Why We’re Hooked on Disaster Movies

why disaster movies are popular
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We’re all doomed! At least that’s what you might think to judge from the current spate of disaster movies at the box office. It seems that human beings enjoy staring into the abyss, whether that’s destruction by aliens, floods or the complete implosion of our world because of our failure to look after it. Maybe some of us still can’t believe we survived the year 2000, or perhaps we feel vulnerable because of terrorist threats.

Interviewed on the Psychologies website, psychology professor Dr Julie Norem says there are a few reasons why we love those movies so much. We could be preparing ourselves to deal with terrible things, helping ourselves focus on problem-solving or reassuring ourselves that our lives aren’t so bad. And in an article on Live Science, emeritus professor Richard Mitchell says that these films allow people to temporarily escape the burden of their everyday responsibilities. So perhaps we’d rather think about a fictional disaster than worry about disaster recovery for our business.

Whatever the case, disaster, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies are big business. We’ve always been afraid says Chris Wallace of the New York Times – but now those fears are big screen and 3D. Maybe we just can’t look away. So which films have made the biggest impact? Here are some of the top on-screen disaster thrillers of all time, according to Box Office Mojo‘s list of overall box office takings.

1. Titanic has taken $658.6 million so far – and counting – proving that even when you know an event is going to happen, it’s still compelling. The three hour 1997 film starring Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet kept us glued to our seats for more than three hours, and didn’t disappoint with a riveting on-screen portrayal of the ship’s sinking.

2. Independence Day, released in 1996, pits Will Smith against an invasion of Earth by aliens with better weapons. There are quite a few battles before they are finally defeated. The film has taken more than $306 million so far.

3. The 1996 hit Twister takes us inside the world of storm chasers, as Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton and others pit themselves against the biggest, baddest tornadoes. This movie has taken $241.7 million.

4. It’s so good they made it twice, the first time in 1953. That’s the War of the Worlds, based on the H G Wells novel. The 2005 version starred Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Tim Robbins who fight an alien machine invasion. It has taken $232 million at the box office.

5. When you think the end of the world, you might think of zombies, and that’s exactly what’s bringing down governments, armies and possibly human kind in this year’s World War Z. Starring Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos and David Morse, the zombie apocalypse thriller is making a bid for the top, taking $201.8 million already.

6. If a meteor were going to hit the earth, wouldn’t you want Die Hard‘s Bruce Willis on your side? That’s what happens in the 1998 film Armageddon where he helps postpone the end of the world with a team of deep core drillers. This film has taken $201.8 million.

7. Moving from the heat of the Earth’s core to something a bit colder, The Day After Tomorrow sees Dennis Quaid as Jack Hall crossing America to get to his son as the world suffers an Ice Age. This 2004 film has netted $186.7 million so far.

8. It’s a bad time to be a fisherman, finds George Clooney in The Perfect Storm. Plenty of crashing waves, thunder and lightning make this 2000 film a winner which has taken $182.6 million.

9. Tom Hanks leads the cast for 1995 space disaster epic Apollo 13, which has netted $173 million. This proves there’s nothing quite as powerful as a true story and the film about astronauts trying to get back to Earth with a damaged spacecraft is good viewing.

10. Rounding out the top ten is 2012, which has taken $166.1 million so far. It’s another global implosion epic. People are nearly wiped out by a series of disasters as John Cusack tries to save his family.

Have you watched any of these movies? Which was your favorite?

Do you want more about disaster? Here’s a disaster you may not have considered.

Photo Credit: ssh via Compfight cc

Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer with 20+ years' experience in the writing business. She has worked as a reporter, sub-editor and editor as well as blogging and writing web content for the past 8 years.

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