Best: War Of The Worlds (2005)
Just before Tom Cruise went into meltdown, he headed up this end-of-worlder. With Steven Spielberg returning to aliens for a third time, this time bringing the nasty, War Of The Worlds does what all disaster flicks should – bring both the drama and the emotion.
Sure it starts to lose its way around two thirds in, then defeats its invading ETs within the blink of the eye (the less said about that far-reaching happy ending the better), but it’s just what we needed to remind us that the Beard and Mr Cruise have what it takes to make something meticulous and mental.
Worst: The Reaping (2007)
Disasters get biblical as a small town is, uh, plagued by the apocalyptic 10 plagues of the Good Book. Hilary Swank goes to investigate, inevitably surrendering herself to the post-Oscar curse which she has still yet to recover from.
Like The Swarm before it, Reaping fails to bring both the scares and the action. Fail.
Best: The Hindenburg (1975)
Though director Robert Wise was famously meticulous when it came to details, The Hindenburg makes some massive leaps in historical accuracy.
Such inconsistencies manage not to derail the entire movie, though, thanks to the persuasive tone of Wise’s movie, and a truly fiery finale.
Worst: Poseidon (2006)
Wolfgang Petersen returns to the disaster arena, and thinks he can do better than Ronald Neame’s 1972 original.
In short: he can’t. He tries, though, casting pop-singer-but-actress-wannabe Fergie alongside a decent Kurst Russell and Jacinda Barrett. Yes, the CGI’s there, but everything else is a tsuami-sized waste of time.
Best: San Francisco (1936)
Funny how the oldies are generally the goodies, even if the budgets and visual spectacle aren’t a patch on even the DTV movies of the modern day.
That said, this Clark Gable vehicle has spectacle by the bucketload, as montage specialist Slavko Vorkapich cut together footage of a San Fran earthquake to shattering effect.
Worst: 2012 (2009)
Those Mayans, eh? Just because they got sick of making a calendar that dated far beyond anything they could ever imagine, Roland Emmerich decided to use their laziness as an excuse to stage the end of the world.
Except it’s not really the end of the world, just a shift in a few continents. Basically Independence Day on acid, 2012 has a bigger cast, bigger budget and, alright, bigger aspirations than Emmerich’s alien flick, but in the end it’s just a bigger mess. Shame.
Best: Cloverfield (2008)
Good stuff, if you had the stomach for it. Reports of people vomiting in the cinema aside, Cloverfield picked up right where Blair Witch left off with the found-footage approach putting a fresh spin on alien invasion.
It gets a bit ragged towards the end, but that shot of the Statue of Liberty being torn asunder, not to mention a tense, near-totally-dark underground sequence keep the thrills coming.
Worst: Disaster Movie (2008)
Ah, and here’s the worst of the lot – pretty much every crap disaster movie wrapped up in a shiny, Scary Movie -begging package for the popcorn generation.
But… since when was Hellboy a disaster movie? Or Indiana Jones ? Or Batman ? Or Kung Fu Panda ? Lazy, dreadful drivel, deservedly nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards.