EDITORIAL: The best movie firefighters and fire scenes

Once again, another obscure "editorial initiative" has come down the pike from my editors at Examiner.com.  This time around the focus is on "wildfires."  While normally their initiatives have no ties whatsoever to my department of Arts and Entertainment, this time around, the suggestion was to showcase movies dealing with firefighters or wildfires.  In putting my own twists, as always, to these writing topics, I figured another pair of "Best of" lists could be done.  If you can't tell already, I don't pass up too many writing challenges.  This editorial will spotlight a list of the best movie fires and the best firefighter movies.  Since there aren't exactly ten awesome firefighter movies without really scraping the bottom of the cinematic barrel (it's bad enough Howie Long made the list already), we'll keep these two "Best of" lists to five instead of ten.  To avoid overlap (with firefighter movies naturally having excellent fire scenes), I excluded firefighter-centered movies from the first list of best movie fire scenes.  I feel firefighter movies stand on their own and that there are some excellent, poignant, and memorable movie fire scenes without firefighters around.  Please be sure to check out the fun links to the videos of those scenes.  I wanted to give those some good attention.  Enjoy!


1.  Gone With the Wind-- The 1939 classic does a great job with old-school special effects in depicting General Sherman's burning of Atlanta.  The wide shots and silhouettes are well-done in a big signature scene from the most-watched movie of all-time.  (scene)

2.  Carrie-- The ending prom night scene is more known for the humiliating bucket of blood more than the fire, but this scene is the culmination of Carrie's (Sissy Spacek) abilities and emotional limit.  Great stuff!  (scene)

3.  Bambi--  For many children across many generations, this was probably the first and scariest movie fire they ever saw.  Even though it's animated, the immense forest fire is important, meaningful, and very suspenseful to the story.  (scene)

4.  Inglourious Basterds and The Artist-- Two of the best movie fires happened within the last three years and involved the same fuel: highly flammable celluloid film.  In Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, the film kindling is unsuspectingly used to raze a theater full of trapped Nazis to great effect for revenge.  In this year's recent Oscar winner for Best Picture,The Artist, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), at the end of his rope, furiously sets his old film reels on fire in a dire scene, only to be later saved by his trusty dog and the woman who loves him (Berenice Bajo).  (scene)

5.  Citizen Kane-- The fire in history's most revered film is stationery, but crucial to the movie's revelations about its main character.  With Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) now deceased his legal caretakers going through his vast possessions are trying to determine the meaning of his final word "Rosebud."  The answer goes up in smoke.  (scene)


1.  Backdraft--  I'm showing my big brother and Chicago bias here, but you're not going to talk me out of Backdraft in the top spot.  I love this movie.  For me, it's a "guy cry" special.  Director Ron Howard, years before Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and The Da Vinci Code, amps up the drama and heroics to the max. Give me William Baldwin and Kurt Russell and brawny theatrics over Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta's post-9/11 heroics and sorrow anytime.  (trailer)

2.  Ladder 49--  With Backdraft on top, that doesn't mean Ladder 49 isn't a good movie.  The film is excellent and does a great job showing the realistic heroism and job dynamics of modern firefighters.  Ladder 49 struck a great chord with the post-9/11 audience and deservedly so.  (trailer)

3.  The Towerning Inferno--  This well-known 1970s-era disaster film centers its peril around a ill-equipped skyscraper that is burning out of control.  With Paul Newman as the architect on the inside, he teams up with fire chief Steve McQueen to get everyone safely out and look macho doing it in the process.  The movie literally led to real-life tall building changing their fire codes and procedures.  Nice work!  (trailer)

4.  Frequency-- This under-appreciated time-bending movie from 2000 isn't directly about firefighters, but has a heck of a firefighter character in Dennis Quaid, opposite his cop son, Jim Caviezel.  The firefighting scenes hold up well and add to an already great premise of twists and turns.  It also goes to show that even a movie with a few good characters that just happen to be firefighters is better than the entire resume of the #5 movie on this list.  (trailer)

5.  Firestorm-- And now the moment you've all been waiting for.  Any list with Howie Long as an actor has to be a list worthy of attention.  Cheesy or not and no matter how terrible the result, this technically is the best Hollywood movie about wildfires and "smokejumpers" (crazy firefighters who parachute into the ground level area of forest fires).  That part of the action-fest is good.  It's the attempted prison break that brings all of the preposterous tailspin to Firestorm.  (trailer)