Here's a novel approach to movie explosions: Make your whole movie about the very real and incredibly dangerous possibility of an explosion, leaving the audience at the edge of their seats and unable to relax. Then, when the explosion finally does come, it can be as simple as a man's tobacco getting blown out of his hands-this can have as much impact as all the dynamite you can buy. That's Henri-Georges Clouzot's approach in his nerve-jangling thriller "The Wages of Fear," about trucks loaded with nitroglycerine crossing highly unstable terrain.
"Touch of Evil"
Another movie explosion more famous for the build-up than the actual bang, Orson Welles' noir thriller opens on a close up of a ticking time-bomb being placed into some poor sap's car, before the car drives off and the camera follows it in one unbroken more-than-three-minute shot. It's impressive filmmaking, and the explosion itself is pretty impressive too. Just read this unforgettable quote on the subject: "An old lady on Main Street last night picked up a shoe. The shoe had a foot in it." Bang!
Speaking of starting thing's off with a bang, here's Brian De Palma's "The Untouchables," which begins on what appears to be idyllic scene of 1920s America. There's a bartender having a conversation with a sweet little girl. So sweet, she notices when a man leaves his briefcase in the bar, so she grabs it and runs out after him. As you might guess, the briefcase wasn't filled with milk. Unless it was the explosive kind of milk.
For "Terminator 2," James Cameron sought to top his 1984 masterpiece "The Terminator" in every way. He did this with state-of-the-art computer graphics, an extra hour or three of running time, and a more ambitious plot. But he also did it by blowing up a computer factory, and the result is one of the biggest movie explosions captured on film.
"Thelma and Louise"
Ridley Scott is another filmmaker who knows his way around an explosion. One of the biggest and most satisfying can be found in his road-thriller "Thelma and Louise," in which Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon go on the run after killing a rapist. One of the loveable characters they encounter on their cross-country odyssey is a truck driver with a really flexible tongue. They retaliate against his harassment by shooting his truck, which was apparently filled with the same stuff the trucks were hauling in "The Wages of Fear."