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A disaster film or disaster movie is a film genre that has an impending or ongoing disaster as its subject and primary plot device. Such disasters include natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis or asteroid collisions, accidents such as shipwrecks or airplane crashes, or calamities like worldwide disease pandemics. A subgenre of action films[1][2], these films usually feature some degree of build-up, the disaster itself, and sometimes the aftermath, usually from the point of view of specific individual characters or their families or portraying the survival tactics of different people.

These films often feature large casts of actors and multiple plot lines, focusing on the characters' attempts to avert, escape or cope with the disaster and its aftermath. The genre came to particular prominence during the 1970s with the release of high-profile films such as Airport (1970), followed in quick succession by The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Earthquake (1974) and The Towering Inferno (1974).[3]

The casts were generally made up of familiar character actors. Once the disaster begins in the film, the characters are usually confronted with human weaknesses, often falling in love and almost always finding a villain to blame. The genre experienced a renewal in the 1990s boosted by computer-generated imagery (CGI) and large studio budgets which allowed for more focus on the destruction, and less on the human drama, as seen in films like 1998's Armageddon and Deep Impact.[4] Nevertheless, the films usually feature a persevering hero or heroine (Charlton Heston, Steve McQueen, etc.) called upon to lead the struggle against the threat. In many cases, the "evil" or "selfish" individuals are the first to succumb to the conflagration.[5]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Top 15 Natural Disasters Caught On Tape
  • ✪ One of the Worst Man-Made Disasters in History
  • ✪ Unbelievable Natural Disasters Caught on Tape!
  • ✪ [PREVIEW] Why Shark Tale is a Cinematic Disaster
  • ✪ 2012 (2009) All Disaster Scenes


