The Top 25 Must-See Quintessential Disaster Movies  

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262 votes 52 voters 25 items

List Rules Vote up the disaster movies that define the genre and should be required viewing for beginners in an Intro to Disaster Films Class.

Disaster movies put us into situations we never want to find ourselves in, often playing off of the deepest of human fears. Whether the world is coming to an end thanks to a biblical disaster, global climate change, tectonic plate shifting, or simply a giant rock hurtling at Earth, these essential disaster movies play on the universal fear of oblivion. What would you do if the world was ending tomorrow? These films ask that question of their characters, allowing filmmakers to showcase how different personalities respond to crisis. 

If you're new to the genre, consider this your intro to disaster movies! Why wouldn't we enjoy a good disaster flick every now and again? Some might see it as a way to prepare for the inevitable. Some enjoy disaster movies for the suspense and the adrenaline rush. Whatever the reason, we love a good disaster movie and the genre is filled with some must-see films that remain incredibly popular with moviegoers everywhere.

You may have seen a few of these disaster movies previously, but these are disaster movies for beginners who are new to the genre. This list will help guide you. These are films everyone should watch if they want to understand the arena of disaster cinema. 

So, if you're ready to take the plunge and see what the world looks like after we destroy it, dive right in! Whatever can go wrong most certainly will go wrong in the films listed below. Be sure to vote up your favorites. 

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The Day After Tomorrow is a 2004 American climate fiction-disaster film co-written, directed, and produced by Roland Emmerich and starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum, and Sela Ward. The film depicts fictional catastrophic climatic effects in a series of extreme weather events that usher in global cooling and leads to a new ice age. The film was made in Toronto and Montreal and is the highest-grossing Hollywood film to be made in Canada. Originally planned for release in the summer of 2003, The Day After Tomorrow premiered in Mexico City on May 17, 2004 and was released worldwide from May 26 to May 28 except in South Korea and Japan, where it was released June 4–5, ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Emmy Rossum, Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Sela Ward, Ian Holm, + more

Released: 2004

Directed by: Roland Emmerich

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2012 is a 2009 American science fiction disaster adventure film directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It stars John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, and Woody Harrelson. It was produced by Sony Pictures and distributed by Columbia Pictures. Filming began in August 2008 in Vancouver, although it was originally planned to be filmed in Los Angeles. The plot follows Jackson Curtis as he attempts to bring his family to refuge, amidst the events of a geological and meteorological super-disaster. The film includes references to Mayanism, the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, and the 2012 phenomenon in its portrayal of cataclysmic events ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Amanda Peet, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, John Cusack, Danny Glover, + more

Released: 2009

Directed by: Roland Emmerich

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Titanic is a 1997 American epic romance and disaster film directed by James Cameron. A seventeen-year-old aristocrat (Kate Winslet) falls in love with a kind but poor artist (Leonardo DiCaprio) aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic. ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, James Cameron, Bill Paxton, + more

Released: 1997

Directed by: James Cameron

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Deep Impact is a 1998 American science fiction disaster film directed by Mimi Leder, written by Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin, and starring Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell, Leelee Sobieski, and Morgan Freeman. Steven Spielberg served as an executive producer of this film. It was released by Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures in the United States on May 8, 1998. The film depicts the attempts to prepare for and destroy a 7-mile-wide comet set to collide with the Earth and cause a mass extinction. Deep Impact was released during the same summer as a similarly themed rival, Armageddon, which fared better at the box office, while ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Morgan Freeman, Robert Duvall, Elijah Wood, Téa Leoni, Vanessa Redgrave, + more

Released: 1998

Directed by: Mimi Leder

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