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).
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.
#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.
#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.
#3 – Resident Evil: Afterlife [Zombie Apocalypse]
Though we aren’t privy to actually seeing the T-Virus outbreak unfold in Los Angeles (we see Tokyo instead), moviegoers did get an aerial tour of the aftermath – the scorched Hollywood Hills, dilapidated skyscrapers, not to mention a sea of undead bodies congregated in the streets.
While much of Resident Evil: Afterlife takes place inside a prison complex, thousands of zombies/L.A. citizens collect at the gates of the compound – a grim reminder of the lingering devastation that didn’t just destroy the physical L.A. infrastructure but turned everyday people into bloody-thirsty walking disease-bags.
There’s no doubt that an enormous city-wide natural disaster would be terrifying, and claim a lot of lives, but it’s hard to imagine few outcomes more disturbing than mindlessly chewing on the flesh of your family, friends, and the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
#2 – Independence Day [Hostile Alien Invasion]
Los Angeles was only one of several cities that got wiped off the map in Roland Emmerich’s (noticing a trend) 1996 alien-invasion film, Independence Day. Obviously it wouldn’t be the first time that aliens had set their sites on Los Angeles, but Independence Day features one of the most sweeping depictions of aliens on human genocide ever put to film.
The ID4 aliens’ implementation of an enormous energy based weapon, that first pounds the Los Angeles area with a blast wave and subsequently scorches the debris in a firestorm, is a one-two punch that leaves very few of the area’s fifteen million metro residents alive.
Even without the foiled “ground invasion” being prepped inside the alien motherships, given the mass-casualties in ID4’s initial L.A. attack, Battle: Los Angeles will have to work pretty hard to top this “Hostile Alien Invasion” story. Even if Battle: LA succeeds, Emmerich isn’t even done with L.A. yet – as he’s still invested in the oft-discussed idea of Independence Day sequels.
#1 – Terminator 2: Judgment Day [Man-Made Sentient Machines]
While plenty of the films we’ve discussed here offered tales of survival and victory, in the face on unimaginable disaster, Terminator 2: Judgment Day prophesizes not just one of the most devastating attacks on Los Angeles – but also the bleakest potential outcome.
Sarah Connor may only experience Skynet’s Los Angeles nuke attack in a nightmare – but the prophecy comes true in the concluding moments of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Even though the series relies on time-travel events that are capable of creating an alternate future – things don’t ever appear to turn out well for L.A. In every potential future, the city has been reduced to rubble with Terminators, HK Tanks, and HK Aerials patrolling for human survivors. Not to mention Los Angeles serves as the location of the notorious Century Work Camp, a Skynet-run human concentration camp, where John Conner and Kyle Reese are eventually imprisoned.
In addition to the seemingly inevitable post-apocalyptic landscape, worst of all, the Skynet attack on L.A. (and other world cities) could have been entirely avoided. The nuclear assault isn’t the result of a solar flare that causes Earth’s core to increase or an unprovoked alien invasion – Los Angles suffers Judgment Day at the hands of a man-made machine that wages war against its creators.
Follow us on Twitter @benkendrick and @screenrant and let us know your pick for best Los Angeles disaster on film – as well as whether you think Battle: Los Angeles should take the top spot on future lists.
Battle: Los Angeles opens in theaters this Friday, March 11th.