Escape from New York (1981)
By the time John Carpenter's flick—set in the dystopian future of...1997—begins, New York is a shell of its former self. Manhattan has been transformed into a giant prison, and its up to eye-patch-wearing badass Kurt Russell to rescue the kidnapped American President while avoiding baddies and land mines. Spoiler alert: They hit a lot of land mines.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Chaos erupts at a football stadium as explosions ravage the field and an eerie silence blankets "Gotham City." Cars flip over and buildings burst into flames, but it's the successive collapse of the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges that terrifies locals the most. [Shiver]
Nic Cage deserves a lifetime pass for his amazing turns in Raising Arizona and Adaptation, but damn, does he make it tough to defend him by starring in nonsense like this. Cage plays a professor who tries to stop the world from ending. He can't. So he takes his anger out on a tree. and then a massive wave of flames engulfs NYC. The end.
The Avengers (2012)
Midtown is pretty much reduced to smoke and rubble during the Avengers' showdown with Loki and his missle-launching Chitauri army. Our super-attractive bunch of justice fighters manage to save the city from complete annihilation, but not before taxis are overturned and buildings are blasted. The estimated real-life damage, according to The Hollywood Reporter? $160 billion.
The monster in Matt Reeves' found-footage shaky-cam thriller gives Godzilla a run for his money. Not only does this creature take out the Brooklyn Bridge with his tail, he also decapitates Lady Liberty, launching her noggin into Manhattan.
King Kong (1933)
After being chained to a Broadway stage for ticketholders to gawk at, the big guy breaks free, tramples through the streets and rips a train from its tracks...all in the hopes of seeing his beloved Ann Darrow (Fay Wray). He manages to ascend the Empire State Building with the damsel in hand, and the reunion ends when he's shot and crashes onto 34th Street. But was he the real monster? Or was it us all along?!? Heavy.
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Deep Impact, A.I. Artificial Intelligence... Hollywood really digs completely flooding our city. In this Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle, scientists' most frightening predictions about global warming come to fruition, as waves engulf the Statue of Liberty and slam up against Manhattan's skyscrapers. The safest place in town, it turns out, is the New York Public Library. (See? Reading is good for you!)
Independence Day (1996)
The aliens in this ridiculous (and ridiculously lucrative) '90s blockbuster do not come in peace. In NYC, cars (so many cars) catapult toward screaming earthlings—seemingly for no other reason than to satiate moviegoers' love of watching shit fly through the air. Onlooker Harvey Fierstein sums it up best: As a laser torches the Empire State Building, he lowers his gigantic cell phone and says, "Oh...crap."
Nothing cures the blues quite like an orange-mocha Frappuccino, Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and playfully spraying gasoline on your pals. The joy for this group of male models, alas, is fleeting: Derek Zoolander's horseplaying rommies light up, and boom: that's a wrap on them—and one Manhattan street corner. But at least the tragedy unearths a profound realization for our hero: "Just because we have chiseled abs and stunning features, it doesn't mean that we too can't not die in a freak gasoline-fight accident." Ain't that the truth.
Don't let his friendly face fool you: Despite the beaming smile and jaunty nautical ensemble, the cuddly-looking brand mascot known as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is a total dick when he's supersized, wreaking havoc as he stomps through Columbus Circle and crushes a church on Central Park West. Luckily, Bill Murray's Dr. Venkman has him all figured out: "This Mr. Stay Puft is okay. He's a sailor, he's in New York. We get this guy laid, we won't have any trouble."