Number 15. 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami: Often credited as the Fukushima Earthquake, the Tohoku Earthquake made Japan the centre of attention for most of 2011 and into 2012. At 2:46pm Japan Standard Time, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake shook Japan for six minutes off the coast of the Sendai region in Northern Honshu island. Immediately after, 40 metre tsunami crashed into the Japanese coast, taking buildings, cars, people, and anything in its path to be swallowed up by the ocean. Both the earthquake and resulting tsunami was captured on video by residents, tourists and CCTV, perfectly visualizing the violent nature of both. As of March 2015, the National Police released records of a total of 15,893 fatalities as a result of the disaster. The main highlight of the disaster was the extensive damage done to the Fukushima nuclear reactors, resulting in radiation leaking into the surrounding area, resulting in an evacuation of the area following a reactor meltdown worse than the one at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. This has caused heated debate in Japan questioning the practice of nuclear energy in the country since it is an earthquake hot zone. While the earthquake sent Japan's economy into a deep recession, the country was able to come together and rebuild most of the affected areas within a year. Number 14. 2004 Sumatra Earthquake and Tsunami: It was the day after Christmas in South Asia, and the beaches were packed with Christmas tourists from around the world, and locals from the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. At 12:58 UTC, and earthquake of 9.1 magnitude rocked the Indonesian island of Sumatra, sending a massive tsunami rippling the Indian Ocean and smashing large waves along the coastline. Locals and tourists alike filmed the scenes unfolding, initially expressing surprise over the extent the tides had washed out. While some recognized the danger of this, many remained on the beaches to observe until it was too late. The waves smashed onto the resorts, and by the end between 230,000 and 280,000 people were dead, and many more are still listed as missing; a majority of the dead were in Indonesia, and a total of 1.75 million people were displaced. The strength of the shockwave was enough for the tsunami to reach as far as Madagascar, Kenya and even South Africa, though causalities were considerably low compared to Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India, which were the most devastated countries affected. It was the third largest earthquake recorded in history, and also prompted one of the largest humanitarian responses, from donations, all the way to volunteer and foreign aid relief. Number 13. 2011 Joplin Tornado: Missouri is a state located in the middle of tornado ally, and is no stranger to the phenomena, but on May 22, 2011, the city of Joplin was struck with a powerful F5 multi-vortex tornado, causing almost complete destruction to the city and surrounding area. As a haven for tornado chasers, many managed to capture the full force of the tornado, which ripped through the area for just over 40 minutes, and picked up winds up to 320 km/h. In the aftermath, residents overlooked the complete devastation as entire neighbourhoods were flattened and many people now found themselves trapped in their homes and overturned cars. 158 people were killed, and 1,150 were injured as a result of the disaster. As procedure, emergency crews were immediately dispatched from across Missouri to aid in the search and rescue efforts, and Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency for the Joplin area. In the early hours of May 23, Missouri Task Force One reached Joplin, and the rescue efforts began. By 2015, it was calculated a total $2.95 billion in damages. Charity donations and relif supplies soared into the area, and even caught the attention of the Royal Family of the United Arab Emirates, who donated laptops to all 2,200 high school students in the Joplin area, and $5 million to help rebuild the Mercy Hospital, which was destroyed in the disaster. Number 12. Hurricane Sandy: Originating in the Caribbean, Sandy travelled up the entire Eastern Coast of the United States. The storm is best known for making landfall in New York City, temporarily submerging parts of Manhattan and the other boroughs underwater. The storm lasted from October 22 until November 2, 2012, dissipating over the Canadian Maritime provinces. By that time, 233 people were killed and $75 billion in damages were inflicted. When Sandy hit Jamaica, 70% of its residents were left without electricity, and the flooding caused in Haiti killed 54 people from drowning or waterborne diseases. The hurricane also became a hot topic of the upcoming presidential election, and incumbent president Barack Obama's response to the storm is credited as a deciding factor in his reelection days later. The HMS Bounty attempted to sail the ship out of harms way, but tragically ran into the storm mid way when winds changed Sandy's direction, leading it right into the ship; it sunk 90 miles off the North Carolina coast, killing two of the crew, including the captain. Number 11. Slave Lake Wildfires: This small town in Northern Alberta, Canada was engulfed by massive wildfires between May 14th and 16th 2011. Canada was in the height of its annual fire season, which amounts to approximately 9,000 fires every year around the country, and the wildfires that occur in Alberta rarely threaten populated areas. However, this particular fire quickly spread into Slave Lake, resulting in a mass evacuation of the town to avoid injuries and fatalities. Many evacuees filmed their flight from the town, showing the bellowing smoke above and the fires breaching the town. In total, 12,000 acres were burned, and 433 buildings were destroyed, with a further 89 damaged. In total, 7,000 people were forced to evacuate, resulting in one of the largest displacements in Alberta history. Among the ruins were the town hall, library, radio station and a local mall. Despite the severity of the blaze, there was only one reported fatality due to a helicopter crash in the vicinity. An extensive investigation into the cause revealed arson was the likely cause of the inferno, though no person as of yet has been charged, and the investigation is ongoing. Number 10. Hurricane Katrina: The fifth hurricane of the 2005 season, Katrina also happened to be the most severe. Originating over the Bahamas, Katrina moved up to the Southern American coast. New Orleans, Louisiana was particularly devastated, after the levees meant to protect the city from flooding were breached, and gallons upon gallons of water flowed into the city. $108 billion in damages were reported in the aftermath, and between 1,200 and 1,800 people were killed. Katrina remains a high topic of discussion due to the controversial handling of the relief effort, or lack thereof depending on the perspective. The aftermath of Katrina resulted in the resignation of Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael D. Brown and New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass. News stations from around the world showed the almost anarchic nature of the Southern Coast in the aftermath, seemingly full of lawlessness, and desperation of those who were stranded. The 2005 storm was the final one named Katrina, as it was retired due to the high death toll and damage cost making it too iconic and recognizable. Number 9. 