Greatest Disaster
Film Scenes

Part 5

The Greatest Disaster Film Scenes
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Description of Disaster Film Scene

Alive (1993)

A notorious docudrama film about a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes in the fall of 1972 in sub-zero temperatures, forcing them to resort to cannibalism to survive after extricating themselves from the twisted wreckage. The film opened with the spectacular airplane crash, and then weeks of struggling survival followed. Based on the novel of the same name by Piers Paul Read.

The Fugitive (1993)

A Best Picture-nominated film with an incredible train wreck scene causing Deputy Samuel Gerard (Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winner Tommy Lee Jones) to comment upon the wreckage, "My, my, my, my, my. What a mess." With seven Academy Award nominations (with only one win), including Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects Editing.

Outbreak (1995)

A deadly, Ebola-like monkey-borne virus from Africa re-emerged in the US through an illegally-smuggled infected animal, with Dustin Hoffman as the infectious disease expert called to eradicate the deadly airborne virus spreading in a small California town. One digital effects sequence effectively demonstrated how the virus could quickly spread by a sneeze (and its particle-filled viral spray) in a crowded movie theatre.

Daylight (1996)

With Sylvester Stallone as the disgraced former head of Emergency Medical Services, who formed a rescue operation when a traffic accident triggered an explosion that sealed both ends of the tunnel under the Hudson River in New York City. Advertised as: "No Air, No Escape, No Time". Death may come through suffocation, by fire, by being crushed, or by drowning. With only one Academy Award nomination: Best Sound Effects Editing.

Independence Day (1996)

Director Roland Emmerich's remake, unofficially, of the original alien attack film The War of the Worlds (1953), told of alien invaders overtaking the Earth. Doomsday for the world was signaled by a monstrous, asteroid-sized UFO that entered Earth's atmosphere and hovered over the skyline of NYC. Included a well-publicized images of the White House and Capitol Building being destroyed, and revived the tradition of disaster films of having a large-scale cast. With only two Academy Award nominations, including Best Sound, and the winner of the Best Visual Effects Oscar (defeating Twister (1996)).

Twister (1996)

Nature's wrath was unleashed with this Jan de Bont film, when twister-chasing, thrill-seeking meteorologists (Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt) pursued killer tornadoes, with a sensing device nicknamed DOROTHY. State of the art, digital special effects and computer graphics included cows flying through the air. With only two Academy Award nominations: Best Sound and Best Visual Effects.

Dante's Peak (1997)

Although formulaic and cliched, it was the better of the two competing volcano disaster films in 1997 (see also Volcano (1997) below). It told about a small Pacific Northwest town called Dante's Peak that was threatened by an erupting volcano. Pierce Brosnan portrayed a volcano expert from the U.S. Geological Survey who warned of the impending disaster - to little effect, until the evidence of massive ash clouds, and rivers of raging mud and molten rock caused death-defying attempts at escape.

Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)

Jan de Bont's race-against-time follow-up to Speed (1994) was about an out-of-control cruise liner aimed at a Caribbean resort town. Willem Dafoe played the copper-poisoned, vengeful wacko villain who hijacked the ship with his laptop computer. The film's most expensive sequence was the liner's slow crash through a pier and a couple of buildings in the resort harbor town.


Titanic (1997)

James Cameron's masterpiece of historical accuracy chronicled the sinking of the Titanic in the Atlantic on its maiden voyage in 1912. One of the most popular films of all-time, it grossed over a billion dollars worldwide, with complex digital effects, models, live-action and miniatures. Nominated for 14 Academy Awards, and the winner of eleven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Film Editing, and Best Cinematography.

Volcano (1997)

The title of this disaster film was somewhat of a misnomer -- rather, it was about an underground volcano with a lava vent (LaBrea Tar Pits) that flooded Los Angeles (in the heart of Hollywood) with destructive lava. It showed the efforts of Tommy Lee Jones as a strict emergency management director to barricade the city against the slow-moving menace, with appropriate pyrotechnic special effects - including raining lava.

Armageddon (1998)

One of two competing "killer asteroid" films of 1998 (see also Deep Impact (1998) below) in which a mining team raced to plant explosives on a gigantic meteor. The Michael Bay film featured smaller meteorites devastating New York City. Like Meteor (1979), it featured now-disturbing imagery of a damaged World Trade Center -- and rogue meteors causing the complete destruction of Paris and Shanghai. With four Academy Award nominations: Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Song, and Best Visual Effects (defeated by What Dreams May Come (1998)).

