The disaster movie genre has been a captivating and enthralling part of the film industry since almost the very beginning, with stories showcasing epic and catastrophic events that endanger humanity and its surroundings; whether it be natural calamities like earthquakes, tornadoes and volcanic eruptions or man-made catastrophes, such as nuclear accidents and aircraft disasters, not to mention the occasional alien invasion, these disaster movies have captured the imaginations of audiences worldwide.
The disaster movie genre has its roots in the early 20th century, with the 1933 film Deluge being one of the earliest examples and it literally opened the floodgates of the genre. However, it was during the 1970s that the genre gained immense popularity and with films like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno it cemented itself as a genre to be reckoned with. These films marked a turning point in the disaster genre, blending captivating narratives with groundbreaking visual effects, taking disaster films to new heights. Below you will find my collection of reviews that take a look at the immense scope of this genre, movies that raised the heights of cinematic adventure to others that fell into the “So bad they’re good” category. Just click on the posters or links below to dive into this explosive genre, where heroes face some of the toughest challenges that filmmakers could devise.
In one of the earlier disaster movies, massive quakes and tidal waves bring the United States of America to its knees, and we must ask “Can life and humanity survive?”
This early depiction of the famous Titanic disaster was actually a Third Reich’s Nazi propaganda epic that centred on a heroic fictional German officer on board the doomed ship.
As a new star and planet hurtle toward a doomed Earth, a small group of survivalists frantically work to complete the rocket that will take them to their new home.
Earth finds itself besieged by a fleet of Martian war machines in this adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic science fiction tale by legendary producer George Pal.
Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwick play an unhappily married couple who struggle to deal with their problems while on board the luxurious, ill-fated RMS Titanic.
Food poisoning incapacitates the pilot and co-pilot of a Canadian commercial flight and the only one on board who has any flying experience is a man suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
On her maiden voyage in April 1912, the supposedly unsinkable RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and took 1,500 souls to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
A man struggles to free his injured wife from the wreckage of their cabin and ensure the safety of their four-year-old daughter as the ship begins to sink.
A dying scientist pushes forward his project to tap through to the Earth’s magma layer, with results that threaten to destroy the Earth as we know it.
A mad bomber adds complications to the running of a Chicago airport as a snowstorm and marital infidelities keep everyone on their toes. Also, they cast Dean Martin as a pilot.
Nine people must make their way through the bowels of a cruise ship when a tidal wave turns their whole world upside down in this classic from Master of Disaster Irwin Allen.
During the opening party of a colossal but poorly constructed office building, a massive fire breaks out that threatens to destroy the tower and everyone in it.
A catastrophic earthquake destroys most of Los Angeles as Charlton Heston, George Kennedy and Richard Roundtree strive to save as many lives as possible.
A small plane collides with a Boeing 747 and a lone stewardess is the only chance the passengers have to survive, that is if she can handle the overt machoism of Charlton Heston.
the target of a terrorist threat, and it’s up to George C. Scott to stop the bomber.
A convict starts a forest fire to cover his escape, but the fire goes out of control and threatens to destroy a small mountain community.
Can Jack Lemon and George Kennedy save the day?
A huge swarm of deadly African killer bees moves into the American southwest, and Michael Caine is humanity’s only hope. And remember “There’s no bee here. I promise you, there’s no bee here.”
A corrupt arms manufacturer must bring down the Concorde to prevent his girlfriend from exposing his illegal arms dealings.
A disgruntled oil refinery worker sets the city ablaze, and a plucky band of survivors in a nearby must do their best to escape the fiery conflagration.
Michael Caine and Telly Savalas duke it out aboard the sinking U.S. Poseidon in a sequel that nobody was asked for and most didn’t both to go see.
A Hawaiian island resort is under threat from an active volcano, the guests and residents must flee for their lives from unconvincing special effects.
An ocean liner sunk during WWII is discovered to be still populated by over three hundred survivors, all living under the iron hand of Christopher Lee.
Two storm chasers on the brink of divorce must join together to create an advanced weather alert system by putting themselves in the cross-hairs of extremely violent tornadoes.
