10 Disaster Movies and What We Learned From Them

They’re actually very educational.


(SPOT.ph) It takes very little to rattle this city. Year after year, we face the threat of floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, pandemics...and those are only the natural calamities. Then there are man-made problems like fire, vehicular accidents (including airplane crashes), and genocide. Although it has yet to happen, we’re pretty sure an alien invasion is looming in the horizon. Disasters are a part of life. If a meteor hadn’t hit the earth and killed the dinosaurs (indirectly), we probably wouldn’t be here, so we should be...uh, grateful? No, that’s not right. We should prepare.

Now, we know that not everyone has the patience to sit through seminars, and that’s their loss, but we like you all, truly, so we want to make sure that everyone has some knowledge of what to do in times of crises. And we’ll do it in the most entertaining way possible: through movies!



We already know that the people who scream and run die first, so don’t do that. Here are some things we learned from these 10 Disaster Movies!



1. Contagion (2011, directed by Steven Soderbergh)

As the name suggests, the film follows the spread of a disease and the effect it has on individuals-biologically and politically.

Lesson learned: Your chances of survival are directly proportional to your bank account. We hate to say it but it’s true. However, this is not the main lesson in Contagion. We’ll say spoiler alert at this point because we’ll cut to the final scene of the film where the most important lesson can be found: A pig gets infected by a bat virus (through a banana because the nest where the bats are gets knocked over by a human) and the pig makes its way to a restaurant, where a chef is set to prepare it for cooking. The chef is called away from the kitchen to meet a woman and, without washing, he shakes her hand. People, always wash your hands.





2. 2012 (2009, directed by Roland Emmerich)

Solar flares from the sun are causing the temperature of Earth’s core to increase rapidly, thus altering the natural cycle of things and prompting a crust displacement that could alter the world as we know it.

Lesson learned: Keep fit. We’re not talking about Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson’s Herculean physique; just fit enough to outrun raining fireballs, stay ahead of the cracking earth, or chase after an airplane without tripping or running out of breath. Protagonist John Cusack plays Jackson Curtis, a sci-fi writer-chauffeur in the movie who succeeds in saving his family from impending disaster. What are the odds of a man like that being ridiculously trim?

Curtis was probably running up the treadmill in between driving and waiting for inspiration to strike. They say cardio’s for sissies, but it does come in handy. Slow jog every other day and increase your speed, frequency, and intensity incrementally. Once you get past the initial challenge, attend fun runs and train for marathons. Visit runrio.com for running events. Take Parkour classes so you can jump over every hurdle that comes your way with ease and efficiency. Had Russian billionaire Yuri Karpov practiced the art of effortless vaulting, he could have jumped to the ark with ease. If you want to know more about Parkour, inquire at Parkour Philippines. Visit their Facebook page for more details.





3. The Day After Tomorrow (2004, directed by Roland Emmerich)

The effects of global warming is prompting a second Ice Age that specifically targets the US East Coast. In a matter of days, New York weather becomes increasingly turbulent, with massive hurricanes and superstorms causing Manhattan to be flooded-a disaster that preludes the next glacial period.

Lesson learned: Be resourceful! When you feel like there’s nothing around that can help protect you from a blizzard or hide from a pack of wolves, stop, look, and think. Sometimes, a little desperation sparks ingenuity. Jake Gyllenhaal as the creative Sam makes a show of converting old chairs into snow shoes, adapting newspapers for insulation, and using an inflatable raft as a tow.

Know the tricks to survive. He may support drinking your own urine in dire circumstances, but Bear Grylls has some pretty nifty ideas when it comes to getting past extreme situations. Fire, stranded, shipwrecked, you name it. He’ll teach you how to make weapons, hunt for food, construct shelter. Watch Bear Grylls: Escape From Hell on the Discovery Channel every Friday at 3 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.





4. Armaggedon (1998, directed by Michael Bay)

An asteroid the size of Texas is taking a one-way ticket to Earth and will cause a collision that could eradicate mankind.

Lesson learned: If there’s one thing this Michael Bay clincher doesn’t teach that other disaster films on this list (except for Titanic) does, is that when the world is ending, you should cling to your family. Instead, Armaggedon keeps Grace’s (Liv Tyler) new fiance AJ (Ben Affleck) alive while killing off her save-the-world diehard father, Harry (Bruce Willis). In reverse effect, this movie just reaffirms our original plan of saving our family before anything or anyone else in times of disaster. Remember: Family first!




5. Dante’s Peak (1997, directed by Roger Donaldson)

A dormant volcano suddenly shakes up an unprepared town and all hell breaks loose. Most of the film centers on noticing the pre-eruption warning signs and planning a city-wide evacuation.


Lesson learned: With the number of volcanoes-active, inactive, and dormant-in the Philippines, tips from the experiences in Dante’s Peak and its less popular clone Volcano (1997, directed by Mick Jackson) are noteworthy. During the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption, tens of thousands of people were saved due to accurate scientific predictions derived from a series of earthquakes near the area. Early warnings were issued as early as March and villages were evacuated before the climactic explosion in June. Unlike in Dante’s Peak and Volcano where skeptical residents refused to cooperate, villagers in the surrounding areas prepared themselves despite Pinatubo’s 600-year respite. It’s better to be safe than sorry. In case the volcano didn’t erupt, you’ll still have your home and livelihood to come back to as opposed to the alternative, which is staying.

