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"Now, I cannot emphasize this enough to the people of San Francisco: You need to get out. And I mean now. And if you can't, you need to find any means possible to drop, cover, and hold on. Because your life is gonna depend on it. God be with you."
Dr. Lawrence Hayes
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San Andreas is a 2015 Disaster Movie directed by Brad Peyton, starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Kylie Minogue, Colton Haynes, and Paul Giamatti.

The film depicts the "Big One", the fabled mega-quake that occurs in California when the San Andreas Fault shifts enough to create a massive rupture. We follow Ray Gaines (Johnson), a Los Angeles City Fire Department helicopter pilot, as he struggles to save his family during the quake.

If you're looking for the video game, see Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.


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This Film Provides Examples Of:

  • Ace Pilot: Ray is a rescue pilot for the LA Fire Department, and before that, he was a military rescue pilot. He can fly planes AND helicopters as if they're exactly the same thing.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Ray and Emma try to talk about their deceased daughter when driving to San Francisco.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • As the Variety review pointed out, this isn't the first time that Kylie Minogue has only appeared in a movie for a cameo before falling off a building (it happened in Holy Motors as well).
    • This isn't the first time Will Yun Lee has played someone who meets a watery end involving a fall: the same happened to him in Die Another Day (though he actually survived that one).
  • Adult Fear: Ray and Emma as they try to find and rescue Blake. Briefly comes true when she drowns, but she gets better.
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  • Agony of the Feet: Kim gets impaled through the foot with a piece of rebar.
  • Amicably Divorced: Ray and Emma... mostly. While Ray does get terse with her early on, they still get along well, and he doesn't hesitate to come to her rescue when the quake starts.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Downplayed - every time Blake and Ben are having a moment, Ollie is right there to embarrass his brother. However, he's also very helpful in any way he can and clearly loves Ben.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: A giant earthquake has hit Bakersfield. The power seems to be out. Let's raid the mall and steal the television sets!
  • Apocalypse How: Class 0. Most of Western California takes incredible damage, and TV broadcasts show that the east coast experiences some shaking as well. Presumably the tsunami caused still more widespread harm, although any further harm to other Pacific states and nations is only obliquely implied by Dr. Lawrence's classroom lecture.
  • Apocalypse Wow: LA is almost completely destroyed and San Francisco is practically wiped off the map.
  • Artistic License – Geology:
    • While the San Andreas fault is real, and predicted to cause massive damage when the Big One finally happens, scientists have some issues with what's shown on screen.
    • The San Andreas fault is incapable of producing any quakes higher than about 8.2 on the Magnitude scale, meaning the 9-pointers that are the focus of the film are impossible in the first place. Not that 8.2 isn't dangerous enough...
    • Dr Lawrence says that he's perfecting a method of predicting earthquakes. Seismologists are getting ever better, but will never be able to predict earthquakes accurately - not to mention new fault lines are being discovered all the time. This is probably the most dangerous mistake that the movie makes, because seismologists fear people may rely on official warnings instead of preparing.
    • It's a nice thought, but the San Andreas fault wouldn't cause a huge tsunami; they are caused by subduction zones note , not the horizontal movement most common around the West Coast. Plus the epicenter would need to be offshore.
    • Yes, it's just as illogical as it sounds that San Francisco, a city famously built on hills, would experience flooding as severe as the film depicts, especially a skyscraper on Nob Hill.
    • While obviously done for Disaster Porn, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake wouldn't come anywhere near close enough to breaking the Hoover Dam, which is comprised of 6.6 million tons of concrete. The shaking would however disable the dam's hydroelectric system, knocking out most of the cities which rely on it for power, and certainly give its foundations a run for its money.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • The building Blake, Ben and Ollie take refuge in visibly leans against another building, however all inside scenes are filmed on level surfaces - even the water is level.
    • During the Tsunami scene, a large motorboat can be seen racing to reach the wave's crest. In reality, despite the boat not being huge, it wouldn't have had the power to reach the top of the wave without being carried away by mother nature.
    • Apparently, a building that's had most of its upper floors collapse downwards doesn't necessarily implode on itself. In real life, the sheer weight of everything coming down on the lower floors would eventually cause the building to collapse.
    • Helicopters cannot maneuver well in tight spaces, let alone perform the acrobatics Ray does to weave in between two chasms while the helicopter rotors whack foliage alongside the cliff edge. That girl trapped in her car, the Rock and everyone in the open scene are dead.
