

Whilst we celebrate a quality helicopter explosion as much as the next chopper fireball fanatic, it's equally important we recognise those directors who fulfil their fundamental obligation to film fans by always a whirlybird conflagration in their offerings.




1 - Roland Emmerich 
Exploding helicopter total: 10
Exploding helicopter films: Independence DayGodzilla, White House Down
It's little surprise that this disaster movie specialist features so prominently in our list. It would be unthinkable for Hollywood's go-to-man for destroying cities and indeed civilisation to be absent.

With so many options at his disposal, it is a mark of his dedication to the art of helicopter explosion that he likes to feature multiple helicopter explosions in his films.

Disappointingly, we've felt unable to include his helicopter work in The Day After Tomorrow as the choppers sadly don't explode. But with some of his other key films yet to be reviewed by us, Roland could well take an unassailable position as the greatest exploding helicopter director of all-time.

2 - Peter Berg
Exploding helicopter total: 9
Exploding helicopter films: Battleship, Lone Survivor
Some directors have earned their place in our hall of fame through years of steady helicopter destruction. Others, like Peter Berg, have catapulted themselves to exploding helicopter stardom through a single act of whirlybird conflagration.

After innocuously plying his directorial trade for a decade, Berg suddenly announced himself as a player in the cinematic art of helicopter explosion with the big budget actioner Battleship. In one giddy sequence of chopper kills we get to witness the record breaking destruction of 8 helicopters.

Having seemingly whetted his appetite for fiery thrills, Berg followed up Battleship’s fireball feast with another helicopter explosion in the gritty war flick Lone Survivor. Despite coming to the party late, Berg is now a serious player in the exploding helicopter genre and someone we need to keep a close eye on.


3 - James Cameron
Exploding helicopter total: 8
Exploding helicopter films: Avatar, True Lies, Terminator 2: Judgment Day
James Cameron boasts the proud claim of having reduced the World's helicopter population by 8 during blockbuster hits Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Avatar and True Lies.

As his films have become ever more colossal - in both ambition and budget - he's has remained faithful to the need to blow up helicopters at regular intervals.

Satisfyingly, he has used his increasing artistic power to devise ever more elaborate ways to explode helicopters. You need only to view the over-the-top, cartoon tomfoolery climax to True Lies or the veritable exploding helicopter orgy of Avatar - with its record breaking 6 chopper fireballs - for evidence of that.

With two Avatar sequels on the slate, we fully expect to be updating his total helicopter kills soon.



4 - Lewis Gilbert
Exploding helicopter total: 6
Exploding helicopter filmsYou Only Live TwiceThe Spy Who Loved Me
You might not expect a director whose credits include Shirley Valentine, Alfie and Educating Rita to appear on our list. However, Gilbert was no stranger to the world of action cinema having made his reputation in the 50s working on WWII classics such as Sink The Bismarck!, The Sea Shall Not Have Them and Reach For The Sky.

Gilbert’s most outstanding contribution to the art of exploding helicopters is undoubtedly You Only Live Twice - where Bond’s flat-pack chopper Little Nellie duels with four Spectre helicopters. More than 40 years on, the scene has lost none of its excitement and it remains a classic of this micro-genre.


= 5 - Michael Bay
Exploding helicopter total: 5
Exploding helicopter films: Transformers, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen,
Michael Bay shot into the Hollywood firmament with the bombastic Bad Bays. Since then he has gone on to refine an approach to film-making which has seen him create ever larger spectacles of terrifying vacuity.

Like black holes Bay's films are negative spaces of terrible destructive power, consisting of violent sensory assaults which Bay describes, in his own ripe parlance, as "fvcking the frame".

Such has been the inexorable rise of Bay's star in the Tinseltown cosmos, that he now exists in a separate universe - one where he is seemingly immune to critical opinion. For most directors the inclusion of a chopper fireball is a set piece to be lingered over. The denouement to adrenaline fuelled action sequence. To Bay they are nothing more an afterthought. For a man who has destroyed so many helicopters he seems to have little respect for the art.


= 5 - Antonio Margheriti
Exploding helicopter total: 5
Exploding helicopter films: Commando Leopard, The Commander, Codename: Wild Geese
I'll admit that our number one is not a household name. You'd be forgiven for asking Antonio who?

However, in a 25 year plus career in European exploitation films he's managed to explode more helicopters than directors who've had the good fortune to work with bigger budgets or on more prestigious films.

Antonio has eschewed innovation and invention in favour of diligently getting on with the job exploding helicopters in films. And for that you can only admire his singular dedication to the task.


= 6 - Peter MacDonald
Exploding helicopter total: 4
Exploding helicopter films: Rambo III
There's an argument to be had as to whether Peter MacDonald should be higher in this list.

As a director he has only destroyed four helicopters, however, through his work as an assistant director and cinematographer he has been involved in many more. For example, destroying choppers in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Rambo: First Blood Pt II and Superman II.

= 6 - Peter Hyams
Exploding helicopter total: 4
Exploding helicopter films: Sudden Death, Capricorn One
I'm not sure Peter Hyams has never made a great film, just as I don't think he's ever made a terrible film. His films have no discernable style or thematic concerns. In this way, he reminds me of the kind of jobbing directors who used to enjoy lengthy careers within the old studio system.

Given his track record, it's not surprising that his helicopter explosions are always highly professional, but perhaps lacking a touch of inspiration - except for the climatic chopper fireball in Sudden Death. Here, Hyams uses all his directorial skills to create a scene of operatic intensity and a mini-masterpiece in helicopter explosion.


= 6 - John Woo
Exploding helicopter total: 4
Exploding helicopter films: Broken Arrow
After a string of stylish action classics in the '80s, Woo was tempted over to Hollywood by studios keen to import his singular directorial flourishes into their films.