Deep Impact (1998)

A more philosophical, introspective, and character-driven existential film than Armageddon (1998), about a comet splinter that hit Earth - causing a massive, four hundred foot tidal wave that devastated New York City, and the efforts of astronauts (led by Robert Duvall) to prevent further apocalyptic destruction.

The Matrix Films (1999-2003)

A series of hyperkinetic thrillers from the Wachowski Brothers examined the nature of reality in the external world - seemingly uncertain, in which reality was a computer simulation (the Matrix), and the actual Earth was scorched. Evil machines kept humans pacified and fooled by the illusion that mimicked everyday reality. The films were set in the near future (actually about 200 years later, around the year 2199).

The character of computer programmer/hacker Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), with screen-name alias Neo was introduced - destined to be a messianic one to save the world. Rebel warrior Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) explained how life on Earth - the Matrix ("It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth") - was only a completely-simulated reality or facade created by malevolent, cyber-artificial-intelligent sentient beings that enslaved humans by imprisoning their minds and bodies ("Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind").

Final Destination (2000)

A violent plane crash, previsioned by one of the passengers who deplaned, opened this horror film, which was controversially based on the tragic TWA 800 crash. It even used news footage from that crash as stock footage.

The Perfect Storm (2000)

A downbeat, nihilistic true story about the Andrea Gail, a North Atlantic fishing troller from Gloucester, Massachusetts that was caught in the fall of 1991 in a violent storm with fifty foot sea swells after two weeks at sea. With George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Diane Lane. With only two Academy Award nominations: Best Sound and Best Visual Effects (defeated by Gladiator (2000)).

28 Days Later... (2002, UK)

This apocalyptic, sci-fi horror film from director Danny Boyle opened in a completely deserted London, with haunting views of a virus-ravaged landscape, due to the effects of an experimental, laboratory-bred virus or plague. Animal activists had attempted to rescue simian victims from sadistic scientists in the Cambridge Primate Research Center, with disastrous results when the raging, infected animals were set free - the evacuated city became overrun with roaming bands of crazed, diseased zombies as a result of the infectious blood disorder.

The Sum of All Fears (2002)

This fourth film starring Tom Clancy's hero Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck in the role rather than Harrison Ford) featured a terrorist nuclear bombing of part of the city of Baltimore during a major professional football competition. When the bomb detonated (it was hidden in a cigarette vending machine in the stadium's underground parking area), the shockwaves of the mushroom-shaped nuclear blast destroyed much of the city, and the President's motorcade of cars was toppled. The blast was reported to be from a low-yield device, smaller than the Hiroshima bomb, and it had left a crater a quarter of a square mile around the stadium (ground zero), and other heavily damaged buildings for another quarter mile. The film was delayed in theatrical showings due to the 9/11 disaster, and heavily edited.

The Core (2003)

A worldwide ecological disaster film about how the Earth's molten core stopped spinning, causing the unleashing of harmful microwave rays that caused disasters such as earthquakes, bridge collapses, and super electrical-lightning storms all over the world, with a team of scientists on a mission to drill into the core and detonate nuclear warheads -- a preposterous and entirely unscientific idea.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

An ecological disaster film, the second disaster film from director Roland Emmerich, chronicled the catastrophic climactic after-effects of global warming (the greenhouse effect): with hurricanes, killer tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, tidal waves, and an impending Ice Age.

Diary of the Dead (2007)

George Romero's most recent low-budget "Dead" film, in its "film-within-a-film" framework, began with conflicting and dubious news reports told that there were no clear reason for the chaos in the world, although there was speculation about some kind of germ or epidemic, or natural calamity, or even that everything was a massive hoax. It was obvious that political and social unrest had been unleashed, as a result of the zombie infestation. Student film-makers were interrupted while making a Blair Witch Project-like horror film, and they determinedly took their video cameras and other gadget-techno devices on the road to tell the real truth of the zombie attacks with their own first-person footage. The students believed the government was lying about the causes of the zombie resurrection, and vowed to show the world the truth of what had really happened. The documentary of the unexplainable zombie phenomenon (mostly with long takes and jerky hand-held digital video camera shots) was called The Death of Death.

I Am Legend (2007)

A man-made virus (a genetically-engineered cancer cure that mutated and became deadly) virtually wiped out most of the global population three years earlier. The film's setting was New York City in the year 2012, and the only survivor was ex-military scientist Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith), a virologist. The previous two versions of the film (adaptations of Richard Matheson's novel) were The Last Man on Earth (1964) with Vincent Price, and The Omega Man (1971) with Charlton Heston. By day, Neville hunted and foraged throughout the starkly deserted and abandoned city (with cars left on the streets), avoiding the zombified, vampirish, virus-infected mutant creatures or hemocytes (called DarkSeekers) that only emerged at night. Major on-location sites in NYC included Times Square, Tribeca, and Washington Square, with one of the most spectacular scenes involving a fragmented Brooklyn Bridge (a $5 million dollar scene).

