top 5 structures featured in movies

Top 5 Structures Featured in Movies

Structures in movies serve as more than just mere backdrops or settings. They play significant roles in storytelling, providing visual spectacle, symbolism, and often becoming iconic elements of the films themselves. Famous structures like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, or the Golden Gate Bridge have been featured in films for decades, becoming instantly recognizable and evoking a sense of familiarity. These landmarks serve as visual shorthand, instantly transporting viewers to iconic locations.

Moreover, structures can become integral to the plot, driving the narrative forward or acting as the focal point of key events. They can be sites of climactic battles, daring chase scenes, or heroic moments. Check out this list of just a few of our favorites. And maybe these structures will inspire you to watch the films.

1. Empire State Building - King Kong (1933) 

empire state

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The Empire State Building and King Kong have a famous connection through popular culture. In the 1933 film "King Kong," the iconic image of the giant ape climbing the Empire State Building has become one of the most recognized scenes in cinema history. The building stands at a height of 1,454 feet (443.2 meters) including its antenna, and it held the record as the world's tallest building for nearly 40 years. Richmond Harold Shreve was the structural engineer of the building. To support the tremendous weight and height of the structure, the Empire State Building utilized a steel frame structural system. 

Additionally, the Empire State Building features a unique design that gradually tapers as it rises, allowing it to be more resistant to wind and reducing the stress on the structure. The engineering achievements of the Empire State Building were remarkable for its time, and it remains an iconic example of early 20th-century skyscraper design and construction.

2. Golden Gate Bridge - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

golden gate

In the movie "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes", there is a significant battle scene that takes place on the Golden Gate Bridge. The battle on the Golden Gate Bridge serves as a climactic moment in the movie, where both sides clash in a struggle for survival and dominance. The apes, led by Caesar, fight against human forces as they try to protect their community and secure their freedom. The Golden Gate Bridge, located in San Francisco, California, was designed by an engineering team led by Joseph B. Strauss and Charles Alton Ellis. 

Ellis's design incorporated several engineering innovations, such as a hybrid bridge type that combined elements of both suspension and cantilever bridges. This unique design approach provided the necessary strength and flexibility to withstand the strong winds, seismic activity, and harsh marine environment of the Golden Gate Strait. The bridge's main span measures approximately 4,200 feet (1,280 meters), making it one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.

3. Arecibo Observatory -  007: GoldenEye (1995)


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In the movie, the Arecibo Observatory is depicted as a key location where a massive radio telescope is housed within a giant dish structure. The facility plays a significant role in the plot as it is used by the villain to control a powerful satellite weapon system called "GoldenEye." The iconic scene involves the destruction of the observatory's massive dish antenna, which collapses during a climactic battle sequence. Sometimes life imitates art because in 2020, the Arecibo Observatory suffered significant damage due to the failure of some of its support cables, leading to the collapse of the main dish structure.

The primary firm responsible for the original design and construction of the observatory was Sverdrup & Parcel, a company specializing in engineering and architectural services. The Arecibo Observatory featured a large spherical reflector which covered an area equivalent to nearly 11 soccer fields. The instrument array of the observatory was suspended above the dish by a network of 18 cables. In the 1990s, additional cables were added to the original design to accommodate a 300-ton increase in the instrument load. In 2018, site operations were awarded to the University of Central Florida until its 2020 decommissioning by the NSF and subsequent collapse.

4. Burj Khalifa - Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)


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In the movie "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol", the Burj Khalifa plays a central role in one of the film's most iconic action sequences. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, standing at a height of 2,717 feet (828 meters). The movie’s character, Ethan Hunt is tasked with infiltrating a high-security area within the Burj Khalifa to retrieve crucial information. The scene involves a daring and suspenseful climbing sequence scaling the exterior of the skyscraper.

The structural engineering work for the Burj Khalifa was primarily led by engineer Bill Baker, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). The structural design of the Burj Khalifa incorporates a bundled tube system, which consists of a central core and a series of wings that extend outwards. This design helps distribute the weight of the building evenly and provides stability against lateral forces such as wind and seismic activity. The central core, consisting of reinforced concrete walls, acts as a backbone for the building, while the wings provide additional support and structural integrity. Additionally, the Burj Khalifa features a series of setbacks as it rises, which reduces wind pressures and minimizes the overall structural loads. The engineering achievements of the Burj Khalifa have pushed the boundaries of modern skyscraper design thus creating the current tallest structure of the world.

5. Statue of Liberty - X-Men (2000)

statue of liberty

In the movie, the Statue of Liberty plays a significant role in the climactic finale. At Liberty Island, the mutant characters engage in a pivotal confrontation with their adversaries in an attempt to alter the course of history and ensure a better future for mutants and humans alike. Overall, the use of the Statue of Liberty in "X-Men" helps create a memorable and impactful cinematic moment, blending the superhero genre with a recognizable and culturally significant landmark.

The structural engineering for the Statue of Liberty, officially known as Liberty Enlightening the World, was primarily carried out by Gustave Eiffel and his engineering firm, Eiffel et Compagnie. In the case of the Statue of Liberty, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was responsible for designing the iron framework that supports the statue. The statue's internal framework consists of an iron skeleton made of metal ribs and supports. The iron framework provides the structural stability necessary to support the copper skin of the statue and withstand external forces such as wind and seismic activity. Eiffel employed innovative engineering techniques and materials, using a skeletal framework with diagonal braces to distribute the statue's weight evenly. This design allowed for the statue's impressive height of approximately 93 meters (305 feet) while maintaining structural integrity.


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