2011 Christchurch Earthquake: It seemed like a typical lunchtime in the New Zealand city on the 22nd of February 2011, but soon the residents felt the earth violently shake beneath their feet. Christchurch experienced a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, the second largest in the country's history. Lasting around 10 seconds, and occurring only 10 km from the city centre, the devastation was massive, with buildings collapsing all over Christchurch, and near by Lyttelton. Home videos surfaced of the quake, showing lunch time commuters fleeing for their lives, and structures crumbling under the immense force of the shaking; sadly, many people were on the streets and sidewalks during their lunch break, resulting in many people being covered in rubble. In total, 185 people were killed, and between 1500 and 2000 were injured, 164 of which were serious. In the aftermath, city emergency officials found themselves pushed to their limits, with hospitals running over capacity, ambulances rushing to go from scene to scene, and the fire brigades desperately trying to put out fires started from broken gas lines. After a national state of emergency was declared, international offers of relief assistance flooded in, which the New Zealand government hastily accepted; monetary donations from the Australian Federal Government and New South Wales totaled 6.5 million New Zealand dollars and 1.3 million NZ dollars respectfully, and an Australian rescue force was immediately dispatched to Christchurch and the surrounding area. 66 members of the Japanese USAR, along with three specialists in search and rescue dogs also descended on the city withing two days, helping ease the overwhelmed local emergency services. Number 8. Armero Tragedy: The Nevado del Ruiz stratovolcano in Tolima, Colombia lay dormant for 69 years, until November 13, 1985, when it erupted; the surrounding towns were completely caught off guard, and a mass amount of mudslides, landslides and debris flow buried many of the communities, with their inhabitants now trapped.The flows travelled a staggering 50km/h, leaving little time for people to flee. The town of Armero took the full force of the mudslides, killing 20,000 out of its 29,000 inhabitants. The most iconic footage and photographs of the disaster is that of Omayra Sanchez, whose legs had become trapped under the debris of her home, leaving her submerged underwater up to her neck. Efforts to rescue her failed, and it was determined there would be no way to save her without amputation. To the surprise of onlookers, Sanchez remained calm through her ordeal, speaking to her rescuers and singing to them. She agreed to interviews in exchange for sweets and soda. After three days, Sanchez died from exposure, while her mother and brother survived. The Colombian government came under heavy fire after the disaster, due to there being many warning signs brought before the government, but failing to act in time. Number 7. 2013 Southern Alberta Floods: A fairly recent and personal experience for Top15s writer Jonah Petruic, Southern Alberta, Canada was barraged by flood waters as a result of seasonal melt build up overflowing the river system, topped with heavy rainfall. Residents of Calgary and the surrounding areas awoke on June 19, 2013, to discover the waters of the Bow and South Saskatchewan Rivers had overflowed, and created what appeared to be a lake swallowing the neighbourhoods bordering the rivers. Mountain communities Banff and Canmore experienced massive river flow, resulting in rockslides covering the Trans-Canada Highway, forcing officials to close the road; the town of High River experienced the worst of the disaster, with the water levels rising over vehicle roofs, and stranding over 150 people on rooftops requiring airlift rescue. The Alberta government issued a state of emergency, and residents unaffected by flood waters were urged to remain in their home for their safety and to not impede with emergency personnel. Footage from residents and local news were broadcast across Canada, and even picked up airtime internationally. In the end, 100,000 residents were displaced, 5 people were killed, and $5billion in damages were a direct result of the flooding. The final floodwaters edged back into the rivers on July 12, and in an act of humanity, people from across Alberta and Canada made their way to the communities hardest affected to help clean out the homes and businesses; however, the legacy of the floods continue to impact Southern Alberta residents to this day. Number 6. 1992 Hurricane Andrew: The fifth most destructive cyclone in American history, Hurricane Andrew flew over the Bahamas and straight into Florida's coast. The category 5 storm reached speeds of 285 km/h, with the most damage occurring in the Miami-Dade County, where 25,000 homes were destroyed and 100,000 severely damaged. An evacuation was ordered in nine of Florida's counties, but many residents in the apartment complexes huddled for shelter in the stairwells, and others covered under mattresses as their roofs collapsed. News anchors stayed sheltered in their studios and stayed on the air to offer advice to those still able to tune in. By the time the storm dissipated, 26 people were killed as a direct result, with a further 39 indirect fatalities; damages totaled $26.5 billion. Andrew was able to cause 28 tornadoes along the Gulf coast, mostly in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Response proved controversial due to the rise of crime and looting in the aftermath, and it took four days for emergency relief to enter the Miami area, and a further two days for supplies to begin circulating. This was the last hurricane to be named Andrew, as the name was retired after that year's season. Number 5. 