Natural disasters have always been a great inspiration for many movies, some of them even based on true events. Floods, tsunamis, forest fires and many more are motives that never get old, especially nowadays when we are facing more and more catastrophes. There is often not only one natural disaster portrayed in movies, but a series of connected catastrophes that need to be dealt with.
Earthquakes have also not been excluded from the beloved topics where the main protagonists have to find their way out of the danger they found themselves in. Packed with adrenaline and full of adventure, these movies will keep us on the edge of our seats and won’t allow us to switch the channel. These are the 12 best movies about earthquakes of all time.
San Andreas (2015)
When we see that Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. The Rock has a leading role in a movie we can be more than certain that we are in for two hours of adventure and action. San Andreas is a town in California where its residents experience an earthquake so strong that it immediately gets described as the biggest earthquake in history.
A helicopter rescue pilot, Ray Gaines needs to find his daughter who is in San Francisco, away from him and his ex-wife. His estranged wife Emma is forced to turn to him for help and the two of them embark on a journey to save their daughter. This is an action thriller filled with adrenaline, but also a drama about two people who need to overcome their differences to save the person they love the most.
The Impossible (2012)
This heartbreaking movie based on true events brings us the story of a regular family, Maria and Henry and their three kids who travel to Thailand to spend Christmas. Their vacation seems perfect, with a villa near the coast and a pool they can enjoy their time. But suddenly, they find themselves in the middle of one of the greatest catastrophes ever. This is one of the best disaster movies of the last decade, with great direction and brilliant acting by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. But the most interesting fact is that it was the first movie role for today’s most famous Spiderman, Tom Holland.
An earthquake followed by a tsunami hits their resort and doesn’t leave anyone time to escape or at least hide somewhere. Maria and Henry get separated, swept away from each other, each of them with one of their children. This is when their desperate attempts to go back to one another begin. This is a very emotional movie that will leave you in tears, especially when you remember that it has a historical background and that many people have suffered that way.
The Quake (2018)
This movie is the sequel to The Wave where a huge tsunami hit Norway. Three years later, Kristian Eikjord, who was called a hero after this catastrophe in Geiranger, divorces his wife and lives separated from his family. A series of unusual events will lead to Kristian’s conclusion that a very strong earthquake is going to hit Oslo.
During his attempt to evacuate his wife from the possible hit, the earthquake indeed happens and destroys the majority of the capital. Since they are expecting another one, Kristain and his family don’t have much time to leave the building and try to save their lives by finding shelter somewhere in the city. They don’t manage to get outside, but in the end, remain unharmed.
South Koreans are masters of suspense and this time they give us an adventure disaster movie about an earthquake that hit a small Korean town and caused explosions at the nuclear power plant. Pyung-Sub has been working there for some time now and he is not surprised about the situation the power plant is in now. He saw its conditions before the earthquake, but nobody in the government wanted to listen to him.
As it almost always is with natural catastrophes, people immediately started panicking and everything started spiralling out of control. To prevent another nuclear disaster, Pyung-Suv and his co-workers return to the nuclear power plant.
This is a Russian-Armenian drama about the devastating Spitak earthquake of December 7th 1988. Two men from completely different backgrounds team up to deal with the consequences of this unbelievable disaster.
A 50-year-old Russian Konstantin Berezhnoy and a 28-year-old Armenian Robert Melkonyan need to work together to help and save the ones who survived this huge earthquake.
And Life Goes On (1992)
This is an Iranian movie, inspired by a true story and shot in a documentary style. After the 1990s earthquake in Guilan, Iran where over 30 000 people lost their lives, the movie director Kiarostami decides to go and search for the stars of his previous movie shot there, Where Is the Friend’s home?
The movie shows his journey through the country hit by an earthquake to look at its aftermath. He is travelling with his son and after some wrong routes, they finally find one of the villages where his movie was filmed. They visit the village, led by the ones who survived who he also has the opportunity to talk to which makes him realise how brave they all are to be able to continue with their lives after such a catastrophe.