However, in an object lesson about Hollywood's attitude towards talent and originality, studio bosses quickly stamped down on any evidence of originality and made sure he churned out action films in the journeyman style they were familiar with.

Still, his Hollywood did allow Woo to start practising the art of exploding helicopters.

He certainly made up for lost time in Broken Arrow, bringing his trademark slow-mo devices and repeat edits to the genre of exploding helicopters. Now, safely back in Hong Kong, Woo is free to carry on directing films in the style we first knew and grew to love.


= 6 - John McTiernan
Exploding helicopter total: 4
Exploding helicopter films: Predator, Die Hard, Die Hard With A Vengeance
It’s nearly 10 years since John McTiernan last made a film - a result I suspect of ongoing legal problems associated with a Hollywood phone tapping scandal.

However, before his legal problems he had an enviable record as a helmsmen for bid budget action adventure flicks. Despite having some bonafide action classics on his CV, McTiernan hasn’t brought much innovation to the world of exploding helicopters. Although blowing the top off a skyscraper to destroy a helicopter in Die Hard did demonstrate impressive overkill.

= 6 - Renny Harlin
Exploding helicopter total: 4
Exploding helicopter films: Cliffhanger, Deep Blue Sea, 12 Rounds, 5 Days Of War
We’ve got a soft spot for Renny Harlin. Yes, he’s made some stupid films, but they’re always enjoyably stupid.

That’s largely how he’s earned his place in our hall of fame with Renny’s Jaws-on-acid effort Deep Blue Sea featuring the entertaining sight of mutant shark chomping a helicopter, and kidnap thriller 12 Rounds including a truly outlandish escape from a chopper fireball.

However, despite his contributions to the art of exploding helicopters, there are several stains on his CV. Most notably Die Hard 2, the only entry in the action franchise which doesn’t feature a chopper fireball. There’s also a disappointing scene in The Long Kiss Goodnight where, in the films explosive climax, it’s utterly inconclusive whether the villain’s helicopter has been destroyed.

= 7 - Roger Spottiswoode
Exploding helicopter total: 3
Exploding helicopter films: Air America, Tomorrow Never Dies, The 6th Day
There doesn't appear to be a lot of rhyme or reason to the career of Roger Spottiswoode. Comedy, drama, action, sci-fi Spottiswoode has worked in all these fields bringing an unfussy, yeoman-like, competency to them all.

He's made middling comedies (Turner & Hooch), middling dramas (Ripley Under Ground) and a number of middling action films.

It's for these films that we're primarily interested in Roger. Unsurprisingly, for a man who likes to work tightly within the confines of genre conventions, he's included an exploding helicopter in them all.


= 7 - Andrew Davis
Exploding helicopter total: 3
Exploding helicopter films: Under Siege, The Guardian
Andrew Davis made his name with thrillers starring Chuck Norris (Code Of Silence) and Steven Seagal (Above The Law).

He then became a major player after the success of Under Siege and The Fugitive. Sadly, the sure touch that Davis had up to now deserted him with a run of duff projects, sci-fi stinker Chain Reaction and an unsuccesful Hitchcock remake A Perfect Murder.

Still, Davis has given us a couple of notable exploding helicopter scenes, including an excellent one in Under Siege which MTV viewers saw fit to vote the 2nd best action sequence of 1992. Surely, there can be no higher praise. Well, almost....



= 7 - Antoine Fuqua
Exploding helicopter total: 3
Exploding helicopters films: Shooter, Olympus Has Fallen
After graduating from music videos, Fuqua announced himself as a Hollywood name with the hard-hitting police drama Training Day. Since then, Antoine’s career has drifted curiously along. Despite steady work over the last 15 years, no discernible directorial style or themes have emerged in his films. Perversely, it’s probably the absence of these qualities which means he so regularly finds himself at the helm of a glossy, mid-budget films. Studios, it seems, can rely on him to film the script he’s given without trying to introduce any fancy ideas which make movie executives twitchy.

Still, his journeyman career as a director is not without note given its inclusion of exploding helicopters. Fuqua initially blotted his copybook with us with Shooter – which disappointingly failed to proper show the chopper fireball by having its helicopter fly behind a treeline. However, he’s since redeemed himself with Die Hard-in-the-Whitehouse actioner Olympus Has Fallen, which featured a lengthy helicopter aerial battle and two combusting whirlybirds.

= 8 - John Badham
Exploding helicopter total: 2
Exploding helicopter films: Blue Thunder
A Hollywood director of the old school. Badham never challenged a writer, studio, or producer with his own 'artistic vision'. Instead he got on with the job of competently turning out whatever script had been put in from of him.

Considered a 'safe pair of hands' he was rewarded with regular work on decent movies. Blue Thunder is then perhaps the perfect example of his work.For most people it's is an average film, for exploding helicopter fans - a classic.

= 8 - Jonathan Mostow
Exploding helicopter total: 2
Exploding helicopter films: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Mostow established his exploding helicopter credentials in stunning style in this Terminator franchise entry. With this and U-571 on his CV you'd have thought that Mostow would have been a sure-fire certainty to rack up a few more chopper kills. However, his career stalled for the best part of the decade and it remains to be seen whether he'll ever have the chance to add to his total.

= 8 - Clint Eastwood
Exploding helicopter total: 2
Exploding helicopter films: Firefox
Eastwood learnt everything he knew about directing at the knee of Don Siegel. This means a focus on advancing the story without the cameras or actors getting in the way.

Given his schooling then it's little wonder that this double exploding helicopter is dealt with in such perfunctory manner.