A history of blowing up national landmarks in the movies.

Previously published Slate articles made new.
Oct. 6 2009 3:03 PM

What Does Roland Emmerich Have Against the White House?

A history of destroying national landmarks on film.

Click here for a video slide show on the history of destroying landmarks in movies.

Director Roland Emmerich has blown up the White House with a laser beam ( Independence Day), drowned the entire island of Manhattan with a tidal wave ( The Day After Tomorrow), and leveled half of New York with a giant lizard ( Godzilla). But that's almost romantic-comedy fare compared with his upcoming disaster-porn flick, 2012, in which the entire world is destroyed (judging by the newly released trailer) on Dec. 21, 2012, as foretold by an ancient Mayan prophecy. ("Mankind's earliest civilization," the intro to the trailer reads, "warned us this day would come.")

Mass suicides, falling meteors, earthquakes, crumbling highways and buildings, and whole cities sinking. The money shot shows a massive tidal wave carrying an aircraft carrier—the USS John F. Kennedy—straight into ... the White House. (What does Emmerich have against 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.?) Though Emmerich might be our generation's greatest proponent of blowing up monuments, he's only the latest in a venerated cinematic tradition. Last summer, Keith Phipps put together a video slide show, accessible below, tracing the history of the destruction of national landmarks, beginning with Deluge, released in 1933, all the way to G.I. Joe and most of Roland Emmerich's oeuvre. "Movies," Keith writes, "have depicted mass destruction almost from the beginning."

Click here to watch a slide-show essay about the destruction of landmarks in movies.

Keith Phipps is a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor specializing in film and other aspects of pop culture.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in the New Yorker. It’s Not Good.

Brow Beat

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 7:13 PM Deadly Advice When it comes to Ebola, ignore American public opinion: It’s ignorant and misinformed about the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 6:32 PM Taylor Swift’s Pro-Gay “Welcome to New York” Takes Her Further Than Ever From Nashville 
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.