1987 Edmonton Tornado: While Tornados are not a rare sight in Alberta, seldom do they ever threaten the major metropolitan centres of the province. On July 31, Alberta's capital of Edmonton was rocked by an F4 tornado. Touching down in the south of the city, the twister travelled north up the entire east side of the city, with the peak intensity in the refinery row district. It finally dissipated in the community of Evergreen at 4:25 pm, just over an hour from touch down. Emergency services immediate descended onto the affected areas, and the nearby Canadian Forces Base placed its helicopters on standby for relief efforts. 27 people died as a result of the tornado, most of whom lived in Evergreen, which is a mobile home community. While home video wasn't as popular in 1987 as it is today, many residents quickly took out their camcorders to film the unusual sight, along with the local news filming the immediate aftermath. Changes were made in order to better warn residents of impending disasters, and the Alberta Emergency Alert system was developed and programmed to interrupt public and private broadcasts with warning messages, similar to the Emergency Broadcast System in the United States. In the summer of 2015, history nearly repeated itself three hours south in Calgary, when a funnel cloud formed in the south-west of the city, but dissipated before touching the ground Number 4. Tornado Outbreak of December 23-25, 2015: While many were preparing for Christmas Celebrations, the United States found itself sieged by a massive tornado outbreak, mostly in Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. Within the three day period, over 30 tornadoes touched down across Southern and Midwestern United States, causing mass destruction and casualties in the areas affected. The strongest winds occurred near Black Grant, Kentucky on December 23, with wind gusts reaching between 90 and 100 miles per hour. Hail was also largely reported, with stones in Craigshead Country, Arkansas on the 23rd and Hinds Country, Mississippi on Christmas Eve measuring 2.75 inches. 12 of the tornadoes only reached F1 status, but an F4 was recorded on December 23rd between Holly Springs, Mississippi and Selmer, Tennessee. In total, 17 people were killed during the outbreak, 12 of which were a direct result of the tornadoes, and 10 of the fatalities were from the aforementioned F4. While most of the damage was minor to moderate, the Holly Springs/Selmer tornado has destroyed many small communities and country homes, and a relief effort has been set up to clean up, and provide aid to the residents. Number 3. 2015 Washington Wildfires: The eastern United States has been suffering a period of high temperatures for several year, particularly in California. As a result, many of the vegetation dries up and can create a severe fire hazard. As early as May 15, wildfires began spreading through Washington state and the Canadian province of British Colombia, mostly due to lightning strikes. The largest of these fires was in Okanogan County, which was an amalgamation of several smaller fires combining into one. At it's height, 304,782 acres were burned. To date, it is the largest wildfire in Washington's history, and tragically three US Forest Service firefighters were killed in an accident on August 19. Currently, there is no exact count of the amount of fires in Washington to occur during this time, but an estimated 1.1 million acres was destroyed, and 120 homes were destroyed in the Okanogan fires alone. By the end of August, most of the fires were being contained, and firefighters from across the United States came to help the local authorities, as well as 70 Australian and New Zealand firefighters who came to brief and lend equipment. States and provinces east of the fires saw a significant drop in air quality for much of the summer, as the winds carried smoke as far as Calgary, Alberta, sending the air quality index to a 500 rating in late August. Number 2. Mount St. Helens eruption: Now a well known event across the United States and Canada, Mount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano located in the Cascade Mountain Range of Washington 154 kms south of Seattle. The most violent eruption to date occurred on May 18, 1980, when the volcano exploded. In the days leading up to the eruption, Mount St. Helens showed signs of a possible eruption with notable swelling on the north end of the mountain, causing many people to cautiously vacate the area. The explosion occurred around half-past-8 in the morning, and sent almost the entire north face sliding down in a large land flow. While no known footage of the eruption exists, various scientific and wildlife agencies captured the bellowing cloud of ash in the aftermath, which reached up to 80,000 feet, and deposited ash in 11 states on the continental U.S, and 5 provinces in Canada. An estimated death toll brings the body count to 60, and $1.1 billion dollars in property damage was a result of the landslide, and a mudflow formed from dirt and ash falling into the near by Columbia River, transporting a total of 3 million cubic metres of debris over 27 kms. Since then, eruptions from the volcano have been relatively more minor, and the crater of the volcano shows the eruption point. The last eruption to date occurred between January 16 and July 10, 2008, with only ash released with minor effect to the surrounding area. Number 1. 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake: The San Francisco Bay Area was struck by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake lasting between 8 and 15 seconds. In total, 63 were killed and 3,757 were injured. Before the quake began, millions had tuned into the watch Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants at Candlestick park, and the coverage captured the first ever live footage of an earthquake. After the quake ended, local news took to the streets and sky to film the destruction caused; broken gas lines set fires throughout the area, and a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed, sending commuters fleeing from a potential collapse. As stated before on this channel, the small number of deaths has been speculated to be a result of fewer traffic on the bridge due to people staying home to watch the game, and attending the game itself, meaning the death toll on the Nimtz Freeway collapse was due to lesser congestion on the road. The earthquake also caused between 1,000 and 4,000 landslides, and caused between 5.6 and $6.6 billion dollars in damages. The earthquake also led to the decision to replace the Bay Bridge out of fear it could not sustain another major earthquake, and construction on the new eastern span began in 2013.



