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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

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) - climbed by King Kong in the 1976 remake of King Kong. Exploded and collapsed after being hit by a fragment of the Meteor (1979). Leaped onto from a failing helicopter in Read or Die (May 2001). Used as a makeshift runway by Snake Plissken in Escape from New York (1981). Severely damaged by meteor shower in Armageddon (1998) and severely damaged by an ocean wave (from comet impact) in Deep Impact. The roof of the World Trade Center was also the original scene of the final climax in the movie 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. It was also used prominently in the 1973 film version of Godspell during the song "All For the Best". 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) In the film Home Alone 2 (1992) Kevin Mcallister stops there while sight seeing.
  • Chrysler Building (New York City 1930) - accidentally destroyed by U.S. military forces in Godzilla (1998); destroyed by a meteorite in Armageddon (1998); flown through by the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007).
  • MetLife Building-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.
  • 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. Many more of Melbournes towers and buildings are featured throughout the movie.
  • Sydney Tower (Sydney 2004) - 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.

Fictional skyscrapers

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 (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 one million one hundred ten thousand dollars 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.
  • 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.

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