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Earthquakes and Other Disaster Movies

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Aug 23, 2011 | 10:06am EDT

EarthquakeFor some completely unprovoked reason, Hollywood.com has decided to take a look back at the 1974 Charlton Heston film, Earthquake. Among the most iconic additions to the disaster genre, the movie strung together a handful of vignettes, pitting average everyday big-name celebrities against a ripple in the California plates.

Natural disaster movies are gripping for many reasons—the first and foremost of which: they have a slightly larger chance of occurring to you and your loved ones than do zombie outbreaks or alien attacks—and it’s always fun to imagine how you’d measure up to the Charlton Hestons, Tommy Lee Joneses and, to a lesser extent, Bill Paxtons if these situations were to actually occur.

Thus, in the completely arbitrary spirit of earthquakes and other natural phenomena, we’ve made a list of a few more classic movies in the genre:

TWISTER

The thing that keeps this from being in the same spirit as most disaster movies is that Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton actually go looking for trouble. Nevertheless, Twister is incurably memorable—the Flying Cows Phenomenon is a hard thing to erase from memory.

VOLCANO (OR DANTE’S PEAK)

This is a pair of movies that, in the same vein as Armageddon and Deep Impact, came out so close together and were so similar in theme and plot that I have a difficult time remembering what happened in which. So I’ll just lump them together and pretend they were one movie: Tommy Lee Jones and Pierce Brosnan team up to stop a Volcano from erupting in the Pacific Northwest and Los Angeles. Collectively, they have a dead fiancée and a young daughter, as well as an antagonistic boss and a friend named Emmitt. All in all, everyone important doesn’t get lava’d.

THE PERFECT STORM

There’s a storm. Boat goes flying. Captain goes down with the ship. The kids are fine.

THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW

There’s a lot of snow because people don’t know how to turn lights off. The disastrousness of the disaster is overshadowed by the disastrousness of humans in this movie—but the real disaster is the “I just want my son back” storyline Dennis Quaid enlists as he treks across the tundra to rescue Jake Gyllenhaal from swimming around with a pretty girl.

VERTICAL LIMIT

Bill Paxton was in this movie, too. And again, I found it kind of hard to feel bad for him. A bunch of jackasses find it necessary to run around on mountains, taking pictures of animals or yetis or Buddhists or something, and then—BAM! Avalanche. A few of them die, but none of the ones you’re really supposed to be all that invested in; that’s just the way it goes. If you ever find yourself in a natural disaster, don’t worry about your loved ones. It’s only the marginally dislikable characters who get avalanched/perfect stormed/volcanoed/twisted/earthquaked. And that’s the real lesson to take away from this all.

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