Disaster themes are almost as old as the film medium itself. One of the earliest was Fire! (1901) made by James Williamson of England. The silent film portrayed a burning house and the firemen who arrive to quench the flames and rescue the inhabitants.[6] Origins of the genre can also be found in In Nacht und Eis (1912), about the sinking of the Titanic; Atlantis (1913), also about the Titanic; Noah's Ark (1928), the Biblical story from Genesis about the great flood; Deluge (1933), about tidal waves devastating New York City; King Kong (1933), with a gigantic gorilla rampaging through New York City; and The Last Days of Pompeii (1935), dealing with the Mount Vesuvius volcanic eruption in 79 AD.[7]

John Ford's The Hurricane (1937) concluded with the striking sequence of a tropical cyclone ripping through a fictional South Pacific island. The drama San Francisco (1936) depicted the historic 1906 San Francisco earthquake, while In Old Chicago (1937) recreated The Great Chicago Fire which burned through the city in 1871.[7] Carol Reed's 1939 film, The Stars Look Down, examines a catastrophe at a coal mine in North-East England.

Inspired by the end of World War II and the beginning of the Atomic Age, science fiction films of the 1950s, including When Worlds Collide (1953), The War of the Worlds (1953) and Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956), routinely used world disasters as plot elements. This trend would continue with The Deadly Mantis (1957), The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) and Crack in the World (1965). Volcanic disasters would also feature in films such as The Devil at 4 O'Clock (1961) starring Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra, and the 1969 epic Krakatoa, East of Java starring Maximilian Schell.[8]

As in the silent film era, the sinking of the Titanic would continue to be a popular disaster with filmmakers and audiences alike. Werner Klingler and Herbert Selpin released the epic film, Titanic (1943 film). The film was soon banned in Germany and its director, Selpin, was allegedly executed. The film was a staple for all Titanic films, and scenes became stock footage for the British version. Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck starred in the 1953 20th Century Fox production Titanic, followed by the highly regarded British film A Night to Remember in 1958. The British action-adventure film The Last Voyage (1960), while not about the Titanic disaster but a predecessor to The Poseidon Adventure, starred Robert Stack as a man desperately attempting to save his wife (Dorothy Malone) and child trapped in a sinking ocean liner. The film, concluding with the dramatic sinking of the ship, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.[8][9]

Additional precursors to the popular disaster films of the 1970s include The High and the Mighty (1954), starring John Wayne and Robert Stack as pilots of a crippled airplane attempting to cross the ocean; Zero Hour! (1957), written by Arthur Hailey (who also penned the 1968 novel Airport) about an airplane crew that succumbs to food poisoning; Jet Storm and Jet Over the Atlantic, two 1959 films both featuring attempts to blow up an airplane in mid-flight; The Crowded Sky (1960) which depicts a mid-air collision; and The Doomsday Flight (1966), written by Rod Serling and starring Edmond O'Brien as a disgruntled aerospace engineer who plants a barometric pressure bomb on an airliner built by his former employer set to explode when the airliner descends for landing.[8][10][11]


