Every great disaster movie has some moments of pure, epic destruction, where everything collapses, burns or blows up real good. Bonus points for destroyed landmarks and victim cameos. Here are 30 amazing money shots from the greatest disaster porn flicks.
For the purposes of this round-up we're defining a "disaster movie" as one where the main point of the film is the disaster. So Godzilla qualifies, but Superman: The Movie doesn't. We also decided not to include any clips from the venerable 1970s Airport series, but you can watch some of those here, here and here.
Below are the splodiest, most cracktastic, scariest and most expensive-looking scenes of destruction from 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Cloverfield, Armageddon, The Core, Deep Impact, and many other movies. It's in gallery format, so you don't have to wait for 30 videos to load in your browser. If you want to see it in non-gallery format, click here.
Additional reporting by Chelsea Lo Pinto and John Siegel.
The Day After Tomorrow: A Tsunami hits New York. Disaster porn meister Roland Emmerich goes bonkers with this nonsensical environmental catastrophe movie, which gave us the scene where someone outruns cold itself. But the absolute porniest sequence has to be when a tsunami strikes New York City — you can picture the effects geeks stretching their muscles to come up with new algorithms for depicting a wall of water sweeping into an urban landscape. This clip also features the finest in disaster movie acting, in which a little bit of inarticulate screaming conveys everything that's going on with the characters. Want to see tornados trash L.A., from the same film? Click here.
Independence Day - the aliens attack. There's something about obviously computer-generated flames and explosions that makes me hungry — I think it's the fact that they look like really fresh pizza, with the mozzarella and tomato sauce so molten and gooey that it'll scorch the roof of your mouth off. People always point to the brief snippet where the aliens trash the White House, but really the whole sequence is pure hot disaster pizza tastiness. (Hold the anchovies.) Watch those random buildings erupt into flames and those cars flying through the air — before this movie came out, one of the network TV channels showed a half-hour fake documentary about people living through the devastation, and it cranked up our anticipation to see the civilized world tossed and scorched — and this sequence really does deliver.
War of the Worlds: A bridge collapses Does this film qualify as a disaster movie? We'd have to say yes. The most thrilling parts are where the alien tripods are strutting their stuff and trashing the hallmarks of civilization. And the absolute best moment is when Tom Cruise narrowly manages to drive away before the aliens collapse a bridge and start wreaking destruction everywhere. You can also watch the absolutely smashing (literally) ferry disaster scene here.
Armageddon: Meteors destroy Paris. It's tempting to nominate the scene where the meteors trash New York for the greatest bit of disaster porn in this movie — the freaking Chrysler Building breaks and the top part goes crashing down into the streets like a giant hypodermic syringe of death! FUCK YEAH! But no — the destruction of Paris has to be the best part. Not only do you get to see a whole wall of debris rising up to crush the Eiffel Tower, which wins the landmark destruction trophy — but also the whole thing is from the viewpoint of a couple of gargoyles. What are those gargoyles thinking? Are they excited? Are they sad? Do they wish they were the ones destroying everything? We'll never know.
Volcano — the lava erupts! The destruction is on a slightly smaller scale in this clip — there's just some houses bursting into flames and lava pouring out of the ground, plus weird "meteors" of lava landing on people and setting them on fire. But the overall effect is very porny, and the lava looks fantastic. Did you know that you can come a few inches away from molten lava and feel no ill effects? It's true. Just look at that plucky dog. It growls at the lava and the lava practically retreats. Lava isn't so tough. There's also a great scene where a volcano "geyser" bursts out of the street in L.A., which you can view here.
Dante's Peak — the pyroclastic clouds! The other volcano movie (besides Joe Vs. The Volcano, I mean) featured more volcanic ash and splodey matter — watch as the "pyroclastic clouds" tear through a whole town in seconds, shredding buildings and reducing everything to rubble. My new favorite adjective is "pyroclastic." Hey, have yourself a pyroclastic evening, okay? Here's James Bond and Sarah Connor trying to drive away from the killer cloud at top speed. For more volcano fun, check out two hilarious clips from When Time Ran Out, starring Paul Newman, here and here. There's also the fantastic Magma: Volcanic Disaster, which you can sample here.
