The first laser was built in 1960 and has been an inspiration in movies ever since.
Despite a long association with science-fiction films, lasers can now be found in movies of almost any genre. From spy movies to kids’ movies to superhero movies and more, lasers have become a huge part of film magic.
In no particular order, here are 13 of the best laser scenes in movie history.
1. “Star Wars”
When you think of lasers in movies, the first thing that rushes to mind is the “Star Wars” franchise. Between the lightsabers, proton torpedoes and laser canons, the entire series is filled with lasers.
Some of the saga’s most memorable laser scenes include the attack of the clones in “Episode II” and the Death Star destroying Alderaan with its massive superlaser in “Episode IV: A New Hope.”
2. “Toy Story” 1 & 2
When space ranger Buzz Lightyear first arrives in Andy’s room, Buzz shows off his laser shooter to the other toys. While Woody refers to it as a “little lightbulb that blinks,” their plastic friends are quite impressed. Despite Buzz’s laser not being used directly in the first “Toy Story” movie, it factors in the second installation during Buzz’s epic elevator shaft battle against Zurg.
The ghostbusters use proton packs to weaken and catch the ghosts throughout the comedy franchise. This energy weapon is a handheld wand connected to a backpack-sized particle accelerator. The weapon fires a stream of highly concentrated and radially polarized protons that electrostatically snare the negatively charged energy of a ghost, ending in some real movie magic!
4. “Avengers: Age of Ultron”
In the second “Avengers” film, the android Vision is constructed with an Infinity Stone embedded in his head that doubles as a laser. In the iconic fight scene pitting Iron Man, Thor and Vision versus Ultron, Vision takes down the rogue robot with this laser, saving the day.
5. “Star Trek”
Much like in “Star Wars,” lasers are common in the Star Trek universe. The franchise’s weapon of choice is a phaser, which is simply a fictional extrapolation of real-life lasers. The phaser’s laser beam can stun, heat, kill or disintegrate living creatures. These phasers can also cut through walls or rock, with the option to focus on a single spot or a large area.
6. “The Incredibles” Series
In this Pixar movie about a superhero family, each member has a unique set of superpowers. For the majority of the first film, baby Jack-Jack is assumed to lack super gifts. His powers are first discovered when the rest of the family is off fighting evil and he is being watched by a babysitter.
We learn in “Incredibles 2” that not only can Jack-Jack shoot lasers from his eyes, he can also teleport to other dimensions, clone himself, float and much more.
In this Pixar movie depicting a future where Earth is no longer habitable, trash compactor robot WALL-E spends his days cleaning up the junk humans left behind. After centuries of being alone, he is visited by a robot called EVE, with whom he falls in love. Both of the robots in this movie have a laser weapon, with Wall-E’s being a laser cutter and EVE’s a laser gun.
Unlike many other movies on this list, “Tron’s” lasers aren’t utilized as weapons but digital teleporters. Kevin Flynn’s body is disassembled, digitized and zapped into the computer world via the laser.
To make things look even more realistic, “Tron” was partially filmed in the real-world Lawrence Livermore National Labs and showcased SHEVA, one of the most powerful lasers in existence.
9. ‘Oceans Twelve”
In the heist trilogy’s second installment, François Toulour (Vincent Cassel) must navigate through a room full of lasers to steal the Fabergé Imperial Coronation Egg. He avoids the maze of lasers by performing a pre-choreographic dance to the music playing through his headphones.
10. “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”
Rick Moranis plays a scientist who reduces his kids and the neighbor’s kids to the height of a quarter of an inch with a laser-powered shrinking machine. Not realizing what he had done, the father throws out the kids. The miniature co-stars must fight off bugs and other natural elements to get home and return to their actual size.
11. “Austin Powers”
In this smash film series, British spy Austin Powers engages in his ongoing quest to defeat his arch-nemesis Dr. Evil. Throughout the films, Dr. Evil plots to extort large sums of money from governments or international bodies and is continuously stopped by Powers.
Most notably, in “International Man of Mystery,” Dr. Evil requests his lair to be protected with sharks with lasers attached to their heads, something he finally receives later in the series.
In the third James Bond adventure, villainous Goldfinger attempts to use an industrial laser to kill Bond. This laser can cut through solid metal and even project a spot on the moon. In one of the series’ most famous scenes, Bond is almost lasered while bound to a solid gold table. He bluffs his way out of this precarious situation by announcing that he knows about Operation Grandslam.
13. “Mission: Impossible”
In the well-known scene in the first movie, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt dangles horizontally from two cables in a heavily protected room while attempting to hack into a CIA computer.
To add more stress, the floor is weight- and pressure-sensitive, meaning that a drop of sweat could set off the alarms. However, before he could even enter the secured room, he had to first bypass a laser grid in a ceiling ventilation duct…
Did your favorite laser scene make the list? Let us know in the comments which movie laser scene is your favorite!
Maureen Darrah works with TYKMA Electrox and LaserGear, leading manufacturers of industrial laser marking systems located in Ohio. Some of her favorite movies include “Inception,” “The Princess Bride” and the “Star Wars” series. Also, you can check out some exciting posts about lasers at @tykmalasermarking.