    • Ray's one-man helicopter rescue of Emma is made of Just Plane Wrong. The "auto-hover" used to conveniently Hand Wave it wouldn't be able to keep the aircraft in trim (helicopters that don’t maintain trim while hovering have a nasty tendency to suddenly fall out of the sky) while its 200-pound pilot shifts his weight all over the place, much less adding the weight of a victim on the hoist. In real life, holding a hover for a hoist rescue is a very difficult operation that requires the pilot's full attention. Never mind that a real Huey has a large control console, a stack of avionics, a row of passenger seats, and some airframe members between and behind the pilots' seats. This would obviously prevent the pilot from jumping up and walking around like it's the A-Team van, especially in-flight.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Daniel. While he initially tries to get help to free Blake, he flees the building without coming back after a second near-death experience. Later, he tosses someone aside so he can hide behind a pillar from an approaching dust cloud (which indeed blows away the man he tossed). He eventually gets killed off when the Golden Gate Bridge is smashed.
    • Also his sister, who's incredibly rude to a waitress and gets killed as she tries to flee the building, even saying "Get out of my way!" while pushing someone aside.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • You'd think that Daniel gets his with the sweeping tsunami. It's better than that. He's crushed by a cargo container, leaving no ambiguity that he's dead.
    • While driving to San Francisco, Ray and Emma see an old couple next to a broken car who try to flag them down. It soon turns out that they weren't trying to ask for help, but were warning them of the great chasm that's cut off the road.
    • The girl from the beginning of the movie shows complete disregard of driving safety (averting her eyes from the road too long to drink alcohol from the back seat or to check on her cellphone) while going uphill on a two-way road at the side of a cliff with incoming traffic, making you think a near-miss or a head-on collision is bound to happen. Turns out a random rock-fall is what knocks her off the road.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Emma and Blake remain perfectly made-up throughout most of the movie. Emma, who gets very grubby during the first quake, even finds the time to wash the blood off her face, reapply her makeup, and go through a complete wardrobe change at one point. It really is way too obvious for comfort.
  • Big Brother Instinct: While Ben does his best to help Blake, if punch comes to shove, it is obvious that his little brother comes first to him.
  • Big Dam Plot: The Hoover Dam. You just know it's going down.
  • Bittersweet Ending: LA and San Francisco have been completely destroyed and untold thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people have died, but character relationships pan out the way you expect, and efforts to rebuild have already begun.
    • It's pretty likely that there's going to be more aftershocks.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Ethnic example. Kim, an Asian scientist, is the first one to die after the first major earthquake happens at the dam.
  • California Collapse: Subverted. While pretty much the entire western coast is hit hard, California remains firmly attached to the rest of the mainland.
  • Call-Back: Remember the girl that Ray saved at the beginning? She makes it to what's left of San Francisco and reunites with her boyfriend at the end of the film.
  • Car Meets House: Or rather, helicopter meets store, and powerboat meets skyscraper.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Daniel's tower in San Francisco, and Ollie's laser pointer. Also Ollie's much-marked San Francisco travel guide book. Justified in the latter case as he and Ben were going to vacation and see the sights in the city before everything went sideways.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Of course the secret of predicting earthquakes is figured out right in time to know a huge earthquake is due NOW. This isn't the first time this has been done, either - Earthquake (1974) did the same thing.
  • Coming in Hot: Ray has to make an unpowered "auto-rotation" landing after the rescue helicopter's engine dies. He almost pulls it off, but a looter running into his intended landing spot at the last moment forces him to pull off to evade, causing the rotor to clip some lamp posts and sending the chopper crashing into a shopping mall.
  • Cool, Clear Water: The ocean water that has flooded a major American city is devoid of any dirt or grime, and perfectly clear to see through.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: Kim tells a little girl to close her eyes right before the Hoover Dam collapses and he is killed.
  • Covers Always Lie: The film's poster shows Ray overlooking San Francisco after it's been torn in two by a gigantic fissure. In the film, the entire city is flooded instead, and he's on a boat instead of a helicopter.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Done on Blake. See Worst Aid, below.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • Whoever designed the Caltech complex clearly did a good job, as it's one of the handful of places that manages to safely ride out the quakes. This is true to life — the buildings at Caltech are ridiculously over-engineered to ride out earthquakes. It's a major seismology research center and one of the first places the media go for news after a major quake, especially in California. It would be embarrassing to have an earthquake flatten the campus.
    • Blake is somewhere between this and Properly Paranoid. She should know what to do in an earthquake living in California but having a military/LAFD rescue pilot as a father and having lost a sister in an accident has made her very resourceful with numerous bits of pertinent knowledge.
    • Ollie's San Francisco travel book comes in very handy as well as his laser pointer.
