My top 5 natural disaster movies

san andreas

San Andreas was released in cinemas this week (read my review) and it is all about the biggest earthquake ever registered on the Richter scale. It is big, epic and makes full use of CGI technology. Natural disaster movies are tough to crack – they usually end up being very cliched, cheesy with 2D characters. While I’m not saying my following top 5 are immune to these pitfalls, I still love them and I think of them fondly when talk of the genre comes up.

 

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Dante’s Peak (1997) 

I love this film and I have watched it so many times I can quote some parts. I recently bought it on DVD. Pierce Brosnan is a volcanologist who sets up his team in this idyllic little U.S. town to test the activity of their dormant volcano. Lo and behold – it’s not dormant anymore! There are some brilliant scenes in this from Brosnan and his love interest Linda Hamilton sailing with her children and mother-in-law on an acidic lake, the burned skinny dippers, to the fall of the bridge and the sheer panic of the community when it blows. I want to watch it again after writing this.

 

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Twister (1996)

I haven’t seen this movie in a really long time but I remember when I was in school thinking storm chasing would be a really fun and exciting job thanks to this. I don’t think that was the intention! Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt are married storm chasers heading for divorce but they came together to risk their lives going up against extreme tornadoes to build a weather alert system. Considering the year it was made, the effects really aren’t so bad.

 

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Deep Impact (1998) 

This is slightly different as it has a sci-fi edge but also because it makes me cry every time I see it without fail. Elijah Wood discovers a comet heading for Earth. Later, a space mission fails to destroy it and creates two craters – one of which lands in the Atlantic, setting off a mega tsunami. I’m sure the CGI in this sucks now, but the emotional parts are still intact and damn, when Tea Leoni‘s character stands on the beach with her dad as the tsunami approaches, I just bawl. And I continue bawling as Wood and his girlfriend (Leelee Sobieski) take her baby brother and race to get to higher ground. This has a stellar cast too including Morgan Freeman, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau and Vanessa Redgrave. 

 

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The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

I have to pick this simply from an effects perspective. This seemed to be the first natural disaster movie to really embrace the advances in CGI and got to really mess up key Manhattan landmarks. It also seemed to be the first to have the natural disaster caused by climate change, something we have heard a lot about in recent years. Nobody listens to the warnings from a scientist (Dennis Quaid) so now the whole world, including his son (Jake Gyllenhaal) are in danger. It is pretty formulaic, but damn it looks good.

 

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The Impossible (2012) 

This has always been pitched as a drama but it is still features a natural disaster, so it counts, and it is a real-life story to boot. This tells the true story of the Bennett family (renamed for the movie), who are on holiday in Thailand when the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami struck. We follow their incredibly story of survival and how they finally reunite. I was crying from the opening when the tsunami approaches, throughout their struggles to get to land and their subsequent reunion. I thought the whole thing was so realistic and the performances by Naomi Watts and newcomer Tom Holland were incredible.

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