Destruction: Los Angeles: The 5 Best L.A. Movie Disasters

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 22nd, 2011 at 7:55 pm,

best los angeles movie disasters Destruction: Los Angeles: The 5 Best L.A. Movie Disasters

Battle: Los Angeles is one of the most anticipated films of Spring 2011 – promising a city-wide devastation of the iconic L.A. area. While the film is largely expected to forgo on-the-nose references to famous L.A. landmarks, in favor of a more Dark Knight-like realism, the movie is still set to present one of the biggest beatings the iconic West Coast city has ever endured.

In honor of Hollywood’s obsession with trashing their home-turf, we thought it’d be fun to countdown the best L.A. movie disasters and give credit to each categorical source of destruction – based on how successful he, she, they, or it, were at pummeling the “City of Angels” into rubble.

A few rules before we get started:

A) Only one movie per “source” of destruction.

B) The disaster has to take place in Los Angeles (not fictional LA-like cities such as Mission City in Transformers or nearby real-world cities such as San Diego in The Lost World: Jurassic Park).

Honorable mentions:

While there are plenty of fan-favorite films that included large-scale devastation of the Los Angeles area, five movies ultimately stood out to us. As a result, a number of films didn’t quite pass the bar of seismic disruption that the five finalists set – but two came heartbreakingly close.

Volcano, the 1997 film starring Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, and Don Cheadle, certainly made its mark in the fictional L.A. landscape of the time, some Los Angeles veterans may never quite look at the La Brea Tar Pits the same way again or forget visions of fireballs raining down on their favorite delicatessen. However, despite being a quirky disaster film, Volcano failed to take the top spot in our “natural disaster” category.

Similarly, War of the Worlds (the 1953 original) is one of the best alien invasion films of all time. However, despite blowing up a number of historical L.A. landmarks, Byron Haskin’s film leaves Los Angeles in significantly better shape than our number one alien invasion choice.


hancock disaster Destruction: Los Angeles: The 5 Best L.A. Movie Disasters

#5 – Hancock [Intoxicated Superhero]

Not all disasters are the result of global warming, malicious non-human invaders, or a scientist with a God complex, sometimes it only takes super-powers, and a fondness for drinking, to leave a city in shambles.

Sure, Hancock may not have left the city of Los Angeles in the kind of disarray the sudden eruption of a magma spewing hole in the Earth did in Volcano but, unlike many disasters, this isn’t a one-off calamity. Remember, we only see a few isolated incidents from what has been an ongoing string of disastrous misadventures. The gross damage inflicted by Hancock could easily surpass the repair bill Los Angeles residents faced in the wake of the War of the Worlds.

Not to mention the fact that this is Hancock actually trying to help clean up the city. Imagine the damage that he could have enacted had Jason Bateman not stepped in – attempting to help the down-on-his-luck hero clean up his act.


2012 los angeles disaster Destruction: Los Angeles: The 5 Best L.A. Movie Disasters

#4 – 2012 [Natural Disaster]

Few films have reveled in the no-holds-barred destruction of the Los Angeles area quite like Roland Emmerich’s 2009 global apocalypse film 2012.

The same director who scripted a batch of tornados ripping apart the Hollywood sign (among other things) in his 2004 disaster film, The Day After Tomorrow, returned five years later for one of the largest, most over-the-top disaster sequences ever shown on film.

With beaches sinking into the Pacific Ocean, skyscrapers tumbling like dominoes, highways collapsing, and some shockingly good driving from writer-turned-limo driver John Cusack, the damage portrayed in 2012 presents the most devastating natural disaster to ever be inflicted upon the fictional streets of L.A.


Continue reading our list of the 5 Best L.A. Movie Disasters for choices number 3 – 1…

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  1. …its Connor…come on now…

  2. Blowing up a nuclear bomb in season 6 of 24 would probably be the #1 Los Angeles TV disaster.

    • wasn’t that season 2?

  3. this was on yesterday

    • BMW,

      I can assure you that this has been in the works for about a week. We’re not the only ones who will come up with an idea that ties into an upcoming movie.


  4. Excellent list! I’m glad that Volcano was mentioned :)

  5. The movies mentioned here are quite bad (except for Terminator 2, of course), but I know that this genre is very mediocre, so there aren’t a lot of movies to choose.

