Top 15 Best Natural Disaster Movies

This weekend, Dwayne Johnson faces his most deadly big-screen foe yet. After fighting Vin Diesel in Fast Five and Jason Statham in Furious 7, this time The Rock is doing battle with an almost unfathomable earthquake threatening the entire state of California. And in honor of San Andreas, we're counting down the Top 15 Best Natural Disaster Movies.

Before you start building your own list in your head, however, keep in mind that we're counting down natural disaster movies. That means you won't find any movies about monsters attacking cities like Godzilla or Cloverfield. We've also chosen to exclude alien invasion flicks that have plenty of destruction like Independence Day and Mars Attacks!, and also transportation or vehicle centric disasters like Titanic or Apollo 13. And finally, movies where a disaster has already struck, like Mad Max or other post-apocalyptic flicks, don't count either.

Below you'll find movies featuring volcanoes, fires, tidal waves, epidemics, tornadoes and asteroids. So without further adieu, let's count down the Top 15 Best Natural Disaster movies after the jump.

#15. Dante's Peak

Between James Bond adventures, Pierce Brosnan found time to try and save a small town from a volcano long thought to be dormant. And who better to be teamed up with than Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), as the mayor of the titular Washington town. This was one of two volcano based action thrillers released in 1997, the other being the aptly titled Volcano, which featured an eruption in the heart of Los Angeles.

Despite not having Tommy Lee Jones, Dante's Peak is the superior disaster film with some pretty intense and brutal moments, including a steaming lake burning a grandmother to death and Pierce Brosnan getting a compound fracture.

#14. Deep Impact

Hollywood just loves doubling up on similar ideas, and here's one of the world-ending asteroid movies that hit the big screen in 1998. You'll find the other one higher on our list, but we'll get to that eventually. Despite being fairly melodramatic, Deep Impact uses an impressive ensemble cast to show what an end of the world scenario might look like if the world's governments made an effort to salvage the population. And while all that activity is happening on Earth, there's a team in space trying to stop it too.

The real wow factor comes when a smaller asteroid hits Earth and creates some serious destruction, long before Roland Emmerich shook up the planet with 2012. Also, it's hard to go wrong with Morgan Freeman as the president, which was back when having a black president in a movie was an easy way to remind audiences that we were in the future. If we ever have to deal with an asteroid impact of this level, I hope Morgan Freeman is giving all the speeches to the American people as we recover.

#13. Backdraft

I'm not sure why there haven't been more thrillers crafted based around the concept of raging fires, but it seems to be an untapped source for Hollywoo. Backdraft is one of only a handful of genuinely memorable titles focusing on the dangers of massive fires and the firefighters who try to stop them, and this movie will have you double-checking you smoke detectors before you go to sleep. This one is a bit of a cheat since an arsonist is responsible for the fires, but there just aren't enough fire-related thrillers like this, so it gets a pass.

You might not remember, but Ron Howard directed this one back when he was good at directing thrillers such as Apollo 13 and Ransom. It also has a pretty fantastic cast that includes Kurt Russell, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and the late, great J.T. Walsh.

#12. The Perfect Storm

Even though Titanic can't be part of this list, that doesn't mean there aren't some disasters at sea that aren't worth mentioning here. After Mark Wahlberg and George Clooney found gold in Iraq in Three Kings, the two stars headed out to sea on the Andrea Gail, hoping to score a literal boatload of fish during a hard time.

What begins as a fishing expedition turns into a battle for survival as their ship, which also counts John C. Reilly, William Fichtner and John Hawkes in the crew, faces the convergence of two powerful weather fronts and a hurricane. In a way, this movie was far ahead of its time, before shows like Deadliest Catch were all the rage.

#11. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

There are three total films on this countdown featuring a world-ending asteroid scenario, but this is the only one that uses this setting as a backdrop for a touching story of friendship and love between Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World dances a fine line between comedy and drama as we see what happens to society as the end of the world gets closer. This is basically the kind of story that happens while the primary focus of Armageddon or Deep Impact is happening, and it ends up being much more emotional and intimate than either of those blockbusters.

#10. Contagion

While most natural disaster films threaten us by destroying the planet or our infrastructure, Contagion takes aim at humanity as a virus begins to quickly wipes out huge parts of the population. This film directed by Steven Soderbergh is surprisingly terrifying, especially when you see just how easy it would be for a deadly bacteria to infect humanity and quickly spread across the world. While our advancements in technology have allowed us to achieve the unthinkable, it has also made the world more deadly, as evidenced by this viral thriller.

#9. World War Z

From one epidemic to another, this global action thriller takes the zombie formula and gives it an interesting twist. Instead of the dead coming back to life, some humans have been infected with a rapidly spreading virus that turns them into flesh-hungry, mindless, but very fast, almost insect-like hordes. Anyone bitten becomes a zombie, but there are some who seem to be immune. This is on here over any other zombie movie simply because of the viral explanation behind the inciting incident, but also because at a time when there are almost too many zombie movies, this one had something refreshing to offer.

