I love disaster movies. Especially bad ones! Okay, maybe “bad” is not the right word. Not good? So bad they’re good? Yeah, that will do. I love so-bad-they’re-good disaster movies like The Happening. Or, dare I say, Twister? Okay, okay, Twister’s good! Twister’s good! But you get my point, right? Sometimes, you just want to watch the world burn. And if the acting is over the top, and the destruction is ridiculous, then you might just have the kind of movie where, if you’re ever flipping channels or perusing Netflix and happen to see it playing, nine times out of 10 you’ll probably end up watching the entire thing.
Because, disaster movies really do fill a very distinct purpose. Even the “good” ones, like Armageddon, Deep Impact, and Independence Day are still meant to show as much destruction as possible with characters getting out of life-or-death situations by the skin of their teeth. But, I don’t want to talk about the “good” ones. I want to talk about the “bad” ones that are also kind of great in their own little way. How many of these duds, er, I mean disaster movies have you seen?
I want you to think back to the year 2009. There is talk that the Mayan calendar predicts that 2012 will be the end of the world. I’m talking “human sacrifice. Dogs and cats, living together. Mass hysteria!” Well, leave it to Roland Emmerich, the director of Independence Day and the first American Godzilla movie, to strike while the iron was hot and make a disaster movie to end all disaster movies. 2012 is the kind of film where it’s not just enough for an alien space ship to blow up the White House. No, no. In 2012, a freaking tidal wave carrying an aircraft carrier has to destroy the White House.
John Cusack stars as a science fiction writer who needs to save his family from every catastrophe known to man, including cities collapsing, the Yellowstone Caldera erupting, and just about everything else under the sun. In fact, I’m shocked that the sun doesn’t explode in this movie! But, the film has a score of 39% on Rotten Tomatoes for a reason. One, it’s way too long. Two, John Cusack and company survive way too many close calls to be even remotely believable. And, three, the film kind of just peters out to an unsatisfying conclusion. All the same, if I’m flipping channels and just happen to see a plane flying between two collapsing buildings, you better believe I’m sticking to that channel.
I’ve actually never seen 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure, but I’m told it’s pretty good. Wolfgang Petersen’s 2006’s Poseidon starring Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, and Emmy Rossum, though? Well, I’m pretty sure its 33% Rotten Tomatoes score is a good indication that it’s not another classic in the medium. Does it really have to be in order to be fun, though?
The film concerns a ship that is flipped over by a rogue wave. Josh Lucas leads a band of survivors as they try to make their way off the boat, but falling elevator shafts and water constantly get in their way. Yes, the characters are more “types,” than living, breathing people. And, yes, like most disaster movies, the action is heavy handed and unbelievable. But, the film is also super tense, and for that reason, I love it!
One might argue that maybe I should be talking about Dante’s Peak for this article rather than Volcano, which came out in the same year. But, people still talk about Dante’s Peak, while I hardly ever hear anybody talking about Volcano these days, so it ends up on this list.
Volcano, which stars Tommy Lee Jones as an Office of Emergency Management director who must rescue others from an erupting volcano, is really cheesy and overly dramatic like all good-bad disaster films should be. It also goes above and beyond with the cheese at times, especially in the subway scene with the slow-motion jump into the lava. The fire is also really cool, but the CGI is kind of terrible, making for a good time overall. Tommy Lee Jones might be too good for this movie, but he also played Two-Face in Batman Forever, so maybe he’s not too good? I don’t know; but, either way, I always laugh a lot whenever I watch this movie. It’s silly!
San Andreas (2015)
I feel like the movie San Andreas, which is directed by Rampage director, Brad Peyton, and stars The Rock as a helicopter rescue pilot, looked at the movie 2012 and was like, “Hold my beer.” The film is about a massive earthquake caused by the San Andreas Fault. And, even though it’s just one area of the country, it basically looks like the end of the world. I’m talking a tsunami, buildings in flames, and just total annihilation.
But, here’s the thing. The Rock might be too much of an action hero for this movie. Sure, facing off against nature’s total obliteration seems daunting, but when The Rock is flexing his muscles and parachuting into a destroyed San Francisco, you actually kind of feel bad for the earthquake, because you know it doesn’t stand a chance against The Rock. Plus, all the other characters feel like they could be in any disaster movie as they have next to no personality or soul. Still, if you’re in the mood to watch a city get completely wiped off the map, then you could do a lot worse than San Andreas.
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Oh, you thought I was done with Roland Emmerich? Not when I still have The Day After Tomorrow to talk about. This film, which stars Dennis Quaid as a paleoclimatologist who must journey from Washington D.C. to New York to rescue his son, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is like the bizarro version of Volcano in that it deals with the cold rather than the heat. You see, there’s a second ice age happening, which leads to scenes where ice is literally chasing people as they hide behind doors to get to safety. Chilling stuff. (Sorry!)
The Day After Tomorrow’s biggest problem, though, is that it’s forgettable. I mean, even with a pretty badass wolf scene, the movie itself just doesn’t really do anything new or inventive with disaster movies besides give them an icy motif. That said, if you were to ask me to name three Jake Gyllenhaal movies, I would probably say, Nightcrawler, Enemy, and then The Day After Tomorrow. I don’t know why, but the movie just sticks with me for some reason. It’s hard to explain.
The Happening (2008)
And, finally, I need to talk about M Night. Shyamalan’s The Crappening, er, I mean, The Happening. I don’t know if this is a disaster movie or just a disaster in general, but The Happening is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen in my entire life, and I kind of love it for that reason. The only Rated-R movie in Shyamalan’s filmography, we learn midway through the film that plants are what’s killing people. Once you know that, you really can’t go back. Still, it helps knowing that information for a second watch-through, so that you can understand all the ominous shots of leaves blowing in the wind. Ooh. Foreshadowing.
The main reason to love The Happening is for Mark Wahlberg’s performance, which is one of the greatest so-bad-it’s-good performances in the history of cinema. I say, “What? No!” just like Mark Wahlberg anytime I get the chance. And my kids are going to say, “That’s where Dad got it from?” once they grow older and watch this movie, because I always say, “I’m packing hot dogs for the road,” whenever I boil them some hot dogs for lunch. The Happening is just… well, it’s something. But, it’s a movie that has grown on me over the years because I now view it as a comedy.
Bad disaster movies are just as worthy of your time as good disaster movies. What are your favorites? Sound off in the comments section down below.