  • Damsel in Distress: Blake is trapped in a car and Ben and Ollie have to rescue her. Downplayed, because later she shows herself far more capable of surviving a major disaster than her male companions. Ben acknowledges it at the end of the film, and Ollie convinces Ben to follow her lead as they try to find safety by pointing out how much more she knows about disaster survival than either of them.
  • Damsel out of Distress:
    • Ray saves Emma from the crumbling hotel in LA, but Emma makes significant effort to save herself.
    • Ray and Emma save Blake who is trapped in San Francisco, but Blake takes initiatives to save herself.
  • Death by Cameo: Kylie Minogue as Susan Riddick, Daniel's sister. She dies in the crumbling of the hotel.
  • Death from Above: Quite a few people are squashed by big, heavy things falling on top of them.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Daniel Riddick is crushed by shipping container, so Emma is free to get back into a relationship with Ray.
  • Determinator: Ray all the way. After losing his daughter to a rafting accident, he isn't going to let two world-record-shattering earthquakes, a tsunami, and even a flooded and collapsing skyscraper stand in the way of getting his family out alive.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Not so much the main earthquake or tsunami - those maim and kill almost everything in their path anyway. But the smaller quake that kills Kim at the Hoover Dam seems to follow him specifically, and stops right after it kills him.
  • Disaster Movie: Naturally.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Would consider this a spoiler, except when your ex-husband is an ex-military firefighter played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, it's a foregone conclusion that this will happen.
  • Drowning Pit: Blake, who is locked in a room and drowns before her father can rescue her. She gets better, though.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Averted. Ben runs some risks for Blake, but his actions repeatedly make clear that he and his brother come first. After all, he only met her that day.
  • Earthquakes Cause Fissures: A big one, too.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The title and marketing promise a movie about a big, FX-heavy earthquake. That's really all the movie is about.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Kim immediately grasps that he can't free his foot from the rebar impalement and saves his mentor's life by telling him not to help.
    • Seeing the tsunami rising, impossible to outrun, an older couple embrace one last time instead of trying to flee.
    • Surprisingly, Daniel. Despite being an Asshole Victim, he manages to watch his impending doom in the form of a shipping container silently and with open eyes.
  • Fanservice: The very first time we see Blake, she's in a black bikini.
    • A lot of her scenes toward the end of the film, in a very form-fitting (and later soaking-wet) red tank top, also qualify.
  • First Father Wins: Daniel Riddick definitively discredits himself in the eyes of Emma and Blake when he leaves Blake alone trapped in his car.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Although Ray only sighs and looks a bit dejected when he opens the envelope, he does "just happen" to neglect to sign the divorce papers before being called down to Nevada.
  • From Dress to Dressing: Blake ditches most of her clothing (save for the red tank top) in order to bandage Ben Taylor leg with her white top after he got an open wound.
  • Gainaxing: For some reason not a woman in this film is wearing a supportive bra and the camera knows it.
  • Ghost Extras: As Blake, Ben and Ollie scavenge supplies from the fire truck, none of the survivors marching past behind them notice and realize that it's a good idea, too.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: A rather spectacular one, too!
  • Great Big Book of Everything: Ollie's tourist guidebook to San Francisco. He even outright says "My book has everything!"
  • Hate Sink: An earthquake isn't "evil," so Daniel becomes a repulsive jackass so the audience will have someone to root against.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Kim dies at Hoover Dam, saving a panicking child. Had he not paused, he would have made it off.
  • His Story Repeats Itself: Ray could not save one of his daughters from drowning. His other daughter is drowning. This time he will manage to save her.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Played with. A news reporter is skeptical that there's any way to get back on the air with their equipment destroyed, to which Lawrence states "You're at Cal-Tech." Which has rather powerful communication equipment of its own and a bunch of students who have been building computers since they were 7. Pirating onto a broadcast is relatively reasonable and takes off-screen time and effort.
  • I Am Very British: Ben and Ollie both speak with very plummy RP accents. It astounds that neither brings up tea and biscuits at any point.
  • Ignored Expert: It's implied nobody listened to Lawrence before the quakes - which is Truth in Television, since many people are disregarding warnings of the earthquake destined to hit California and remain unprepared.
  • Infant Immortality: Played straight with Ollie, who makes it through the movie without so much as a scratch. Every other child who gets even a few seconds of screen time is safe too. Subverted with Ray and Emma's other daughter dying in the backstory.
  • Informed Attribute: Ray is said to be a totally awesome rescuer, however when the worst earthquake to hit California in human history happens he puts his own family first, using the department's helicopter as if it's his own, without even radioing in that he's taking it. It is very likely he's going to have some career repercussions once the Fire Department gets sorted out.
