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25 Movies Like 2012 You Should Watch Now

In 2009, writer and director Roland Emmerich blessed audiences with the apocalyptic science fiction disaster film, "2012." Starring John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandiwe Newton, and Woody Harrelson, the film was based on the "2012 phenomenon." This was a theory that a cataclysmic event would occur in December 2012, which would mark the beginning of a new era (via History.com). The film follows geologist Adrian Helmsley (Ejiofor) and novelist Jackson Curtis (Cusack), as they experience natural disasters one right after another. It's finally revealed that these natural disasters are world-ending, and a group of rich people have built an arc to weather out the storm. This leaves Jackson to do whatever it takes to get his family on board the arc in order to survive.

Often, we turn to films to release the stress of everyday life, so it's only natural that disaster movies would be a great solution to distract us from our woes. With that said, let's dive in and take a look at 25 movies similar to "2012." From disaster films to monster mayhem, these stories are the perfect break from reality. And take note, this is your official spoiler warning for these epic flicks of destruction.

The Day After Tomorrow

Another Emmerich flick, "The Day After Tomorrow," hits a little too close to home since the disaster here is climate change, which threatens Earth. The film follows paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), who warns that an ice age is coming, but his theory gets dismissed. When he's actually proved right and Earth starts freezing over, it's too late for most of the planet. So, Jack sets out on a mission to save his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is trapped and freezing to death in New York.

Like in "2012," Emmerich uses outstanding visuals to showcase just how extreme and deadly the cold temperatures can be. At one point in the film, audiences watch a helicopter crash due to its pipes freezing. When the pilot exits the crash in the hopes of escaping, he freezes to death right before our very eyes. Aside from the extreme cold, "The Day After Tomorrow" includes other natural disasters, such as floods and hurricanes. The only issue you might have when watching this film is that it will probably make you feel incredibly cold.

San Andreas

Directed by Brad Peyton, "San Andreas" was released in 2015, and stars Dwayne Johnson, Paul Giamatti, and Alexandra Daddario. The film follows Johnson's Ray Gaines, who is an LA Fire Department helicopter rescue pilot. He witnesses a huge earthquake caused by the San Andreas Fault, which absolutely devastates San Francisco and Los Angeles. He and his wife attempt to rescue their daughter Blake (Daddario), who's trapped in San Francisco, which is hit by a series of earthquakes.

As the earthquakes continue, Caltech seismologist Dr. Lawrence Hayes (Giamatti) determines that this disaster will bring forth the largest recorded earthquake in history, and that's not all that's in store. Once the earthquakes subside, a massive tsunami hits San Francisco Bay. Naturally, this is right when Ray and his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) are driving a boat to find their daughter Blake. Audiences are taken on a wild ride, as Ray's little speed boat attempts to outrun the massive tsunami wave that kills thousands in the city. Luckily, Ray, Emma, and Blake all survive as one happy family.

Independence Day

Moving away from natural disasters for a moment, let's look at "Independence Day," the iconic film about aliens invading Earth. Starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum, "Independence Day" was released in 1996 and was a huge box office smash, taking in $817 million worldwide. Once again, Roland Emmerich — the king of disaster films — was in the driver's seat as the director of this alien disaster story.

"Independence Day" follows United States President Thomas J. Whitmore (Pullman), Captain Steven Hiller (Smith), and engineer David Levinson (Goldblum), as they attempt to fight off an alien invasion and save the planet ... just in time for Independence Day. The aliens' technology is decades ahead of humanity's. It seems as though all hope is lost until David builds a computer virus to attack the aliens. He and Captain Hiller travel to space and infect the mother ship with this virus, which allows President Whitmore to lead an attack of airships and destroy the invading force.

War of the Worlds

Science fiction legend Steven Spielberg directed "War of the Worlds," which is based on H.G. Wells' novel of the same name, and stars Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning. Cruise plays crane operator Ray Ferrier, who tries to keep his daughter safe, as aliens attack and attempt to terraform Earth. While "Independence Day" showcases an aliens attack on a global stage, "War of the Worlds" is a more intimate tale of how far a father will go to protect his daughter. When the tripod-looking aliens capture his daughter, Ray even allows himself to get caught by them with the hopes that he can save her.

