20 Ways Disaster Movies Have Evolved: Then vs. Now

They're not usually the smartest genre around, but we can't help loving them.
20 Ways Disaster Movies Have Evolved: Then vs. Now

Disaster movies do not look so interesting these days. Between the pandemic, climate change, smug billionaires, the ongoing rise of the far right, and Disney continuing to give us so much Star Wars we don’t even care about Star Wars anymore, clearly an entire genre devoted to destruction and misery hits way too close to home. Of course, the interesting paradox here is that big disaster spectacles nevertheless continue to rule the box-office. So we do like that. Yet by the time we saw a poster for Moonfall at the theater, we could not but groan and be like “really, Roland? Another one? When will it stop? When are you going to take control of your addiction, Roland Emmerich?

Where were we? Oh yeah, disaster movies. They’re not the best or the smartest (especially not the smartest), but even if the genre has sorta disappeared from cultural relevance during the last few years (and yes, this includes whatever movie you’re thinking of as a counterexample), they still have a tiny place in our heart. Not so much as, say, radical ’90s cartoon intros, but still, they’re there somewhere. Thus, from old-timey disaster movies to our current CGI hellscape, we now take a walk down memory lane to compare disaster movies and the overall disaster genre then and now (along with a scrappy dog we saved during the opening earthquake of our movie Memory Lane, directed by Roland Emmerich, and which also sucks, Roland).


Disaster movies Then vs. Now City-destroying monsters King Kong came out in 1933, and Godzilla in 1954. It took almost 70 years and 50 movies (including one awful match between them in 1962) to see them duke it out on the big screen with decent FX. CRACKED.COM


Disaster movies Then vs. Now Floods We had intense flood scenes in 2010's Hereafter and 2012's The Impossible, which had more practical effects. 1928's Noah's Ark, however, actually flooded a soundstage with unprepared extras, drowning three and injuring much more. CRACKED.COM


Disaster movies Then vs. Now Meteors Two classic meteor movies are 1951's When Worlds Collide and 1979's Meteor, and we had a pure disaster flick in 2020's Greenland. Of course, two absolute peaks of the genre are 1998's Armageddon (that won) and Deep Impact (that should have). CRACKED.COM

Nuclear Explosions

CRACKED.COM Disaster movies Then vs. Now Nuclear explosions Not many (disaster) movies strictly focus on nuclear explosions and their aftermath. 1983's The Day After and especially 1984's Threads are exceptions (Threats is our favorite), and so what we mostly have by now are cool nuclear blast scenes.


RADIO Disaster movies Then vs. Now Alien invasions For decades, the gold standard was 1953's War of the Worlds, but everything changed with Independence Day. We've had tons of awesome alien invasion movies since, but not really disaster ones. Maybe Spielberg's War of the Worlds? If you squint? CRACKED.COM


Disaster movies Then vs. Now Titanic There have been around ten movies about the sinking, with the first one, Saved from the Titanic, premiering 31 days after the tragedy. Classy! After 1997's Titanic, however, we really don't see how another good disaster epic could ever be made. CRACKED.COM

A Smaller Genre

CRACKED.COM Disaster movies Then vs. Now From genre to trope Disaster movies as a genre are mostly dead today. Sure, we have a few every now and then, but realistic disasters have become a (somewhat overused) third-act trope in action and superhero flicks.


CRACKED.COM Disaster movies Pandemics Yes, The Andromeda Strain or The Cassandra Crossing are kinda disaster movies. Still, this specific subgenre pretty much started with 1995's Then vs. Now Outbreak, and ended with 2011's Contagion. THE CDC LIES THEY COLLABORATE WITH PHARMACKUTICAL COMPANIES THERE IS A CURE TO EFFECTIVELY TREAT MCV-1 F ORSYTHIA S A to 12 - NATURAL AND safe THERAPY il PERFERMENT MISLEAD THE YOU - I 1 is MOVEMENT people MARK HOPE. SERUMENOW.COM www.kg -


Disaster movies Then vs. Now High-rise disaster 1974's The Towering Inferno is an absolute classic. But Die Hard (a non-disaster action masterpiece) changed the entire concept, as can be seen in 2018's half-Die Hard, half-Towering Inferno flick Skyscraper. CRACKED.COM


Disaster movies Then vs. Now Tornados The twister in The Wizard of Oz, made with a big muslin sock, was a major FX landmark (and looks awesome). Of course, things changed with 1996's Twister and its groundbreaking (airturning?) CGI. CRACKED.COM


Disaster movies Then vs. Now From small to global scale Classic '70s disaster flicks were localized in small- scale, limited locations: a city, a skyscraped, a boat. With modern CGI, destruction went global: in The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, or Geostorm, disaster dramas now encompass the entire world. CRACKED.COM


CRACKED.COM Disaster movies Then vs. Now The Poseidon Adventure 1972's The Poseidon Adventure pretty much kickstarted the decade of disaster movies, and stands for peak cultural relevance of the genre - the opposite of its 2006 remake Poseidon.

The Statue of Liberty

Disaster movies Then vs. Now Lady Liberty A somewhat iconic shot from 2004's The Day After Tomorrow is a direct callback to 1933's Deluge, pretty much the first disaster movie ever. CRACKED.COM

Trash Movies

Disaster movies Then vs. Now Trash By the late-'70s, the disaster genre was slowly dying, with 1978's The Swarm at the bottom of the barrel. Yet modern disaster movies also have their low points, like the simply awful 2003 flick The Core. CRACKED.COM


Disaster movies Then vs. Now Volcanos Perhaps the first volcano movie is 1908's The Last Days of Pompeii (don't mistake with 2014's Pompeeii, which sucked). 1997 gave us two of the better-known ones: Volcano and the much superior Dante's Peak. O. E.M. OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT CRACKED.COM

Producers and Directors

Disaster movies Then vs. Now Disaster men Producer Irwin Allen was the disaster man, with films like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. More recently, the true king of bombastic disasters is Roland Emmerich, with Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and Moonfall. CRACKED.COM


Disaster movies Then vs. Now Arks Arks in the context of world-ending disasters were an entire plot device in 2012. Aside from the biblical origins of the trope, a (space) ark already appeared in 1951's When World Collide-a meteor movie. CRACKED.COM


CBS Disaster movies Then vs. Now Live reporting Orson Welles' 1938 The War of the Worlds radio drama caused quite a stir. The idea returned a few times, but these days the concept seems dead (or was replaced by disaster found footage movies like Cloverfield or Into the Storm). CRACKED.COM


Disaster movies Then vs. Now Political allegories 1979's Meteor was a metaphor about the Cold War, and 2021's Don't Look Up was about climate collapse. Well, it wasn't really a metaphor, as its point was very straightforward. Considering the disaster movie-level stakes, gotta respect the bluntness. CRACKED.COM


Disaster movies Then vs. Now From trash to art Straight-to-video garbage like 2020's Collision Earth follow the ignominious tradition of trash like 1958's The Day the Sky Exploded. Yet some of the best disaster movies ever are meteor-themed: see 2021's Don't Look Up, and especially 2011's Melancholia. CRACKED.COM
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