10 Best Disaster Movies of All Time

By Romey Norton
Published: February 14, 2023 (Last updated: 3 weeks ago)

We discuss the 10 Best Disaster Movies of all Time. Add these films to your watch list, from tragic real-life events to end-of-the-world stories.

Disaster movies were viral at one point, but this genre seems to have taken a back seat while superhero movies and other action sagas have been at the forefront of our screens. This doesn’t stop disaster films from remaining popular. It’s making them quite a niche. 

What makes them such enjoyable films is that while they appear to be overdramatic at first glance, their storyline and plots are usually based on actual events that have happened or something that could very well happen.

Here is a list of my top ten disaster movies for everyone to watch and enjoy. 

10 Best Disaster Movies of All Time

Titanic (1997) 

I’m going straight in with one of our most famous love stories and disaster movies. This emotional blockbuster is based on an actual event; the sinking of the Titanic in 1912

It’s epic, action-packed, and has a loving, heated romance story. Some excellent graphics and heart-wrenching scenes will have your heart racing. Directed by James Cameron and starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, I’ll be shocked and surprised if you can watch this film without crying. 

Contagion (2011)

For the end of the world fans, this film feels even more real after recent years of Covid-19. This story surrounds a deadly virus, and while the US Centers for Disease Control struggles to curb its spread, worldwide panic ensues.

Here, for the disease not to spread, you can’t touch your face; and that’s a lot harder than it sounds. With a worldwide panic and need for a vaccine, Contagion is horrifying and disturbingly close to reality. 

The Wave (2015) 

This movie cleverly uses disaster film cliches without sounding too cheesy or cringe.

In Norway, a geologist and his family live near the beautiful scenic mountains. However, one day it collapses, and an 85-meter tidal wave threatens their lives. 

The Impossible (2012)

Heart-racing and gut-punching, this film is one of the best disaster-survival movies based on a true story. The Impossible is inspired by the tragic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Viewers watch as a family on vacation is torn apart by the brutal waves, and they try to reunite. Acting credits include Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Holland in his film debut. This film will make you want to hug your family and never let them go. 

Snakes on a plane (2006)

Featuring the famous swearing line from our favorite Samuel. L. Jackson, this film has to make the top ten for its dramatically outrageous and slightly creepy, cringe-worthy storyline. The story surrounds Sean Jones, who is on a flight to L.A to testify against a mob boss. The FBI Agent looking after Sean must save the passengers on the flight from the dramatic disaster of snakes taking over the plane. A must-watch. 

Twister (1996)

Now here is a film to get your heart racing. Twister follows a team of storm chasers as they chase an Oklahoma tornadoes outbreak. As leader Jo (Helen Hunt) tries to keep her crew members alive, she must also contend with her ex-husband Bill (Bill Paxton), who has arrived wanting divorce papers signed. A whirlwind of emotions, it’s an intense film to watch. 

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

This film is one I love to watch over and over again. While it’s not based on a real story, it is something you can envision happening, which is incredibly scary to me. In this film, a series of natural disasters resulted in the world experiencing an Ice Age. The Day After Tomorrow stars Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal, who play father and son.

When paleo-climatologist Jack’s warnings of the impending disaster are ignored, he crosses the country to save his teenage son Sam, who is trapped in the middle of the tragedy in New York City. Excellently acted and well-written, it’s a must-watch for disaster fans. 

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

I remember watching this as a child, and my love and fear of action-disaster films were born. The Poseidon Adventure remains one of the most famous disaster movies of all time and has gathered a cult following, probably down to its unique plot and excellent acting from the cast, including Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine.

The story surrounds a cruise ship traveling from New York to Greece. A tidal wave turns the boat upside down during its New Year’s Eve Celebrations, and the survivors try to make their way to the surface to escape. This isn’t an easy journey; it’s filled with multiple hazards and just as gut-wrenching as it sounds. 

The Towering Inferno (1974) 

This Steve McQueen classic was the highest-grossing film of 1974, and similar to The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning three of them.

It has a lengthy runtime of over three hours, so be prepared for a long stretch. In this film, a fire breaks out during a premier party of the world’s tallest skyscraper. All hands are on deck to put out the flaming monster and save the victims inside. It’s an exciting take on the disaster genre and makes you hold your breath while watching, as it could very well happen.

The Birds (1963)

We’re ending this list with the great Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. If this film doesn’t make you scared of birds, nothing will. Young, pretty socialite Melaine follows a suitor to his hometown and soon finds herself in a swarm of killer birds.

These birds are fierce, homicidal, and terrifying, attacking everything and everyone in sight. It might not be a disaster that destroys a town or threatens the world, but this action-thriller might make you duck and run when you see a bird in the future. 

Do you have any other recommendations for Best Disaster Movies of All Time? Let us know!

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