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Chaos Is King: 5 of the Best Disaster Movies to Watch in a Snowstorm

Updated on January 18, 2018
heather92383 profile image

Heather has a Bachelor's Degree in English from Moravian College and has been freelance writing for more than 10 years.

The Towering Inferno movie poster
The Towering Inferno movie poster
Earthquake movie poster
Earthquake movie poster
The Cassandra Crossing movie poster
The Cassandra Crossing movie poster
Independence Day movie poster
Independence Day movie poster
Titanic movie poster
Titanic movie poster
Deep Impact movie poster
Deep Impact movie poster

In the dictionary, a disaster is defined as a major event that changes the very fabric of our lives. Hollywood often liked to take that definition to the extreme by playing on everyone's fear of death and multiply it by a million. That's how the disaster film genre came to the big screen. Putting ordinary characters in dangerous situations to see who survived and who didn't. Of course, some major landmarks got blown up in the process made it a lot more amusing, especially when it was in 3-D.

With the recent bad weather pounding the U.S., it appeared ideal to simply avoid the elements altogether instead of braving them. Here are a list of five disaster films that are essential to watch with another storm fast approaching. (Technically, there are six films listed, but two of them complimented each other so well that they were combined.) The films were separated into three categories varying from the natural and man-made, in contained spaces, and the out of this world variety; especially when aliens are involved.

A few might not seem to fit the category while another might not be the best possible choice, but each film deserved a spot just the same. Read on to decide your favorite disaster films are more than mere big screen disasters.

Fire and Ground Trouble

The Towering Inferno (1974)/Earthquake (1974) - Why are there two films here instead of one? Well, both films were released around the same time and both followed the standard disaster film plot line. Inferno and Earthquake each had society's elite and regular individuals both fighting for survival in brutal disasters. Both films had a rather large cast of Hollywood's biggest stars and newcomers of the time period mixing it up with a lot of special effects. They were even a few instances where Paul Newman was potential peril, even though everyone knew he'd survive since he was one of Inferno's bigger names. Even though there were a few demises of somewhat known stars that were appropriate for the story and still shocking nonetheless.

In terms of the disasters themselves, Inferno's disaster was man made due to a faulty high rise building filled with poorly designed safety equipment. Bigtime builder Paul Newman and regular guy firefighter Steve McQueen had to work together to save lives, even though they shared limited scenes together. Earthquake had everyone in California struggling to beat a natural disaster that they were never prepared for. Some characters had to make momentous life and death decisions that didn't always go according to plan. Earthquake bigwig Charlton Heston had to decide whether to save his much maligned and needy wife (Ava Gardner) or his independent mistress. His decision ultimately delivered the film's most surprising ending that proved to expect the unexpected when it came to disaster films where anyone was expendable for the right moment.

Trouble in a Contained Space

The Cassandra Crossing (1977)- Although Crossing was released towards the end of the disaster film craze, it still delivered a terrifying concept of a train being contaminated by a deadly virus and the lengths the government will go to cover it up. The film's limited special effects allowed the idea of chaos to reign. The passengers' fear of death took over from what was supposed to be ordinary European vacations. Burt Lancaster proved to be a more disturbing villain as an official trying to follow orders even if it meant killing everyone to hide the truth. Some of the storylines were strained (Sophia Loren and Richard Harris' divorced couple topped the list) and the special effects at the end were rather hard to believe, but the film was still gripping to watch. Crossing also appeared to have somehow laid the groundwork for other realistic disaster films such as 1994's virus flick Outbreak.

Titanic (1997) - Okay, some might not believe this to be a disaster flick due to the love story between Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet became the movie's central focus. Director James Cameron's film was the gold standard of disaster films because Titanic detailed the actual sinking of the ship during its maiden voyage. The love story just served as a backdrop to give the audience a look at how a tragedy can shape a relationship for better or worse.

Out of This World Disasters

Independence Day (1996)- Primarily this film was known for making Will Smith a bona fide move star and for blowing up the White House on film. Day gave audiences a look at what could happen if aliens did invade Earth. They might appear nice to gain our trust, but the kindness will disappear soon as that happens. And when it does the world as we know it will be over. The worst disaster that came out of this very successful film was a rather unnecessary and forgettable sequel that was released 20 years later. The fact that Will Smith was not involved definitely indicated that viewers should stay away from the follow-up films, which they did rather wisely when it was released last year in theatres.

Deep Impact (1998) - This film showcased the wide scale impact of a comet poised to destroy Earth and the lengths people will go to survive. Families prepared to say goodbye to their loved ones. An unexpected teen marriage to secure a spot in a government shelter took place. Impact also showed how love conquered all, even death caused by a comet.

In the end, Hollywood will constantly try to revive the disaster film genre at least once a year (primarily during the summer months). Sometimes those ideas fared decently with stellar casting and special effects (2012 and War of the Worlds), while others were just plain disasters (1980s When Time Ran Out). Ultimately, the beauty of a film was in the eye of those watching. Only the audience can truly decide whether a film can withstand the test of time, or multiple viewings during a snowstorm. You decide.


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    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 7 years ago from Virginia

      Great hub...I just did something on Steve McQueen and found that The Towering Inferno was an even bigger movie that I remebered....great information