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Top 10 Extreme Weather and Natural Disaster Scenes in Movies

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Sometimes all you want to see is a bunch of people getting wrecked by the unimaginable power of nature! Whether these are hurricanes, floods, sandstorms, earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes – we're definitely down for some cool natural disasters. So long as they don't happen in real life and don't kill any real people, of course.
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Top 10 Extreme Weather and Natural Disaster Scenes in Movies

Keep calm and don’t panic. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Extreme Weather and Natural Disaster Scenes in Movies.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the most insane, intense, and intimidating depictions of weather and natural disasters in the history of cinema.

#10: Giant Hail & Ice Waves
“Geostorm” (2017)

“Geostorm” is one of the most excessive disaster movies you’ll ever see. For some films, a hurricane or tornado would be more than enough, but Dean Devlin’s directorial debut packs in every natural disaster imaginable. Of course, technically the disasters aren’t natural, as they’re caused by climate-changing satellites. The film’s most over-the-top sequence finds Tokyo in the midst of the ultimate hailstorm with asteroid-like chunks of ice demolishing anything in their path. Meanwhile, a wave in Rio de Janeiro is frozen over, turning everyone on the beach into corpsicles. Even an airplane is shattered like it’s made of glass. Sure, it’s ridiculous, but you gotta give the film credit for going all out.

#9: Trapped in the Flood “Hard Rain” (1998)

In a decade that brought us movies about erupting volcanoes, alien invasions, and comets on collision courses, you wouldn’t think a rainstorm would be anything to get that worked up about. This 1998 disaster flick demonstrates just how deadly precipitation can be, however, especially in this nail-biting scene. As the Sheriff’s office is flooded, Tom realizes that the only way out of his jail cell is through the roof. Unable to get past the light fitting, Tom buys himself a couple of extra minutes by resourcefully using an empty flashlight to gasp for air. His rescue arrives just in time for audience members to catch their breath.

#8: The Earth Shakes “Earthquake” (1974)

Before the 90s saw a resurgence of disaster movies, the genre dominated the 1970s and this blockbuster was among the most popular. “Earthquake” centers on – what else? – an earthquake in Los Angeles. The film introduced the Sensurround sound effect, which made the audience feel as if the theater was really shaking. So, it’s only fitting that one of the film’s most effective scenes takes place in a crumbling Cineplex, sending moviegoers charging for the exits. They aren’t any safer outside, however, as it’s raining debris all over California. Truckloads of cattle swerve off of freeways, transmission towers topple over, and entire houses rolls away like tumbleweed in the wind. There goes the neighborhood.

#7: Spaghetti Tornado “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” (2009)

As in “Geostorm”, the plot of this animated feature revolves around a machine that alters the climate. In this case, though, the weather machine has a delicious twist, raining down hamburgers, ice-cream, and other foods. The townspeople have bitten off more than they can chew however and a spaghetti tornado soon menaces the town. Dashing to deactivate his creation, Flint Lockwood must dodge meatballs the size boulders and garlic bread that could crush a car. Flint eventually finds himself inside the spiraling spaghetti vortex, which looks appetizing enough to wrap around a huge fork. Inventive, clever, and exciting, disaster has never tasted so delectable.

#6: Hollywood Destroyed“The Day After Tomorrow” (2004)

A list like this wouldn’t be complete without Roland Emmerich, who’s something of a disaster artist, given how many cities have been destroyed in his films. Instead of spaceships or massive lizards, the villain in “The Day After Tomorrow” is global warming, which strikes back at all those poor silly humans who didn’t take better care of the environment. As if having to worry about earthquakes wasn’t bad enough, California becomes overrun with tornados that erase the Hollywood Sign in the blink of an eye. The towering twisters take out whatever they encounter, from buses, to billboards, to a Fox 11 News reporter who should’ve paid more attention to his surroundings. Newsflash: climate change kills!

#5: It’s a Twister! “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

“The Wizard of Oz” is full of special effects that were revolutionary in 1939 and still hold up remarkably well decades later. The first major set piece in the film sees Dorothy rushing home as a twister is about to strike. In a pre-CGI era, the filmmakers brought the tornado to life with about 35 feet of muslin fabric, essentially creating a giant windsock. Unable to get inside the cellar, Dorothy seeks shelter in her house where she’s struck over the head and in due course sent over the rainbow. Before dropping into Oz, Dorothy’s house storms past her friends and family, as well as a certain wicked witch. She’s not in Kansas anymore.

#4: What a Lovely Day “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)

On a race to salvation, nothing on Earth can stop Imperator Furiosa in her tracks, be it Immortan Joe or an epic sandstorm. Max Rockatansky is unfortunately left without a seatbelt as Nux drives right into the tidal wave of dust, leaving him to hang on tight. While the whole film is wall-to-wall with hellish imagery, this scene is like a descent into the underworld with lightning and twisters of dirt closing in on our heroes, and an explosive fireworks display as the storm scoops up a vehicle. Nux nearly blows everyone to kingdom come until Max intervenes, allowing Furiosa to narrowly escape. Who knew monster truck mayhem could be so lovely?

#3: The Tsunami “The Impossible” (2012)

A dramatization of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunamis, this film was praised for its authentic production values and genuine performances. It’s a beautiful day in paradise until the wind suddenly begins to shift. Trees collapse on the horizon and a tsunami comes bursting onto the resort. While Ewan McGregor’s Henry tries to get two of his sons to safety, Naomi Watts’ Maria cries out for her oldest child, played by a young Tom Holland. As the camera zooms out, we’re given a bird’s-eye view of the destruction surrounding Maria. While she reunites with her son in time, the road to survival still seems nothing short of impossible.

#2: We Got Cows “Twister” (1996)

This 1996 blockbuster shares an unusual amount in common with “The Wizard of Oz.” For starters, “Twister” partially takes place in Kansas and the tornado research machine is named DOROTHY. What’s more, the characters eventually get up close and personal with some waterspouts when a cow comes flying by. We’re surprised Auntie Em and Miss Gulch don’t’ make appearances. While the scene may sound familiar, “we got cows” has gone down as one of the most quotable lines in disaster movie history and the image of the soaring bovine remains a visual landmark. So, we guess this is “Twinster’s” equivalent of a horse of a different color.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Tornadoes with Sharks
“Sharknado” (2013)

Storm at Sea
“Life of Pi” (2012)

Breaking & Entering
“Into the Storm” (2014)

#1: Rogue Wave “The Perfect Storm” (2000)

Although the sea storm from Ridley Scott’s “White Squall” was an impressive feat, Wolfgang Petersen would overshadow that film four years later with “The Perfect Storm.” Following the Andrea Gail’s ill-fated fishing expedition, the film earned Oscar nominations for its visual effects and sound design, both of which are put to exceptional use during the heart-pounding climax. Coming face to face with a rogue wave, the crew has nowhere to go but headfirst into the storm. While they almost triumph over the watery titan, their vessel is sadly no match. With the boat flipped upside down, the shipmates make peace with their inevitable demise, sharing poignant moments before the end surfaces.
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