Filmmakers enjoy few things more than dreaming up creative ways to decimate the Earth. Sure, real-life natural disasters are terrifying, but fictional depictions of Mother Nature’s wrath have made for some of film's most electrifying entertainment. From thunderstorms to tsunamis, these are the cinematic catastrophes that have ravaged the world and sent paranoid moviegoers to stock up on disaster supplies.
Click through for Hollywood's 10 craziest natural disasters.
"Deep Impact" (1998)
Space is creepy enough, with all the aliens that our movies imagine are lurking out there, but "Deep Impact" reminds us that the thing we should fear most about space is, well, space itself. As in, an enormous comet splinter that's set to slide into the Earth's surface like it's home base. Adding to the terror of the world's impending demise is a lottery system determining which lucky civilians get to take shelter underground. Don't have the golden ticket? Looks like you're cozying up with the comet!
"Dante's Peak" (1997)
If you've had volcano phobia since seeing photos of Pompeii citizens-turned-statues in eighth grade history class, "Dante's Peak" will leave you trembling on your couch. Sure, the special effects from 1997 are more likely to incite laughter than fear, but the idea is still terrifying: What if a volcano that was dormant for 7,000 years suddenly erupted, spewing lava on a small town? Can volcanologist Pierce Brosnan save the world? If not, who would make the coolest-looking statue? So many questions…
If a disaster movie and "The Sixth Sense" ever created a cinematic baby, "Knowing" would be it. Instead of Haley Joel Osment seeing dead people, in "Knowing" it’s a schoolgirl hearing "whisper people," who tell her to write seemingly meaningless numbers on a piece of paper that's then buried in a time capsule. Conveniently, when the capsule is unearthed, an MIT professor (Nicolas Cage) gets his hands on it and realizes the numbers correlate with every natural disaster in history, including an impending solar flare that threatens to destroy all signs of life. No pressure to decipher the numbers, Nic Cage — it's not like the entire world depends on it. Oh, wait...
Most people would be upset by the sight of a cow caught in a 100 mph tornado, but not Helen Hunt. She's all, "I've got my John Lennon glasses on and my hair still looks great; "I'm going in!"
As unshakable storm chaser Jo, Hunt manages to dodge several tornadoes, all while shamelessly flirting with her engaged ex-husband (Bill Paxton). Palpable sexual tension aside, the real thrill is watching Hunt and Paxton narrowly avoid the twister's grasp while attempting to deploy their storm-tracking device, Dorothy. The special effects may have been rendered cheesy by time, but the appeal of wind-blown mammals is, luckily, timeless.
"The Day After Tomorrow" (2004)
Global warming flicks are so 2000. "The Day After Tomorrow" tackles a lesser-discussed climactic disaster — global cooling — and proves cold temperatures can be just as terrifying. Dennis Quaid plays Jack, a paleoclimatologist who discovers the phenomenon. But, because this is a natural disaster movie, no one believes him. That is, until the weather starts wreaking havoc, stirring up devastating snow storms, hail storms, and even a hurricane that freezes everything in its path. All this begins to usher in an ice age. Luckily, a little on-screen romance between Jake Gyllenhaal and Emmy Rossum breaks up the frozen tundra for filmgoers.
Before director Michael Bay resorted to using robots disguised as transportation to end the world, he went the naturalistic route and used good old-fashioned comets. Rather than sending Shia LeBouf and a pouty model to save the world, "Armageddon" deploys a crew of blue-collar drillers to place a nuclear weapon inside a massive asteroid in hopes of breaking it into tiny, less-catastrophic pieces. The stress is offset by a little levity, thanks to a star-crossed romance between the lead driller (Ben Affleck) and the NASA exec's daughter (Liv Tyler) — all set to the melodramatic sounds of Aerosmith's “Dont Want To Miss A Thing."
The Perfect Storm (2000)
Captain Ahab's tussle with Moby Dick seems tame in comparison to the adventures of Captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney) and his cash-strapped crew, who discover a massive storm brewing on the horizon as they head back from the season's final fishing expedition. When faced with losing their lucrative end-of-season catch or taking on the less-than-ideal weather conditions, they make the ill-fated decision to sail into the storm. The film is based on a best-selling book and true story, so watching Mark Wahlberg and Clooney attempt to take on the massive waves is just as riveting as it is heartbreaking.
The Happening (2008)
Director M. Night Shyamalan does his best to discourage the mistreatment of nature with this horror-thriller, which features an impressive case of plants striking back. Even if you were never one to cower at the sight of a grassy field, watching a high school science teacher (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife (Zooey Deschanel) dodge passive-aggressive plant life might change your mind. It's never explained why or how, but sniffing a daisy (or catching a whiff of any other plant) has terrifying side-effects in "The Happening." And you thought seasonal allergies were bad!
The Poseidon Adventure (1978)
Well before James Cameron's "Titanic" crashed into theaters, director Ronald Neame was discouraging cruise-goers everywhere with his seminal disaster flick, "The Poseidon Adventure." Despite being billed as a relaxing jaunt in the Mediterranean, the ship's New Year's Eve festivities are permanently postponed when it’s hit by a massive tsunami. The wave submerges the ship with its passengers still on board. It makes Jack and Rose's run-in with an iceberg seem kinda dull, doesn't it?
Next: The 10 Best Fictional Weather Forecasters
If you want to see the Earth meet its end but are unsure how you'd like to watch it happen, this is the film for you. "2012" is the ultimate disaster-movie smorgasbord. The oft-referenced Mayan calendar is predicting the world's demise, and what do you know, it's supposed to happen this year. In fact, believers insist it will all go down Dec. 31. Lucky us!
Now if you'll excuse us, we have to go stock up on bottled water and canned goods.