Top 10 Disaster Film Cliches



Top 10 Disaster Film Cliches

VOICE OVER: Matt Campbell
Script written by Nick Spake

Consider this your guide to surviving the end of the world. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Disaster Film Clichés. For this list, we're taking a look at tropes that keep popping up and blowing up in disaster movies.

Special thanks to our user Josh3000 for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at http://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest
Script written by Nick Spake

Top 10 Disaster Film Cliches

Consider this your guide to surviving the end of the world. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Disaster Film Clichés.

For this list, we’re taking a look at tropes that keep popping up and blowing up in disaster movies.

#10: The New York Destruction Scene

Most disaster movies are set in a major U.S. city, but New York is traditionally the go-to setting. The Big Apple is often viewed as a beacon of hope where dreams can come true. Watching it get destroyed by a natural disaster or a giant monster makes us all feel like the American dream has died. The fact that New York is populated by millions of people also means there’s never any shortage of panicking crowds running for their lives. Still, exactly how many more times do we have to see the Statue of Liberty get demolished? Give her a break!

#9: The Cutaways to Carnage

While New York is the primary locale for disaster movies, sometimes the filmwill focus on global pandemonium. In this case, we’ll briefly cut away from our main characters to see what’s going on in the rest of the world. This montage of sorts will often focus on people running away from the same disaster. It just goes to show that the nations of the world may have their differences, but when aliens invade or the earth’s core stops spinning, we can all find common ground. Unless of course, you’re a conniving coward, in which case, it’s every man for himself.

#8: The Divorced Couple

Hey kids, are you upset that your parents are getting a divorce? Don’t worry! All you’ve got to do is wait for an apocalypse to happen. That’s sure to bring mom and dad back together, at least according to movie logic. Many disaster movies focus on a father who redeems himself in the eyes of his ex-wife and children by saving them from the end of the world. If there’s an evil stepdad or new boyfriend in the mix, have no fear! An earthquake or Sharknado will get him out of the way. Even if the stepdad is a fairly decent guy, he’s still dead no matter what.

#7: The Pets Survive

It’s weird isn’t it? When millions of random people are killed on screen, audiences usually don’t even bat an eye. If even one random animal bites the dust, though, everybody loses their minds. This particularly applies to dogs, which are arguably the most adorable and loyal animals on earth. Seeing something so cute and cuddly die can feel like a cheap shot. Thus, it’s a common rule in disaster movies that innocent pets have to make it out okay. The whole human race may go extinct, but the important thing is that Boomer will live.

#6: The Old Person Sacrifice

In the same vein as pets, nobody wants to watch a young person meet their untimely end either. If the person is old enough to apply for senior citizenship status, however, we typically have no problem shrugging their demise off. Every group of survivors needs an old person to sacrifice him or herself in the final act. In most cases, it’s somebody full of regret that’s trying to compensate for past mistakes. They find their ultimate purpose in life through martyrdom. While their days are numbered from the get-go, at least they’ll be remembered as heroes.

#5: The Hero Scientist

You can’t have a disaster movie without the token nerdy guy who spouts exposition and technical jargon. The science in question, however, never makes any sense whatsoever. In various cases, though, the scientist will get upgraded from dorky comedic relief to the hero who saves the day. Sometimes the hero scientist is an unlikely badass. Other times, the hero scientist is Matthew Broderick. Even if this archetype is hit or miss, it’s encouraging to know that brain is more powerful than brawn…as long as you don’t get blown up.

#4: The Stupid Higher-Ups

When the end of the world is on the horizon, you’d think more people would see it coming. In disaster movies, however, only one guy on the planet knows what’s going on. He’ll try to warn the higher-ups about the impending doom during a conference. The big bad government will rarely listen to him, though, neglecting to evacuate cities or take the necessary precautions. By the time the higher-ups finally realize the error of their ways, it’s too late; millions of lives have already been lost.

#3: The Protagonists Survive Against All Logic

Unless you’re a villain or the noble sacrifice in a disaster movie, you’re pretty much guaranteed to make it out in one piece. It doesn’t matter if you spend the whole flick getting chased by Kaiju, drifting through outer space, or confronting fatal storms: you’re going to survive against all logic with nothing more than a couple of cuts on your forehead and some dirt on your cheeks. A shark could swallow somebody whole and they’d still be perfectly fine. So the next timedisaster strikes, kick back and keep it real.

#2: The President’s Speech

When tragedy hits, we often look to our world leaders for words of comfort and inspiration. Whether the President of the United States has a small or substantial role in a disaster movie, you can count on him to address the nation at some point. Perhaps the most famous example is Bill Pullman’s rousing speech in “Independence Day.” Sure, it’s corny and silly, but you’d have to be made of stone for his words to not get you pumped to save the world from annihilation. Even when they deliver bad news, like Morgan Freeman in “Deep Impact,” movie presidents can still make us feel united and hopeful.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- The News Reporter Dies
- The Foreshadowing
- The Close Call

#1: The Destruction of World Landmarks

In any disaster movie, you’re bound to see at least one world landmark crumble to the ground. It could be the White House, the Eiffel Tower, or the Great Pyramids; no iconic structure is safe. Seeing these landmarks get blown up makes it truly feel like doomsday has arrived. While it’s distressing for our heroes to watch, it’s also motivation to keep going and survive, even if the world may be reduced to a smoky wasteland by the end.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite disaster film cliché? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to
Wait a minute, I don't hear Matt saying anything. Instead it's...Rebecca!!!
The Top 10 Disaster Film Cliches were NOT cliches: They were Disaster Film scenarios. A cliche is a spoken line. Here's two good examples. Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I'll be back." Jeff Goldblum" "Faster! Must go faster!" watchmojo - Now do it right!