Natural disaster movies are some of the most popular attractions at the cinema and have long been part of its history with a recent upsurge making waves (pardon) thanks to CGI. Typically though, these movies are nearly as disastrous as the disaster they depict. But not all. Here are 18 natural disaster movies ranked from worst to best. Do you agree?
DIRECTOR: Jon Amiel STARS: Hillary Swank, Aaron Eckart
Logic be damned in this absurd film about a scientific team who drills to the center of the Earth to set off nuclear charges to restart the magnetic core that has stopped rotating. Seems this rotation is the cause for a series of odd global anomalies that suggest the magnetic field surrounding our planet is destabilizing and within a year, if not fixed, expose us to raw solar radiation. Quick, round up your most handsome and attractive scientists and get them to the core! When even the great Stanley Tucci is hard to watch . . . it's time to look away.
17 - The Happening (2008) ★☆☆☆☆
DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan STARS: Mark Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel
If the trees turn on you, you know things are bad. And by bad we mean plot. What amounts to a clever-ish idea is executed in all the wrong ways as plant life begin to emit a deadly toxin that causes those affected to commit suicide and in the most gruesome ways possible (a lawnmower?). A complete misfire, there is little here that compels the viewer with a slow pace, laughable dialogue, and many cringe-worthy performances. Let's 'leaf' this one and move on.
16 - The Swarm (1978) ★☆☆☆☆
DIRECTOR: Irwin Allen STARS: Micheal Caine, Henry Fonda
And here you thought Jaws: The Revenge was the silliest movie Michael Caine ever made. In this one, Mother Nature wields a swarm of deadly 'killer bees' as her weapon of choice and hurls them with spectacularly bad special effects at flailing people on the run, making this easily the worst movie on the list about bees. It's also the only movie on the list about bees. Still, it's so much cheesy fun it's a riot to watch. Director Irwin Allen made a career out of disaster flicks. This could 'bee' his most disastrous.
15 - 2012 (2009) ★☆☆☆☆
DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich STARS: John Cusack, Amanda Peet
While missing the entire point of the Mayan calendar, the makers of his disaster movie held firm the believe that the world ends in the year 2012 and set about making a CGI-heavy movie to show what it would be like. With mind-boggling lapses in logic and the laws of physic and common sense and good taste and so much more, the story gleefully follows a limo driver's (John Cusack) rescue of his family by nearly vehicle imaginable, spitting in Mother's Nature's the entire way. Plus Woody Harrelson is a weirdo who eats pickles.
14 - Volcano (1997) ★★☆☆☆
DIRECTOR: Mick Jackson STARS: Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche
Do you like volcano movies but get annoyed with all those pesky shots of an actual mountain? Well Volcano is the one for you. After a major earthquake strikes Los Angeles, scientist speculate a volcano is forming right under the city as rivers of hot magma start making their way to the surface. Being in the cast of a big budget disaster flick must be some rite of passage for A-list movie stars. Tommy Lee Jones saves the city but not this incredibly cheesy disaster movie.
13 - Pompeii (2014) ★★☆☆☆
DIRECTOR: Paul W. S. Anderson STARS: Kit Harington, Emily Browning
With actual history at their disposal, the filmmakers of this incredibly unoriginal and uninspired movie went ahead and copied the standard disaster flick play-book and called it a day. While of course, the CGI is impressive, the acting and the story are not and this is just a dreary Gladiator-esque rip-off with a volcano doing some major "ash-kicking."
12 - Meteor (1979) ★★☆☆☆
DIRECTOR: Ronald Neame STARS: San Connery, Natalie Wood
How many movies about interplanetary threats of doom and destruction will be on this list? More than one. Long before Armageddon and Deep Impact had their chance, there was this forgettable rock from space that made a swing at Earth, leaving none other than Sean Connery in charge of saving mankind. Well, he helps. A surprisingly slow thriller, this tried hard to tap into the Superman (1977) vibe with similar opening credits and set designs. It didn't work.
11 - Armageddon (1998) ★★☆☆☆
Director: Michael Bay STARS: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck
When good ol' Earth gets in the way of another massive global killer asteroid, it's up to a team of oil drillers (naturally), led by cantankerous Harry Stamper (BruceWillis), to become astronauts and head into space to intercept the rock and plant a nuclear bomb in order to divert it from causing, well, armageddon. But that's nothing compared to the disaster awaiting A.J. Frost (Ben Affleck), one of Stamper's top men who just happens to be having sex with his daughter. On Earth. Not the asteroid.
10 - The Day After Tomorrow (2004) ★★☆☆☆
DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich STARS: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal
Taking a few liberties with science (okay, a lot), this one sees global warming go 'extreme' as melting polar ice disrupts the North Atlantic Current, causing a new ice age to develop in a matter of weeks rather than centuries. As the northern hemisphere freezes, it's up to paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) to make the long trek to New York City (now half submerged in ice and snow) to rescue his son (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is camped out with some survivors in the public library. Tension mounts. When will he get there? Maybe the day after tomorrow.
