Skyscrapers in film

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Skyscrapers are frequently featured in films for their impressive appearance and potent symbolism. They convey an impression of power – an old movie and TV cliché starts with the outside view of a skyscraper with a voice-over conversation, continuing inside the luxurious office of a tycoon or crime boss.

Skyscrapers' tight security and isolation from the rest of the city makes them ideal for dramatic crisis and trap situations including hostage-taking, heists and fire. Skyscrapers and other large landmarks also feature prominently in disaster films, where they are destroyed as a show of the power of nature or invaders.

Real skyscrapers[edit]

This is a list of actual skyscrapers that have a noticeable role as themselves in films, sorted by chronological building order. (See also: list of skyscrapers.)

  • World Trade Center (New York City 1973) - Used prominently in the 1973 film version of Godspell during the song "All For the Best." Climbed by King Kong in the 1976 remake of King Kong. Exploded and collapsed after being hit by a fragment of the Meteor (1979). Used as a makeshift runway by Snake Plissken in Escape from New York (1981). In the film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) Kevin Mcallister stops at the building while sightseeing. The towers are also seen in various scenes of the smash hit movie 'Die Hard With A Vengeance' Severely damaged by meteor shower in Armageddon (1998) and severely damaged by an ocean wave (from comet impact) in Deep Impact. Leaped onto from a failing helicopter in Read or Die (May 2001). The roof of the World Trade Center was also the original scene of the final climax in the film Men in Black II (2002), but after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the producers chose to reshoot the scene with an "ordinary" roof in New York City. In Steven Spielberg's movie Munich (2005), there is a scene in the last minutes of the film where two men are walking with the New York City skyline in the background. Because the scene takes place before the World Trade Center fell, a digital version of the World Trade Center was added to the New York skyline. In the 2006 film World Trade Center, the World Trade Center is seen, but is animated (or created with pictures from the time before 9/11). The building was the setting of 2008's Academy Award-winning documentary, Man on Wire, about tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring 1974 walk between the towers. At the end of Gangs of New York (2002), the towers are visible in the background of the scene showing time passing from the 19th century to the present.
  • MetLife Building (New York City 1963) - featured in its original guise as the Pan Am Building in the opening scenes of Only When I Larf (1968), and the helipad is also used in the characters' escape; destroyed first by Godzilla when he walked through the building leaving a massive gap in it in the film Godzilla (1998). It was later destroyed in Knowing (2009) when a solar flare anhilates all of earth.
  • Sunset Vine Tower (Los Angeles 1966) - Damaged by fire in 2001, the tower was recently remodeled and converted into condominiums. The Sunset Vine Tower was prominently featured in 1974'sEarthquake, earning it the affectionate moniker "The Earthquake Tower" by Angelinos.
  • Taipei 101 (Taipei 2004) - while not yet featured in a major international film as of 2004, in local productions it is fast becoming an Eiffel Tower-like cliché that the view from every Taipei apartment includes Taipei 101.
  • Rialto Tower (Melbourne 1986) - featured in Ghost Rider (2007). The Ghost Rider is seen riding vertically up the tower to elude the authorities.
  • Sydney Tower (Sydney 1981) - destroyed by the monster Zilla in the Japanese film Godzilla: Final Wars. Also destroyed by meteors in the Hallmark film Supernova, which was released in 2005.
  • Woolworth Building (New York City 1913) - The Woolworth Building was one of the buildings near the mysterious explosion and the first structure to be destroyed by the creature in the 2008 film Cloverfield. The main characters were among the dozens of people present when it collapsed. It also appears near the latter part of the 2007 Disney movie "Enchanted" where the main protagonists attending a costume ball at the building's summit meet the wicked queen of Andalasia and figure in a duel leading them outside to the roof of the building. The Neo-Gothic details of the Woolworth Building's spire (designed by Architect Cass Gilbert) are discernible despite the night-time duel scene between the dragon-morphed evil queen and the protagonists.

