Last weekend we were supposed to get the original film Greenland, which is about an asteroid hitting the Earth and threatening to wipe out humanity. It seemed like tempting fate for 2020 when I saw the trailer, more so this summer when NASA announced an asteroid was coming close to the Earth this November… But, like most films this year, its release was delayed.
Still, it got me thinking about the films we have with natural disasters befalling the Earth, or at least our most famous cities. So below is a Binge Watch list of disastrous films with a few caveats. I already discussed the best asteroid film, Armageddon, when looking at Michael Bay films earlier this summer. Second, these are only natural disaster events, though some have twists. And finally, I allowed myself only one of each type of disaster.
So, for those at home, bummed we can’t see Gerard Butler fight against the end of the Earth, here’s some worthy options.
About: So, I know what you’re going to say, isn’t this about killer alligators? Yes, that’s true. BUT the inciting incident here is a massive hurricane hitting Florida, which leads a young woman (Kaya Scodelario) to head to her family home to check on her father (Barry Pepper). Turns out he’s injured and trapped in a crawl space by some alligators that were trying to find a place to ride out the story. So now the two are battling alligators and the rising water from an impending storm. There’s a lot to unpack here, and I’m not going to say this is incredible, but it was kind of entertaining. Just don’t think too hard about what happens when an alligator bites someone, because the answers provided by this film were all over the board.
The Impossible (2012)
About: This one is based on a true story and follows a family of tourists caught in a tsunami in Thailand in 2004. It features a pretty incredible cast, including Naomi Watts, Ewan McGreggor and a pre-Spiderman Tom Holland. This one has some incredible set pieces and is probably the best film from a cinematic standpoint on this list. It wasn’t made for spectacle, though that ends up being some of what we get here. This is a pretty interesting watch.
About: A classic about a pair of star-crossed lovers (Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt) and an outbreak of tornadoes. This one comes from Michael Crichton and is a lot of fun. It’s been 24 years since its release and it still holds up. Sure, some of the dialogue is weird and some of the plot doesn’t make a ton of sense, but this is a genre about suspending disbelief. And I can’t lie, I love this film.
About: This one features Tommy Lee Jones as the director of emergency management for Los Angeles County and Anne Heche as a scientist who discover a volcano sits under Los Angeles and just became active. Mayhem ensues as they try to keep the volcano, which is now shooting lava everywhere, from destroying a local hospital. This has a pretty decent cast and some decent special effects. It’s an under-the-radar disaster classic.
San Andreas (2015)
About: There have been plenty of films about earthquakes in California, and it’s definitely a real concern for those who live there because they are unpredictable. I’ve lived through a couple and they’re not fun. San Andreas ramps the action in this type of film up to a pretty incredible level, destroying swaths of Nevada, Los Angeles and San Francisco. There to survive it all is Dwayne Johnson, rescue helicopter pilot, and his family. This one has amazing effects, a good cast and plenty of good action. And, sooner or later, we’re supposed to get a sequel.
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
About: If there’s someone who is the master at destroying the world through spectacle, it’s Roland Emmerich. He’s done it in a variety of ways, but two of his films make this list. The first is The Day After Tomorrow, which was basically a warning about Global Warming and its danger magnified. It came out 16 years ago and people still don’t take it seriously… This one features Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal as father and son who must survive when a massive storm overtakes the northern hemisphere because of massive glacier melt that changes the Atlantic Ocean. This one has some big spectacle and some interesting plot twists, including Americans fleeing en mass to Mexico only to be met by a closed border. It was good when it came out as a summer blockbuster and it still holds up.
About: This one is based on the Mayan prophesy that the world would end in 2012. It didn’t. But at the time, it seemed like something that would be fodder for a good blockbuster disaster film, this one also from our pal Roland Emmerich. It boasts a pretty epic cast, centered mostly on John Cusack, and a series of disastrous events wreak havoc on the world. Some might call this a cheat since it’s not one specific natural disaster, but it felt impossible to leave this epic disaster tale off the list.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.