VolcanoThe 90s had a thing about volcanoes. This film and the equally disastrous Dante’s Peak had people fleeing from hot liquid magma as fast as their little legs could carry them. However, rather than featuring the pretty faces of Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton, Volcano featured the not-quite-so-pretty Tommy Lee Jones, already doing his grumpy old man impersonation.
Unfortunately for Volcano, the terror of rushing lava is somewhat lessened when the lava fails to rush – it moves along at the speed of cold molasses, and if people would stop screaming and flailing they might be able to just calmly walk away.
ArmageddonIn Armageddon, Bruce Willis and his team of oil drillers are tapped to save the world from an oncoming asteroid, but first they have to become astronauts and overcome some family squabbles building up over the relationship between Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler.
While I cannot for the life of me remember WHY drilling a hole in an asteroid would save the world, it’s fodder for lots of Michael Bay’s signature explosions and heavy-handed melodrama.
Beginning Of The EndWith a title like that, one would almost believe that Beginning of the End has something important to say. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.
“The end” comes in the form of gigantic grasshoppers, formed by an unholy alliance of radiation and Peter Graves. As the nuclear grasshoppers attack first townsfolk, then the United States Army, and finally the city of Chicago, it’s a race against the clock to figure out how to defeat the insects without resorting to bombing Chicago. Thankfully, this particular disaster was also addressed by the boys of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and so was saved from a fate worse than locusts.
The Day After TomorrowRoland Emmerich’s doomsday film did more to slow down the cause of science than any climate change deniers could have dreamed. Couched as a warning tale, The Day After Tomorrow oversteps its mark so far that it actually makes anyone who discusses global warming sound a bit crazy.
The film follows the tribulations of a group of people facing a number of “extreme weather events” that are thought to be issuing in a new Ice Age.
Unfortunately, not even Dennis Quaid and Jack Gyllenhaal could save this – ahem – overheated disaster.
SharknadoThere’s nothing else to be said about this film. It’s all there in the title, folks.
TwisterMost disaster movies are about people caught up in a cataclysmic event that they can do nothing about. Twister, however, features people who put themselves into extreme danger just because.
A team of storm-chasers led by Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt chase after some storms in Oklahoma, ostensibly for science but really because they like the thrill. Despite some attempt to inject serious drama into the proceedings, this is still a movie about apparently smart people doing very dumb things. Do we care if the twister carries them away? I sure don’t.
The SwarmIn a bit of a shift from your usual disaster movie fare, this one has Michael Caine and Katherine Ross battling a lot of very angry insects.
African killer bees attack a town in Texas, a precursor to a bee invasion of the entire United States (and, as in most disaster movies, the world). Roundly viewed as the worst film Michael Caine ever made – and that’s saying a lot – The Swarm takes a stupid premise and executes it even more stupidly, but with surprising sincerity.
The most that can be said is that there’s a very good cast stuck at the bottom of this hive.
TitanicA number of 14-year-old girls from 1997 are going to come after me for this one, but I have never been able to abide James Cameron’s Titanic. Beyond the endless melodrama, the film manages to sentimentalize a real-life disaster without ever saying something worthwhile. The sinking of the ship itself takes up far too much of the movie’s runtime as various characters run around trying to escape from the encroaching disaster.
We all know how it ends, but my word it takes a long time to get there.
KnowingLet us end on a high note: Nicolas Cage uses numbers to predict the end of the world.
I’ve never been totally sure what was happening in this film, except that it was all Very Serious And Important. 9/11 gets rolled into predictions about aliens, a solar flare, and Nicolas Cage going all rage-tastic. This is an unpleasant and thoroughly incoherent movie that says more about the disaster that is Cage’s career than anything else. (I am deliberately avoiding any mention of the Left Behind film, because I think we shouldn’t kick a Cage while he’s down).