Films whose plots revolve around something huge, horrible, and natural heading towards the protagonists, and their reactions to it.

About half have the main characters trying to stop the disaster somehow, while the other half have them simply trying to survive. In both varieties, viewers are introduced to large casts that exist solely to be killed off in various ways by the disaster and its side effects. Meteors, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, and catastrophic climate change are among the popular subjects. People who watch these movies are typically JustHereForGodzilla.

The genre became incredibly popular in TheSeventies, with Creator/IrwinAllen became (in)famous for making a number of these movies. Eventually, like all trends in Hollywood, it burned itself out, finally being killed when ''{{Film/Airplane}}'' tore into the genre. Modern special effects helped revive the disaster movie in TheNineties, until certain events made scenes of cataclysmic destruction [[TooSoon rather insensitive]]. This aversion [[Film/TheDayAfterTomorrow swiftly]] [[Film/TwoThousandTwelve passed]].

AlienInvasion and especially {{kaiju}} movies tend to be very similar in tone to disaster movies, with their focus on destruction.

Not to be confused with the SeltzerAndFriedberg [[Film/DisasterMovie movie of the same name]], although that ''was'' technically a disaster movie, being that it was the only film they made that bombed in theaters.

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[[folder: Common tropes found in this genre include: ]]

* AllStarCast: For some reason, disaster movies are like magnets for A and B-list actors.
** For audiences back then it was genuinely surprising to see big name actors that one assumed were safe die '''horrific''' deaths onscreen, as opposed to just the extras(see the trope below).
* AnyoneCanDie
* ApocalypseWow
* BigDamPlot
* CassandraTruth often times one or more of the protagonists know about the impending catastrophe, sometimes even know how to prevent it, but are often either a)laughed at/ignored or b)silenced with threats, see Designated Antagonist below
* DesignatedVillain / HateSink / VillainyFreeVillain: The real {{conflict}} is the disaster, but writers don't seem to want this film without an outright bastard, who will often receive a KarmicDeath.
* DevelopingDoomedCharacters
** EightDeadlyWords: If the characters in question are especially dull or annoying, the audience may decide that "I don't care what happens to these people."
* DoomedContrarian: See above.
* HarsherInHindsight: Applies to some examples in the aftermath of subsequent RealLife disasters. May tread on TooSoon if the timing is poor.
* HollywoodScience: After all, you can't let little things like the laws of physics get in the way of some awesome destruction.
* {{HSQ}}
* InfantImmortality: For some reason, a lot of these movies show a baby getting killed, just in case [[EightDeadlyWords we've ceased to give a fuck]] by this point.
* JustHereForGodzilla
* MadeForTVMovie: Since the advent of video tape, TV production has often been cheaper than film. This allows more budget for the AllStarCast and StuffBlowingUp. Sometimes called the Movie of the Week or Million Dollar Movie.
* MonumentalDamage: Because TheWhiteHouse getting blown up is a lot more awesome than your neighbor's house getting blown up. Unless you really hate your neighbour...
* NightmareFuel: One wonders why none of these movies ever get mentioned when anyone makes a list of [[OneHundredScariestMovieMoments the scariest movies of all time]], considering how much they work off of [[WhyDidItHaveToBeSnakes common fears like acrophobia]] and {{claustrophobia}}.
* NoAntagonist: The main {{conflict}} in these films is caused by a natural disaster, so unless the film adds additional human adversaries to overcome (who often fall in the DesignatedVillain category), there are effectively no antagonists.
* OneWordTitle: It seems to be popular for the title to be just the name of whatever's trying to kill the heroes i.e. ''Earthquake'', ''Avalanche'', ''Volcano'', ''Twister'', ''Meteor'', etc.
* OutrunTheFireball: Often many times in a single movie. Substitute "tidal wave", "fault line", "lava flow", WaveMotionGun, etc. for fireball as necessary.
* PopularityPolynomial: Disaster movies went through DeaderThanDisco status ''twice'' -- the first time being after the genre burned itself out in the late '70s, and the second being the result of [[TooSoon 9/11]]. The 2004 tsunami didn't help either.
* PrimalFear: If you're {{claustrophobi|a}}c, [[NotTheFallThatKillsYou acrophobic]], [[IncendiaryExponent pyrophobic]], or any number of other phobias, you will not have a good time.
* RedShirt
** RedShirtReporter
* RelationshipSalvagingDisaster: What better way to integrate the obligatory romantic subplot into a story about a disaster?
* RippedFromTheHeadlines: Releases of these films tend to coincide with real life disasters (give or take six months depending on severity of destruction or death tolls)
* RuleOfCool: See HollywoodScience.
* SceneryGorn
* SpreadingDisasterMapGraphic
* StuffBlowingUp: The whole point.
* SummerBlockbuster: With the budgets that most disaster movies have, it's only natural that they're released in the summer.
* TokenRomance: Most common with films released in TheNineties and onward, and very often involves the protagonist's prior unspecified divorce or an [[ToiletSeatDivorce upcoming unspecified divorce]]. It is assumed that their issues get resolved [[SexChangesEverything shortly after the film ends]].
* UnintentionalPeriodPiece: The films shot in TheSeventies are replete with groovy fashions and set designs. Films from TheNineties are also heading into this.
* VisualEffectsOfAwesome (or SpecialEffectFailure if done wrong)

