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Movies about the End of the World: Natural Disasters

Disaster movies almost always become instant blockbuster hits. The suspense and the breathe-taking special effects are some of their impressive elements that audiences love to watch them again and again. Some of these films deal with the extinction of humanity, and one style of ending the world is through the random actions of the universe and of nature. With their unpredictable and unstoppable rage, forces from outside and within Earth break loose. Here are five movies about the destructive force of the universe and nature.

Deep Impact
Deep Impact  was released in May 8, 1998 by Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks. It was directed by Mimi Leder and stars Elijah Wood, Morgan Freeman, Téa Leoni and Robert Duvall.

The movie follows the effort of humanity to destroy a comet due to strike Earth. It begins with teenage amateur astronomer Leo Biederman, and consequently professional astronomer Marcus Wolf, discovering an unusual object, which is actually a comet, near the stars Mizar and Alcor. A year later, the President of the USA announces that a 7-mile-wide comet named Wolf-Biederman is approaching Earth and it is large and strong enough to end humanity. The USA and Russia launches the spacecraft Messiah with a mission to destroy the comet with a nuclear weapon. The mission failed and the comet is instead split in two smaller rocks – Biederman (1.5 miles wide) and Wolf (6 miles wide). With this failure, governments around the world established building underground shelters.
The smaller rock, Biederman, impact Atlantic Ocean, creating megatsunamis and devastating Atlantic coasts of many countries. The bigger rock, Wolf, would impact western Canada and create a cloud of dust that will block out the sun for two years, enough to destroy all remaining life. With their last ounce of courage, crew of the Messiah undertakes a suicide mission and saves the world.

Deep Impact opened with an overwhelming success, grossing at least $349 million overall on a $75 million production budget. In Rotten Tomatoes, 46% of critics enjoyed the film, giving the film a rating of 5.7/10. On the other hand, Metacritic gave it a score of 40 out of 100.


Two and a half months after Deep Impact opened, Armageddon was released in cinemas. It is directed by Michael Bay, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and released by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures. The movie has an amazing casts, featuring Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Owen Wilson, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, and many others.

The movie opens with a meteor shower destroying a space shuttle and parts of New York City. Immediately, NASA finds outs that a huge asteroid will collide with Earth in 18 days. NASA then plans to implant a nuclear device 800 feet inside the asteroid which, when ignited, will divide the asteroid in two that will fly past the Earth. To accomplish this, NASA hires Harry Stamper, the best deep-sea oil driller in the world, and his team. They undergo training and then deployed inside the shuttles Independence and Freedom. After one shuttle fails and an inaccurate landing on the asteroid, they realize they lose their entire driller. Meanwhile on Earth, fragments of the asteroid destroy Shanghai and Paris. The team is left with a backup plan – to ignite a nuclear weapon on the surface of the asteroid. But the triggering mechanism is damaged, and in a heart-breaking ending, team leader Harry Stamper takes a last bold step to detonate the bomb and split the asteroid.

Armageddon is deemed to have more scientific inaccuracies than Deep Impact, just like the idea that NASA can really do something about a major catastrophe like that in a very short time. However, Armageddon bested the other in the box office. With its budget of $140 million, it grossed a total of at least $553 million, making it as the highest-grossing film of 1998. It received a rating of 41% on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 42 on Metacritic.


Knowing is a science fiction directed by Alex Proyas and stars Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury, and Lara Robinson. It was released in 2009 by Escape Artists and Summit Entertainment.

Knowing blends science fiction and popular religious beliefs. It begins in year 1959 and young Lucinda Emery, a lonely girl who hears whispers, writes a page full of random numbers and places it inside a “time capsule” designed by the school. The capsule is buried underground, to be opened only after fifty years. Later, Lucinda is found in a closet with her hands bloody from scratching the numbers into the door. Fifty years hence, 2009, the time capsule is opened and sketches are given arbitrarily to all students. Professor of astrophysics at MIT Jonathan Koestler is there in the ceremony whose son Caleb happens to receive Lucinda’s page of numbers. Jonathan notices the number sequence 911012996 on the page and realizes it refers to the date and number of deaths from the September 11, 2001 attacks. Jonathan further makes similar discoveries with the other numbers – all reference to major disasters in the world. Jonathan looks for Lucinda and founds out she has died from a drug overdose. Instead, he meets Lucinda’s daughter Diana and granddaughter Abby, who like Lucinda and Caleb, also hears whispers. With the predictions in the page, Jonathan bears witness to two disasters. And what is more shocking is that the world will end by October 19. In his laboratory, Jonathan discovers that a massive solar flare will soon reach Earth and burn everyone else. As the movie ends, the voices that the children hear are actually “angels”. Along with the other “chosen ones” Caleb and Abby are taken into a beautiful and safe new world, while Jonathan and the rest of the world face the final disaster.

