Brace for Impact: 9 Disaster Movies That Were Real Disasters
These films may not have nailed the landing, but they certainly prove that making a good disaster movie is no easy task.
Sometimes the real disaster isn't the earthquake or the volcano; it's the movie itself.
1. Battlefield Earth (2000)
With Battlefield Earth, we have an alien invasion movie that didn't just crash, it imploded. The film starred John Travolta, based on a novel by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Viewers might have hoped for an epic sci-fi adventure. Instead, they got convoluted plotting, hammy acting, and an overuse of slanted camera angles that made it feel like the movie itself was constantly falling over. The film was not only a box-office bomb, earning just $29 million against a $73 million budget, but also a critical nightmare, boasting a miserable 3% on Rotten Tomatoes.
2. The Happening (2008)
M. Night Shyamalan, known for his twist endings, gave us an unexpected turn with The Happening. This apocalyptic thriller starred Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel, running from an unknown force causing mass suicides. The reveal of the antagonist being plants releasing toxins did not go down well with viewers. Wahlberg even admitted years later that the film was a 'bad movie'. Critics echoed this sentiment, as reflected in its 18% Rotten Tomatoes rating. This was truly a disaster movie in every sense, with audiences finding unintentional laughs in what was supposed to be a serious horror-thriller.
3. The Swarm (1978)
The Swarm brought us the terror of killer bees invading Texas, a plot as ridiculous as it sounds. This Irwin Allen disaster movie boasted a star-studded cast including Michael Caine, but it buzzed its way to disaster with a $10 million box office return on a $21 million budget. Caine reportedly signed onto the film without reading the script, later dubbing it one of his worst films. With the bees not so scary and the human characters oddly two-dimensional, the movie earned a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
5. Volcano (1997)
Volcano, the movie that saw Tommy Lee Jones face off against a volcano... in Los Angeles. The absurd premise, combined with lackluster special effects and a molten river of cheesy dialogue, led to this film's eruption into disaster territory. The film grossed only $49 million at the domestic box office, failing to recoup its $90 million budget. No Oscar nominations for this one, folks, only a tepid 49% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
6. Twister (1996)
Twister attempted to take us by storm, with Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton chasing tornadoes across the Midwest. While the film performed well at the box office, it received mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike. Behind the scenes, things were as turbulent as the on-screen tornadoes, with director Jan de Bont and Hunt reportedly clashing, leading to Hunt vowing never to work with him again. It also earned the wrath of the scientific community for its unrealistic portrayal of storm chasing and tornadoes.
7. 2012 (2009)
Roland Emmerich loves a good disaster, and 2012 is his pièce de résistance. Despite a stellar cast, including John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor, this end-of-the-world spectacle is notorious for its over-the-top destruction and disregard for logic. The plot sees Earth devastated by a series of cataclysmic natural disasters, prompting humanity's struggle for survival. The film, while commercially successful, was critically panned for its shallow characters and emphasis on spectacle over substance. Its Rotten Tomatoes rating is a not-so-apocalyptic 39%.
8. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Another Emmerich entry, The Day After Tomorrow, saw global warming trigger a new Ice Age. The movie is crammed with spectacular, though scientifically dubious, disasters: flash freezes, massive tornadoes, tsunamis, you name it! Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid lead a capable cast, but the film's grandeur was met with an icy reception by critics for its heavy-handed messaging and lack of character development. It managed a chilly 45% on Rotten Tomatoes.
9. San Andreas (2015)
San Andreas had Dwayne The Rock Johnson trying to save his family from earthquakes devastating California. If you think it sounds like 10.5, you're not alone. Although the film was a box office hit, it was essentially a series of crumbling skyscrapers and tidal waves, with little plot or character development to hold it together. Critics and audiences were split, with a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making San Andreas another fault in the disaster movie genre.