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!!'''Examples:'''

* ''Deluge'' (1933): One of the {{Ur Example}}s, making this trope OlderThanTheyThink. Most of the film was thought to be [[MissingEpisode lost]], save for a scene of [[BigApplesauce New York]] getting destroyed by earthquakes and tidal waves. In the late 1980s, however, a complete print dubbed in Italian was discovered in a film archive. One scene, showing the Statue of Liberty getting hit by a tidal wave, would be copied over seventy years later by ''DeepImpact'' and ''Film/TheDayAfterTomorrow''.
* ''San Francisco'' (1936): Another early example, decipting the historical 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Stars Creator/ClarkGable, Jeanette [=MacDonald=] and Spencer Tracy.
* ''The High and the Mighty'' (1954): An UnbuiltTrope example of the genre. Starred JohnWayne, who was also co-producer. Its plot, about a plane that suffers engine failure on a flight from [[UsefulNotes/{{Hawaii}} Honolulu]] to UsefulNotes/SanFrancisco, would later be copied by ''Airport''.
* ''Film/ANightToRemember'' (1958): An accurate portrayal of the doomed RMS Titanic; perhaps the TropeCodifier and served as the inspiration for James Cameron's ''Film/{{Titanic}}''.
* ''Film/TheLastVoyage'' (1960)
* ''Film/{{Airport}}'' (1970): The TropeCodifier. Started the first boom of disaster films in the '70s. Starred Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, George Kennedy and Jacqueline Bisset. Had three sequels, [[{{Sequelitis}} each one progressively worse]] (but still successful... at least, until the fourth one [[FranchiseKiller finally killed the series]]).
* ''Film/ThePoseidonAdventure'' (1972): An ocean liner is capsized by a giant wave. The first of Creator/IrwinAllen's disaster movies. Starred Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, and Leslie Nielsen in an early[[note]]Not ''that'' early -- Nielsen starred in ''ForbiddenPlanet'' way back in 1956[[/note]] role. Had a bad sequel in 1979, and was [[TheRemake remade]] in 2006 as ''Film/{{Poseidon}}''.
* ''Short Walk To Daylight'' (1972): A TV movie, where an earthquake strikes New York and a group of passengers in a subway, led by a cop played by James Brolin, must try to find their way back to the streets above after realizing nobody will be looking for them. Quite well liked despite being rather obscure, with a low budget, and notable for taking place entirely underground.
* ''NihonChinbotsu'' (''Japan Sinks'') (1973): Arguably the most successful Japanese disaster film ever, it was followed up by a highly subpar remake in 2006. Subjected to a particularly bad ImportationExpansion when it was released in the US. Based on a book by the great sci-fi novelist Sakyo Komatsu, who is mostly known in the Anglosphere for the numerous {{Shout Out}}s he gets in work by Creator/OsamuTezuka. See below for its plot.
* ''Film/TheToweringInferno'' (1974): The world's tallest skyscraper is built in UsefulNotes/SanFrancisco, but on the day of its dedication, it catches fire, trapping partygoers on the top floors. The second of Creator/IrwinAllen's disaster movies, and often considered to be one of the best. Starred PaulNewman, Steve [=McQueen=], and Faye Dunaway.
* ''Film/{{Earthquake}}'' (1974): An earthquake destroys UsefulNotes/LosAngeles. Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and Lorne Greene try to survive. This was the first of a handful of '70s films to use Sensurround, a special surround sound system with a powerful bass line. When the city started to rumble, crumble, and tumble, the bass kicked in to literally shake up audiences.
* ''TheLastDaysOfPlanetEarth'' (1974): Japanese movie. Earth goes through a disaster gauntlet, ranging from [[ILoveNuclearPower mutant slugs]] to city-engulfing fire-storms, to [[GeorgeCarlin the sky filling with green shit]]. Notable for depicting UsefulNotes/{{Nostradamus}} as Japanese. Not kidding.
* ''The Hindenburg'' (1975): Why did this RealLife disaster happen? The fictional story chronicles the possibility that it was sabotage. A rare case of a DisasterMovie that holds off on the actual disaster until the finale. Notable for the sets being ''extremely'' loyal to the real ''{{Hindenburg}}'', to the extent that the spectacular, dreamlike airship steals the show.
* ''The Cassandra Crossing'' (1976): A terrorist infected with plague is on a train, so the authorities send it in the directon of a bridge too weak to support it. Can the passengers who don't succumb to the illness save themselves?
* ''Film/TheSwarm'' (1978): In another Irwin Allen effort, killer bees attack [[EverythingIsBigInTexas Texas]]. Yeah. It was around this point that the genre began dying out.
* ''Avalanche'' (1978): ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin.
