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Understanding Disaster Movies

abateman | Tuesday December 07, 2010

Categories: GCSE, AQA GCSE, OCR GCSE, Eduqas (WJEC) GCSE, WJEC GCSE Film Studies, Film, Action Adventure, Disaster Movies, Hot Entries, Understanding Media, Understanding Key Topics

This guide is designed to cover the main points of the genre of Disaster Movies, which is the designated topic until summer 2012 for the WJEC GCSE in Film Studies for Paper 1 Exploring Film and to explain what you are likely to be asked in the examination

Defining the genre, what is a disaster movie?

Like all film genres, disaster movies are recognisable because of the presence of certain key elements which we would expect to see in a film belonging to a genre. However, before looking at these, it is perhaps a good idea to chart a history of the genre.

A brief history from the 1970s


Boom time for the genre, the birth of the classic disaster movie, (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Airport, etc.)

Irwin Allen was the man credited with establishing the classic seventies disaster movie since he was the producer of many of the most famous examples.

One of the key features of the classic disaster movie is the feeling that the disaster could happen at anytime to anyone.


Period of decline, other more ‘exciting’ action, sci-fi and horror films offered more.

Elements of the disaster genre more likely to be found in other films than in a bona-fide disaster film.
For example, the film Die Hard and its first sequel, feature some of the elements which could be identified as originating in the disaster genre.

However, these films are usually categorised as action.

Likewise the film Predator also shares features with the disaster genre yet it is more likely to be regarded generically as a mix between science fiction, horror and action.

Coincidentally, when Channel Four showed its countdown of the top disaster movies of all time in 2009, both Die Hard and Predator both figured highly with Die Hard actually being named as the best disaster movie of all time by Channel Four viewers.

It could be argued that these are not true disaster movies as established in the 1970s and at best only feature certain elements of the...

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