9 - Earthquake (1974) ★★☆☆☆
DIRECTOR: Mark Robson STARS: Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner
Long before directors were relying on expensive computers to create realistic havoc on screen, creative minds were building highly-detailed scale models to rend asunder and in 1974, it was downtown Los Angeles that got all the asundering. With an all-star cast and some pretty impressive effects that earned two Academy Awards, the story itself is the real disaster but fortunately you won't much care as it's destruction porn origins make it a lot of fun to watch, if watching thousands pass on to their dooms in a city imploding is your kind of fun.
The San Andreas fault line decides it's had enough of people living happy comfortable lives on it uneasy turf and shakes thing up a bit with a record shattering earthquake where only The Rock himself (Dwayne Johnson) can make it out alive. Well, along with his family of course but screw those other whiny disaster victims he as an Air Rescue pilot has no business helping. Details here.
7 - Haeundae (2009) ★★★☆☆
DIRECTOR: Yoon Je-kyoon STARS: Sol Kyung-gu, Ha Ji-won
When an earthquake near Japan triggers a mega-tsunami, it heads for the southern tip of South Korea, specifically, the Haeundae district near Busan, where locals enjoying the popular city beach have only ten minutes to clear out. All of this happens while a young man and woman become close, the man already struggling with the loss of his father in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. A bit overly-dramatic and of course, cheesy, saved by some cool special effects and epic enthusiasm.
6 - Twister (1996) ★★★☆☆
DIRECTOR: Jan de Bont STARS: Helen Hunt. Bill Paxton
Do your disaster movies seem to lack that flying cow flavor you crave so much? Well, Twister has the bovine for you. An estranged couple, one a meteorologist (Helen Hunt) and the other a former storm chaser (Bill Paxton) find themselves square in the middle tornado valley and while he's trying to get her to sign the divorce papers so he can marry his newest gal pal (Jamie Gertz), old flames reignite, along with lots of barns and houses and other assorted properties as Mother Nature does her worst. Let's 'moo'-ve on.
5 - Dante's Peak (1997) ★★★☆☆
DIRECTOR: Roger Donaldson STARS: Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton
There were two volcano movies that come out this year, but the nod's gotta go to this one over the creatively named Volcano (see #14), simply because it at least tries to pretend that science is a real thing. A volcanologist (Pierce Brosnan) heads to the small town of Dante's Peak after some recent seismic activity has him and his team concerned. Well, him mostly. He alerts the pretty mayor (Linda Hamilton) and then they do a lot running and driving and slow boating as lava in many forms gives chase. Still for some romance, though. This will 'peak' your interest.
4 - Deep Impact (1998) ★★★☆☆
DIRECTOR: Mimi Leder STARS: Téa Leoni, Morgan Freeman
More horror from outer space fun as Earth once again stands in the way of a mighty comet, free riding its way straight to our backyard. Another ensemble cast in a huge disaster movie, this one put a lot of focus on a subplot involving a lottery to choose alimited number of people to be evacuated to underground bunkers, but also a mission in the stars with a space shuttle to try and stop it. Not has hokey as Armageddon and despite its abrupt ending has some . . . impact.
3 - The Poseidon Adventure (1972) ★★★★☆
DIRECTOR: Ronald Neame STARS: Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters
Take an upside trip on this now classic disaster movie where passengers on an ocean liner's last voyage (in more ways than one) get introduced to a massive rogue wave in the Atlantic and get a first-hand view of the wonderful world under the sea as the ship capsizes. A handful of survivors must make their way to the bottom, now the top, of the big boat in order to get rescued. Remade a handful times, the original still does it best.
2 - The Wave (2016) ★★★★☆
DIRECTOR: Roar Uthaug STARS: Kristoffer Joner, Thomas Bo Larsen
In the isolated and scenic Norwegian town of Geirangerfjord, a popular tourist spot, an unstable mountain collapses in a fjord causing a massive 80-foot tidal wave that barrels through the city. While the wave effects are impressive, this unique little disaster film is less about the incident and more about the aftermath and it's really, really good. Just goes to show, you don't need a Hollywood budget and a big name to make a smart, compelling disaster flick. Like this movie, fjord example.
1 - The Impossible (2012) ★★★★☆
DIRECTOR: Alex Boyana STARS: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts
Based on the terrifying actual natural disaster that occurred in 2004, this depiction of survival during the Indian Ocean tsunami is a gripping account of human perseverance with powerful performances by the entire cast, especially Naomi Watts, who delivers a heartbreaking turn as a mother desperate to reunite with her family. A disaster film less about the wave and more about the people it effects, this is one to watch. It's number one.