The disaster movie is one of the oldest genres in cinema. The earliest example can be seen in James Williamson’s 1901 silent short, Fire!, which shows a local fire service rescuing the occupants of a house being engulfed in flames. It shocked viewers from its very first shot, which showed the full extent of the blaze while the fire crew was unaware of what awaited them at the scene. This edge-of-your-seat feeling is still felt by modern-day audience members when they step into a cinema and sit in the dark for about two hours watching intense destruction and chaos unfold on screen. So, in honour of World Meteorological Day, here are the eight best weather-related disaster films you should watch.
The 1997 film was a sensation based on the iconic love story alone, but the real drama came from the looming disaster the audience knew was going to take place. It’s a filmmaking triumph in terms of the production itself and it found a balance between focusing on the actual sinking of the ship and the story that builds up before it. It gives audiences time to build connections with the passengers of the ill-fated boat before it runs into the iceberg, but not too much time. It prevents the audience from becoming bored while giving them a genuine reason to feel sad as they have come to know and love some of the doomed characters.
2. The Poseidon Adventure
Produced by the “master of disaster” himself, Irwin Allen, The Poseidon Adventure is yet another film about a luxury passenger liner that meets a terrible fate. This time, the boat capsizes due to a tsunami caused by an underwater earthquake. The remaining survivors try to make their way towards safety and hang on to the chance of being rescued. Their journey is far from simple as the ship becomes a terrifying obstacle course the survivors must navigate to get out.
3. The Perfect Storm
An adaption of Sebastian Junger’s best seller about a trio of weather events that collided in 1991 to create one killer storm in the North Atlantic, the film focuses mostly on the commercial swordfishing boat, The Andrea Gail. The doomed crew includes George Clooney, John C. Reilly and Mark Wahlberg as working-class fishermen desperate for a big catch. They choose to ignore the warnings of venturing out and realize too late that they are in over their heads.
4. Only the Brave
Based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of firefighters who risk their lives to protect a small town from a raging wildfire, the film is a glimpse into the dangerous lengths they must go to every day for years. It’s highly emotional as audiences know that this is what real people must do to keep others safe.
5. The Towering Inferno
Another Irwin Allen film, but this one is far from the ocean. This Oscar-nominated film about a San Francisco skyscraper that catches fire during its grand opening is an example of a quintessential disaster movie. When shoddy wiring leads to a fire that engulfs an entire floor of a new 135-story building, the guests attending the ceremony become trapped. The film chronicles the party guests’ plight as they try to escape from the building and the fire crew who are trying to battle the blaze. It’s got soap-operaesque drama, extreme heroism (mainly by leading man Paul Newman) and shows how being over ambitious can be a downfall.
6. The Impossible
A regular family travel to Thailand for Christmas and stay in a villa on the coast. What starts as a fun family vacation changes in an instant as a massive tsunami hits and separates the family. The parents fight to keep their children alive and together as they try and make their way back to each other. It’s a film inspired by one of the most destructive natural disasters of modern history, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, and it is an emotional rollercoaster.
7. The Day After Tomorrow
After an international storm plunges the northern hemisphere of the planet into a new Ice Age, a man (Dennis Quaid) must make a trek from Washington, D.C. to New York City in order to reach his trapped son (Jake Gyllenhaal). It’s a film that looks at a potential, although slightly ludicrous, consequence of climate change while making sure audiences can connect to it by focusing on the plight of a father searching for his son.
A perfect example of a 90’s disaster movie that’s all about the entertainment factor, Twister is an absurdly fun film that borders on absolute ridiculousness. Audience members are given a front row seat in the car of storm trackers as a rock n’ roll soundtrack blasts in the background. Is it a film to take seriously? If you can stay straight-faced while watching a special effects cow being lifted into the air, sure. But this is a film that is was insanely impressive special effects-wise when it premiered over 20 years ago, so it’s worth checking out.