Top 10 Movie Riots

To complete the saturation of riot-based media coverage with something light-hearted and hopefully diverting in these scary times - here are our Top 10 Screen Riots that have ever graced the big screen... which is firmly where they should remain.

Over the past few days news coverage has been dominated by the widespread rioting which has plunged London and now other British cities such as Manchester last night into fear and despair. So to complete the saturation of riot-based media coverage, with something light-hearted and hopefully diverting in these scary times - here are my Top 10 Screen Riots that have ever graced the big screen... which is firmly where they should remain. Before we begin, we need to lay out some ground rules for what constitutes a riot. A riot is distinct from a battle because it is not planned or co-ordinated by or around a certain individual. It is not the same as a mutiny because that also involves pre-meditation. And it cannot be confined to a single place, otherwise it becomes just another fight or bar room brawl. There are exceptions to these rules, as will become clear, but they are good guidelines nonetheless. So without further ado, let€™s run head first into the melee and hope we don€™t get hurt in the process: this is the Top 10 Greatest Riot Scenes. (P.S. - more important than our article is that you take 5 minutes out to view the Metropolitan Police's photo stream to see if you can recognise these scumbags and report them to the police)

10. The Simpsons Movie (David Silverman, 2007)

We have to start somewhere, and it€™s best to begin things on a light-hearted note. It€™s a brief gag from early on the film, where the entire population descend on The Simpsons€™ house after Homer pollutes Lake Springfield with pig waste, causing the city to be isolated under a giant dome. Not only is the gag quite funny, it gives us a chance to see almost every Simpsons character in great detail.

9. V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2006)

Another case of short and sweet, courtesy of Mr. McTeigue and the Wachowskis. Integrating stock footage of real-life riots with a frivolous but evocative set-piece, the scene is perfectly polished off by Dario Marinelli€™s portentous soundtrack. It€™s more of a film about revolution than about rioting, but it feels dramatic and in keeping with the tone of the graphic novel. WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

8. Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, 1990)

Paul Verhoeven has always been a fan of screen violence, and after failing to include a riot scene in Robocop he managed something of the sort in Total Recall. One could argue that it€™s more of a brawl than a riot, but it does spill over across a whole section of the Martian colony. Plus it€™s the only riot scene to feature a dwarf prostitute and a woman with three boobs:

7. Police Academy (Hugh Wilson, 1984)

Another comedy choice, but a good one. This is one of the best scenes in the first and only good Police Academy movie, which turns the tables in the relationship between riot police and rioters. The choreography is very good, especially the part where the second wave of rioters moves in from the side street.

6. I, Robot (Alex Proyas, 2004)

This is bending the rules a little bit. One could argue that since the robots are programmed, they can€™t be spontaneous like us humans and therefore this is not so much a riot as a revolution. But the scenes of the robots beating the hell out of each other is still very well-done, and about a trillion times more entertaining than when Michael Bay tried it on a far bigger scale.

5. Malcolm X (Spike Lee, 1992)

This is not so much a riot scene as a scene which demonstrates the power which the fear of rioting can have over people. Again, the participants (in this case Malcolm€™s disciples) are more regimented, but they also have a terrifying group mentality which comes out during the earlier scenes of protests and speeches. Terence Blanchard€™s militaristic soundtrack adds to the tension in this breath-taking example of either leadership or manipulation, you decide.

4. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)

Alfonso Cuaron€™s dark dystopian vision of a world without offspring features a series of shocking set-pieces which are worthy of any zombie movie. His use of long takes, particularly in the ambush scene, give the impression of events playing out in real time and put the viewer right in the centre of the action. Not only is it impressively choreographed, it is visceral and emotionally raw. WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

3. Britannia Hospital (Lindsay Anderson, 1982)

This short scene from Lindsay Anderson€™s Mick Travis trilogy brings humanity out of brutality, and was later pastiched in the opening credits of Watchmen. Shot shortly after the Toxteth riots of 1981, it summed up the crisis facing modern Britain, a nation (in Anderson€™s view) about to turn its back on idealism and intelligence by turning to the simplicity of brute force. Poetic and heart-breaking.

2. The War of the Worlds (Byron Haskin, 1953)

Aspects of this 1950s B-movie may have dated, but this section in the closing stages retains every ounce of its potency. Tapping into American fears of communism and nuclear war, these scenes terrified audiences about the lengths to which people would sink when threatened with destruction. In the midst of a film which is often campy and melodramatic, these scenes feel all too real.

1. Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)

Spike Lee at his most shocking and honest gives us a riot scene which is intimate and character-driven while raising issues which cut to the heart of racial conflict. The music is perfect, the performances are electric and thoroughly believable, but most brilliant of all are the silences, the terrifying calms before the storm. It€™s consummate viewing. Have I missing anything? Disagree with my choices? Leave your comments below. Consider it a form of peaceful protest.

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Freelance copywriter, film buff, community radio presenter. Former host of The Movie Hour podcast ( and click 'Interviews'), currently presenting on Phonic FM in Exeter ( Other loves include theatre, music and test cricket.