Knowing — final destruction scene. In Knowing, Nic Cage discovers that some numbers buried in a 1950s time capsule are a code that predict disasters, and meanwhile there are scary albino people and spooky pebbles — which isn't the name of a breakfast cereal as you might think — and Cage's kid seems to be important to the whole mess somehow. The disasters are getting bigger and more disasteriffic, and Cage figures out that the final, most nastiest disaster is coming in just a few days. And here it is! It's only about a minute, but it's high-quality destructo-wank.
2012 — It's a Disaster!! Honestly, it's impossible to pick just one scene of massive destruction from Roland Emmerich's masterpiece. How can you? The whole film is just non-stop orgy. Luckily, our very own Garrison Dean edited together this tribute video, which pretty much encapsulates the whole thing in under two minutes, and its approximately 100 times more fun to watch.
The Day The World Exploded — the original destructo-gasm! This 1957 film has absolutely everything, including earthquakes, trains collapsing, buildings coming down, flooding, volcanos springing out of the Earth, and more... and it's all due to the mysterious element E112, which dooms the Earth to destruction in just four weeks. Sadly all we could track down for this film was its trailer, which packs in a lot of money shot goodness, especially in the second half. My favorite bit: when the scientist points to a scribble on a board that says "TILTED," to show the generals that our planet has tilted... past the danger point!
Poseidon (1972) — the boat capsizes! One of the most famous money shots of them all. A giant wave comes and knocks the boat over, just as everybody is doing their New Years Eve thing. Thanks to Stella Stevens' white dress, this qualifies as "disaster porn" in every sense.
Beyond The Poseidon Adventure — the boat explodes! In the 1979 sequel, everything has to be bigger and better than in the first movie. First of all, there's Michael Caine, wearing a puffy red shirt which he wears tucked into his pants the entire time. And then, the boat capsizes, just like in the first film — and then it sinks! And then after it sinks, it explodes! You can watch a clip of the sinking here.
Poseidon — the boat capsizes — again! Want to see the "boat capsizing" scene with modern-day CGI, as directed by Das Boot's Wolfgang Petersen? Here you go! I have to say, I love the way the wall of water rises up and covers the nearly full moon... that's a nice touch. You go, Wolfgang! But no awesome white dress this time.
The Towering Inferno — Burn Baby Burn! Satisfaction: It came in a chain reaction. We couldn't get enough, so we had to self destruct. The heat was burning, rising to the top. Everybody was going strong, and that's when our spark got hot. We heard somebody say "Burn, baby, burn."
Earthquake — the elevator drops! Charlton Heston faced absolutely everything back in the early 1970s — including a devastating earthquake that fucked up Los Angeles, big time. People are trapped in an elevator as their building wobbles and then falls apart — and finally the elevator itself plummets. The stylized blood spatters on the screen are a nice touch.
City on Fire — the ignition! Back in the 1970s, we had real flames, none of this CGI stuff. And every movie or TV show had to have at least one guy running on fire — you knew you'd seen a movie if a stunt man was running along, his body entirely encased in flames. In this clip, you can see several guys running around on fire. Plus a canal catching fire, a chemical plant catching fire, and a whole giant building collapsing in seconds. And then we cut to the people at the rally with the banner that says "FOR A BETTER FUTURE." Heh.
Deep Impact — the comet of immense dignity. Everybody dies with dignity, in this clip from Deep Impact. That's really what jumps out at me — a comet hits the planet and there are huge 10000 mile high tidal waves sweeping into everything, and people are all kind of stoic. There's a lot of "Let's embrace and appreciate what we've had together" and not a lot of panic. Even the people who are running from the giant waves are running in a sort of fatalistic, dignified fashion — not a panicked all out scrimmage for safety. Because comets? Automatically bring dignity.
Twister — the flying cow. There are a lot of nifty disaster-porn moments in Twister, including the semi that flips over and explodes on the highway. But really, is there any money shot greater than watching a cow flying through the air with the greatest of unease? How could anything top this?
The Swarm — Killer bees derail a train! So you've seen Snakes on a Plane. But how about bees on a train? The Swarm, starring Michael Caine, is the most famous of the 1970s rash of creature-focused disaster movies, which included William Shatner's battle against a spider army in Kingdom of the Spiders. In this clip, the swarm of killer bees get inside the engine room of a train that's going along a remote mountain track, and somehow cause it to derail and explode, causing maximum carnage. Watch more highlights from The Swarm here.
The Perfect Storm — the giant wave. The uncaring harshness of the elements shows through in the form of a honking giant wave that turns all vertical and nasty as George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg just try to live their lives and stuff. This movie has the best depiction of walls of water ever.
