Help, I Can't Stop Watching Disaster Movies

Thursday, September 2, 2021

What is it about a global pandemic that makes me want to watch movies about global pandemics? I mean, fine, only two of the movies on the list you're about to read are actually about pandemics, but still, the idea stands. Amid humanity's worst, why do I also feel compelled to watch fiction about humanity's worst? 

I don't know the answer, but... well, I'm doing it. Here are some of the movies I've watched recently & how I'd rate them on a very formal scale of one to 10. 

Outbreak (1995)

How had I never seen this movie before?! If I weren't watching it in the midst of a pandemic, I'd probably count this among my favorite crisis-based '90s films. Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, & Cuba Gooding, Jr., play military virologists investigating the outbreak of a deadly virus that begins in Zaire & is transmitted to the U.S. via a capuchin monkey; Donald Sutherland plays a great Army villain. 7/10 only because I've already kind of forgotten it?

Contagion (2011)

Speaking of movies you shouldn't watch during a global pandemic... wow, how is this movie so terrifyingly spot-on? So much about it is so close to the reality of the coronavirus pandemic, down to the virus originating in bats. I'm sure it felt really alarming in 2011, but watching it here in 2021 is just, like... ah, yes, this is exactly how things work now, & that in itself is kind of alarming. P.S., Matt Damon is still hot. 5/10 extremely serious & depressingly realistic.

Armageddon (1998)

Let's be honest, I watch Armageddon every few months. That's right: Whenever I want to turn on something soothingly familiar, I turn to the movie about a meteor hurtling toward the planet. Really, though, this movie is just so good, so well-directed, with such a talented cast & a phenomenal score. I love that rounding-up-the-gang scene, & the "Houston, you have a problem scene" &... all of it. I'm a sucker for Armageddon. 10/10 would watch on repeat forever. 

Deep Impact (1998)

I'd never seen the second meteor-on-the-way movie of 1998, starring Elijah Wood, Téa Leoni, Morgan Freeman, & Robert Duvall, among others. What a star-studded cast! While this one doesn't quite have the overall emotional panache that Armageddon does, the last 20 minutes of the movie – the deep impact, if you will – is really powerful. Like, wow, that shit got traumatic real fast. 8/10 will probably become a go-to rewatch. 

Dante's Peak (1997)

I'd never seen this movie before, at least not that I remembered. I have this weird sliver of a memory of seeing it play on the TV in our kitchen growing up, & for a long time, it was the only thing I knew of Pierce Brosnan. The movie itself is pretty good, with characters you kind of care about & a terrifying plotline in which a long-dormant volcano erupts... & erupts... & erupts. There is a lot of lava, & some burning alive, & wow, no thank you, but this movie was entertaining. 7/10 for abiding fear of lava.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Holy shit, this movie is so scary. No disaster movie is scarier than this disaster movie. While watching it, you don't really feel much connection to the characters, climatologist Dennis Quaid his son Jake Gyllenhaal, who are trying to survive the apocalypse. But the characters matter less than the goddamn apocalypse. There's flooding & ice & wolves & a ghost ship floating down the streets of NYC, & I am afraid of everything, please start recycling. 0/10 will hopefully never watch again because I'm traumatized.

2012 (2009) 

lol jk, I wrote that review of The Day After Tomorrow before watching 2012, which is just as scary, if not scarier. It does have a character plot that I cared slightly more about, & I am amused by John Cusack as an end-of-the-world action star. But it had a really unpalatable ending, in that someone important dies to further a bad love story, along with the fact that basically everyone in the world died. 2/10 would watch again if I were really feeling despondent

So tell me: What other disaster movies should I watch? Do you have any favorites? And does Independence Day qualify as a disaster movie? Because I give that one a 20/10. 

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