The 10 Best Disaster Movies

The best disaster movies include Twister, Deep Impact, The Towering Inferno

By Britta DeVore | Updated

Horror, comedy, romance – there are so many different genres of movies out there to dive into during a weekend at home. With the ever-changing world around us, one category of film can draw in the sassiness of a comedy, the heart-wrenching impact of a love story, and the chilling thrill of a horror all at the same time. From Tom Hanks to Leonardo DiCaprio, natural disasters to deadly viruses, check out our Top 10 disaster movies below.

10. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)


The first and oldest disaster movie on the list is packed with a cast from Hollywood’s heyday in a story about a boating adventure gone horribly wrong. Poseidon Adventure walked so Titanic could run and follows the story of a fictional luxury liner called the SS Poseidon on its final cross-Atlantic voyage from the harbors of New York City to Athens. On her last sail across the deep blue sea, the ship is struck by a tsunami – leading to disastrous consequences for all on board. The film featured huge names of the day including Gene Hackman, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine, and Jack Albertson.

9. 2012 (2009)

2012 movie


Who can forget the feeling of living in our own disaster movie over a decade ago in the year 2012? For those of us who survived the scare of the millennium change over from 1999 to 2000, facing the possible end of the world was an all too familiar feeling when the Earth as we knew it was supposed to come to a screeching halt in December 2012 when the Mayan calendar tapped out.

Thankfully for us, this wasn’t the case, but it was a money-making idea for the master of disaster movies, Roland Emmerich who released the film 2012. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and John Cusack as a scientist and a writer in a race against time, the two men’s destinies are connected as the Doomsday clock ticks down to a cataclysmic event. 

8. Twister (1996)


Mother Nature has always proven herself a force to be reckoned with, and that’s exactly what director Jan de Bont set out to show in Twister, one of the few disaster movies hailed as an immediate classic. Considered to be a classic piece of ‘90s cinema, the film followed a group of storm chasers tracking down the most powerful storm the country had ever seen.

Pushing the envelope with a new technology to better our understanding of the deadly natural disaster, the team sets out on a harrowing journey to complete its mission. An all-star cast, the film included the likes of Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, Alan Ruck, Anthony Rapp, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Like many other great movies of the ‘90s, Twister will soon be receiving a next chapter on the big screen. 

7. San Andreas (2015)

earthquake alert


Anyone living in California will know the all-to-possible reality of one of the most infamous fault lines – the San Andreas – causing a devastating earthquake. Tapping into that fear of many of us who are waiting for “the big one,” director Brad Peyton showed what could happen when that time comes in his 2015 disaster movie, San Andreas. Unsurprisingly, the film centers around the titular fault line as it sets off the most devastating quake in history.

As the West Coast crumbles, a few heroes step up to the plate to try to hold things together and save as many lives as possible. The film was one of the major ones of Dwayne Johnson’s career as he starred as the main hero alongside a call sheet that also included Ioan Gruffudd, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti, Carla Gugino, and Archie Panjabi. 

6. Apollo 13 (1995)

tom hanks


If you were a ‘90s kid obsessed with space, there was one disaster movie in particular that knocked the wind out of your sales when it came to your dreams of becoming an astronaut. Based on a true story, the iconic Ron Howard crafted a visually stunning and heartfelt film around the titular spacecraft’s disastrous trip to space. With a cast led by Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon, the title’s performances were top-notch landing the crew and the cast a slew of Academy Award nominations with the film taking home the Oscar for Best Film Editing and Best Sound. 

5. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)


While Jake Gyllenhaal was surprised this past year when he learned that he had previously starred alongside Dennis Quaid as a father-son duo before Disney’s 2022 animated feature Strange World, The Day After Tomorrow made that unforgettable moment possible. Another disaster movie from the mind of Roland Emmerich, the film plays into the ongoing threat of global warming with a superstorm threatening the entire planet. With severe weather forming all around him, Quaid’s Jack Hall goes on the journey of a lifetime to save his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his friend Laura (Emmy Rossum) before the planet crumbles. 

4. Contagion (2011)

Kate Winslet


Long before COVID-19 caused the entire globe to shut down, Steven Soderbergh played with the idea of a deadly disease catastrophically crushing mankind in 2011’s Contagion. A classic piece of disaster movie canon – and not one to watch if the COVID-19 pandemic haunts your nightmares, Gwyneth Paltrow stars as Beth Emhoff, a woman returning home to Minnesota after a business trip to Hong Kong. Seemingly jet-lagged, Beth’s husband (Matt Damon) believes she’s just adjusting to the time change when she passes away unexpectedly. Before anyone can guess what’s happening, a slew of other people begin to show the same symptoms leading to a global pandemic. As medical staff rushes to snuff out the virus before it’s too late, a blogger (Jude Law) drives up the pandemonium. 

3. Deep Impact (1998)


While there are many other space-centered titles out there to add to a list of the best disaster movies, Deep Impact just hits a little bit harder than the rest. Directed by Mimi Leder, the Earth-shattering feature focuses on the very real threat of a comet’s collision course with our planet. As the government tries to hide the truth from the people, a reporter named Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni) sets out to reveal the truth but allows the President (Morgan Freeman) to jump on it first. Although it seems that all hope is lost, an astronaut named Spurgeon “Fish” Tanner (Robert Duvall) prepares a team of the bravest recruits around and sets into motion a plan that will hopefully see the comet destroyed before it ends life as we know it. 

2. Titanic (1997)

titanic suvivor


A list of the best disaster movies wouldn’t be complete without a nod to James Cameron’s 1997 film, Titanic. Bolstering the careers of young up-and-comers Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the film is a classic for a reason. In case you haven’t seen it, the feature is a love story between two of the doomed ship’s passengers who come from very different walks of life. Told from the perspective of one of the lovers many years in the future, the film is the perfect mix of disaster, drama, and romance – with a slight bit of comedy. Bill Paxton is also in this one, making it the third movie on our countdown to feature the disaster artist.

1. The Towering Inferno


Just like The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno has withstood the test of time and nabbed itself the Number 1 ranking on our official list of the best disaster movies. The film centers around what else but a towering inferno when a fire in San Francisco wreaks havoc on the bustling city. In a race against time, a grumpy fire chief and an architect are forced to team up to keep the body count low on the terrifying event. Another A-list cast led by director John Guillermin, the film starred the likes of Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones, O.J. Simpson, William Holden, and others.

  • GFR Score calculated using averages of audience and critical reactions across multiple platforms.