The golden age of the disaster film began in 1970 with the release of Airport.[3] A huge financial success earning more than $100 million - 590 million in 2017 adjusted dollars, at the box office, the film was directed by George Seaton and starred Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, George Kennedy, Jacqueline Bisset and Helen Hayes. While not exclusively focused on a disaster, in this case, an airplane crippled by the explosion of a bomb, the film established the blueprint of multiple plotlines acted out by an all-star cast. Airport was nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, winning Best Supporting Actress for Hayes.[12]

With the 1972 release of The Poseidon Adventure, another huge financial success notching an impressive $84 million in US/Canada gross rental theatrical rentals, 490 Million in 2017 adjusted dollars, the disaster film officially became a movie-going craze. Directed by Ronald Neame and starring Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters and Red Buttons, the film detailed survivors' attempts at escaping a sinking ocean liner overturned by a giant wave triggered by an earthquake. The Poseidon Adventure was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Shelley Winters and winning for Original Song and receiving a Special Achievement Award for visual effects.[13]

The trend reached its zenith in 1974 with the release of The Towering Inferno, Earthquake and Airport 1975 (the first Airport sequel). The competing films enjoyed staggering success at the box office, with The Towering Inferno earning $116 million - 548 million in 2017 adjusted dollars, Earthquake $79 million - 376 million in 2017 adjusted dollars, and Airport 1975 $47 million - 235 million in 2017 adjusted dollars - in theatrical rentals.[14]

Arguably the greatest of the 1970s disaster films, The Towering Inferno was a joint venture of 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. and was produced by Irwin Allen (eventually known as "The Master of Disaster", as he had previously helmed The Poseidon Adventure and later produced The Swarm, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure and When Time Ran Out...). Directed by John Guillermin and starring Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden and Faye Dunaway, the film depicts a huge fire engulfing the tallest building in the world and firefighters' attempts at rescuing occupants trapped on the top floor. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, winning for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Original Song.[15]

Earthquake was also honored with four Academy Award nominations for its impressive special effects of a massive earthquake leveling the city of Los Angeles, winning for Best Sound and receiving a Special Achievement Award for visual effects. The film was directed by Mark Robson and starred Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, Geneviève Bujold, George Kennedy and Lorne Greene. It was noted as the first film to utilize Sensurround, where massive sub-woofer speakers were installed in theaters to recreate the vibrating sensation of an earthquake.[16] Several made-for-TV movies also capitalized on the craze including Heatwave! (1974), The Day the Earth Moved (1974), Hurricane (1974), Flood! (1976) and Fire! (1977).[17][18][19][20][21]

The trend continued on a larger scale with The Hindenburg (1975) starring George C. Scott; The Cassandra Crossing (1976) starring Burt Lancaster; Two-Minute Warning (1976) starring Charlton Heston; Black Sunday (1977) starring Robert Shaw; Rollercoaster in Sensurround (1977) starring George Segal; Damnation Alley (1977) starring Jan-Michael Vincent; Avalanche (1978) starring Rock Hudson; Gray Lady Down (1978) also starring Charlton Heston; Hurricane (a 1979 remake of John Ford's 1937 film) starring Jason Robards; and City on Fire (1979) starring Barry Newman.

Skyjacked (1972) was a lesser entry into the disaster film canon, following on the heels of Airport, though preceding its sequel Airport 1975. The Airport series would continue with Airport '77 (1977) and The Concorde ... Airport '79 (1979), with George Kennedy portraying the character Joe Patroni in each sequel. The Poseidon Adventure was followed by the sequel Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979).

