Thursday Movie Picks: Natural disasters

This week in Thursday Movie Picks – run by Wandering through the Shelves – we’ve been asked to list three to five films where the plot revolves around a natural disaster. As usual, I’ve made my selection from films I have seen, and as I really enjoy films from this genre, after a six-week hiatus from joining the series, this is a theme I couldn’t miss.

What constitutes a ‘disaster’ film?

According to Wikipedia, a disaster film is a film genre that has an impending or ongoing disaster as its subject and primary plot device. Such disasters may include natural disasters, accidents, military/terrorist attacks or global catastrophes such as a pandemic.

Clip taken from The Day After Tomorrow (2004) from German director Roland Emmerich, known as the ‘Master of Disaster’.

My picks

The Poseidon Adventure (1972, dir. Ronald Neame)
What’s the disaster? A tsunami.
This is action-packed from the get go with great effects and none of the ‘tugging at the heartstrings’ of the 2006 version. Gene Hackman makes a fine leading man as the stoic, resourceful Reverend Scott.

Deepwater Horizon (2016, dir. Peter Berg)
What’s the disaster? An oil spill.
It’s not often that a film starring Mark Wahlberg has me on the edge of my seat, but Deepwater Horizon did just that. Based on the real-life events of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion in 2010, the film features incredible effects and is an intense retelling of events.

Only the Brave (2017, dir. Joseph Kosinski)
What’s the disaster? Wildfires ignited by dry lightning.
Rounding out my list is another biographical film that retells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots (an elite crew of firefighters) and the Yarnell Fire of 2013. Only the Brave is a well-crafted film featuring superb effects and strong casting that sensitively retells the poignant story of some exceptional, brave human beings.

Update: Kicking myself for not originally including some of my favourite natural disaster films, including The Perfect Storm (2000) and The Impossible (2012). Two more excellent water-based disaster films.


17 thoughts on “Thursday Movie Picks: Natural disasters

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  1. I immediately think of Independence Day and Deep Impact when I think of disaster movies. I haven’t seen The Poseidon Adventure but I should see this original one. I believe there’s already a remake of it right?

  2. Love The Poseidon Adventure but I thought it was a rogue wave. I haven’t seen it in quite the while but I remember so many key points. Funny, in 1972, I was 8 yrs old and my mom took my brother and me to Europe. We were staying in some hotel in Vienna and my mom went for a nap. We were bored so my brother and I left the room and would run down the circular staircase and go up the elevator( yes, the staff were not happy with us or my mom). When I would go down the stairs, we were just on the 3rd floor, I remember looking down and seeing this glass covering the first floor from the ground floor and I recalled the man falling through the glass in the Poseidon Adventure. I was quite scared and, no I didn’t see the movie but the ads were on TV and the man falling through the glass was always shown. The last one, I haven’t seen but I always have great respect for firefighters. I really like Deep Impact and thought it was quite well done.

    1. What a great anecdote, Birgit! Funny how moments in real life remind you of the movies.
      I had a healthy amount of respect for firefighters before watching Only the Brave but it went up ten-fold after. Incredible, fearless people.

  3. The Poseidon Adventure is great entertainment. Many years ago Channel 4 did a top 20 “Disaster Movies” countdown and they included all sorts of “disasters” not just natural ones. Their number 1 pick was actually Die Hard, go figure.

    For a very gritty disaster flick I would highly recommend The Impossible starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and a young Tom Holland.

    Great blog

    1. Thanks, Dom. I was kicking myself about missing The Impossible – it is a fantastic film that appears to have been made very sympathetically to the actual family’s experience.
      Hmm, I’m not sure Die Hard would top my list… given recent events I think Contagion would be near the top!

  4. Oh I LOVE The Poseidon Adventure (the original NOT the remake which is soulless crap)!! It’s spectacle of a sort but you care about those characters (I must admit that the whiny lounge singer works my nerves but the rest of the cast makes up for her). I saw if in a packed theatre when it came out and the audience was on the edge of their seats as soon as the ship flipped.

    Deepwater Horizon was very involving but unlike Poseidon I doubt that I’ll watch it again.

    I’ve heard of Only the Brave but haven’t seen it yet. The film does have a similarity to one of my choices this time out.

    I’m a disaster movie fan too and will give anything in the genre a shot though more often than not they turn out to be lousy but every once in a while you find a gem. I decided this week to go with films where the disaster isn’t the main focus of the narrative but disrupts everything once it appears.

    The Colossus of Rhodes (1961)-Soldier Darios (Rory Calhoun) arrives on the Isle of Rhodes during the Hellenistic period to finds King Serse (Roberto Camardiel) has commissioned a larger-than-life statue of Apollo (destined to be one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World) meant to protect the harbor. Upon meeting master builder Carete (Félix Fernández), who has been commissioned to erect the statue Darios falls in love with his daughter Diala (Léa Massari). Through their alliance Darios also becomes involved with Peliocles (Georges Marchal) and his rebel force who seek to overthrow the tyrannical king. As a revolt foments a massive earthquake lays waste to nearly all.

    Tornado (1943)-Coal miner Pete Ramsey (Chester Morris) has a whirlwind romance with rapacious showgirl Victory Kane (Nancy Kelly) who is passing through town and impulsively marries her. Social climbing Victory pushes Pete to work his way up in the company to enter a high tax bracket but still unsatisfied takes up with Gary Linden (Morgan Conway), the philandering son of the mine owner behind Pete’s back. As matters come to a crisis point the title tornado blows into town and coal isn’t the only thing to hit the fan.

    Red Skies of Montana (1952)-After a tragic incident that resulted in the loss of his crew smokejumper Cliff Mason (Richard Widmark), unable to recall the event, is fearful that cowardice might have been at fault. Though cleared though an investigation he is determined to prove himself again especially since one man’s son, Ed Miller (Jeffrey Hunter), suspects Cliff was responsible for his father’s death. When a canyon wildfire breaks out Ed pursues Cliff there for a confrontation but when they become trapped Cliff must take desperate measures to save them both.

    1. That’s fair enough, Sonia. It’s probably one of those genres that you either get a kick out of (as I do) or you don’t.
      I should have included The Perfect Storm. It is one of the earliest films I remember watching as a kid.

  5. I never saw The Poseidon Adventure but I did see the 2000’s remake, which wasn’t the greatest but that ship capsizing like that is still terrifying.

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