The Most Expensive Movie Scenes

Hollywood has long been known for the expensive and impressive movies its directors are keen to make. The budget of just one movie of such directors as Michael Bay can probably surpass the budget of a small country; considering the mostly-entertaining nature of Hollywood cinematography, it generally means that visual effects and stunts in modern movies are amazing. Leaving aside the fact that even the most expensive movies with the most impressive visuals can still be poorly received by critics (like “Pearl Harbor” or the recent “Batman vs. Superman,” it is difficult to deny that Hollywood has created a number of movie scenes that will most likely remain in the history of cinema forever.

One of the best movie franchises released within the recent two decades, “The Matrix” by the Wachowski brothers/sisters, along with the deep ideas it introduces, can boast of eye-candy visuals and epic scales of action. Bringing the astonishing $735 million at the worldwide box office, “The Matrix Reloaded,” in particular—the second movie in the franchise—has brought fighting action movies to a whole new level, and the proof of it is the infamous scene involving Neo fighting a horde of agent Smiths. It has become the most expensive movie scene in the history of Hollywood (and probably cinematography), mostly because of the incredible amount of high-end CGI used in it. These visual effects look rather good even in 2016, and back in 2003, when the movie was released, they were simply the best. Which, in its turn, caused extensive expenses to be used: about 40% (a reported $40 million) of the whole movie’s budget was spent on this 17 minutes scene. The scene had been worked on for 27 days, and even today it is difficult, if impossible, to find a more or less adequate analogue to it (TheRichest.com).

Yet another impressive and expensive movie scene belongs to “The Matrix Reloaded.” The highway pursuit at the end of the film costed its creators about $2.5 million; seemingly not too much, unless you keep in mind the fact that in order to shoot this scene, a whole freeway had been built especially for the movie. As a construction site on an abandoned military base had been used, the military allowed the film crew to build a 1.5 miles long highway, 20 feet walls, and an off ramp. So, even if financially this scene might be not the most expensive one, it is definitely epic in terms of labor and administrative resources used for its creation (HelloTravel).

“Inception” by Christopher Nolan is also an example of a movie in which certain scenes are expensive and resource-consuming not just in terms of money spent on their creation. Christopher Nolan is one of the few directors who, in the age of CGI, still prefers to create the majority of visual effects in his movies in reality, not on the green screen. The scene in which a freight train comes down a street full of cars, crashing and smashing them, for example, does not involve any computer graphics (except the effect of damage the train’s wheels deal to the road, but this one is easy to miss); in order to film it, the movie creators had to build a realistic train around a semi with an extended axle, and drive it through a real street. Certainly, the cars smashed by the locomotive were also real (Listverse).

The film “Swordfish” included a scene worth $13 million, and involved a helicopter flying around Los Angeles with a bus attached to it, and resulting in a building exploding and collapsing. This scene required hard work and heavy editing and montage, because some moments could not be filmed without risking other people’s lives (for example, the movie creators had a group of people sit in a bus located in front of a green screen, while a helicopter was attached to a crane above it). Unfortunately, this scene had to be removed from the movie when shown in theaters, because of the exploding building—this happened after September 11, 2001. But anyways, this scene remains one of the most expensive in Hollywood’s history (TheRichest.com).

As it can be seen, movie directors do not hesitate to throw around enormous amounts of money to create movie scenes that would enter into the hearts of an audience, even if these scenes alone are few and take little of the overall movie time. Neo’s fight with agent Smiths in “The Matrix Reloaded” lasts for only 17 minutes, but was worth around $40 million; Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” depicts a scene that, although being far less costly, is still expensive in terms of the labor used to create it: a real, non-CGI train driving down a busy street and smashing real cars is something you do not see in every movie. Finally, “Swordfish,” another famous movie, included a ridiculously expensive ($13 million) scene of a helicopter flying around a city with a bus hanging down from it; the fact that this scene had to be deleted from the theatrical version of the movie makes it even more expensive, in a sense.

Works Cited

  1. Fyer-Morrel, Veronica. “Hollywood’s 5 Most Expensive Movie Scenes Ever.” TheRichest. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
  2. “8 of the Most Expensive Movie Sets Ever Made.” HelloTravel. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
  3. Short, Aaron. “10 Ridiculous Movie Sets Created For a Single Scene.” Listverse. N.p., 02 Mar. 2015. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
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