The genre began to burn out by the late-1970s when the big-budget films The Swarm (1978), Meteor (1979), Hurricane (1979), The Concorde ... Airport '79 (1979), Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979) and When Time Ran Out... (1980) performed poorly at the box office signaling declining interest in the disaster film product.[22][23][24]

Although The Big Bus (1976), an earlier disaster film spoof, had failed to be a hit, the end of the trend was marked by the 1980 comedy Airplane! which fondly spoofed the clichés of the genre to surprising box office success, producing a sequel of its own, Airplane II: The Sequel, in 1982.[25]

Genre revival

The resurgence of big budget productions of the genre aided by advancements in CGI technology during the 1990s include such films as Twister, Independence Day, Daylight, Dante's Peak, Volcano, Hard Rain, Deep Impact, and Armageddon. In 1997, James Cameron produced, wrote and directed a version of the epic story, Titanic. The film combined romance with intricate special effects and was a huge success, becoming the highest-grossing film (which it remained for twelve years) with over $2.1 billion worldwide,[26] and winning 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.[27]

Literary sources

Movies from the disaster film genre are often based on novels. In many cases, the novels were bestsellers or critically acclaimed works. Three of the genre-defining disaster films of the 1970s were based on best-selling novels: Airport (based on the novel by Arthur Hailey), The Poseidon Adventure (based on the novel by Paul Gallico), and The Towering Inferno (from the novels The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson). Some critically acclaimed novels that were turned into disaster films include On the Beach (by Nevil Shute), The War of the Worlds (by H. G. Wells), Fail-Safe (by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler) and A Night to Remember (non-fiction by Walter Lord).

See also


  1. ^ "Film Sub-Genres".
  2. ^ "Subgenre - Disaster Film". AllMovie.
  3. ^ a b "BookRags, Disaster Movies". Archived from the original on 2007-10-17. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2011-08-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Disaster Films". Archived from the original on 2007-10-29.
  6. ^ "Internet Movie Database, Fire!". Archived from the original on 2009-08-21. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  7. ^ a b "Filmsite, Greatest Disaster Film Scenes". Archived from the original on 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  8. ^ a b c "Filmsite, Greatest Disaster Film Scenes". Archived from the original on 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  9. ^ "Internet Movie Database, Awards for The Last Voyage". Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  10. ^ "CultMovies, Disaster Epics". Archived from the original on 2007-06-13. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  11. ^ "Internet Movie Database, The Doomsday Flight". Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  12. ^ "Internet Movie Database, Airport". Archived from the original on 2006-03-28. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  13. ^ "Internet Movie Database, The Poseidon Adventure". Archived from the original on 2005-05-17. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  14. ^ Wallechinsky, David (1977). The Book of Lists. Bantam Books. p. 197. ISBN 0-553-12400-5.
  15. ^ "Internet Movie Database, The Towering Inferno". Archived from the original on 2007-02-24. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  16. ^ "Internet Movie Database, Earthquake". Archived from the original on 2007-04-03. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  17. ^ "Internet Movie Database, Heat Wave!". Archived from the original on 2006-04-20. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  18. ^ "Internet Movie Database, The Day the Earth Moved". Archived from the original on 2006-06-14. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  19. ^ "Internet Movie Database, Hurricane". Archived from the original on 2006-05-19. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  20. ^ "Internet Movie Database, Flood!". Archived from the original on 2007-08-05. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  21. ^ "Internet Movie Database, Fire!". Archived from the original on 2008-01-21. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  22. ^ "Internet Movie Database, Box office/business for The Swarm". Archived from the original on 2004-12-30. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  23. ^ "Internet Movie Database, Box office/business for Meteor". Archived from the original on 2005-09-27. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
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Further reading

  • Annan, David (1975). Catastrophe, the End of the Cinema?. Bounty Books. ISBN 0-517-52420-1.
  • Broderick, Mick (January 1992). Nuclear Movies: A Critical Analysis and Filmography of International Feature Length Films Dealing With Experimentation, Aliens, Terrorism, Holocaust. McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-89950-543-0.
  • Dixon, Wheeler Winston. Disaster and Memory. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11316-1.
  • Keane, Stephen (2006). Disaster Movies: The Cinema of Catastrophe. Wallflower Press. ISBN 1-905674-03-1.
  • Newman, Kim (February 2000). Apocalypse Movies: End of the World Cinema. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-25369-9.

External links

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