    • In fairness to Ray, he did instruct Emma to get as many people to the roof as possible with the intent of rescuing them. It just so happens that nobody listened to her and by the time he made it she was the lone survivor.
  • Intrepid Reporter: The news crew during the first rescue doesn't seem to mind much at all that Ray is putting their lives in danger to save Natalie.
  • Jerkass:
    • Daniel's sister, Susan. She's tells off a waitress who's saying what specials they have and dominates her conversation with Emma. No one bats an eye when she runs into a stairwell (shouting "Get out of my way!") that seconds later collapses.
    • Zig-zagged with Daniel. At first glance, he seems like a decent fellow, even saying he doesn't want to interfere with the relationship between Blake and her father. Then the earthquakes hit, and Daniel outright lets people die so he can live.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Ray and Emma see someone who's stealing several TVs from an electronics store and promptly carjack him (which he himself stole).
    • A big one for Daniel. After all the selfish things he does, it seems pretty fair that he gets a very blatant, very determined onscreen death, quite to the point of Diabolus ex Machina. Judging from the way his sister Susan behaves, her (off-camera) demise counts as well.
  • Macgyvering: Ben improvises a means of freeing Blake from where she's wedged in the car with a slab of rubble, a car jack, and a pointed metal rod to puncture the car's tires and tilt it.
  • Made of Iron: Ray and especially Emma, who seems to exist outside of Newtonian physics.
  • Made of Plasticine: Kim, who gets his foot impaled on blunt rebar by merely tripping.
  • Male Gaze: Gugino and Daddario have quite a few scenes where their faces are, for lack of a better term, not the focus of the shot. Even in the climax when Blake (Daddario) is on the verge of drowning, it comes into play.
  • Mama Bear: Emma. After hearing that Daniel abandoned Blake, she calls his cell phone and promises that if he's not already dead, she will kill him for leaving her daughter.
  • Monumental Damage: Hoover Dam, the Hollywood sign and pretty much all the skyscrapers in LA and San Francisco are destroyed along with the Golden Gate Bridge after it's hit by a cargo ship.
  • Moody Trailer Cover Song: Since this is a movie about an earthquake wiping out San Francisco, the trailer used Sia's slow ironic cover of "California Dreamin'".
  • Mr. Exposition: Dr. Lawrence Hayes explains quite a bit about earthquakes and plate tectonics. But he's explaining it to a camera with regards to warning all of California and by extension America, so it's justified.
  • My Greatest Failure: Ray wasn't able to save his younger daughter when she drowned during a rafting trip years before the events of the film. His wife comforts him by saying that if he couldn't save their daughter, no one could.
  • No FEMA Response: Averted. Once the tremors stop, relief starts pouring in from FEMA, the National Guard, and even the UN. Even beforehand, the military and police are mobilized to evacuate as many people out of San Francisco as possible. Though oddly enough, Bakersfield is shown to have descended rapidly into lawless chaos, at least at the shopping plaza, but then again, that's how many Angelenos view Bakersfield already.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • At the beginning of the film, Natalie's SUV tears through the designed-to-stop-a-car cliff railing as if it's tissue paper.
    • As is common in earthquake films set on the west coast, the buildings crumble as if engineers aren't required to build for catastrophic earthquakes out there.
  • Oh, Crap!: Many, many examples in the movie but two stand out -
    • Hooray, we're going to make it over the tsunami's crest! Holy crap, is that a cargo ship?!
    • Blake, Ben and Ollie race up a tall building to get out of range of the tsunami as it sweeps in. Then Blake realizes they're on the highest floor they can get to and they're still not high enough...
  • The Oner: The scene in Los Angeles where Emma tries to get to the roof all the while chaos erupts around her.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Emma just barely gets a powerboat out of a skyscraper before it collapses.
  • Plot Armor: Most of the main characters have triple-thick titanium plot armor to get through a disaster of this scale at ground zero. Most survive, though as listed in Asshole Victim not all.
  • Precision F-Strike: Emma, after finding out that Daniel left Blake trapped: "If you're not already dead, I'm gonna fucking kill you."
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: The protagonist, who is a trained rescue helicopter pilot, ignores orders and deserts his job and fellow rescue workers to travels hundreds of miles to get to his family.
    • At various points he also steals autos, a plane, clothing and a boat.
      • He might have been given the plane legitimately.
      • And commandeering and hot-wiring equipment as necessary to save lives is likely to be a part of his training: he wouldn't be expected to, say, leave someone trapped under a car just because a truck is blocking it in and the truck driver isn't on hand to move it for him.