Cloverfield (2008)

Director Matt Reeves' 'found-footage' action horror-thriller (his first feature film), an American monster and disaster movie, was produced by J.J. Abrams (responsible for popular TV shows including Alias, Lost, Fringe, and Person of Interest), that was hyped and advertised with a viral media campaign with lots of obscuring secrecy (with a '1-18-08' trailer). Many compared the film's events to the horrors experienced by New Yorkers during 9/11. The short 84-minute film's tagline was: "SOME THING HAS FOUND US." Critics lambasted the Godzilla-like, alien-attack film (similar to the pre 9/11 American remake of Godzilla (1998)) for its derivative nature, poor acting and script-writing. When the disaster film started with a color bars test pattern, it was presented as chilling and oblique video footage recovered by the US Department of Defense - the personal recording was located in an area known as US447 ("formerly known as Central Park"). Most of the video was filmed on the night of Friday, May 22, 2009 (and the next early morning). Its two main characters (in a cast of unknowns) were Elizabeth "Beth" McIntyre (Odette Yustman) and Robert "Rob" Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David). There were many catastrophes in this film, most of which were caused by the appearance (slowly revealed) of a monstrous scaly creature with fireballs for breath (covered with superfast, vicious spider or crab-like parasites that fell off and attacked), who threatened the entire city. Disasters included the decapitation of the Statue of Liberty, and the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge (by the monster's tail). The rescue operation was code-named Cloverfield. One of the scariest sequences was filmed in the pitch-black darkness of the Spring Street subway station, where a small group of 20-somethings was attacked by one of the crab-like creatures, and Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) suffered a lethal toxic bite on her shoulder, and later complained: "I don't feel so good" before dying. The helicopter carrying an injured Beth, Rob, and Hud (T.J. Miller), the camcorder operator, crashed in Central Park after being attacked by the Monster, wounding Hud before he was literally consumed by the beast. In the film's final moments, Beth and Rob awaited the destruction of the city.

Knowing (2009)

Alex Proyas' sci-fi action disaster thriller was set up with the opening, fifty years later, of a Boston-area elementary school time capsule with letters written by schoolchildren in 1959; the letter of sad, slightly-disturbed schoolgirl Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson) had seemingly random numbers, deciphered as meaningful code by MIT astrophysics professor John Koestler (Nicolas Cage). He guessed that a series of numbers, such as 911012996, referred to dates of worldwide disasters in the last 50 years, (the World Trade Center disaster on 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, natural disasters, plane crashes etc.), and then figured out that the numbers were in sequence by date, body count, and then GPS geographic positional coordinates (latitude and longitude). There were three more deadly events about to happen in the near future, and he experienced all of them - beginning with a realistically-fiery commercial plane crash near Boston's Logan Airport as he was driving on the clogged freeway. He also foretold and witnessed a Worth and Lafayette St. (Manhattan) subway train derailment crash-collision (and his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) envisioned a woodland wildfire consuming stampeding deer and moose). The last event was cataclysmic and apocalyptic - a disaster of worldwide proportions due to a massive solar flare (causing energy bursts of radioactivity that destroyed the Earth's ozone layer) that consumed the NYC skyline and Times Square (and eventually the entire Earth), prefaced by chaos in the city's streets. The final number 33 was actually EE="everyone else" written backwards, signifying that there would be no survivors (everyone would die) on October 19, 2009.

2012 (2009)

End of days movie-expert Roland Emmerich's latest disaster epic, based upon the Mayan calendar's apocalyptic predictions for the cataclysmic year 2012, followed his own alien invasion Independence Day (1996), Godzilla (1998), the global warming epic The Day After Tomorrow (2004), and the prehistoric 10,000 BC (2008). In this one, the heating up of the Earth's core produced a monstrous earthquake that caused Los Angeles (with buckling freeways and falling skyscrapers) to crack open and fall into the ocean, while Yellowstone National Park succumbed to a volcanic eruption, the Washington Monument toppled, the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy was swept up by a gigantic tidal wave and crashed upside down onto the White House, Rio de Janiero's Christ the Redeemer statue fell, a giant tsunami struck India, the Eiffel Tower was leveled, while a tidal wave inundated the Himalayas, St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel crumbled (with Michelangelo's Adam and God painting splitting apart), and an entire cruise ship liner was overturned by a giant wave and sank to the bottom of the ocean.

Greatest Disaster Film Scenes
(chronological, by film title)
Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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