LA, as the location of choice for many a Hollywood blockbuster, has been demolished, nuked, invaded, obliterated and torn asunder more times than just about any other place on the planet. Declan Cashin takes a look the flicks that wreaked most havoc on LA.

Los Angeles: the city of angels, official residence of the Tinseltown dream factory, and home to the some of the world’s most beautiful and famous – or just beautifully infamous – people… It’s also one of the most dangerous places on earth to live, at least according to the movies. 

Why LA, you might ask? It may be down to simple lack of imagination and laziness on the part of Hollywood writers and directors. Or perhaps the staggering level of carnage heaped upon that city is an outward expression of those same insiders’ subconscious loathing of the place. Who knows for sure?

What we do know is that California’s most populous and iconic constituency is in line for another cinematic pummelling in Battle: Los Angeles (March 11th) in which a marine platoon fight off a rampaging alien invasion.

With that in mind, sifts through the rubble to find some of the flicks that wreaked most havoc on the blighted city of Los Angeles.

The War of the Worlds:
The original 1953 adaptation of HG Wells alien invasion story saw LA plunged into darkness by an electromagnetic pulse bomb, before full-on annihilation brought on by an a failed US army atomic attack on the alien camp and subsequent war between man and Martian. Yes, that’d do it alright. See also the 2010 sci-fi actioner Skyline.

Guess what force levels the city in this archetypal 1974 disaster movie? Take a moment, we’ll wait. A sprawling cast of characters, played by, amongst others, Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and Walter Matthau, try to escape tottering skyscrapers, dodge catastrophically damaged LA infrastructure, and deal with the small matter of a dam that’s about to blow and bury the city in water. The final shot of the movie showing LA to be completely destroyed is a classic.


The Terminator/T2: Judgement Day/Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines/Terminator Salvation
In the year 2029, LA is a city that could be charitably described as ‘post-apocalyptic’. Cyborgs have destroyed most of the human race necessitating that Arnie go back in time to the present day (1984) to kill the mother of pesky (future) resistance fighter John Connors. In the all-guns-blazing 1991 sequel, we learn that LA is wiped out by a nuclear detonation, which is subsequently depicted in part three, and its consequences seen in Salvation. 

Independence Day/The Day After Tomorrow/2012:
Roland Emmerich really has it in for Los Angelinos. In Independence Day, the city is obliterated in the alien onslaught (to be fair, so are many other major locations), while in The Day After Tomorrow various natural disasters caused by global warming lay waste to the city (one of the most memorable scenes being a giant cyclone engulfing and spitting out the Hollywood sign – there must a metaphor in there somewhere). Finally, Emmerich split the city into pieces and sent most of it plunging into the sea – along with John Cusack’s credibility – in 2012. 

An earthquake hits LA, prompted by the emergence of a hitherto dormant volcano beneath the city. The La Brea Tar Pits spit and heave, a subway is derailed, and fireballs are sent flying in all directions, before lava starts spewing onto the streets and all hell breaks loose. As the movie’s tagline cryptically teased: “This year [1997], the coast is toast”. 

Transformers 1 to (presumably) 3:
The city becomes the personal wreaking ground for the Autobots and the Decepticons in their epic battles for supremacy, while plot, logic, and audience patience come in for an even more severe battering.

In telling the tale of ‘The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down’ (as Homer Simpson put it), Speed quite literally tore through the highways and busy streets of LA, wrecking all and sundry in its path, before crashing the exploding bus into a plane at LAX airport and causing a subway to crash through its barriers onto the street, just in time for Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock to engage in some post-carnage necking underneath it all. See also Crank and Crank: High Voltage (aka ‘The Man Who Couldn’t Slow Down 1 and 2′).

Okay, so it’s not technically a movie (yet), but for six of its eight series, LA came in for what Barack Obama would call ‘an awful shellacking’ as CTU agent/rogue vigilante/Republican Neo-Con wet dream Jack Bauer battled one terrorist plot after another including, but not limited to, several presidential assassinations and attempts, a biological and chemical attack, and an actual nuclear detonation in the city, a plot development that should be deemed a worthy modern successor to the TV term ‘jump the shark’ (‘to nuke LA’ = an absurd storyline/development that marks a TV show’s artistic decline and from which it can never recover).

Grease 2:
Michelle Pfeiffer sings in LA’s most musical school Rydell High causing all kinds of damage.

Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles:
Paul Hogan and young moppet son try to adjust to life in the city after living in the Aussie Outback with hilarious* consequences. Oh the horror, the horror!
* solicitors advise us to clarify that said description is still being investigated under the Trade Descriptions Act.

Honorable mentions:
Resident Evil: Afterlife (LA wiped out by virus epidemic);
Zombieland (city over-run and destroyed by, true to its title, zombies);
Strange Days and Blade Runner (both specialising in horrible visions of a future LA);
and The Omega Man (last man alive following biological attack battles mutant LA zombies).

BATTLE LOS ANGELES hits Irish cinemas on March 11th 2011
Words – Declan Cashin