* ''Film/{{Meteor}}'' (1979): A bunch of nukes built by SeanConnery and Brian Keith versus a giant asteroid. Not as cool as it sounds, sadly.
* ''Hurricane'' (1979): A remake of a 1937 John Ford film tells a tropical tale of young lovers whose romance is threatened first by the girl's father, then by the titular storm.
* ''When Time Ran Out'' (1980): A volcano in the South Pacific threatens a resort, an oil rig, and a volcano observatory. The final nail in the coffin for the first cycle of disaster films, and Creator/IrwinAllen's final theatrically-released film. Even the cast (which included Paul Newman, Jacqueline Bisset, and William Holden) hated it.
* ''Film/{{Airplane}}'' (1980): TheParody of the disaster genre. So effective, it made it [[GenreKiller nearly impossible for disaster movies to be taken seriously]] for another thirteen years.
** The ZAZ team is also responsible for an earlier and much more brief parody of the Disaster genre with "That's Armageddon!", a segment of ''TheKentuckyFriedMovie''.
* ''Film/TheDayAfter'' (1983): A very different sort of disaster movie, which is the reason it was able to escape ''Airplane!'''s shadow. It was a [[MadeForTVMovie TV movie]] about [[WorldWarIII nuclear war]] between the USA and the USSR. It, along with [[Film/{{Threads}} its British equivalent]], was effective enough at showing [[TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt the result of a nuclear war]] that it is widely credited (by, among other people, RonaldReagan) for inspiring the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987.
* ''Film/{{Threads}}'' (1984): The TransAtlanticEquivalent of ''Film/TheDayAfter'', with the added horror (thanks to advances in understanding the effects of nuclear war between 1983 and 1984) of showing the long-term effects of worldwide nuclear war (short version: those who die in the blasts are the lucky ones).
* ''Film/{{Apollo 13}}'' (1995): The manned space mission that never made it to the Moon.
* ''Film/{{Twister}}'' (1996): Tornadoes in Oklahoma. Helped to revive interest in disaster films, with help from...
* ''Film/IndependenceDay'' (1996): Aliens blow up the White House, among other things. This film turned WillSmith into a superstar.
* ''Film/MarsAttacks!'' (1996): A parody of '50s AlienInvasion films, which overlapped into the disaster genre. Directed by Creator/TimBurton, and starred JackNicholson, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, and [[SexAndTheCity Sarah Jessica Parker]], with early roles by Jack Black and Natalie Portman. Had the misfortune of arriving a few months after ''Film/IndependenceDay'', and barely made back its budget.
* ''Film/DantesPeak'' (1997): A volcano erupts in [[TheOtherRainforest the Pacific Northwest]]. Surprisingly for a disaster flick, it was notable for its [[ShownTheirWork relative scientific accuracy]]. Starred Creator/PierceBrosnan and [[Franchise/{{Terminator}} Linda Hamilton]]. [[DuelingMovies Dueled]] with...
* ''Film/{{Volcano}}'' (1997): A volcano erupts in Los Angeles. Not so notable for scientific accuracy. Starred Creator/TommyLeeJones.
* ''Film/{{Daylight}}'' (1997): The Holland Tunnel floods following an explosion, and SylvesterStallone goes in to save the people trapped.
* ''{{Film/Titanic}}'' (1997): What happens when you combine a disaster movie with a ChickFlick. The latest in a long line of films about the Titanic disaster.
* ''Film/{{Armageddon}}'' (1998): An asteroid the size of Texas is headed for Earth, and our only hope is BruceWillis and his team of deep core oil drillers. Makes ''Volcano'' look like a scientific documentary. Directed by Creator/MichaelBay. [[DuelingMovies Dueled]] with...
* ''Film/DeepImpact'' (1998), the [[ShownTheirWork comparative]] ''Dante's Peak'' of this particular duel.
* ''Earthquake In New York'' (1998): A two-part TV movie about a major quake in a place no one expects.
* ''Film/TheCore'' (2003): [[CriticalResearchFailure Earth's core stops rotating thanks to a top-secret military project]] GoneHorriblyWrong, eliminating Earth's magnetic field and causing it to get hit by solar storms. Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank go down into Earth's interior to restart the core with nuclear bombs. Makes ''Armageddon'' look like ''Volcano''. [[LostAesop Or something]].
* ''10.5'' (2004): An Creator/{{NBC}} MiniSeries about massive earthquakes destroying the West Coast. Its 2006 sequel, ''10.5 Apocalypse'', had a massive fault line opening up in the Midwest and splitting North America in half.
* ''Film/TheDayAfterTomorrow'' (2004): GlobalWarming destroys the world. Starred Dennis Quaid and [[DonnieDarko Jake Gyllenhaal]].
* ''Category 6: Day of Destruction'' (2004): Another MiniSeries, this one from Creator/{{CBS}} and starring Randy Quaid and Brian Dennehy. A massive storm (which is, for some reason, [[CriticalResearchFailure referred to as a hurricane]]) develops over Chicago and destroys it. Its release [[FollowTheLeader just six months after]] ''Film/TheDayAfterTomorrow'' [[BlatantLies must be a coincidence]].
