I served in a light tank unit for 3 years and even saw a little action..... some serbs mortared me.
Explosions in films are always far more impressive than in real life. I fired a 66mm rocket at an old armoured car on a range once. HUGE backblast, rocket slams into the tank...... then goes 'dumf' and there's a little bit of dust thrown up. No huge fireball, no huge bang. All the explosive charge does is to cut a hole about 3mm across in the armour and put a pencil thin jet of white hot flame into the crew area incinerating the crew. Even being on the wrong end of a mortar while unbelievably terrifying doesn't have much 'effect'. A fairly quiet 'dumf' and some dust and muck thrown in the air.
The only thing I saw that REALLY impressed me was two A-10 tank busters shooting up a T55 on a range in Northern England. Because the A10's were behind us and the bullets supersonic (yup... they were shooting over us. Probably not as intended) the tank fell apart totally silently and only a few seconds later did we here the impacts and the gun actually firing. It was like a huge invisible angle grinder came out of the sky and silently sanded the top of the tank off. If you did it in a film people wouldn't wonder why the sound was out of synch.
For movie explosions there's usually plenty of petrol inside whatever is being blown up to make the fireball and quite often white phosphorous (you can see the white streamers as it flies out). They normally put old tyres into the mix for plenty of black smoke and cut fracture lines in panels (or even spring load them) so that there's plenty of flying material. If a car is blown up in the air its because its been positioned on a big catapult. A few gallons of petrol doesn't have the power to fling 2 ton cars about. Its far more impressive than real life but complete nonsense at the same time.
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