Overzealous scientists, disbelieving leaders, strong leading ladies and the dog that never dies™ are the stars of the movies you will be watching tonight. Yep, it's the natural disaster movie, a genre that is inevitably as exciting as it is cheesy. Put these flicks in your DVD player and try not to think too much.
This apocalyptic flick references the (somewhat controversial) belief that the Mayan's prediction of the end of the world will take place in 2012. In 2009, an American geologist learns that disruptions in the earth's crust will eventually trigger a chain of catastrophic natural disasters. To ensure humanities survival, international world leaders begin building arks that will survive these events.
Three years later (in 2012!), the disasters begin. An earthquake causes Los Angeles to split in half. A mega-tsunami kills the President of the United States. Now, it's up to a struggling science fiction writer to ensure that his ex-wife and their children make it onto the arks. 2012 is an epic disaster movie, full of incredible special effects and tense, will-they-make-it? moments.
In 1996, the planet Earth was subject to a large scale alien invasion. Fortunately, the Americans were there to save us. Phew! Independence Day is, to quote Movie Review UK, full of 'gung-ho jingoism', but it's also a lot of fun.
Two days before the titular Independence Day, alien space ships enter the atmosphere and hover ominously at points around the world. When computer guy David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) learns that they are co-ordinating an attack, he manages to gatecrash the White House and save the President and some of his staff, including Levinson's ex-wife, in the nick of time.
While military officials and some of the world's brightest minds try (and fail) to defeat the aliens, Levinson figures out how to disable their defences. The President gives a heart warming speech, Levinson and Marine Corps Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) blow up the mother ship and everyone lives happily ever after. Sorry to give away the ending.
In the Day After Tomorrow, the end of the world is mighty chilly. The human race is doomed when global warming, in the form of global cooling, leads to an ice age.
Dennis Quaid plays Jack Hall, the stereotypical scientist who discovers the disaster but is unable to convince anyone of its validity. Fortunately, a series of wild weather patterns (like a snowstorm in New Delhi and an outbreak of tornadoes in Los Angeles) convinces the President that Jack knows what he's talking about. Unfortunately, Jack's son is trapped in a New York library when the disaster strikes. Cue a suicidal cross country journey, one heroic death and several narrow escapes.
The Day After Tomorrow is full of plot holes and gaps in logic, but most of the young actors are pretty so it's worth checking out.
Want to see James Bond and Sarah Connor outrun a volcano? Pierce Brosnan plays a volcanologist who is sent to the town of Dante's Peak to investigate possible volcanic activity; Linda Hamilton plays the town's mayor and Brosnan's love interest.
This movie would be a lot shorter if the powers that be didn't ignore the scientific evidence pointing to catastrophe, but that wouldn't be any fun, would it? Instead, we get an eruption and lots of gooey lava. Dante's Peak is pretty exhilarating and the science isn't too hokey either.
Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt play divorced tornado chasers who are brought back together (another natural disaster cliché) during their quest to measure the 'big one'. Twister was produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Michael Crichton so it's actually quite good – for a natural disaster movie, anyway. Just ignore all the scientific inaccuracies.