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Movie Moments Where Real Stuff Was Completely Destroyed

Updated May 2, 2021 4.8k views12 items

In the age of CGI, it's a rare treat to go to the cinema and see real explosions in movies. Whether an actor breaks a priceless instrument accidentally, or a director coordinates with the city to blow up a building, it's always a delight to see something real on the big screen. It's true that when you step away from the computer, you run a greater risk of an actor getting hurt, or ending up with expensive things wrecked while filming, but the raw intensity a filmmaker achieves with those moments shines through the screen. 

Everything on a set costs money - that's why actors even need to be careful with the props, because there's a good chance they're going to be recycled for another film by the studio. But sometimes, not only are actors careless with the props, but they aren't even careful with the priceless, irreplaceable artifacts lent to the film by museums. Sometimes, in those moments, you end up with a movie scene where not only is something being broken in the fictional reality, but something real is actually being broken in reality-reality. 

  • The Hateful Eight featured a star-studded cast and a priceless guitar. Like most of the cast in the film, the guitar was tasked with portraying its destruction. Unlike the cast, it was actually wrecked. While filming the scene featuring this Martin guitar dating back to 1860, the crew forgot to trade the instrument out for the prop duplicate before Kurt Russell smashed it against the ground. 

    Jennifer Jason Leigh, the actress Kurt Russell grabbed the guitar from, said she knew it was the real one, but she told Billboard she couldn't say anything about it because "you're never going to cut a scene until Quentin says cut." She said that Kurt had no idea, and that when he found out what he had done, he "literally welled up." The ruined guitar was worth about $40,000. But, to be fair, The Hateful Eight grossed about $155 million, so it seems like it was worth it. That being said, a spokesperson for the C.F. Martin & Co. Museum that loaned the guitar said that the guitar is "not replaceable," and that "as a result of this incident, the company will no longer loan guitars to movies under any circumstances." 

  • As it turns out, making a movie is incredibly expensive. Whether a director needs to hire artists to design CGI explosions or create miniature sets to play with, the bill racks up fast. As Christopher Nolan found out while making Tenet, sometimes it's more cost-effective to just do the thing instead of faking the thing. 

    While filming Tenet, Nolan found himself in need of a plane to blow up. He ran the numbers and decided that it would be less expensive to just buy an actual plane and blow it up, so that's what he did. Popular Mechanics estimated that to buy the shell of an airplane and blow it up would only cost about $100,000 - pennies compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars allotted for the budgets of films like Nolan's. 

  • In The Dark Knight, the Joker famously wiped out Gotham Hospital. The scene is well-known for a common internet myth that alleged Heath Ledger improvised a portion of the scene - in which the hospital didn't blow up right away (this isn't true).

    What is true, and possibly even more impressive, is that the filmmakers really did destroy a very real building when filming the scene. The building in question was an abandoned candy factory in Chicago. Blowing up this abandoned building required participation from two dozen different government agencies

  • Spectre, the most recent James Bond movie, was the most expensive Bond movie ever put to film. Part of that cost was the film's destruction of seven customized Aston Martin DB10 sports cars. The cost of destroying these cars for one chase scene? $37 million, according to Fortune. That makes up just a fraction of the film's $245 million budget. 

    The film's chief stunt coordinator spoke of the destruction, saying, "In Rome, we wrecked millions of pounds worth. They were going into the Vatican at top speeds of 110 miles per hour. We [filmed] one entire night for four seconds of film."