Grenades. They are great for taking out a machine gun nest, disrupting enemy lines, and adding a little extra punch to an attack. And in a military movie or show they can really ramp up the spectacle. A great war or action film will throw in grenade scenes for some extra pyrotechnics, a big finale, or a dramatic moment of a character jumping on one to save their buddies. It can be a test of character, such as in Captain America: The First Avenger, or a way to take out a tank, as in All Quiet on the Western Front. They generally make for a crowd pleasing scene. Here are some of the best ones in television or film.
Fair warning, this list contains spoilers.
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Where Eagles Dare
The 1960s gave audiences a slew of bombastic and action-packed World War II films. And almost every one had some pretty spectacular grenade scenes, shootouts, and explosions. Special mention has to go to The Dirty Dozen where the titular team takes out a mansion of Nazis with grenades, petrol, and other explosives. But the best of that era goes to the sabotage mission in Where Eagles Dare. With their cover blown and in need of a distraction to finish the mission, Schaffer (Clint Eastwood) grabs a pair of MP-40 submachine guns and starts mowing down Nazis. It’s the kind of scene you’d expect from a John Woo film or The Matrix. The Nazi soldiers, tired of getting shot to pieces, start lobbing grenades at Schaffer. So what does he do? He simply throws them back without pause. And it works! At least until they start throwing several grenades at once. That calls for a tactical retreat.
To Hell and Back
The best war movies or shows are the ones that draw on real events for their depictions of combat. It’s partly why To Hell and Back is so great. Beyond being the story of Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in World War II, it had 5’5” Murphy playing himself. The film had some bombastic tropes, but Murphy made sure the combat scenes were accurate to his experiences as an Army soldier in North Africa and Europe in World War II. One such scene is in Sicily, where he and a friend were ambushed on patrol. When his friend is killed, Murphy turns into a one-man army, lobbing grenades and shooting at German machine gun positions. When he cleared one, he grabbed their grenades and kept up the attack until he was the last one standing. That grenade scene wasn’t even the biggest action set in the film or Murphy’s biggest exploit in the war. But it set a clear tone for the film of what the pint-sized soldier could do.
Fury is the dirty, brutal, intense World War II film we needed back in 2014. The film does not shy away from the horrors of war or the impact it has on civilians, especially when the losing Nazis are executing civilians in a taking-you-with-me approach. And as ugly as some of the depictions of war were, the film had plenty of heart. It’s what makes the final stand, where the crew of the titular tank takes on countless SS troops, hit as hard as it does. A sneak attack gives them the edge at first, but soon the crew of Fury starts dropping one by one. Gordo (Michael Peña) tries to throw a grenade, only to be shot. Without hesitation, he jumps on his fallen grenade to save his comrades. Later, when it’s down to just Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) and the new meat Norman (Logan Lerman), Wardaddy keeps killing Nazis despite his injuries. How badass is he? It takes them dropping two grenades into the confined space to end his fighting. The final fight is one for the ages, and those two moments still hit hard.
The Indian movie RRR — currently up for Best Original Song at the 95th Academy Awards — is a maximalist action film. The heroes, fictionalized versions of revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, befriend each other, do ridiculous feats of strength, dance, and generally be incredibly cool. The movie does not aim for realism, and that makes the action all the more exciting. At the film’s climax, the heroes are in a jungle, chased by British special operations forces, and Ram is firing back with a bow and arrow. He gets a hold of a bandolier of grenades and turns his already deadly arrows into devastating attacks. The imperial forces did not stand a chance.
Band of Brothers “Day of Days”
What else could it be? The miniseries about Easy Company is still one of the best depictions of World War II and the combat in the European theater. It’s during the second episode, “Day of Days,” that the show delivers the best grenade scene. While Dick Winters (Damian Lewis) leads the soldiers to capture German guns, they chase Nazis out of the trenches, turning the open field into a turkey shoot. And former college baseball player Buck Compton (Neal McDonough) throws a grenade like a fastball, without an arc, hitting a German soldier in the back just as the grenade goes off. The craziest part of the story? According to the members of Easy Company, Compton didn’t hit the Wehrmacht soldier in the back — he hit him in the head. It’s so wild they had to tone it down for the show.
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