** ''Category 7: The End of the World'' (2005): The sequel to the above. The storm from the original moves east and destroys New York and Washington, while similar storms destroy Paris and Egypt. Meanwhile, a televangelist and his wife exploit the storms to gain new converts. Starred Gina Gershon [[WTHCastingAgency as the head of FEMA]], as well as [[BeverlyHills90210 Shannen]] [[Series/{{Charmed}} Doherty]], James Brolin, and a returning Randy Quaid.
* ''Nihon Chinbotsu'' (''Japan Sinks'') (2006): ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin. A remake of the highest grossing disaster film Japan ever produced, it flopped compared to the 1973 original. Earthquakes and volcanoes destroy Japan and cause it to sink into the ocean. A Japanese production, it was notable for actually exploring the consequences of such a disaster with more than just passing reference.
* ''Film/SnakesOnAPlane'' (2006): An AffectionateParody of ''Airport'' and its ilk. Was subject to MemeticMutation even before its release, thanks to the fact that it starred Creator/SamuelLJackson.
* ''Film/{{Flood}}'' (2007): A British film based on a 2002 novel by Creator/RichardDoyle, it followed a the events of a flood caused by storm surge from the North Sea that overwhelms the Thames Barrier, flooding London.
* ''[[SeltzerAndFriedberg Disaster Movie]]'' (2008): A ShallowParody of...erm, movies with cool-looking trailers? Despite its name, it had [[InNameOnly almost nothing]] to do with disaster films. Then again, what more would you expect from SeltzerAndFriedberg?
* ''Film/TwoThousandTwelve'' (2009): The [[{{Mayincatec}} Mayan]] prophecies of TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt start coming true. Lots of stuff blows up. An aircraft carrier crushes the White House and St. Peter's dome imitates a bowling ball.
* ''TokyoMagnitude8'' (2009): A disaster ''{{Anime}}''. Pretty much ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin: a story about an 8.0 earthquake in Tokyo, though with a surprising focus on human drama and emergency procedures rather than spectacle. HarsherInHindsight after 2011.
* ''Metal Tornado'' (2011): ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin. An energy company called Helios World tests its new power generation technology, harnessing energy from a solar flare. An accident involving a power overload causes a magnetic vortex to pinch off, and spiral out of control into something like a tornado headed straight for Philadelphia.
* Many SciFiChannel [[MadeForTVMovie Original Movies]] tend to be disaster flicks. Why they go for the genre with such a meager special effects budget is unknown, but it may have to do with Canadian and German tax credits.
** The major networks often did this in the 1970's and '80's, but with better budgets and stars. ''Series/MysteryScienceTheater3000'' did a few of these in their time as a local access show, including ''SST: Death Flight'' and ''Superdome''.
* WordOfGod maintains that ''Film/TheDarkKnightRises'' mixes this in with a {{Superhero}} film due to the sheer scope of Bane's plot to destroy Gotham.
* RealLife documentary ''Film/NineEleven'': It's actually not that far off - a film crew embedded with the fire department responding to a minor call just happens to capture an incredibly destructive terrorist act and follows the firefighters into harms way, recording the whole time. In the end, despite thousands dying, the entire main cast survives. If you wrote a movie with that plot you'd have fanboys telling you it's [[RealityIsUnrealistic unrealistic]].
* ''Film/TheImpossible'' was based on a real-life disaster (the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami) but instead of spectacle, the film is driven by the film's performances and the story of a family fighting to see each other again (which was based on a true story, by the way).
* ''Film/{{Gravity}}'' is about orbital cascade failure (the destruction of a satellite leads to DisasterDominoes as each piece of debris impacts other satellites and space stations) with a MinimalistCast of two astronauts trying to survive it.
* The 2014 Film [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Into_the_Storm_(2014_film) ''Into The Storm'']] is a [[FoundFootageFilms Found Footage Film]] following a number of people trying to survive a barrage of super-tornadoes. Much StuffBlowingUp ensues, like the ''tornadoes razing a fully loaded airport'', and even one making a gas main explodes, [[InfernalRetaliation turning into a massive]] [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firenado "firenado"]].
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