Natural disaster movies are the genre of films that have a blend of thrillers in them and depict natural catastrophes. This category is much followed and includes some of the biggest blockbusters in Hollywood. Fasten your seat belts as we take you through the ride featuring the 15 best natural disaster movies of all time with respect to the amounts grossed, awards claimed, public opinion, and critical reception:
15. Dante’s Peak (1997)
Dante’s Peak is a scientifically accurate disaster film in which the inhabitants of the fictional town Dante’s Peak must survive the effects of a vicious volcano eruption.
Starring Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton the film was financially successful thanks to its wonderful visual effects and engaging plot, although the film wasn’t much appreciated critically at the time of its release.
14. Hard Rain (1998)
The Midwest United States is having the worst flood of its history. Two armored truck drivers, Tom, and his uncle are stuck in a ditch. While trying to call rescuers they are ambushed by a gang. In the action that ensues, Tom loses his uncle and runs away with 3 million dollars which he hides in a cemetery and takes refuge in a church.
Much drama takes place as the chase for the money involves the local Sheriff with Tom ending up in prison. Then the story takes on the look of a roller coaster ride with its nail-biting turn of events and the twists and turns which keep viewers glued to the screen till the very last scene.
13. Earthquake (1974)
The story of the Earthquake relates to the story of a devastating earthquake and the attempts at survival by the inhabitants of Los Angeles.
It follows the story of a fighting couple in glamorous Hollywood, the life of two policemen, and a seemingly polite and helpful teller at a store who is also a reserve NCO for the National Guards who are called in to assist in the disaster relief operation.
12. 2012 (2009)
It is one of the much-talked-about disaster movies that have been released in recent years. 2012 is a highly successful sci-fi disaster movie that depicts the world coming to an end in 2012 with entire cities sinking into the ocean within minutes.
Starring John Cusack, the film created much hype before its release due to its stunning visuals but upon release received mixed reviews due to its unscientific plot (weakening of Earth’s core due to heat generated by solar radiation).
11. The Core (2003)
A team of three including a geologist and two scientists discover that the core of the Earth has stopped rotating and will cause adverse effects by exposing the planet to solar radiation.
To stop this from happening they need to cause a number of powerful nuclear explosions in the core so that it resumes rotation.
10. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
A film by one of the most experienced directors of disaster movies Roland Emmerich, The Day After Tomorrow shows the world facing acute climatic conditions leading to a global ice age.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Emmy Rossum, the movie was a huge box office success thanks to some of the finest CGI shots but failed with critics due to the unrealistically portrayed speed of global warming.
9. Vertical Limit (2000)
Peter Garett had caused the death of his father on his orders to save himself and his sister Annie’s life. He has given up climbing and now does photography only. However, Annie has become an expert mountaineer and is about to depart on an expedition to climb K2 the second highest peak in the world with a wealthy patron Vaughn who invites Garett too but he refuses.
The party however falls and is trapped in a crevasse and Garett now must rescue them as time is their biggest enemy now.
8. The Night the World Exploded (1957)
The film, one of the first few in the disaster film genre, was based on a team of scientists who have built a machine to predict earthquakes. They are at first not taken seriously but when their next prediction comes true they are given the funding and attention they require.
The team then predicts a number of earthquakes and traces their origin to a very sensitive element named Element 112. To stop it from reacting or spreading, immediate action must be taken or global catastrophe awaits mankind.
7. Deep Impact (1998)
In 1998, a young astronomer Biederman and his teacher Wolf discover a comet moving toward Earth. Wolf dies in an accident before he can alert the world.
However, a reporter gets hold of the story and the President then announces that the world is doomed if the comet Wolf –Biederman hits Earth. A team is sent to destroy it with nuclear weapons to save the end of the world.
6. The Tower (2012)
The Tower is a South Korean film revolving around the character Lee Dae Ho who is a single father and manages the skyscraper, Tower Sky in Seoul. He secretly admires Seo Yoon-hee who is a restaurant manager.
On Christmas eve, a party is thrown by the owner of the tower where both Dae Ho’s daughter and Seo are present. Helicopters are used to sprinkle snow over the party but one of the helicopters crashes into the building causing a fire. Firefighters are called and Dae Ho has a dispute with one of the firefighters. Now they must rescue all the people from the raging fire while putting their personal differences aside.
5. Twister (1996)
Twister shows Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, an estranged couple who are in the same town researching tornadoes. The movie goes on to show the couple’s run for survival as the intensity of these tornadoes increases.
The film is an absolute classic when it comes to cool CGI effects coupled with an extremely immersive plot and was the second highest-grossing film of the year.
4. The Towering Inferno (1974)
Starring an all-star cast led by Paul Newman, The Towering Inferno is about an accidental fire in the newly designed world’s tallest building which traps all the guests. What ensues is a heroic effort by a brave firefighter and a bold architect who both try to save as many lives as possible from the wildly raging fire that engulfs one floor after another.
The film was very well received both commercially and critically. It was nominated for 8 Academy Awards out of which it won 3 including the Oscar for Best Picture (a rare feat for a disaster film). It was the highest-grossing film of 1974 and today enjoys the reputation as a cult classic.
3. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Said to be amongst the best films of the 20th century, The Poseidon Adventure is an action-adventure disaster film based on a book of the same name. Featuring an all-star cast led by Gene Hackman, the film takes us through the last voyage of the luxury line Poseidon as it encounters disaster in the shape of an earthquake-triggered tsunami. Hackman as a rebellious preacher tries to lead a group of people to safety.
The film was miles ahead of its time and is counted among various best films ever made on lists present online. It even today has a cult-like following.
2. A Night to Remember (1958)
One of the most accurate accounts of the ill-fated voyage of RMS Titanic (especially the events surrounding Captain Smith and Carpathia), the film was favorably received then and even today despite the landmark success of the 1997’s Titanic, is considered to be a much better disaster film.
The film starred Kenneth More who is one of the most popular English actors of his time and is often referred to it as “the definitive Titanic tale” ever.
1. The Impossible (2012)
A family of five; Maria Henry and their sons Lucas, Thomas, and Simon are on a holiday in Thailand when the deadly tsunami strikes. Maria (played by Naomi Watts) and Lucas are separated from the rest and Maria gets badly injured. However, locals take them to the hospital where Maria is treated and Lucas helps other disaster-struck people. But due to mass confusion everywhere Lucas and Maria both get separated when Maria is thought to be someone else by hospital staff and moved elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Henry also gets separated from Thomas and Simon while looking for Maria and Lucas. He then starts his tedious search for his missing family members with the help of a tourist.
This list of the best natural disaster films ever cannot be justified without applauding the following titles too:
- Volcano (1997)
- Armageddon (1998)
- Contagion (2011)
What names come to your mind when you think of films centered around natural disasters? Feel free to leave a comment below!