Box office success for disaster films like "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno" in the early 1970s brought forth a spate of other disaster movies. The formula pitted a cast of fading stars against a natural calamity—such as an earthquake, tornado or asteroid—and chronicled their efforts to survive the ordeal. What was fun about these movies was the cardboard acting and special effects on a quality level equal to bad home movies.
Big budget disaster films made a comeback in the mid-'90s when visual effects technology advanced enough to let them create spectacular natural disasters that were supposed to feel more real. The only problem, as shown with these eight disaster movies, is the natural disaster portrayed on screen does not contain one ounce of realism.
"The Day After Tomorrow" There is plenty of evidence that global warming is causing gradual changes to the Earth's climate. The keyword here is gradual. In "The Day after Tomorrow," a plethora of tornadoes, snowstorms, hailstorms and super-massive hurricanes cause an ice age to develop in a few weeks. It looks cool to see New York City as a block of ice, but such a change would occur over centuries instead of days.
"2012" NASA labeled this take on the end-of-the-world Mayan Calendar frenzy as the most scientifically inaccurate movie out there. It's easy to see why. The movie centers on particles from solar flares causing mass destruction through earthquakes, volcanoes and such by dramatically heating the Earth's core. There's enough bad science in "2012" that NASA set up a webpage devoted to debunking the myths in the movie.
"The Core" A team is forced to drill to the center of the Earth and set off a series of explosions to restart the rotation of the Earth's core in "The Core." The most blatant thing wrong with this premise: The pressure in the mantle alone would crush the vessel carrying the team and the heat as they moved toward the core would prove fatal.
"Dante's Peak" There are a few moments that make the needle move on the bad science meter in "Dante's Peak." Specifically, the main characters trying to outrun the lava in their truck during the climax. At one point, they drive over lava, which would instantly melt their tires in real life. Driving into the mine would result in a fatal cave-in, yet they do it and come out just fine.
"Armageddon" An asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and NASA turns to a bunch of roughneck oil-well drillers to drop a bomb deep inside of it to cause an explosion and send the asteroid off course. It would take more bombs than a space shuttle is capable of hauling into space for such a plan to work. At least "Armageddon" has a good theme song.
"Volcano" Forget about an earthquake destroying Los Angeles! "Volcano" has a volcano emerge in the City of Angels and lava flows through the streets. The audience never actually sees a volcano, which is appropriate. The possibility of a volcano forming near the city is impossible since an oceanic plate is not sliding under the continental plate in that area to create magma.
"The Swarm" Remember when everyone was afraid of killer bees? "The Swarm" has a black mass of the insects threatening to invade Texas and kill everything in its path. One reason it is not a plausible scenario is that killer bees are responsible for only one-to-two deaths per year in the United States.
"When Time Ran Out" A volcano threatens to wipe out a Pacific Island in a movie that effectively killed the disaster genre for a decade. "When Time Ran Out" loses credibility once a large portion of the cast refuses to evacuate a hotel in the path of lava flows. Any responsible government would have the entire area evacuated well ahead of time.