S.O.S. Tidal Wave (1939)
Tidal waves usually come after an earthquake hits and therefore can also be included in this list. This interesting outtake on corruption among politicians in New York City follows the story of a newsman Jeff Shannon who wants to reveal everything to the public. He changes his mind after the threats to his wife and son.
It’s election day and politicians want to prevent people from voting so they decide to go even further and start broadcasting the movie Deluge on the news to make people think a huge tidal wave has hit their city. But not everyone will be convinced of what they see on television.
Escape from L.A. (1996)
This is the sequel to its more famous and critically acclaimed original, Escape from New York, but we never get tired of Snake Plissken’s adventures. The year is 2013 and this time the problem lies in Los Angeles, which became an island of the damned after a huge earthquake hit the city in 2000. The US president has a hidden agenda for his city but his daughter disrupts his plans.
When she steals the remote control for her father’s superweapon and flees to Los Angeles Island to hand it to a Peruvian revolutionary, Snake Plissken gets an opportunity to be pardoned for his crimes by going to the island and retrieving the remote.
Even though this movie didn’t get too many critical claims, it is a somewhat different outtake on earthquakes, putting the story in the future and dealing with the issue from a changed perspective. It is loosely based on Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos since it features some of its antagonists.
A massive, unknown earthquake hits a drilling station at the bottom of the Marianna Trench. It leaves a group of scientists separated from the rest of humanity and now they have to find their way to another station. They will have to cross the ocean to get there which will not be an easy task due to all the problems they will encounter on their way, such as constant lack of oxygen, deep pressure, dark water and dangerous sea creatures.
This, now a cult movie about earthquakes, starring then some of the biggest Hollywood legends, such as Ava Gardner and Charlton Heston, might seem a bit banal to us, but at the time it was a huge hit. We follow the lives of a group of people whose problems begin to look so irrelevant when a major earthquake hits Los Angeles and leaves the city in ruins.
Construction engineer Stuart Graff, his jealous wife Remy and Denise Marshal, the woman he had an affair with, Remy’s father Sam, rogue policemen Lew Slade, Jodi, a perverted grocery store manager and a few more characters will all find themselves in the same situation, in a fight for survival after this natural phenomenon becomes a wake-up call for all of them.
Tidal Wave (2009)
Even though South Korean cinema is known for its brilliant thrillers and drama movies, this time they decided to deal with a completely different topic, filming the first disaster movie in the history of their cinematography. It didn’t get as many positive reviews like the ones from the mentioned genres, but it’s still an interesting movie to watch.
Professor Kim, a marine geologist recognises underground activities in the East Sea similar to the ones in the Indian Ocean when it got hit by a huge earthquake which resulted in a devastating tsunami. He realises that Busan’s citizens have only 10 minutes to escape. A minor earthquake finally hits, but the tidal wave is going to be massive.
Mass hysteria follows when many citizens realise what is approaching and face the fact that they don’t have time or place to run to. A major catastrophe hits the city with the consequences that will leave everyone devastated.
There are movies that haven’t received a lot of critical claim upon their release, but somehow in time gained a cult status. Everyone has heard of this 1997 movie with Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche in leading roles and Don Cheadle as a supporting actor. And even though it is not a movie about an earthquake, but its aftermath, it still needs to be included in the list.
When an earthquake hits the Los Angeles downtown, Mike Roark insists on coming to work to help deal with the crisis. Even though there are no major consequences, something is going on beneath the surface. Seismologist May Barnes believes there might be a volcano forming underneath, but she has not enough evidence to have Mike investigate it.
When the second earthquake strikes and causes even more damage, the alleged volcano erupts and lava starts flowing down L.A.biggest boulevards, destroying everything in its path. But this is not the end, since Barnes realises that the major eruption must still occur.