    • He also ignores dozens of injured people in the harbor while speeding through it in a stolen boat. Granted, by that point his ex-wife may well have done him an injury if he'd delayed their search for Blake for anything.
    • On a more macro level; Oakland and the rest of the East Bay caught fire for some reason. The cities, the hills, all of it ablaze in the background of shots with no comment as the film is entirely concerned with San Francisco.
  • Rescue Romance: Ben rescues Blake who is trapped in a car, then they fall in love. Zig Zagged, because Blake also helps Ben afterwards.
  • Relationship-Salvaging Disaster: Ray and Emma are separated and going to divorce, but Ray will have to save Emma because of a major earthquake. The disaster will also cause the Death of the Hypotenuse, so they'll end up together.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Ray and Emma are about to tandem parachute out of a plane, something Emma is rather nervous about.
    Ray: You ready?
    Emma: Do I look ready?
    Ray: Yep! [jumps]
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Daniel Riddick, who is the owner of a civil engineering firm and flies a private jet, is significantly wealthier than Ray, an ex-military firefighter.
  • Scenery Gorn: San Francisco, after it's hit with the earthquake and subsequently flooded by a tsunami.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Dr. Lawrence Hayes's university lecture at the beginning features a good deal of historically-accurate information about earthquakes.
    • In spite of the artistic liberties taken with earthquakes in general, all the survival tactics mentioned/shown in the film are either good advice about what to do when an earthquake takes place, or clear demonstrations of really stupid things to do. Particular note goes to the explicit rejection of the discredited idea of using doorways for protection in favor of tables.
    • At the end of the movie the Central Valley is flooded by the tsunami. The Central Valley is near sea level and its levee system being destroyed in an earthquake is a known hazard, so it's unlikely to drain quickly... provided something that bad actually happened.
    • In one scene they hide under a desk and a set of instructions of what to do in an earthquake is posted there. That seems silly until you realize the first place to go in the event of an earthquake is under something, so it's a good place to put the tips!
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Some of the trailers play "California Dreamin'" over scenes of the devastation of California. Played with in that one rendition used sounds far more haunting and somber than the other.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: At the end of the film, the surviving cast is standing on a hill overlooking the destroyed San Francisco as relief ships are coming in. Emma asks this trope, to which Ray replies: "Now we rebuild."
  • Spiritual Successor: The film is essentially the first act of 2012 stretched out into a feature film and contains many of the tropes of Roland Emmerich.
  • Super Cell Reception: Averted. While Blake is initially able to call her dad after the first earthquake, the call is quickly lost as the cell phone towers fail. Afterwards they're forced to depend on landlines and radios for communications.
  • Take That!: The Transamerica Pyramid is supposedly Earthquake-proof. It gets wiped out by some of the earliest strong tremors in the city, long before most of SF gets devastated.
  • Tempting Fate: While flying to San Francisco in his rescue helicopter, Ray says they're only ninety minutes out. Seconds later, their engine fails and they're forced to crash.
  • The Great Flood: After the Hoover Dam burst, hundreds of miles downstream including multiple towns and the Imperial Valley farming area are flooded. Taken Up to Eleven when a monstrous tsunami hits San Francisco after the big earthquake.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The main plot is about Ray trying to save his family. The subplot is about Dr. Lawrence Hayes, who manages to prepare a lot of people for the disaster. The main characters of the two plots never actually meet, but Serena Johnson, the news reporter, appears in both plots.
  • Up to Eleven: Dr. Lawrence Hayes mentions that the most catastrophic earthquake recorded on the Richter scale was a 9.5 in Chile. As for The Big One? It ends up being a 9.6. Yeah, America gets everything bigger.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never see Ray's team again after they get assigned to help with rescue operations at the Hoover Dam.
    • The film also missed a great opportunity to show the Cessna Caravan which the heroes jumped out of slamming into the ground and exploding, to add just a little bit more fire to the action.
  • Working with the Ex: Ray and Emma work together to rescue their daughter.
  • Worst Aid:
    • Ben's leg is impaled with a shard of glass which Blake removes so they can keep going. High odds of bleeding out even if the alternative is also bad.
    • Ray's CPR on Blake is terrible. He starts pumping on her chest before even checking her pulse, and doesn't at any point try to get the water out of her lungs.
      • CPR begins with CAB compressions, airway and then breathing. It has been this way since 2015, by the American Heart Association.
    • Perhaps he knows that Emma is Made of Iron but Ray shrugs off that she took a visibly bleeding head injury in a building collapse and interacts with her normally and with no concussion check. Including later jumping out of an airplane!!! Do not do this.

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