This weekend in theaters, it’s time to get disastrous again. The disaster movie of the week? It’s Geostorm (starring Gerard Butler, who is practically a Scottish George Kennedy at this point)… which proves this genre’s not going anywhere, anytime soon!
For the past 20 years, we’ve seen our share of disaster flicks hit the box office, from the twin-asteroid epics of Armageddon and Deep Impact to the downright click-baity inspiration behind 2012. If it weren’t for the catastrophic titles that came before it, we wouldn’t have Sharknado and it sequels! (Decide for yourself if that’s good or bad. 😉 ) It’s hard to disagree, though, that the 1970s were the golden age of disaster films, taking their cue from the b-movies of the 1950’s and cranking them up to epic proportions. One producer, Irwin Allen, even had his name become synonymous with the genre. So for today’s Friday Five, here are some classic disaster recommendations you should check out for a taste of the heyday…
The Poseidon Adventure (1971)
Irwin Allen’s first disaster opus is still arguably his best, a survival tale of a handful of passengers who fight their way to the hull of the ocean liner USS Poseidon after a tsunami capsizes it on the way to Greece. The all-star cast (Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Roddy McDowall, etc.) are memorably led by Gene Hackman as a courageous, badass… priest. Aww yeah – Act of God vs. Man of God, right here. (Wolfgang Petersen’s remake in 2006 wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t good either.)
The Towering Inferno (1974)
Three years after Poseidon, Allen delivered his next disaster film, about a glittering San Francisco skyscraper that goes up in smoke, with an even bigger cast and showier set pieces. It doesn’t quite have the first film’s panache, but it’s got a killer cast led by Paul Newman (the architect) and Steve McQueen (the fire chief). And you still legit don’t know from one minute to the next which major star (Fred Astaire? Faye Dunaway? The kid who played Bobby Brady?!) will go up in flames. Oh, and O.J. Simpson is in this. Rescuing kitty cats. Oy.
The same year as Towering Inferno, Universal pitched its hat into the disaster ring with Earthquake, starring Charlton Heston as a retired football star at the center of The Big One in L.A. It… is definitely not of the caliber of Allen’s films. But if you’re a fan of the genre, it’s worth it for some terrific, unintentional laughs. (Why is Lorne Greene playing Ava Gardner’s father when he’s like 8 years older than her? Why is Walter Matthau dressed like a pimp? Also, why did you cast Walter Matthau and give him nothing to do?!)
If you’re a fan of the legendary comedy-disaster classic Airplane!, you’ll definitely want to give Airport a look as it’s the film from which the Zucker Brothers took most of their inspiration. Well, this and its two sequels (Airport ’75 and Airport ’77, respectively); all of which are staples of the genre, but the original is hard to beat for both breaking ground and featuring Dean Martin being almost improbably cool about all this. (Oh, and this is George Kennedy’s series ultimately, hence our Butler joke in the intro; the flustered everyman definitely made his mark across this trilogy.)
The Swarm (1978)
Make no mistake, The Swarm is great. It’s ridiculous, but it’s great, as it represents one of the first sideways shifts into “what now?!” in the disaster genre. Capsized boats, blazing buildings, natural disasters, these all seem fairly routine… Surely Irwin Allen thought to himself, how can I mix things up? Yeah, baby… KILLER. BEES. (It seems a little funny now, but man once upon a time the Africanized-bee news definitely made you think something like this could happen.) For sure a fun disaster night-in, spearheaded by Michael Caine nearly 10 years before he starred in the even-more-ridiculous Jaws: The Revenge!
These are just a few of the great disaster flicks, but we’re sure you have other faves; let us know on social media by tagging us! @lootcrate