5. Gandalf’s dragon firework in The Lord Of The Rings
If there’s anyone who knows how to pull off a killer fireworks show, it’s a wizard. The bonus is that even if things go wrong, with all that hair on their heads it will surely be delightful to watch. It’s surprising that Gandalf even goes near a pipe – but considering the primo wizard stash he no doubt carries it’s probably worth that risk.
The dragon firework, which is prematurely let off its chain in Fellowship, has to be the most perfect firework ever created. It covers all four stages: anticipation, delight, mortal terror, and finally celebration. Terror is a very important one – it’s the magical moment where the sparks begin to descend and everyone realizes, for only a second, how irresponsible the whole event is. It’s childishness on a massive scale. But before you can truly register this, another firework goes pummeling upward and it starts all over again.
Fireworks are why birds shit on us.
4. The Phoenix in Star Trek: First Contact
Nothing better shows the spirit of American ingenuity than a half-drunk yahoo moving faster than sound through the clouds in the hopes of breaking a speed record. Throw in rock and roll and two Starfleet officers who’ve traveled back in time and you’ve got yourself a great moment in Star Trek history. First Contact wasn’t the best by far – but it filled in a great piece of the Trek timeline by showing us the moment when Zefram Cochrane tested the very first warp drive, drawing attention to Earth and causing our first ever contact with aliens. It’s a cool story, and we also get to see Worf kill some Borg and Troy get drunk – all good things.
Interesting bit of information about Cochrane – while the role was written with James Cromwell in mind, they did almost go with another actor: Tom Hanks, who happened to be a big Trek fan. Turns out that Hanks had a previous commitment and couldn’t do it, and while a lot of people (including director/Riker Jonathan Frakes) thought it was ultimately for the best, it would have been neat to see Hanks in the Trek universe.
3. The Space Ark in When Worlds Collide
They just had to be different, didn’t they? When everyone was going all nuts over rockets launching vertically into the sky, the makers of When Worlds Collide went ahead and reverse-bobsleded that shit. But hey – it got them an Academy Award out of the deal so the joke’s on us.
What makes this film so badass is that it has almost all the typical space-disaster staples in it long before they were popularized. Everything – the lone scientist pleading with world leaders only to be laughed at, the threat of extinction and the race against time to build escape ships whose occupants are selected by a lottery, young lovers who are separated by said lottery, and people heroically sacrificing their seats. It really sets the stage for many of the extinction porn we see today – if only the rocket sled track thing caught on, that would be boss to see done with modern visual effects. The characters also wore these killer space-robes, which should totally be a thing.
2. Johnny Knoxville’s Big Red Rocket in Jackass Number Two
If there were a human on this earth that perfectly represents the freedom our founding fathers had in mind when fighting for the United States, it’s Johnny Knoxville. No other person is so happy doing something so unwise, and the image of this man strapped to a big stupid rocket is more American than the flag itself.
The funniest thing about Jackass is the outrage people have for it – not the superficial outrage mind you; there’s nothing wrong with finding their stunts upsetting or too gross to watch or anything like that – I’m talking about the people who see Jackass as some kind of sign that our country has gone downhill. People who throw up their arms about Jackass because its violent displays of fleeting comedic physicality have clearly never seen a Buster Keaton film or a vaudeville or side show act. Like the daredevils and freaks before them, Jackass scratches a very traditional itch in our country.
1. The Saturn V in Apollo 13
No denying this launch for a few reasons – firstly, it’s an amazing moment of movie visual effects, and secondly, while it’s badass enough to watch any movie character get launched into space –it’s a whole other enchilada when it’s something that actually happened. Seriously – can you imagine it? It’s space! They went into space! It doesn’t matter what happens to them after that, hell, just getting off the launch pad is beyond Fonzie-cool. There’s no way that you can fail after that moment. Sure – they had some problems up there, but even so – the worst-case scenario in space is that you die, and dying in space is 10 times more badass than doing anything on earth. It’s win-win.
This is why we need this NASA business: it’s not about doing something useful with the effort but rather proving to ourselves, God, and any snot-nosed alien out there that we don’t need air to have a good time. It’s about working a job that requires a 50 million budget and five-star actors, directors, and producers to recreate. Ron Howard sure as shit isn’t interesting in recreating just anybody’s boring work week – so we need to crank it up. Let’s get our ass to Mars. Go America!
What’s your favorite movie rocket?