Horror director Alexandre Aja finally revisited the killer animal sub-genre after nine years, since Piranha 3D. That was a fun, shamelessly indulgent movie with plenty of gore to go around. But with Crawl, he’s also incorporated all the elements of a disaster movie.
This should have resulted in the equivalent of a Syfy TV movie where that concept is anything but unfamiliar. However, Aja instead proved that when he pulls back on the comedy, his deft hand for thrills can really deliver. Reviews for his latest film have been generally positive. It’s an entertaining B-movie that works as a genuine thriller, too. It’s a terrific feat to toe that line. So, here’s some other disaster movies to watch if you’re hungry for more.
10 The Finest Hours
This is a disaster movie that was produced by Disney, and somehow, that DNA really bleeds into the story. The action sequences are technically sound, and, in fact, everything is perfectly serviceable. But somehow, many of the elements ring a little hollow.
Still, the performances are solid, and the effects are definitely impressive. This movie amounts to another rescue mission, for some men who are trapped in the ocean amidst relentless waves. The story is grounded by the wife of Chris Pine’s character, who is persistent and caring. The film has a few familiar faces, sturdy action, and an appropriately serious tone. It has the true story angle going for it, as one of the most historic Coast Guard missions.
This is one of the more sentimental disaster movies. Adrift is based on a true romance, in fact. Shailene Woodley stars as one of two sailors who actually ended up in one of the worst hurricanes on record. The relationship has enough chemistry, and the effects are up to par.
However, the majority of this film is a survival movie. Those moments that ask the audience what they might do in such a situation feel adequately suspenseful. In that regard, this movie is ultimately more of a thriller than a disaster movie, but it’s also headed by a young woman who must survive the elements, just like Crawl.
8 The Poseidon Adventure
Here’s a movie to watch for your next New Year’s party. A cruise ship ends up capsized by a tidal wave, flipping everything upside down on New Year's Eve. The survivors must work their way up the vessel before it sinks. It’s a superb premise, and one of the classic disaster movies of all time.
The Poseidon Adventure was released in the 70s, a decade that couldn’t get enough of the genre. But it’s not as dated as you might think; there are of practical effects, ensuring the thrills will hold up. It helps to have an actor like Gene Hackman driving the entire film. His character’s complete sermon early on can be grating for some, yes. But his religious point of view is definitely interesting in light of subsequent events. The disaster genre owes a lot to this movie, if not everything.
7 The Hurricane Heist
There’s no denying the negative consensus of this film—but then, it doesn’t aim very high. It’s definitely intentional schlock, and somehow, they got Maggie Grace to participate. This director’s been making the exact same movie for years now. None have proven so successful as The Fast and the Furious.
But The Hurricane Heist can be a fun time, as long as you realize what you’re getting into. It’s another blend of disaster movie tropes with crime, making it a fitting selection. But it doesn’t exactly deliver either of them very well. It isn’t quite goofy enough, so it doesn't really get away with an intentionally bad tone. Literally all the elements you could want from Crawl are also present—just with lesser aptitude.
6 The Wave
There’s no question that this is basically a Hollywood disaster movie with a Norwegian setting. But don’t be deterred by the subtitles you’ll need. The Wave may use plenty of familiar tropes, but it executes them with surprising sincerity and dexterity.
This is what the biggest studio disaster movies would feel like if they took the chaos seriously. The suspense throughout the film is tangible, and the wave itself is a very rewarding visual. The human element of this story puts it a head above the majority of disaster movies. But it falls just shy of a genuinely profound true-story like The Impossible.
5 The Day After Tomorrow
Roland Emmerich has built an entire career on disaster movies, some of which work better than others. He generally prefers the sillier side of things, which can alternate between fun and cringeworthy. The Day After Tomorrow is no exception, delivering both results intermittently.
However, many of the same ingredients that made you like Crawl are here, too. There’s a flood, and some tornadoes. The CGI is dated, but when it comes to disaster movies, you don’t necessarily have a lot of choices. Most importantly, there’s a scene with some hungry wolves blended into the mix.
This is basically the plot of Crawl, only exaggerated to an intentionally bad degree. There’s a lot to be said about the tone of this movie. The lapses in logic, terrible acting, and poor effects are the makeup of this series that people actually like. In fact, the more bizarre the Sharknado franchise went, the more audiences enjoyed it.
Some movies are so bad that they’re just plain unwatchable. But some are bad in just the right way that it’s a hilarious hate-watch. This one sits somewhere in between. It all depends on your own personal threshold for cinematic fast food. But, given that this story has an identical premise to Crawl, and simply puts sharks where they shouldn’t be, it’s impossible to ignore here.
3 Into The Storm
The director, Steven Quale, had just made Final Destination 5, which was actually a satisfying end to that series. Each of those movies has a disaster scene, and the bridge collapse was very entertaining. So it makes sense that Quale would follow that up with Into the Storm. It’s essentially the spiritual successor to Twister, except it includes new technology in the story and behind the screen.
It carries the same attitude, but uses modern cheesiness instead of 90s camp. The latter of which is, admittedly, superior. But Into the Storm focuses heavily on a dad trying to rescue his son from drowning during the disaster, and a variation on that trope is the crux of Crawl, so it’s a very fitting follow-up.
2 The Impossible
This is easily one of the best disaster movies ever made. It’s based on a true story, the action is unbelievable, and the human drama is both sincere and moving. This plot runs the gamut of a disaster and its repercussions. It’s also clever enough to keep the action going after the initial flood. The Impossible revisits the same extraordinary disaster scene from a different point of view, later on.
The cast delivers heartbreaking drama, and they have great chemistry with each other. The child actors are astonishing. It was here that we truly discovered our next Spider-Man—Tom Holland. Also, this is some of the best work Naomi Watts has ever put to screen. Ewan McGregor didn’t have quite as much to do, but he delivers every time it’s asked. This action-drama is something you need to see. The gore is repulsive, and the tragedy is poignant unlike any other disaster movie can muster.
1 Hard Rain
This is a movie that was very much of its time, and because of that, it basically works. Hard Rain may not be the best movie on this list—or anyone’s, really. Randy Quaid doesn’t exactly give the performance of his career, but the disaster elements themselves are actually incorporated pretty well into the crime story. The deaths are fun, and its use of practical effects was smart.
Even today, the CGI in disaster movies doesn’t hold up very well, and technology always improves, so no matter how state-of-the-art, visual effects will decay with time. This movie has solid pacing, featuring dumb and fun action. It may not have killer animals, but it’s the closest in tone you can get to something like Crawl.