As a precaution, never take warnings for natural disasters (tsunamis, storms, volcanic eruptions) with a grain of salt. Know how to read the basic signs (the ones they teach you in Earth Science during freshman year) and watch for reports of potential calamities.




6. Titanic (1997, directed by James Cameron)

This James Cameron masterpiece is a romanticized retelling of true events that happened when RMS Titanic, then considered unsinkable due to its massive size, collided into an iceberg and sank into the Atlantic Ocean in a matter of hours. The tragedy was considered unthinkable, especially upon discovering the ship and crew’s unpreparedness for such an emergency-one of which was the lack of lifeboats, as well as the inefficiency in filling up such boats (putting only 15 people in a boat that could fit 65). Only a third of those aboard survived, with most dying of exposure.

Lesson learned: We’d say practice your swimming strokes, but the ability to float wasn’t the problem here. Rather, it was plunging into negative two-degree Celsius waters that proved to be fatal. Basing it on the movie, one of the causes for the ship’s inability to swerve away from the iceberg was that J. Bruce Ismay (played by Jonathan Hyde), chair of White Star, the company that owns the ship, pressured the captain to speed up, saying over tea that the world must marvel at the ship’s size and speed. Titanic was built to be large, recreational, and luxurious and to cater to the tastes of the first-class, he (not Victor Garber as depicted in the film) also cut down on the prescribed number of lifeboats to avoid clutter on the viewing decks.


The Huffington Post listed several ways in which one could’ve survived the wreck, including being a woman, being a child, manning a lifeboat, and being American. It was 1912 and we can’t fault them for traveling via sea, but nowadays, when you ride a ship, you’re definitely not doing it for speed. Pace yourself and relax.




7. This is the End (2013, directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg)

Never has the Rapture been this funny. The movie follows Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen, along with James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride as they try to survive a post-apocalyptic world where your only salvation is repentence, sacrifice, and redemption. Hallelujah.

Lesson learned: Where do we start? From the time of your birth to when the Rapture happens, be good. Don’t sleep alone or risk getting...um, invaded by evil forces. Secure your supplies! And when you’re on your way to heaven, don’t get cocky, or you’ll end up like James Franco...or Keanu Reeves’ John Constantine.





8. Twister (1996, directed by Jan de Bont)

This disaster movie penned by Michael Crichton (Mr. Jurassic Park) and Anne-Marie Marin (former Mrs. Jurassic Park) introduced the idea of storm chasing to the greater public. Using the device DOROTHY, Dr. Jo Harding and her team of tornado researchers attempt to go for broke and study an F5 tornado from the inside.

Lesson learned: Watch out for cows! The thing about tornadoes, according to Fred Otsby, is that they come with a warning. There are tornado spotters, so people can prepare for them and safely go undergound (much like Dorothy’s family did in the Wizard of Oz). There are more than a few scientific inaccuracies in the films, one of which is that in reality, you don’t survive being that close to a tornado by strapping yourself to pipes. You will die. You’re also not supposed to literally chase storms like what they do (driving towards it, within 50 yards of it, etc.), because you will also die. Remember Kevin Costner in Man of Steel? On the other hand, the impressive special effects of the film depicts how destructive tornadoes are and hopefully, it’ll scare people enough to get to safety and not wander into it.


Quite fortunately, there are no huge twisters in the Philippines so, a tip would be to stay in the country.




9. The Impossible (2012, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona)

Based on the Belón family’s experience during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the film presents the horrors that the Bennet family had to endure after a tsunami hits the resort they were staying at during a Christmast holiday in Khao Lak, Thailand.

Lesson learned: We’re going to be honest and say that when all that water comes rushing towards land, consider yourself very lucky if you survive.

Every year, we hear about flash floods in certain parts of the Philippines. The flood in New Bataan in 2012 was especially harrowing to hear about, listening to survivors describing the agony of being hit by enormous logs carrying the force of the flood water. The Impossible shows this in full detail and sadly, there’s nothing we can do about specific natural calamities like earthquakes and the tsunamis that may follow it. What we learned from the film doesn’t evolve debris evasion tactics but rather, post-trauma care. Don’t be the douchebag who doesn’t want to lend your phone to someone else who needs to contact his or her family. If you’re able, assist in relief operations.


We might also mention that "zoning" is an actual thing and we have people for that. There are people who dedicate their lives to figuring out which areas are safe  for building on and it wouldn’t hurt to listen to them. It would actually save us a lot of pain if we start listening to them.



10. Pacific Rim (2013, directed by Guillermo del Toro)

Though Pacific Rim is primarily classified as a science-fiction monster film, disaster movies are definined by impending doom, and if Independence Day counts, then so does this Kaiju vs Jaeger movie! All you need to know is that aliens are here and they want to kills us, and we have robots. Yay robots.

Lesson learned: There is actually a very, very important lesson in Pacific Rim and that is don’t build a wall. It’s a metaphor, but not a dramatic one, about isolating yourself. It’s a symbol for government projects that don’t really do much to protect the citizens. One could argue that gigantic robots weren’t efficient but you don’t replace an ineffective method with a wall. A wall. The leaders of the world decided that concrete and steel would be enough to keep enormous monsters out...but this is probably because there are only two guys in the science department. Two guys. Two guys doing all the research. No wonder it took them forever to figure out how to stop the aliens from invading us and destroying everything.

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