We’ve lit the fuse on the 10 most explosive disaster movies ever

The end of the world is nigh – strap yourselves in and buckle up as we count down our favourite disaster movies of all time.
Our formula? State-of-the-art special effects + riveting storyline + characters you care about + modern day relevance + deep impact = APOCALYPTIC HIT.


War of the Worlds
Image source: DreamWorks

Released to much fan-fare in 2005, this is a contemporary retelling of H.G. Wells' seminal 19th century classic sci-fi thriller novel. Made by Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks production team and starring Tom Cruise, The War of the Worlds is both massive in scale and intimate in human drama – revealing a father’s love and devotion for his kids as he fights an alien invasion obliterating human kind. The emblematic tripod design for the alien machines is based on H.G. Wells' original description from his book, including the heat rays at the ends of the arms. Their deafening "Ulla" war cry was made with a didgeridoo and computer effects. These are some of the scariest aliens ever put on screen.


Poseidon Adventure
Image source: Twentieth Century Fox

Made in 1972, it’s still considered a classic of the genre. The special effects were ground-breaking for their time and actually hold up well today. A huge luxury liner gets overturned by a massive tidal wave and the few survivors must climb to the hull of the upside down ship to try and escape. Gene Hackman stars as a cantankerous hero priest and Shelley Winters is a plucky dame forced to undertake physical feats that push her body to the limits. Remade but never bettered, this colossal hit, along with its generational counterpart The Towering Inferno, spurned a whole new era of disaster movies.


San Andreas

The Rock saves the day! Well, he saves a lot of people but not the West Coast of America. Not even Dwayne Johnson can stop the earth cracking open and swallowing Hollywood up. He’s a helicopter rescue pilot staring down at a magnitude 9.6 quake, the result of the San Andreas Fault, a tectonic fault line that runs through most of California. Mind-boggling earthquake and tsunami special effects make you feel like the ground is swallowing you up – and Dwayne even did most of his own stunts. Coincidentally, a lot of San Andreas was shot in Brisbane, somewhere that’s never seen a quake.



Geostorm reveals what happens when the planet turns on itself. Gerard Butler joins the pantheon of action A-List stars who headline top-tier disaster movies. When a network of satellites designed to control the global climate and protect humanity start to attack Earth, it's a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide Geostorm wipes out everything and everyone. Cities freeze, flood, burn and ignite... but Gerard Butler is about to take the storm into his own hands.


Image source: Touchstone Pictures

The epic that has it all – Michael Bay directing, Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Owen Wilson, a gargantuan asteroid the size of Texas and even the appearance of Area 51, sending all you conspiracy theorists into a frenzy. After discovering that an asteroid is on its way that has the capacity to decimate the planet, N.A.S.A. recruits a misfit team of deep core drillers to train as astronauts, head to the asteroid and blow it apart before impact. This is a one-way mission, no return tickets needed. The cast got to wear real NASA space suits, which had never been allowed before in a movie, costing $3 million each.


Image source: Warner Bros.

One of the most successful disaster movies of the 1990’s, Twister follows storm-chasers into the vortex of unpredictable, devastating tornadoes. They’ve developed a tornado research device called Dorothy, a pithy homage to the The Wizard of Oz. Famous for the CGI  flying cow scene, which actually began life as a flying zebra animated sequence in Jumanji. Even Hollywood recycles!


Image source: Twentieth Century Fox

Probably the most successful and best know disaster movie of all time. It broke records, the theme song broke hearts (and eardrums) and the ship’s captain, James Cameron, will forever go down in Academy history for his Leo DiCaprio inspired cry at the podium: “I’m the king of the world”. Not only an epic disaster movie, but a love story for the ages – if ever a disaster movie had heart, this is it.


World War Z
Image source: Paramount Pictures

The dead never die and this big budget extravaganza brought together three of cinema’s favourite pre-occupations: disasters, zombies and Brad Pitt. Beyond cool, beyond scale, beyond scary, beyond. Not known for making popcorn blockbusters, Pitt stated his reasons for starring in this satisfyingly dramatic actionfest: "This whole thing started because I just wanted to do a film that my boys could see before they turned 18 - one that they would like, anyways. And they love a zombie."

Who doesn’t?

2. 2012

Image source: Columbia Pictures

We Were Warned: the posters ominously told us... and now look what happens when we ignore those warnings. The earth's core is heating up and the crust is becoming unstable – now the world must unite to save humanity from extinction. The solution is to build ‘arks’ that will save many, but not all, humans, animals and plant life. If you want to see the finest monuments in the world crumble, explode, implode, fall and drown, watch this movie – every famous sight in the world gets it. And it’s cool to witness, even if you ignore the Biblical references.


Independance Day
Image source: Twentieth Century Fox

Independence Day set a new benchmark on its release and still holds up as a cornerstone in the disaster genre. We’re talking about the 1996 original and not the 2016 sequel. Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman vs. Aliens. The highest grossing hit the year it was released, people still talk about the exploding White House scene – there were a record 3,000 special effect shots in the movie. Bill Pullman’s role as President Whitmore was originally written for Kevin Spacey, but the studio didn’t think Spacey was a big enough star. And the role played so well by Harry Connick, Jr. was originally meant for Friends star, Matthew Perry. It may be heavy on the American patriotism but it’s still edge-of-your-seat-gripping to this day.

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