Fictional skyscrapers[edit]

This is a list of named fictional skyscrapers that have a noticeable role in films (including notable science-fiction and fantasy), sorted by chronological filming order. In some cases, an actual building stands for the fictional one; in others, they are created using elaborate miniature models.

  • New Tower of Babel (Metropolis) - chief among the gothic skyscrapers of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927). The cityscape of Metropolis was inspired from Lang's trip to Manhattan and was, in turn, an inspiration for several dystopian science-fiction films including Blade Runner and Dark City.
  • Seacoast National Bank Building (New York City) - this 100-story, Empire State Building-inspired tower is the center of a power struggle in Skyscraper Souls (1932), as ruthless banker David Dwight attempts to gain full control of the skyscraper.
  • Wynand Building (New York City) - the creation of the uncompromising, objectivist architect Howard Roark, it features in the film adaptation of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (1949). The world's tallest, it is the culmination of Roark's ambition, "the will of man made visible."
  • Glass Tower and Peerless Building (San Francisco) - this 138-story office/residential tower, the new "tallest building in the world", is the setting of The Towering Inferno (1974). In the film, the guests of the top-floor opening ceremony are trapped by a fire that broke out due to faulty wiring. The idea of the "world's tallest" was featured in both novels on which the film was based, and was inspired, ironically, by New York's World Trade Center which was completed the year before the movie's release. Filmed prior to the widespread use of Digital CGI, the Glass Tower was actually a series of half inch and inch scale models. The miniatures cost $1,110,000 and the tallest of these was 70 feet high and was guyed off in all four directions and filmed against a blue screen on the concrete floor of Sersen Lake at the Twentieth Century Fox Ranch in Malibu, California. Similarly, five floors of the building were built in full scale at the same facility for close up shooting of action scenes. The building's name was a combination of "The Glass House" from The Glass Inferno and "The World Tower" from The Tower.
  • Tyrell Corporation Headquarters (Los Angeles) - the immense truncated pyramid-shaped structure, flanked by inwardly-slanted towers, dominates the cityscape of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982). The futuristic city has been described as a place where the height of the World Trade Center had become the norm, filled with buildings hundreds of stories tall, with Tyrell's pyramid being six or seven times the height of the WTC and at least a hundred times more massive [1]. Main protagonist Deckard himself lives on the 97th floor of a generic building.
  • Nakatomi Plaza (Los Angeles) - taken over by terrorists in the classic action film Die Hard (1988). The building is actually Fox Plaza, 20th Century Fox's Los Angeles headquarters. The Japanese name of this and other fictional buildings (such as Nakamoto Tower in 1993's Rising Sun) provides an interesting window on the 1980s mindset that Japanese corporations would take over the world's economy and real estate, especially after the real-life acquisition of Rockefeller Center by a Mitsubishi subsidiary (completed in 1989). In fact there have been relatively few such takeovers, and few if any U.S. skyscrapers were ever actually named after Japanese corporations.
  • Galactic Senate Building (Coruscant) - one of the innumerable towers covering the fictional city-planet of Coruscant from the Star Wars universe, first seen on film in the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi (1997), then in the Star Wars prequels. On Coruscant, buildings are used as the foundations for new buildings that actually pierce the cloud layer. The fifty lower levels form a dangerous underworld where ordinary citizens never go. The city-planet was inspired by Trantor in Isaac Asimov's Foundation saga.
  • The Zitex building, the titular tower of the 1996 film Skyscraper.
  • OCP Tower in RoboCop. The building was portrayed by the Dallas City Hall with the building's upper floors added in via special effects as the actual city hall building is only 7 stories tall.
  • Tower Sky, a fictional 448m, 108-story high twin tower complex in Seoul, South Korea, in the 2012 disaster film The Tower. As stated in the film, tower A was called Riverview, and tower B was called Cityview, with over 5700 residents, it was South Korea's biggest residential complex. In the film, the owner of the complex decided to hold a Christmas party and had 10 helicopters circling above the building, despite the warnings of the owner's employees. On the Christmas Eve, one of the helicopters crashed into tower A. The crash also damaged the structure of the bridge connecting the twin tower, making the characters unable to escape to tower B.

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