We don’t get too much excitement in the way of weather around Denver. 300 days of perfect, dry sunshine makes the summer lightning storms seem pretty intense – so when the tornado sirens went off today and I started getting tornado alerts on my phone, things suddenly became pretty interesting. Granted, all I saw were some cool swirly clouds and some hail, but some other lucky people actually got to see the awesome power of nature in action. So in honor of a rare exciting day in Colorado, here is a list of natural disaster movies to liven up your life.
Top 6 Natural Disaster Movies
6. The Perfect Storm (2000)
There’s not much on this earth that can compare to the vastly unexplored expanses of the world’s oceans. Most of us only view it from the safety of public beaches – imagine viewing it from the ocean center, with nothing around you except more water as far as the eye can see. If that seems humbling, imagine how deep the water beneath you is, and then you might start to feel really small. On the long list of some of the coolest and strangest things about large bodies of water is the weather that happens over them, including so called “Perfect Storms” like the one in this movie based on a true story. I don’t remember much about this movie aside from how tensely the action was depicted, how cool the special effects were, and how terrifying the very aspect of the ocean seemed afterwards. And also how New England-y everything was – but in a really over the top, touristy New England kind of way. I blame Wahlberg.
5. Dante’s Peak (1997)
Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about natural disaster movies is their general failure to take into account actual science. Just think how much cooler the movie would be if you could come away from it with a true appreciation for what the world is capable of, and then you would have all kinds of cool facts to share with your friends. While Dante’s Peak is perhaps one of the most scientifically inaccurate movies about a volcano (quickly followed up by Volcano), it is one of the most entertaining (also followed up by Volcano). This was back in Pierce Brosnan’s heyday, when he was young, smashing, and debonair and could somehow manage to outrun the ceaseless destruction of a volcano. It is pretty accurate in the way that, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, the people in power refused to acknowledge or prepare for the coming disaster.
4. Volcano (1997)
The only thing more improbable than Volcano’s plot is that it came out the same year as Dante’s Peak. That’s right, 1997 was a popular year for volcanoes – it just so happens it was the only year volcanoes were popular. As for the plot, it’s not that different from Dante’s Peak either – geologist finds evidence of imminent eruption and is ignored, volcano erupts and no one is prepared, extreme and unlikely measures are taken to preserve life. Thankfully, the wonderfully dry and sardonic Tommy Lee Jones heads up a great cast in this ridiculous and trite movie, making it worth watching just for his presence alone. That and the fact that they build a barricade to stop the lava flow from making its way downtown.
3. Twister (1996)
I’ve mentioned this one previously, but mostly in terms of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s role as a tornado chaser. I really loved this movie as a kid – I loved the visual effects of those mysterious, mesmerizing funnels of cloud and wind, kicking up debris and transporting stray cows through the air. I’ve always been fascinated by tornadoes and this movie is one of the coolest for fans of extreme weather, scientific research, and adventure. I don’t much care about the cast or the story or even the direction, but I love the spirit of the movie – the thrill of the chase and dedication to scientific passion. Some of those characters gave their lives in the name of science, but also in the name of life. This spirit of thrill and scientific discovery brings to mind storm chaser and researcher Tim Samaras, who died quite recently while conducting research on the world’s largest recorded tornado. You remember the EF5 tornado at the end of Twister? That real life tornado in Moore, Oklahoma dwarfs that in both size and effect. You can’t say the man didn’t live before he died.
2. Armageddon (1998)
This movie is utterly ridiculous in so many ways. The cast is ridiculous. The terrible number one hit theme song by Arrowsmith is ridiculous. The plot is ridiculous. The only thing that maybe isn’t ridiculous is the general premise in which a planet ending asteroid is headed on a collision course with Earth – because, you know, that has actually happened once or twice in Earth’s distant past. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that a 65-foot wide asteroid exploded over Russia, so that kind of thing is more likely than you might think. Things like that make you realize that our existence on this planet is a mere whim of chance in the natural balances of the universe. Or, as Armageddon would have you believe, our existence may just depend on Bruce Willis. God save us all.
1. Gravity (2013)
And of course there’s everyone’s current favorite, Alfonso Cuaron’s Academy Award winning epic space disaster movie, Gravity. So much about this movie is fantastic – from the way it is filmed, to the acting, to the writing, direction, and special effects. What I think I find most amazing about it is the fact that the very realistic (if not completely scientifically accurate) disaster that takes place in the great expanse and vacuum of space, but also takes place incredibly close to Earth. The very fact that you can go out in space, while still staying as close to Earth as possible, and still be completely at the mercy of the elements in the harshest of environments is simply mindboggling. It is absolutely horrifying and watching these characters fight against nearly insurmountable odds to stay alive is genuinely nerve-wracking. Gravity is also an amazing movie for the very fact that it manages to be a natural disaster movie without the schlockiness and improbability of blockbuster flicks. It’s a completely human drama, focused on a woman’s fight to survive, and without the unlikely premise that the fate of the entire world rests solely on her shoulders. I mean, how often does just one person doing one thing save everyone in the world?