Whether emptying the streets of Times Square, wrecking state-of-the-art sports cars for fun, or blowing up real military ships, the movies on this list have invested heavily in solitary scenes. Lasting mere minutes, these sequences are the most expensive movie scenes ever filmed.
Vanilla Sky sets the tone of surreal, reality-questioning confusion from the opening scene. The perfectly groomed, grey-hair-plucking playboy millionaire, David Aames, wakes as Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” aptly lyricizes his life, immaculate, flawless, perfected. Yet as David drives his vintage Ferrari through the streets of New York, the first cracks in this illusion appear.
He drives to Times Square, “The Crossroads of the World” with approximately 330,000 daily passersby. It’s completely empty, not even the faintest hint of the usual hustle and bustle. David wakes, abruptly. It was all a dream, a false awakening, interpreted by his therapist as a metaphor.
At only 30 seconds of screentime, the scene provides a fundamental function in the narrative, questioning the nature of reality, and our relationship to dreams.
Surprisingly, no CGI was used. Instead, director Cameron Crowe struck a deal with the NYPD to close off the area between 5AM and 8AM on a Sunday in November 2000. The result was a spectacular sequence with a spectacular price tag: over $1 million for 30 seconds of footage. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Combining Cruise’s enigmatic star power with the desolate backdrop helps to create a poignancy lacking in the 1997 Spanish-language original, Open Your Eyes.
In I Am Legend, Will Smith roams the post-apocalyptic streets of New York City as Dr. Robert Neville, a virologist attempting to find a cure for the zombie-producing Krippin Virus. To create the feeling of desperate isolation, the film, like Vanilla Sky, has empty streets to match Warner Bros.’ empty wallets. However, a substantial chunk of its $150 million budget was allocated to a much more populated scene, capturing Neville’s tragic separation from his wife and child.
In flashbacks, the audience sees that New York City was evacuated and placed under quarantine during the outbreak. In a race against time, Neville’s family boards a helicopter to escape. Then comes a breathtaking moment of tragedy: the military bombs the Brooklyn Bridge. Keep watching the video to see the most expensive movie scenes ever filmed.
Vanilla Sky – Times Square | 0:00
I Am Legend – bridge collapse | 1:43
Spectre – Rome car chase | 2:59
Superman Returns – return to Krypton | 4:20
The Matrix Reloaded – freeway chase | 5:16
Saving Private Ryan – D-Day landing | 6:35
Transformers: The Last Knight – the junkyard | 7:56
Superman – Krypton | 9:15
Ben-Hur – chariot race | 10:19
Pearl Harbor – the bombing | 11:30
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