The movie received mixed to negative reviews. 33% of critics in Rotten Tomatoes gave a positive review with an average score of 4.7 out of 10. Similarly, Metacritic gave it a score of 41 out of 100. Though the movie is not a critical success, it was a huge box office hit as it opens #1 in March, 2009. (See full review)

The Day After Tomorrow

The Day After Tomorrow is a 2004 science fiction disaster film. It stars Dennis Quaid, Emmy Rossum, Iam Holm, Jake Gyllenhaal, and many more. The movie explores the deadly effects of global warming which will consequently lead to a new ice age.

While drilling for ice core samples on an expedition in Antarctica, paleoclimatologist Jack Hall and his colleagues Frank and Jason makes a startling discovery. Later, he presents his findings on global warming at a United Nations conference, but several diplomats are unconvinced with this. However, Professor Terry Rapson of the Hedland Climate Research Center in Scotland believes in Jack’s theories after he observes a massive drop in the ocean temperatures. He contacts Jack whose weather model show climate changes caused the first Ice Age and can predict what will happen. Sadly, their model shows global freezing in seven to ten days. In the following days across the world, violent weather cause mass destruction, including a massive snowstorm in New Delhi, a hailstorm destroying Tokyo, Japan, and a series of devastating tornadoes in Los Angeles. Worse, a huge system spanning the northern hemisphere develops into three massive hurricane-like superstorms, with their eyes holding super-cooled air that instantly freezes anything it comes in contact with. Knee-deep floods in a mix of rainwater, saltwater, and sewage drowned many urban cities in the northern hemisphere, including New York City. It is a deep freeze and lead characters survived by taking shelters in abandoned spots. In the end, most of the northern hemisphere is covered in ice and snow.

The Day After Tomorrow is a huge blockbuster hit, becoming the sixth highest grossing movie not to be #1 in the US box office. However, Rotten Tomatoes rated the movie only at 45%, with an average rating of 5.3/10. Moreover, Yahoo! Movies listed the film as one of the Top 10 Scientifically Inaccurate Movies in 2008. It was criticized for its idea of a series of catastrophic atmospheric occurring over a course of hours, instead of several decades or centuries.


2012 is a 2009 science fiction disaster film directed by Roland Emmerich and distributed by Columbia Pictures. It stars John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, and many others.

The movie starts in 2009 with some scientists discovering that neutrinos from a massive solar flare are causing the temperature of the Earth’s core to increase. In 2010, international leaders begin a secret project to guarantee humanity’s survival. Approximately 400,000 people are chosen to board “arks” constructed at Cho Ming, Tibet, in the Himalayas. In 2012, Jackson Curtis, a science fiction writer in Los Angeles, takes his children Noah and Lilly camping in Yellowstone National Park. There Jackson meets a radio show host who tells him that the theory of polar shifts and the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar predict that the 2012 phenomenon will occur. He also learns about the ark project. The family returns home as seismic activity increases along the west coast of the United States. After surviving the earthquakes and eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera, the family, along with some friends and people they meet along the way, manages to arrive at the arks in Tibet. They stow away on the ark, and soon, megatsunamis approach the site. There is chaos as the ark’s gate fails to close up, rendering the ship unable to start its engines. Some of them are killed, while others emerge as heroes. In the end, as the floodwaters from the tsunami recede, the arks journey to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

The movie is a great financial success. In 2009, it became the 5th highest grossing film in that year and the 35th highest grossing film of all time worldwide. However, Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie an average rating of 6.1/10 with 39% of its critics giving positive review. In Metacritic, it only received a score of 49 out of 100.

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