States of Emergency! Rating the Disaster Movie Canon

Raging floods, runaway blazes and perfect shark-stuffed storms — we break down the catastrophes of the disaster-flick classics

Disaster
(Courtesy: Everett Collection)

Four-alarm fires, devastating tsunamis and floods, seismic rumblings and crumblings — disaster movies live or die by how well they present their fictional rage-of-nature spectacles. Take the latest example to hit the multiplexes: Into the Storm, a 21st-century take on the genre that uses "found footage" culled from storm-chaser videographers, smart phones and surveillance cameras to portray a town literally torn apart by numerous tornadoes. (Call it Meteorological Activity.) Were you to rate this would-be blockbuster according to an adherence to the rules of found-footage movies, the quality of the line-readings or, say, simple logic, you'd find it wanting. If you were to assess the movie by its sequences involving flaming twisters and far-flung semi trucks and jet airliners, however, you'd probably be inclined to be way more generous, if not downright giddy, when it comes to pointing your thumbs up or down.

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So we've taken a look back at some of the best-known disaster flicks of the past 30-plus years and have sized them up according to their sound and fury: How well do they level small villages and big cities? Are they creative in how they unleash the elements, or do they cravenly cop out with cut-rate CGI effects? Is the destruction horrifying realistic or hilariously cheesy? Here are 12 titles that demand to have their wreckage checked.

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