  6. How could Volcano not make this list? In one of the more bizarre and entertaining disaster flicks of all time, Volcano combined knock-out special effects with a great cast and a fun storyline, not to mention a few in-jokes for Angelinos. I would’ve bumped Hancock off this list and put Volcano in the Top 3.

    • I was thinking the exact same thing. Hancock over Volcano for best damage to LA? Ridiculous.

      • Agreed.

    • As mentioned in the article, we tried to think of competing disaster categories – Volcano is mentioned as the runner-up in the “Natural Disaster” category (with 2012) taking first. We only allowed one movie per category to make the final list – then ranked the movies.

      We just thought the idea of Hancock being a destructive force in Los Angeles would make for a fun tongue-in-cheek addition – not that he’s actually a bigger disaster than the unfolding events in Volcano.

  7. I never cease to be amazed at how seriously people take “list” posts that are done just for fun…


    • LOL. I don’t get it either Vic.

    • I always like the lists here Vic. Keep ‘em coming!

    • Forget the list, how was the movie? :-)

      • Review will be up shortly. :)


  8. Didn’t the san andreas fault rip Cali apart in Superman 1, but that’s not really specifically L.A. I guess.

    Regarding Battle:L.A., POSIBLE SPOILER.
    Why would aliens looking for water go to Los Angeles? Wouldn’t Chicago be more logical with lake Michigan? Don’t Los Angelites have their water pumped in from miles and miles away?

    • i know right? LA gets all their water from the fresno/yosemite area. they take all of the water we use for farming.

  9. Let’s just hope that all the reading people are doing for Battle of L.A. isn’t going to get their hopes so sicked up about this movie, that when it finally comes out, their expectations of it come will come crashing down into a pile of destruction.:(

    Battle of L.A. is pretty much Independence Day meets District 9, both decently good movies. So I’m guessing (hoping) that it should be at least as good as either one of those movies.:)

    • Jeez I can never get these : ) right. O, NOW it works, of course *shakes head*

      • WOW! That never worked either.*shakes head, violently*This is just sad.*sigh*

        • Ya I know I’m bored and these post’s are starting to become a FAIL.

          • Alright I’ll stop now.:D

            • Make sure there is a space after your period. Then press : followed by ) without a space between. :)

              … I’m not sure how to make the one with sunglasses though

            • You know, drinking isn’t for everyone. 8-)

  10. As a side note anyone see the ads for the SyFy knockoff, “Battle of Los Angles”???

    I hate these shows that try to leech an idea and jump the gun with a much lower budget version of the show. Guess this is better than having it in the theaters though.

    • looks good though…its the same story but from a civilian perspective. Plus i saw some pretty well known actors in the previews.

  11. Dude what about Next???? at the end what my man Nick Cage said was bone chilling. Definetly top 5.

  12. Next was great, loved that film.

    I think somebody forgot “Escape From LA” and “Miricle Mile”,,,

    Hancock, come on that film was so forgettable.

    • i agree about escape from LA…ill have to check out miracle mile.

  13. Miricle Mile, (named after the Brea Tar Pits area of Hollywood),,, was a great film, great cast.

    MM, deals with a group of Los Angeles early morning cafe regulars that get a warning that ww3 has begun.


    Hard to find on dvd, if you do, its prob gonna be a full screen. This one really desirves a Critrion release!!!

  14. Just saw first screening of this & I thought it lived up to the hype.
    I was expecting a clash between black hawk down & war of worlds and it was somewhere between there.
    I don’t think anyone will be dissappointed after watching this.
    Eckhart defintely knows how to lay down those heartfelt moments.
    Can’t wait for screen rant’s review.

  15. I’m curious Vic, why isn’t Volcano on here? It’s a disaster movie, maybe not the best but still pretty good imo.

    • Ah never mind, might help if I actually read the article and not skimmed it. I guess that what I get for 2 hrs of sleep.

      • Shinine,



  16. Good list of Los Angeles destruction movies. You’d think there would be more Los Angeles destruction movies on the silver screen. We can add John Carter on the list of Los Angeles destruction movies. Terminator 2 is probably the best L.A. disaster movie. 2012 is another good depiction.