In this review I will breakdown my Top-5 Favorite Disaster Films post 1985. Disaster films in the modern era focus heavily on cutting edge special-effects to display the harsh effects of mother nature and the related impacts on the mass population. This list does not include alien invasions such as “Independence Day”, or post-apocalyptic themes such as zombies or pandemics due to these genres being able to fill their own respected lists.
To make the list, the film would have to meet the following criteria: The film must boast many catastrophic scenes of devastation, deliver many harrowing moments of sheer escapes and desperate struggles for survival. A decent enough story-line and strong cast performances also help to bring the enjoyment of the film to a higher level as well of course. A film such as “Armageddon” in my opinion is more of a dramatic space odyssey as opposed to a disaster flick, and again that genre could makes its own list.
1. “Twister” (1996)
Tornadoes caused the damage in this film where storm chasers played by Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt who must put their impending divorce behind them to get their life’s project into the cross-hairs of an unprecedented set of storms. If successful, predicting when and where tornado’s will strike, will become a reality.
This film boasted great special-effects for the time and provided more then enough massive destruction to fit the top of the list. The addition of a fun story that delved into the world of storm-chasers and two very likable characters played by Hunt and Paxton added to the enjoyment.
Not to be forgotten a great side-character played by the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman as well as a strong supporting cast. There were plenty of intense moments and for disaster flick standards this story-line (for me) was the most realistic of the genre. You are on the edge of your seat for this one and your interest is vested in characters you can connect to which makes the harrowing escapes that much more appealing. The action-sequences are over-the -top while still holding a believable feel semi-realistic tone.
Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCIK_AN8Zn4
2. “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004)
The second ice-age was the enemy in this one as a massive cold front sweeps down from the north pole and submerges the entire north-east in peril. A climatologist played by Dennis Quad will brave the storm and trek across the frozen landscape to rescue his son played by Jake Gyllenhaal who is trapped in New York.
“The Day After Tomorrow” provided more than an adequate story-line to this disaster film. The plot set-up many tense moments, climactic devastation sequences and adrenaline filled moments of rescues and the fight for survival. In my opinion this one, despite the massive amount of special-effects was still a great adventure story. The thundering waves crushing through Manhattan is always fun to see and the detail was high with visually appearing overhead shots and wide sweeping camera angles.
Overall this was a great genre flick and even today still holds its entertainment value. Quad and Gyllenhaal were both strong and their characters pull you into the story making you root for their success as the eye-popping storm sequences carry the bulk of the attention.
Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFLncfCvPeY
3. “2012” (2009)
Solar storms emitting radiation into the planets atmosphere have heated the earths core to highly unstable levels resulting in monumental storms hitting the earth worldwide. This film with out question to me had the best visual effects than any of the films on the list.
There were endless catastrophe scenes from many well known locations around the world. There was so much for the eyes to see in this one that it was hard for me to place it third on the list. So for me the special-effects and creativity taken into the sequences may have been the best.
The problem with this film was the story. There was so much going on in this jumbled script that the length ran way too long and the multiple story-lines resulted in thin characters and a lack to tension to many of the scenes not generated by computers. You can’t fault the effort taken into the ambition of the story, but it was in my opinion, too much effort. There were a couple of good plots to this one and if the focus could have swayed more toward just one, this could have been much more well paced disaster film and a more enjoyable package overall.
Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ce0N3TEcFw0
Earthquakes do the damage in the newest of the disaster films on the list. When the well known San Andreas fault-line in California unleashes its fury the ground rumbles at epic proportions causing chaos and destruction in San Francisco and Los Angeles. There are massive tidal waves and giant sky-scrapers that are ripped to shreds by the powerful quakes and the action filled blockbuster sequences are very frequent.
Added to this one was a solid cast headed by Hollywood’s current golden-boy Dwayne Johnson and a reputable enough story-line to fill the time making this a worthy contender for the list. The adventure this film takes you on is a wild one and the script is full enough to vest your interest without dragging on too long. Sure there are only earthquakes in this disaster romp but the creativity taken into the sequences make it an enjoyable film with a story-line that provides for many suspenseful moments and a ride that will have you on the edge of your seat throughout.
Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzRbK9qIhBs
5. “Dante’s Peak” (1997)
The culprit in this film was a long dormant volcano that suddenly becomes volatile threatening to devastate a small Pacific Northwest town, and Pierce Brosnan’s immaculate head of hair.
There was not a massive amount of widespread destruction in this film but once it gets going it was a fun adventure flick despite a few cheesy moments. Linda Hamilton was a solid co-star to Brosnon and regardless of their lack of chemistry there was still enough interest in their performances to keep the interest.
Once the volcano roars to life there was a good amount of action and plenty of chaos delivered in many thrilling sequences that still manage to capture the intensity without the use solely of computer generated special-effects. Yes some of the characters were very annoying and the story had its moments of mediocrity but Brosnon shines and the region of the country the film was set in provided a fun backdrop for this underrated and mildly tame, destruction film.
Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8HNlhVbGzY
The cast was great in this one with solid performances but this (for me) was a much more of a compelling drama to me in feel rather than a pure disaster flick.
This one was too much “Twister” and lacked its own identity, the special-effects were great and well detailed but with the weak story and thin characters this one seemed like remake of a much more intriguing tornado flick we have all seen already.
Tommy Lee Jones was entertaining in this film delivering a range of emotions but the fun of a volcano spewing lava through the city loses its luster after awhile and the cliche scenarios that the story-line sets-up do nothing to add to the entertainment. But still this is a solid adventure that does give some effort.