#8. The Towering Inferno

Here's the first of two prime examples of classic disaster movies with more than impressive ensemble casts, and it's also one of the rare, quality disaster films that uses fire as the force to be reckoned with. The film follows a fire that begins raging in The Glass Tower, designed to be the world's tallest building. All this happens during the grand opening of the San Francisco skyscraper, which puts plenty of people in harm's way.

Speaking of which, this movie is packed with huge stars like Steven McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Robert Wagner, Dabney Coleman and even O.J. Simpson. Aside from having such a star-studded cast, the movie was also a big deal because it was the first co-production by two major studios, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. Pictures. If you're looking for a classic worth watching seek this one out.

#7. The Poseidon Adventure

Speaking of classics worth watching, here's another. Now before you get bent out of shape that this disaster movie happens in a ship, keep in mind that the disaster itself is caused by an undersea earthquake, which creates a massive wave that capsizes the SS Poseidon. It seems a little lighthearted to call this movie The Poseidon Adventure, especially when that adventure is described as "hell at sea," but this is also a 1972 film so there had to be some way to make it sound more exciting than just Poseidon.

The film won two Oscars, including one for a score from composer John Williams, after being nominated for a total of eight. An impressive ensemble brings this filmt to life, including Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters, Roddy McDowall and even Leslie Nielsen, who would later go on to spoof these kind of disaster films with Airplane! in 1980. For the time, there were some pretty impressive special effects used to bring this disaster to life, so it's definitely worth a watch.

#6. Perfect Sense

There are countless epidemic stories out there, a couple of them have already made it on this countdown, but none are as heartbreaking or original as this one. Perfect Sense follows a blossoming romance in tough times as an epidemic spreads across the world causing people to lose each of their five senses one by one. It's not a traditional natural disaster flick, but you'll see how society begins to slowly crumble as people lose more of their senses. Ewan McGregor and Eva Green are phenomenal in this unique drama that is powerful, engaging and even sexy at times. But beware, because it's also pretty damn depressing. You can watch it on Netflix Instant right now.

#5. This is The End

As far as following the rules goes, this one might be a little controversial, but since we made up the rules for this countdown, we're also allowed to break them if anyone has a problem with it. Depending on your beliefs, there's probably no more natural of a disaster than that of The Rapture, so this apocalyptic, raunchy comedy fits perfectly in this line-up. There's plenty of destruction and death, especially of recognizable celebrities, and it just gets worse and worse, right up until the arrival of the devil and his big, swingin' dick. This was one of my favorite movies of 2013, and while it's not for everyone, it's one of the more unique presentations of the end of the world we've seen on the big screen.

#4. Twister

Bill Paxton is one of only two actors to be killed by a Terminator, a Predator and one of the xenomorphs from Aliens. But mother nature just couldn't get the job done in what is easily the best tornado film ever made. Paxton is forced to team with his ex-wife (Helen Hunt) as the latter's storm chasing team is trying to get an experimental machine into the heart of a tornado in order to learn more about these swirling devils. At the time, the special effects were state of the art, and while some of them haven't aged well, this was an impressive, suspenseful film that sparked quite the obsession with tornadoes. The sight of a cow flying through the sky is iconic because of this movie, and that's quite an achievement. Plus, this has one of my favorite performances from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

#3. The Impossible

For the most part, tidal waves and tsunamis have been used on the big screen as catalysts for other tragedies, or just being one of the side effects of an even bigger disaster. But this harrowing, true story gives the tsunami the spotlight by itself as a family is torn apart while on vacation when a massive wave strikes their resort in Thailand. Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts are just phenomenal in this story that will pull the heartstrings right out of your chest. There's something to be said about the amazing visual effects in the film as well.

#2. Armageddon

Just after the Honest Trailer for Michael Bay's space action adventure surfaced, this purely fun flick almost made it to the top of the countdown. Superior to Deep Impact in every way, despite the fact that having oil drillers learning to become astronauts, instead of vice versa, makes no damn sense, even the most cynical cinephile can have a bit of fun with this one. There's a colorful ensemble cast, some of the best comedy you'll see in a Michael Bay film (which admittedly isn't a crowning achievement), and plenty of contradictory explosions in space. Also, did you know this is in the Criterion Collection? It's a certified masterpiece.

#1. Children of Men

In what might be the most slow-moving disaster in this entire line-up, Children of Men takes away the one thing that allows humans to survive great disasters: the ability to reproduce. For 18 years, the human race has suddenly become infertile. The world is in chaos and the United Kingdom is the only nation with a "stable" government. This is a disaster unlike any other, because it's not killing off any people who are already living, but it's taking away their hope for the future, which is almost worse. And even more terrifying, there's no medical way to fix it.

Aside from this unique premise, director Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) makes this film a must-see simply because of how it was shot. There are several single-shot sequences that are positively mind-blowing, predecessors to what Alejandro Gonzalez Intarritu would accomplish with Birdman. This is easily the best performance Clive Owen has given in his career, and this is also one of the best sci-fi films ever made, in my opinion.

That's all for my Top 15 Best Natural Disaster Movies. Before you vehemently disagree with any of my picks and offer your own, make sure you understand which movies we intentionally didn't include in this line-up. Otherwise, sound off with any of your other picks below!