The 15 Greatest Disaster Movies of All-Time

Why do people like disaster movies?

The high-minded answer would be because they allow us to look at ourselves at a moment of complete vulnerability, where we are at our most human, and see how we react. Do we rise to the occasion? Do we give in to our worst natures? We enjoy these movies because they frequently show us both extremes.

There’s also something spectacular about just watching things blow up, and disaster movies have gotten more viscerally thrilling over the years as technology has gotten better. Perhaps the entire genre built up to the release of Roland Emmericha’s “2012,” a movie so over-the-top preposterous that it basically folds every other disaster movie into one, complete with the wooden character work and the wafer-thin plotting that the genre is known for.

With “Pompeii” coming out next week, it’s time to look back at all the films that we could describe as “disaster movies” and then pick our favorites. The entire HitFix movie editorial team got together to bounce ideas around, and this gallery is our final hard-fought decision on how these movies stack up.

We all contributed, and I’m sure we ended up leaving off movies that are favorites of yours. Part of our deliberation was over the definition of a “disaster” movie in the first place, and I think we erred on the side of caution. Therefore, you won’t see any alien invasions here, and Godzilla trashing Tokyo is not what we would call a natural disaster.

I’ll have interviews with the cast of “Pompeii” as well as my review of the film all coming next week. And Pompeii arrives in theaters on February 21, 2014.