The Cassandra Crossing — train crash. The thrilling ending from the British/Italian disaster movie. Honestly, the best part is all the closeups of people's faces — especially Sophia Loren, who really ought to be used as the new Dramatic Cat or Dramatic Chipmunk or whatever. She totally has that expression on the face the whole time. But there's also some nice carnage, with train carriages pouring off the broken bridge, one by one, and people flying everywhere as shit blows up. The real carnage starts about 1:27.
The Core — invisible microwaves. I still love The Core. I know, I know. It's silly and ridiculous and the science is teh bad. (Although is the science worse than J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movie? Not really.) Here's the absolutely fantastic sequence where invisible microwaves "find a hole" through which to attack the planet — and San Francisco gets cooked. It's nice to see SF getting some disaster movie love.
Category 6 — "We're goin' for a ride!" This 2004 miniseries got something like 20 million viewers when it aired on CBS during November sweeps. And here's the awesomest part, where three massive storms hit Chicago all at once by a fluke happenstance, at the exact same time that the city's power grid has been taken down due to a hacker's shenanigans. (It's slightly more complicated than that — this is a four-hour miniseries, after all.) Damn you, hackers! Watch the entire city torn apart (albeit with TV special effects) as Tornado Tommy, the tornado spotter watches. Until he goes for... a ride! And watch Shannen Doherty (yes, really!) deal with the flooding of Times Square in the sequel, Category 7.
10.5 — L.A. becomes an island! The other awesome disaster miniseries that got in the neighborhood of 20 million viewers was 10.5, about mega-quakes that get bigger and bigger while scientists try to stop them using nukes, The Core-style. The whole miniseries contains some truly impressive disaster porn, including this lovely sequence where Seattle's Space Needle collapses on a douchy bicyclist. But the absolute best bit is the ending, where L.A. is trashed, including the Hollywood sign, and Southern California splits off from the rest of the United States to form its own land mass. Finally, we got rid of those SoCal wankers. And click here for a great clip from the sequel, 10.5: Apocalypse, where the Hoover Dam sinks and Las Vegas gets trashed.
Meteor — Sean Connery gets buried alive Sean Connery really puts a lot into his performance in Meteor, and even though the huge scene where the fragments of meteorite blaze into New York and trash the city is about half stock footage, we still want to include it out of respect to the only true James Bond. Plus the glowing spheres plummeting into the buildings are kind of great.
Godzilla trashes Japan We can't include too many monster movies here, or the list would be all monster movies — but Godzilla belongs in a special place of his own, and the first Godzilla movie from 1954 is clearly a disaster film in the best sense. Representing the spectre of meaningless destruction, in the wake of the atomic bomb, Godzilla is a force that can't be reasoned with. Just check out the original Japanese trailer to see Godzilla in merciless action.
Cloverfield revealed! The biggest "money shot" in Cloverfield might have been the one that was in every single trailer, where the monster beheads the Statue of Liberty and sends the head rolling down the street towards Rob and the gang. But it doesn't show the monster, and this clip (sorta) does. This gives a pretty good flavor of what the mayhem in Cloverfield is like — wobbly and hard to make out, but with buildings being trashed everywhere and the military battling the monster with everything they've got.
Pearl Harbor — they caught Ben Affleck napping! Is Pearl Harbor a disaster film? Sort of — it's a historical reenactment, but it's done Michael Bay-style, which makes it automatically 1000 percent more destructo-nasty than a normal film. Here's the key money shot where the Japanese catch Ben Affleck dreaming about wearing a skintight red leather costume.
Mars Attacks — stupid hippies! The Martians unleash a rain of pure, crackling destruction on the stupid, overly trusting humans, in this great scene from Mars Attacks. The part with the dove always cracks me the fuck up.
The Day After — You blew it up! The most famous nuclear war movie, this made-for-television production actually under-dramatized the effects of an all-out nuke attack. But the scenes of destruction are pretty awesome, nonetheless, with the vehicles flipping over and the molten everything.
The Sum of All Fears - Nuke attack! And then there's the other great nuke attack, from The Sum of All Fears. Why is it Morgan Freeman always gets caught in the middle of these things? I love the effect with the ground turning into rubble in a nice even line, as it reaches the helicopter. And then the iconic mushroom cloud rising up over Baltimore. Serves them right for John Waters.