As one of the biggest cities in the world, the bustling, metropolitan hub of London was always going to be a target to nefarious ne'er do wells intent on bringing society screeching to a halt. As such, whenever movie megalomaniacs are intent on spreading as much terror as possible, they look to London and its numerous landmarks as a backdrop for their catastrophic campaigns. These are the movies that destroyed London, whether by bombs, natural disasters or, erm, dragons…
‘London Has Fallen’ (2016)
“Prepare for bloody hell” says the tagline of Gerard Butler’s London-set action sequel, which sees the capital go the same way as the White House (seasoned Londoners are always prepared, however: commuting to work on the Tube each morning is a lot like jumping on the seventh Circle Line of Hell). The Big Smoke gets torched by terrorists, who – as evidenced by the poster of Big Ben exploding in a shower of glass – hit us where it really hurts: right in our big clock. The Houses of Parliament also get exploded, as does, weirdly, the Thames bridge. Note to terrorists: there’s, like, a dozen bridges that cross the Thames – all you’ve done is add maybe 15 minutes to our commute. You jerks.
'28 Days Later’ (2002)
The nation’s capital is left a barren and empty wasteland in Danny Boyle’s zombie, not-zombie thriller – virus survivor Cillian Murphy is free to wander around a completely deserted London at dawn, free of the usual drunken revellers and people puking into jester hats. The sparse imagery is powerful – an over-turned bus here, a traffic-free Waterloo Bridge there – but once the Rage-infected citizens get Cillian’s scent and the red mists descend en masse, you long for the London that the Londoners had seemingly left behind. In full flow, the infected swarm on the capital like hyperactive post-gig One Direction fans pouring out of the O2. The horror, the horror etc.
'Reign Of Fire’ (2002)
“Well this town’s gone to hell,” says Christian Bale upon witnessing the devastation wreaked upon a scorched London. Natural disasters shmatural disasters – if the capital has to be destroyed, we’d much rather it was turned to ash by MASSIVE DRAGONS than boring old earthquakes. Again, Big Ben is something of a target, as the dragons give the old boy a medium flambé, and Westminster Abbey is left charred and burned. At the very least, it’d be cool to watch. Then a bit warmer. Then you’d be on fire. Then dead. So, you know, short-term thrill.
'V For Vendetta’ (2006)
Justice takes a kicking in this Wachowski-penned epic, as London’s Old Bailey criminal court building is lit up on fireworks night by mysterious masked man V to the banging tune of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. The main event, however, happens the following year: along with his vigilante padawan Evey (Natalie Portman), V loads up a tube train with enough explosives to make Guy Fawkes think twice and ploughs it into the Houses of Parliament, finishing what Fawkes himself never could. The symbolism of V’s anarchic visage has since been co-opted by internet geeks in masks, who aren’t (yet) capable of destroying cities, but man, they’ll spam your website if you ever make them angry.
'G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ (2013)
Damn, Cobra – what did our fair city ever do to you? London is destroyed almost as an afterthought in this highly silly action romp but is never mentioned again, despite the presumed deaths of millions of people. The destruction is localised around the Thames (more landmarks to destroy, see?) as a bomb is dropped on Waterloo from space, obliterating the London Eye and other great tourism destinations. Later in the movie, Cobra are stopped and AMERICA: THE GREATEST NATION IN THE WORLD saves the day, but nobody even sheds a tear for all the poor tourists who just wanted to visit the London Aquarium on a wet Wednesday.
The Battle Of Britain (1969)
This time, the destruction was real. Michael Caine’s 1969 war film 'The Battle Of Britain’ took to the skies to witness the bombing of London as we see the bombs drop from the point of view of the Luftwaffe. Explosion after explosion riddles the capital’s skyline, but from a mile high, along with the gentle hum of the German aircraft, the destruction of London seems almost small and pedestrian, especially compared to some of the OTT sequences elsewhere in this list. Only the odd shot from ground level – buildings collapsing, Tower Bridge ablaze – remind you of the level of damage dealt by the Nazis.
'The Time Machine’ (1960)
The destruction wrought upon London in this adaptation of the HG Wells classic is described by Rod Taylor’s inventor as “a labour of centuries, gone in an instant”. Special effects weren’t quite what they are today back in the '60s (let’s just say Roland Emmerich was born at the right time) but the effect is still quite mesmerising: Taylor stands back to watch a 'futuristic’ London implode from a nuclear warhead, with Mother Nature retaliating with a few volcanoes thrown in for good measure. If only he had some sort of 'time travel’ machine’ to undo all the carnage. Oh well.
'The Lost World’ (1925)
“It’s running wild… the streets are in an uproar! My brontosaurus has escaped!” A particularly low-tech destruction of London it may be, but the dinosaur rampage in this silent movie adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s seminal tome still impresses, considering it was made 90 years ago. The errant Bronto terrifies crowds of onlookers before wandering leisurely through the capital, knocking down buildings and eventually collapsing Tower Bridge with its sheer weight. It’s a bit like the scene in Steven Spielberg’s The Lost World where the T-Rex invades San Francisco, except British and with cutesy plinky-plonky piano on the soundtrack.
'The Core’ (2003)
The most hilarious signifier of impending destruction comes via this 2003 disaster movie, which sees the core of the Earth stop spinning. The first creatures to know what’s up are the capital’s pigeons – yes, seriously – who respond to the Earth’s slowing rotation by going Full Hitchcock and waging a sort of air-to-land kamikaze campaign on the citizens of London, dive-bombing office buildings, landmarks and British cabbies who say things like “Move you bloody idiot!” See, the end of the world isn’t depressing – it’s properly hilarious, too! Next time you see a pigeon that looks suspicious… run.
'Star Trek Into Darkness’ (2013)
Even though it basically amounts to the blowing up of a library – “Not our books!” is right up there with “Not our big clock!” in terms of underwhelming collateral damage – the 'Star Trek Into Darkness’ scene in which Noel Clarke destroys London’s 'Kelvin Memorial Archive’ is notable because it contains scenes of futuristic destruction. It’s actually a rather subtle and well composed scene, pulling back from the flames engulfing the London 2.0 skyline to focus on a photo of the little girl whose life’s worth was deemed more than the poor sods who perished while perusing the Young Adult section.
Image credits: Rex Features/YouTube