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Greatest Disaster Film Scenes: Disasters have been the subject of film-goers' fascination since the time of silent film epics, and this interest continues to exist up to the present time. Films have often depicted large-scale natural disasters (weather-related usually) or man-made calamities (a wreck at sea, an airplane crash), often accompanied by massive crowd scenes. Other disasters may be planetary-related, criminally-instigated, nuclear-related, millennial-related, or involving alien or mutant invasions of some kind. They can be either impending or ongoing, or they can exist locally or globally.
Also see this site's writeup on the Greatest Disaster Films.
The focus of such films is on a spectacular calamity that threatened existence, with a small group of people in imminent danger, and how they must cope or devise a method of escape. Tension is developed by concentrating on the miraculous means of rescue and whether all the characters (usually in an all-star cast) have the inner strength to survive the ordeal.
Most disaster films have large-scale special effects (especially in the recent past's mega-budget spectaculars), huge casts of stars faced with the crisis, a persevering hero or heroine (i.e., Charlton Heston, Steve McQueen, Tommy Lee Jones, Dwayne Johnson, etc.) called upon to lead the struggle against the threat, and many plot-lines affecting multiple characters. In many cases, the 'evil' or 'selfish' individuals are the first to succumb to the conflagration.
As in any sub-genre, the move to capitalize on the 'disaster film' trend has led to many sub-par disaster films, with weak and unsubtle, formulaic plots, improbable circumstances and bad science, poor character development, and laughable acting from third-rate stars portraying cliched characters. And many of the more current 'disaster films' have been overshadowed by action-thriller elements in the plots.
"The Greatest Films" site has selected as the 100 Greatest Films