By the end of the film, audiences are given a glimpse of the alien species that live within the tripod machine. Ultimately, their immune systems cannot handle the countless microbes that inhabit the Earth, which results in their deaths. While the ending of the film is lackluster (to say the least), the film itself is still a fun disaster flick that will easily take your mind off of your daily troubles. And if you're looking for more H.G. Wells alien content, check out the "War of the Worlds" BBC TV show.


Directed by Alex Proyas, "Knowing" stars Nicolas Cage as MIT astrophysics professor John Koestler. He comes across a set of numbers that seem to have predicted the past 50 years of major catastrophes. Convinced that they mean something, he takes his son with him to find the author of the numbers. Eventually, he meets Diana (Rose Byrne) and her daughter, Abby (Lara Robinson), and he discovers that Diana's mother wrote the numbers decades prior.

While this film isn't your traditional disaster flick like "2012," it does showcase a world that is coming to an end and it features aliens, who have chosen to save John's son and Diana's daughter. The film ends with a solar flare destroying life as we know it, while the two children get sent to paradise as the last remaining members of humanity. The mystery surrounding the numbers is sure to keep audiences on the edge of their seats, while the destruction of Earth fits right in with the disaster movie theme.


Wolfgang Petersen's natural disaster movie, "Poseidon," was released in 2006 and adapted from Paul Gallico's 1969 novel, "The Poseidon Adventure." Robert Ramsey (Josh Lucas) is traveling to New York on The Poseidon, a luxury cruise ship. He's accompanied by his daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum) and her fiancé. Unfortunately, a massive wave hits and capsizes the ship, transforming this cruise vacation into a terrifying fight for survival.

Unlike the other films on this list, "Poseidon's" life-and-death situation doesn't threaten the entire world. It's just the residents on the ship, whose lives are in danger. However, as audiences follow these characters around as they try to escape, it truly feels as though the entire world exists only on the Poseidon. The claustrophobic scenes are enough to make anyone second guess taking a cruise ship again. As if "Titanic" didn't already make us question taking a trip on a boat, "Poseidon" truly doubles down on that fear.

Deep Impact

Similarly to "Knowing," the catastrophic and destructive event of "Deep Impact" comes from space. However, in this movie, it's a comet that threatens humanity's survival. Directed by Mimi Leder and released in 1998, "Deep Impact" follows a crew of astronauts, who launch into space with the hopes of stopping a comet from hitting Earth.

The crew's goal is to land on the comet and destroy it by drilling nuclear bombs into its surface. Unfortunately, this doesn't work, and instead, the comet breaks off into two sections. The smaller piece hits Earth and destroys millions of lives. So, the crew decides to make one last effort to save the planet, and sacrifice themselves by destroying the larger piece of the comet before it can reach Earth. By the film's end, humanity must set all differences aside and come together to rebuild what they've lost from this horrific event. However, if it weren't for those brave astronauts on the ship Messiah, the death toll would have been a lot more.


Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, "Greenland" was released in 2020 and stars Gerald Butler as structural engineer John Garrity. Like in "Deep Impact," a comet is threatening to hit Earth. However, in "Greenland," civilians have seemingly been selected at random to be taken to a shelter and wait out the effects from the comet, which aligns it with the arcs in "2012" as well.

While John and his family are trying to make sense of what's happening, a piece of the comet hits Florida and completely obliterates the state. Now that he understands this threat is very real, John does everything he can to get his family to the base, which will take them to the emergency shelter. Unfortunately, audiences see how humanity begins to tear itself apart over the course of John's journey. People's survival instincts go into overdrive, as they're shown to do anything and everything just to make it to the shelters over all others. "Greenland" provides excitement, explosions, and plenty of disasters along the way. 

The Happening

M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening" presents a truly terrifying concept with a pretty bizarre execution. The world becomes infected with a toxin that causes people to commit suicide, and the film follows Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife Alma (Zoey Deschanel). All around them, Elliot and Alma see people kill themselves in brutal and horrific ways, and struggle to figure out what's going on. Well, this is where the film goes slightly off the rails. It's revealed that the toxin is a defense mechanism from plants, which has resulted in an impending global disaster. Yes, the plants. 