An auditor is sent to produce an evaluation of a tornado research project while the scientists running the project pursue tornadoes and each other.
Aliens arrive and their goal is to invade and destroy our lovely planet, blowing up national monuments and the like, and it’s up to Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum to save the day.
A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind but poor artist, much to the chagrin of her betrothed, aboard the luxurious but ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.
A volcanologist arrives at a beautiful countryside town and discovers that their long-dormant volcano may wake up at any moment.
A volcano erupts in downtown Los Angeles and a city official and a seismologist try to stop its inevitable flow through the city.
Christian Slater and Minnie Driver must prevent Morgan Freeman and his gang from making off with three million dollars during a catastrophic flooding caused by a severe storm.
After discovering that an asteroid the size of Texas will hit Earth in less than a month, NASA recruits a misfit team of deep-core drillers to save the planet.
Can a group of NASA astronauts stop a meteor from hitting the Earth before Elijah Wood can make it to first base with Leelee Sobieski? Only time will tell.
As global catastrophes mount it’s up to a group of heroes to journey to the center of the Earth and restart the Core before all life on Earth is extinguished.
Dennis Quaid must save his son who is trapped in the cross-hairs of a sudden international storm which plunges the planet into a new Ice Age.
Tom Cruise plays an “everyman” who must keep his idiot kids safe during this adaptation of the H.G. Well science fiction classic, with Spielberg using the disastrous invasion as a 9/11 analog.
Steven Gutenberg stars in this terrible made-for-television remake of the Irwin Allen classic that tried to capitalize on Wolfgang Peterson’s upcoming remake.
A rogue wave flips an ocean liner on New Year’s Eve leaving a small group struggling to escape before it plummets to the ocean floor in this Wolfgang Peterson remake of the Irwin Allen classic.
John Cusack plays a frustrated writer who struggles to keep his family alive when a series of global catastrophes threatens to annihilate mankind.
A Christmas Eve party at the 108-story Tower Sky luxury building in South Korea turns into a fight for survival when a deadly fire erupts.
This found footage disaster flick follows the people of the small town of Silverton as it is besieged by a string of devastating tornadoes.
Jon Snow seeks revenge against Jack Bauer in the shadows of a killer volcano in this historical drama about the destruction of Pompeii.
The scenic town of Geiranger finds itself in the path of a 300-foot wave when a rockslide sends a tsunami raging down the fjord.
Dwayne Johnson must save his wife and daughter as the world around them tears itself apart when the San Andreas Fault ruptures.
The Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers break in half during a blizzard in 1952.
A couple going through a divorce must put aside their differences to save their children from a high-rise fire in a building that is definitely not up to code.
A network of satellites designed to protect the Earth goes rogue and starts targeting cities around the globe and it’s up to Gerard Butler to uncover a conspiracy and save the planet.
A security consultant must save his family from a raging fire in the world’s tallest building, a fire started by a mercenary group who don’t know they are messing with the wrong family.
Surviving geologist Kristian Eikjord from The Wave must now save his family from a devastating earthquake in Oslo, Norway. Some guys just can’t catch a break.
A mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit and sends it hurtling on a collision course toward Earth and it’s up to Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson to put things right.
The disaster movie genre has endured and evolved over the years, captivating audiences with its blend of thrill, spectacle, and thought-provoking themes. From its early origins in the 1930s to its explosive popularity in the 1970s and beyond, these films continue to entertain and engage viewers worldwide. Disaster movies serve as a reflection of society’s fears, hopes, and the resilience of the human spirit, reminding us of the importance of unity, empathy, and preparedness in the face of adversity. As long as there is an audience that craves thrilling experiences and societal reflections, the disaster movie genre will undoubtedly endure, evolving and adapting to meet the changing times.
Disaster Movies: Thrills, Spectacle, and Societal Reflections.
Genre Rank - 8/10
The disaster movie genre continues to be a captivating and enduring aspect of cinema. Its ability to evoke fear, hope, and empathy among audiences has made it a significant genre in the history of film and as long as they balance entertainment with responsibility, disaster movies will continue to play a role in shaping collective consciousness and inspiring resilience in the face of adversity.