Sunday, 18 April 2010

The 10 Best Volcano/Aeroplane Disaster Movies

So while the world slowly grinds to a halt courtesy of our angry Icelandic volcanic neighbour, it's perhaps apt to look at the best in the sub-genres of volcano and aeroplane disaster movie. Ideally, the films chosen will play expertly on a common fear: namely being engulfed in a fireball or plummeting out of the sky into the tarmac (the latter being my no. 1, it has to be said). Make up your own mind.

The Volcano

1) Volcano (Mick Jackson, 1997)

The magma movie to end them all. It's a close-run thing between this and Dante's Peak but Volcano just scoops it by locating the fear right inside of Los Angeles itself, showing the urban metropolis going to rack and ruin in the face of mother nature. Realistic, eh? Well, at least we have Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche to save the day. Props to the nasty death scene inside the subway giving whole new meaning to the word 'legless'.

2) Dante's Peak (Roger Donaldson, 1997)

Aka Jaws-cano, Pierce Brosnan's impossibly Bond-esque vulcanologist tries to warn a small north-west town of impending disaster, while romancing Sarah Connor. The Terminator's the least of the problems though when Dante's Peak actually goes up, forcing dogs to be rescued from lava flows, grannies to be boiled and trucks to attempt split second escapes from pyroclastic clouds.

3) Supervolcano (Tony Mitchell, 2005)

A surefire staple of Geography lessons for years to come, Mitchell's docudrama is the first (and likely last) on this list, to deal with a potential disaster in a pragmatic, fact-based way. Suffering from a TV budget, it nonetheless chills in its dramatization of what could happen should Yellowstone National Park want to rid itself of tourists once and for all.

4) Krakatoa: East of Java (Bernard L. Kowalski, 1969)

Worth a place since it contains probably the most moronic gaffe ever slapped on a movie title: Krakatoa is actually west of Java!

5) Joe Versus the Volcano (John Patrick Shanley, 1990)

Tom Hanks willing to throw himself into liquid hot lava? No, audiences didn't buy it back in 1990 either, ensuring this tale of a hypocondriac contemplating death on a tropical island was a dud.

The Aeroplane

1) Airplane! (Jim Abrahams; David Zucker, 1980)

Don't call me Shirley; they're coming in on instruments; have you ever been in a Turkish prison? Making a magnificent, merciless mockery of the po-faced disaster movies that inspired it, Airplane! has a claim to being the funniest film ever made. It's about a fatal outbreak of mid-air food poisoning and the war vet who must save the day...but anyway, I'm probably boring you.

2) Airport (George Seaton, 1970)

And here we have it, the granddaddy. Grossing over $100 million in 1970, clearly audience hunger was there for airborne disaster of the first order, in this case the tale of a suicidal bomber attempting to blow up a Boeing 747 mid-flight. Then there's the star-packed cast, featuring everyone from Burt Lancaster to Dean Martin.

3) Air Force One (Wolfgang Petersen, 1997)

Somewhat underrated on its own terms, Petersen's commendably gritty and tense tale of the US President's plane being hijacked by terrorists is actually one of Harrison Ford's better, latter-day blockbusters. Ford is always a dab-hand at playing stoic heroes and Gary Oldman is on particularly malevolent form as the vicious lead baddie.

4) Snakes on a Plane (David R. Ellis, 2006)

Villified for doing exactly what it says on the tin. OK then, why don't we have the creators of Ronseal in court? Sam Jackson; snakes; turbulence; and a whole load of misfit passengers spell out nasty B-grade hokum of the first order, especially the priceless attack on, you got it, the trouser-snake itself

5) Final Destination (James Wong, 2000)

It may be a bit of a stretch to call Final Destination a plane-disaster movie but it is the horrifying event that sets the film (and on-going franchise) in motion, beginning with some unnerving bumpiness before the fuselage breaks up and engulfs everyone in a fireball. That's my nightmare way to go, right there.

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