Great Disaster Movies

We count down some of the best disaster movies…

POMPEII is released in Irish cinemas this week; based on the true events surrounding the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD and the subsequent destruction of the ancient city of Pompeii, the film is an disaster movie of giant proportions. With POMPEII in mind, we decided to take a look back at some of the best disaster movies of recent years…


Yeah, we know, James Cameron’s epic TITANIC showed the sinking of the luxury cruise liner on a bigger scale, but A NIGHT TO REMEMBER was one of the first movies made about the sinking of the Titanic. In hindsight, the film doesn’t have all of the facts about the sinking of the Titanic after it struck an iceberg in April 1912, and it has some seriously dodgy special effects, but for a film made in 1958, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER is still engaging and heart wrenching, and there is little doubt that this – as well as the historical event – was one of the major influences on James Cameron’s film. On the plus side however, there is no soppy love story in this film, just a tragic disaster and lots and lots of water.


Another film with lots and lots of water is J.A. Bayona’s story of a family separated by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their children are spending their Christmas holiday in Thailand. When a devastating tsunami hits, however, the family is separated and a frantic search begins.
THE IMPOSSIBLE is based on the true story of a Spanish family and their experiences during the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. While the audience knows this from the start, however, it is never obvious how their story is going to end. THE IMPOSSIBLE is definitely a tear-jerker, but strong, moving performances and the power of a true story make this film work.


OK, this one is not based on a true story, and it is more of an examination of mental illness than a film about a disaster, but MELANCHOLIA is framed with the knowledge that a mysterious new planet is about to collide with Earth.
MELANCHOLIA looks stunning, from the opening montage to the closing scene the film is lush, sumptuous and almost dripping with life and colour. The slow motion montage at the start kicks off the themes of bewilderment and isolation that carry on throughout the film. These extreme slow motion shots are incredibly beautiful, and capture the emotion of the characters at this moment in time. It is obvious that none of the characters are really where they want to be in their lives, and these shots that show them barely moving underline this. The planet Melancholia becomes almost a character in itself, it’s proximity to Earth affects each character in a different, and unexpected manner.


One of Steven Soderbergh’s last films is not necessarily a story about people, but the story of a disease…
Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns home from a business trip to China with a slight cough. Within a few short hours, she is dead from an unknown disease. The disease spreads quickly and mutates as it goes, so Doctors Ellis Cheever (Lawrence Fishburne) and Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) go into containment mode. There is no known cure; they have to stop the disease from spreading while they search for one. Meanwhile, Beth’s widower Mitch (Matt Damon) is declared immune and goes to great lengths to protect his daughter, internet prophet Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) is arrested for spreading what he believes to be the truth, Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) is held hostage against the promise of a cure and millions of people around the world die.


Yes, you read that right; SHARKNADO is an amazing, if silly and over the top, disaster movie. Made for TV, SHARKNADO tells of a freak hurricane that hits LA, as if this was not terrifying enough, the hurricane has scooped up sharks on its journey, and deposits them across the city. The film, which was broadcast originally on the Syfy network, trended on Twitter on the night it was shown, and sparked discussion online from Matt Damon, Wil Wheaton and Olivia Wilde. We hope a real Sharknado could never happen, but the film has become a cult hit, and is loved for all of its B-Movie terribleness.


POMPEII is in Irish cinemas from May 2nd

Words: Brogen Hayes