With the recent release of Everest, we thought we would satisfy our natural destructive interests with a list of some of our favorite movies highlighting man’s fight for survival against the planets natural forces, be it loud earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, and our course, massive title waves.
David’s Top Five Man vs Nature Movies
Poseidon Adventure (1972)
This Twentieth Century Fox-made deity of disaster movies started out as a relatively low-budget ($5,000,000) feature for the financially strapped Hollywood studio and ended up making over $93,000,000. It’s a typical disaster melodrama complete with an all-star cast (five Oscar winners). It’s strength comes from some pretty well drawn characters and good performances that make it easy for viewers to care for each character—not since The Poseidon Adventure have viewers encountered a greater loss than that of Shelly Winter’s Mrs. Rosen. With little special effects or big epic shots, this is a small budget disaster movie that delivers as much adventure as our current CGI ornate movies but also a level of intimacy that is rarely seen today. Poseidon Adventure is pure disaster cinema.
When this epic disaster blockbuster was released, it not only had state of the art special effects, an all-star cast including: Charlton Heston, George Kennedy (the King of disaster flicks), Ava Gardner, Richard Roundtree all at the top of their game, oh and some guy listed in the credits as Walter Matuschanskayasky (Walter Matthau)—it also had Sensurround. This ticket-selling gimmick produced a low frequency sound vibration along theater seats giving an audience the feeling of being in the movie. Earthquake became the fourth highest grossing film of 1974. The second highest grossing film that year was the other disaster flick The Towering Inferno.
The Impossible (2012)
It wasn’t too long ago when the devastating 2004 tsunami struck Southeast Asia killing over 230,000 people. More disturbing than the other films on this list as it’s a true part of our recent history (perhaps too soon?). That truth makes it a little less of an adventure and more of dramatization than the tidal wave that overturns the fictional ship in the Poseidon Adventure.
A study of one woman’s journey through despair and clinical depression after learning that the earth is going to collide with another much larger planet. The film features a career high performance by Kirsten Dunst, who went on to win a number of awards. This is not so much a man versus nature film but humanity accepting reality and surrendering to our final end. Melancholia may have one of the most disturbing yet satisfying endings of all disaster films as a strangely cathartic masterpiece.
Maybe an odd choice when you consider the splendid special effects in 1998’s Armageddon and Deep Impact—a banner year for civilization threatened by comets and asteroids. But 1978’s Meteor, featuring Natalie Wood (speaking perfect Russian) and Sean Connery, was the first script to blow up the foreign body speeding towards earth by unifying the efforts of both cold war enemies the U.S. and the Soviet Union and turning the cold war symbol of mass destruction—the nuclear “defense” missile—on the deadly meteor.
Myrna’s Top Five Man vs Nature Movies
127 Hours’ (2010)
Based on a true story, mountain climber Aron Ralston (James Franco) fights for his survival after being pinned beneath a boulder in a narrow, isolated canyon. Franco delivers a captivating performance, anchoring the Danny Boyle docu-style drama. Over the next five days we see him go through a range of emotions—pain, fear, resilience and resignation—as he fights for his life in a seemingly no win situation. Ralston survives the elements to finally learn that he has the courage and the wits to rescue himself by any means necessary.
The Perfect Storm (2000)
The Perfect Storm is a thrilling film of survival against impossible odds, odds that overcome the courage (or insanity) of some men. Director Wolfgang Petersen’s (Das Boot) film is about the 1991 hurricane that struck the New England Coast. Unaware that the storm is coming, a boat, dubbed the Andrea Gail, is trapped in the storm and the fishermen try to make it home alive. A terrific true story, packed with drama and action. The scope of the film is enormous and the storm itself is a sight to see on screen. Petersen is great at showing us the immense dilemma that the characters are in. The Perfect Storm is a good film from but considering it’s crafted by the same hands who made Das Boot, it is slightly disappointing. The Perfect Storm relies on awesome special effects for the hurricane scenes and is definitely a solid action drama film with a very good cast of actors.
Twister follows almost-divorced storm chasers Bill (Bill Paxton) and Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) as they try to save Oklahoma from a series of violent tornados that threaten to destroy the state. For the next twenty-four hours the Harding’s and their scrappy, gold-hearted crew try to get a tornado to scoop up one of their tracking devices with the goal to get inside one of those suckers. They are hoping they will learn about tornadoes’ patterns and better be able to predict their movements, all the while competing against the big, bad corporate-financed tornado chasers in their shiny black vans. The action starts in the opening frame and never lets up—if you are a thrill ride junkie Twister is the film for you.
N.A.S.A. discovers that an asteroid is headed straight for Earth and we will have impact in less than a month. They recruit a misfit team of deep core drillers to save the planet. Enter Bruce Willis (Harry, a tough guy with a heart of gold) in full action mode as the leader of his motley crew of roughnecks, a group of oil drillers that are sent into space to plant a nuclear warhead in an asteroid “the size of Texas” and blast it apart. Once on the rock, just about everything unexpected that can happen does. Its 200 degrees in the sun, 200 below zero in the shade and the surface is covered with razor sharp rocks, as one of Harry’s crew describes it, “it’s the scariest environment imaginable.”
Armageddon is as hyperactive and as deafeningly loud as you can expect from director Michael Bay, but the special effects are stupendous. And by the film’s end every emotional button you might have has been pushed raw and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
Touching The Void (2004)
Director Kevin Macdonald’s film is based on mountain climber Joe Simpson’s book Touching the Void: The Harrowing First-Person Account of One Man’s Miraculous Survival, the remarkable true story of two young British mountain climbers’ near-death experience scaling a 21,000-foot peak in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. Based on one of the most captivating tales of survival one can imagine, the film gains credibility from sequences filmed in the exact locations where the events took place. Macdonald’s uncompromising reenactments put us inside the physical and mental nightmare that Joe Simpson and Simon Yates endured. Intense and drenched in the riveting determination of one man’s will to live, Touching The Void is a surprising film that rattles your nerves and sends a cold chill deep inside.