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5 Memorable Earthquakes in Movies

John Cusack and Woody Harrelson in the big-budget CGI-laden "2012," in a scene shortly before a series of disasters begins the apocalypse...

I live in New Zealand, an island country in the South Pacific that is located southeast of Australia. Recently, in one of our major cities, Christchurch, a disastrous earthquake struck, leaving hundreds dead and many buildings in ruins.

I, being the optimist I am, have decided to take it upon myself to list some of the most memorable earthquakes in movies:

1: Short Cuts (1993)

Robert Altman’s picturesque masterpiece of life in L.A. for cops, jazz singers, phone sex operaters, makeup artists, pool cleaners, waitresses and countless others would be nothing without the films anticlimactic earthquake. Normally in a film, an earthquake or natural disaster at the end would signify some sort of amazing event that changes the lives of all the characters (wink-wink Magnolia), but the quake in this film seems to have little or no effect on the way these Hollywood characters operate, which I’ve come to determine is simply because California has so many earthquakes!

2: The Mist (2007)

Frank Darabont returned to adapting Stephen King novellas for this interesting monster movie which begins with an “earthquake” and sends its characters into a torrent of cabin fever when strange monsters prevent them from safely leaving a supermarket in which they are encapsulated. But is expiation the answer? Or suicide, for that matter? The film’s infamous ending is both brilliant and absolutely lame and stupid. Tacky, Darabont, just tacky. It would’ve been better if he’d stuck to the original ending.

3: 2012 (2009)

Roland Emmerich once again succeeds to scare the shit out of us with this once more very prophetic and very interesting look at how the world will end. Unsurprisingly its extremely pessimistic, even if the ending is a happy one for John Cusack. The pessimism is in the destruction itself, which is a deluge of disasters. CGI earthquakes tear cities apart, while Cusack manages to miraculously escape the disaster with his children. Woody Harrelson also has a cameo as a radio broadcaster with insane predictions, though his character is killed as the chaos begins. Shame. The only thing the film has going for itself is the destruction, which is intense and realistic, thank God. But there is very little else of interest, and annoying questions raised such as: “How could the Mayans predict a solar flare?” and “How come John Cusack survives but billions of other people have to die?” I don’t know the answer to that; all I do know is that Cusack should have died and Woody should’ve survived.

4: The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

My favourite disaster movie is undeniably The Poseidon Adventure. There are consistently excellent performances from the all-star cast and it is a masterpiece I can watch over and over again. Though the “earthquake” in this film is an underwater one, that still counts, because it is what triggers the title wave that capsizes the ocean liner. Forget Titanic (1997). While it does have much more stunning imagery, the drama and excitement of The Poseidon Adventure towers over it, alongside what I like to refer to as its “sister film” The Towering Inferno (1974). What’s not to love about Poseidon? It has everything you could want, and more. The drama is vicious and enriching, as is the adventure to the “one-inch-thick” propeller shaft room. Gene Hackman dominates it all with his own terrific acting, and is supported by notable performances from Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters and others. A definite watch for lovers of disaster movies or adventure films.

5: Earthquake (1974)

Directed by Mark Robson (Peyton Place, Valley of the Dolls) and partially scripted by Mario Puzo, this disaster film for the ages is a fun excersize, and even though its not a great one, there are some enjoyable moments. I’m a sucker for films with numerous characters and multiple storylines and, so, I had to see this. It was ages ago and I can barely remember it, but it is an earthquake film and the quake is memorable. A fitting conclusion to a series of five.

So there you have it! Five memorable earthquake scenes, as promised. But… were there any I forgot? Leave a comment and let me know. Thanks.