Hollywood has always loved spectacles and large-scale productions which can transport audiences to another world and allow them to experience things which could hardly have been possible otherwise. This massive possibility which Hollywood can bring to the world of cinema sets them apart from other film industries in the world. They have consistently exceeded their own excellence in coming up with monster movies, disaster movies, war movies, historical epics and large-scale science fiction productions which are far superior in quality than productions from any other part of the world. Of course, this has been possible because of the supremely large market that they boast of which crosses all geographical boundaries.
Interestingly enough, filmmakers realized quite early that filming disasters and bringing them in front of the audience can be a fairly successful enterprise, and the process started as early as 1901 with the release of the British short film ‘Fire!’. With 1928’s ‘Noah’s Ark’, Americans started producing feature-length disaster movies which managed to reach a vast section of the audience who were simply mesmerized by the power of cinema to provide them with experiences that were simply unthinkable until a few years back. The now-famous monster gorilla King Kong first made his appearance across American theatres way back in 1933.
Volcanoes were the first natural disaster on which a film was made, and it happened as early as 1913 with the Italian production ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’, directed by Mario Caserini and Eleuterio Rodolfi. The film was further remade once again in 1935 in America by Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper. Over the years, along with tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and others, volcanoes have continued to be a disaster of choice for filmmakers. Here, we have listed down some of the best volcano movies of all time. If you are a genuine admirer of disaster movies and have not yet laid your eyes on these films, get going right away!
7. Pompeii (2014)
Starring the very famous Kit Harrington in the leading role, this 2014 epic is the story of the very famous eruption of the Vesuvius mountain in 79 AD, which caused massive destruction to the Roman Empire and an unparalleled loss of life. The story centers around Harrington’s character Milo, who starts his life as a slave, and later becomes a valiant gladiator in the city of Pompeii where he also begins an affair with the governor’s daughter Cassia. However, Milo warns her that the gap in their social standings will never allow the two of them to be together. As Milo keeps facing challenges from other fighters and Cassia tries to escape Pompeii to be away from the lustful eyes of a Senator called Corvus, the Vesuvius erupts, causing unparalleled damage and destruction. It is now upon our gladiator hero to save his lady love amidst the chaos, destruction, and confusion that engulfed the entire city.
It is quite a good mega-disaster flick and has an ample dose of action, romance, adventure, and disaster; but the story is pretty unoriginal and filled with poorly written, uninteresting characters. However, it must be admitted here that some of the action scenes in this film are pretty cool.
6. The Devil at 4 O’Clock (1961)
If you have only watched modern-day disaster movies with the extensive use of CGI and do not know how such films looked in the early days before such magical inventions, then ‘The Devil at 4 O’Clock’ is a film you must check out. Starring the legendary Frank Sinatra, the story is set on a fictional island in the Pacific Ocean where a priest has built a hospital for the numerous children of the island affected by leprosy. Sinatra plays Harry, a convict who is appointed to work at the hospital along with two of his friends. Things are pretty calm and quiet until a volcano erupts on the island, threatening the lives of its residents. Harry, along with the priest and his friends, decides to save the children at any cost.
The humane aspect of the story is truly commendable, as most disaster films concentrate more on the spectacle than the storyline. It should also be mentioned here that the graphics used in ‘The Devil at 4 O’Clock’ are quite impressive for its time. Spencer Tracy as the alcoholic priest with a kind heart provides a commendable performance.
5. Supervolcano (2005)
‘Supervolcano’ is a BBC One TV movie which centers around the volcanic caldera at the famous Yellowstone National Park in America. The central character of the film is Richard Lieberman, and it is through his accounts recorded on a video camera that we get to know of a massive volcanic eruption which caused large-scale destruction throughout America five years earlier. The narrative then shifts to the past and gives us an idea of how the United States Geological Survey and other government bodies anticipated the disaster and what they did to prepare for it. As the story progresses, we realize that the volcano is on such a massive scale that anything done to decrease the damage would be too small in comparison to its potential. The film is surprisingly well-made considering it is a direct-to-TV production made by a television network which lacks the resources available to massive Hollywood production houses.
4. When Time Ran Out (1980)
‘When Time Ran Out’ is a star-studded disaster film set on an island in the South Pacific where a resort has become a tourist hub for the rich. The tourists enjoy their quiet times with family and friends at this luxurious getaway, until a volcanic eruption comes down as a bane on all of their enjoyment. In such a situation, while most of the guests are anxious to leave as soon as possible, they are advised by the owner of the hotel to wait for a rescue team. But some of the guests take matters into their own hands and decide to create their own ways to safety. Paul Newman, Jacqueline Bisset, William Holden, James Franciscus, Ernest Borgnine, and Red Buttons are some of the big names in this mega-production, which, unfortunately, tanked at the box office. However, the epic scale of production and the plethora of stars present in the cast call for a one-time watch at least.
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3. Stromboli (1950)
No other actress in the world has worked with as many great directors as Ingrid Bergman. From Alfred Hitchcock to Ingmar Bergman to Roberto Rossellini, the silver screen legend has worked with all such masters of the craft of filmmaking. In this 1950 film, Bergman plays a refugee, Karin, from Lithuania who has taken shelter in Italy. To avoid imprisonment, she marries an Italian soldier and they together decide to settle down in his native volcanic island called Stromboli. Resentment from the natives and Karin’s feeling of alienation in a foreign land naturally gives rise to certain frustrations within her. This frustration finds its manifestation in the natural world as we see the volcano erupting, though it does not actually take place within the film’s narrative. Rossellini uses the motif of the volcano brilliantly to drive across his message in a rather innovative manner. If you are interested in checking out Italian neo-realist films, watch ‘Stromboli’ right away as it is one of the prime examples of the movement’s products.
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2. Dante’s Peak (1997)
‘Dante’s Peak’ is a 1997 Pierce Brosnan starrer directed by Roger Donaldson, who also made the highly popular ‘No Way Out’ with Kevin Costner. Brosnan here plays the character of Dr. Harry Dalton, a volcanologist working for the United States Geological Survey whose wife dies when a volcanic bomb drops on their vehicle. Sometime later, Dalton visits Dante’s Park in Washington where he has to investigate some seismic activity in the town which might be cause for concern later. When he realizes the fact that there is a chance of a volcanic eruption, Dalton tries to warn the townsfolk who refuse to take him seriously. Despite not being a major critical or commercial success, it must be said that ‘Dante’s Peak’ is one of the most realistic disaster movies out there, and the film’s depiction of scientific research done by geologists is quite accurate. The graphics of the film still hold up, even though it was made more than two decades back.
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1. Volcano (1997)
Both ‘Dante’s Peak’ and ‘Volcano’ released in the same year, creating a sort of volcano movie vs. volcano movie atmosphere at that time; and that is the reason why these two films are presented here back-to-back. Tommy Lee Jones plays the central character of this film, Michael Roark, who is the head of Los Angeles’ Office of Emergency Management. Roark comes back from his vacation when he comes to know that LA has been hit by a massive earthquake. A louder alarm bell starts ringing when a geologist warns everyone that there might be a sleeping volcano under the city which might erupt at any point. Soon enough, it does erupt, causing unprecedented death and destruction, destroying almost all of the city. We follow Roark’s character throughout the film as he tries to use all available resources to save as many lives as possible. However, you need to watch the film with a suspension of disbelief as it’s a little campy.
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