While this source of destruction in the film is perhaps an outlandish one, one must admit that the eerie tone of the movie, mixed with the theme of disaster, makes "The Happening" a heavy contender on this list. Director M. Night Shyamalan is known for his hit-or-miss films, and the ambiguous ending of "The Happening" leaves something to be desired. As with most of Shyamalan's work, you either love it or hate it.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.


"Geostorm" offers an interesting premise: Rather than aliens or natural disasters, it's technology and man's lust for power that cause the destruction in the film. "Geostorm" follows brothers Jake and Max Lawson (Gerald Butler and Jim Sturgess), as they try to uncover why various natural disasters are taking place. Tornados, tsunamis, and extreme temperature changes lead Jake and Max to analyze a group of climate-controlling satellites orbiting Earth. They hope to find answers in this technology.

Unfortunately, they discover that there is a virus, which is sabotaging the satellites and causing all of these environmental issues. The real threat is the man behind this virus, who wants to gain power over everyone in the world (without a care of how many people die in the process). Luckily, the brothers are able to fix the satellites, and the disasters subside. By the end of the film, the satellites are being overseen by an international committee, and the brothers are seen as heroes. Crisis averted. 

The Core

Things really start to heat up in 2003's "The Core." Directed by Jon Amiel, "The Core" is a disaster film that shows a world where the Earth's molten core has stopped rotating. Scientists in the film theorize that unless the core's movement can be restarted, the Earth's magnetic field will collapse and expose the planet to solar radiation that would devastate life as we know it. Oh, and that this will occur in a couple of months.

Now, a team must travel to the Earth's core and release a nuclear bomb to restart the core's rotation. NASA enlists pilots Major Rebecca Childs (Hilary Swank) and Commander Robert Iverson (Aaron Eckhart) to lead the team on this mission. Unfortunately, they discover that this was no natural disaster. Instead, the molten core stopped rotating due to the top-secret project, "DESTINI" (Deep Earth Seismic Trigger INItiative).

DESTINI was intended to be a weapon for the American government. However, its testing backfired and affected the Earth's core, which has caused the devastation on the planet's surface. While most of the film takes place on the NASA shuttle Virgil, audiences still get to witness the natural disasters caused by the non-rotating core. So, the film showcases lightning storms in Italy and solar radiation, which destroys San Francisco. Turns out, this is a disaster movie after all.


In 1996, Jan de Bont directed the now-classic disaster film "Twister." Starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, "Twister" gives audiences a behind-the-scenes look at what the life of a storm chaser is like. Never before has a film about the weather been so engaging. "Twister" takes us on a whirlwind ride with its stunning visual effects (at the time), which translated into major box office numbers.

The film follows meteorologist Jo (Hunt), as she and her estranged husband Bill (Paxton) chase down a record-breaking tornado that's destroying nearby towns. As the two work through their dysfunctional relationship, they're also in a race against time against a rival storm chaser, who is hoping to take credit for their work with "Dorothy." Dorothy is an invention that Bill created, which would completely revolutionize the storm chasing industry. Once rival Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes) steals Dorothy, Bill and Jo aren't just chasing a tornado, but are aiming to beat Jonas as well.


Michael Bay's 1998 film "Armageddon" may not make much sense logistically, but it still is one heck of a good time! At the time, "Armageddon" was the third film that Bay had directed. It was an instant success, as it became the 2nd highest-grossing film of the year. And with stars like Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, and Billy Bob Thornton filling out the cast, it's no wonder the movie did so well.

"Armageddon" raises the stakes way up: An asteroid the size of Texas is on a direct route to crash into Earth, and its impact would effectively destroy all life. Oh, and it's supposed to hit in 18 days. So, NASA decides to send a group of oil drillers to save the day. Naturally. Instead of training astronauts how to drill into and destroy the asteroid threatening Earth, NASA instead decides to train drillers on how to be astronauts and then send them to space in order to split the asteroid in half. While the film has its cheesy and questionable moments, that doesn't stop it from being one of the best disaster films of the '90s.


Another '90s disaster guilty pleasure, "Volcano," was directed by Mick Jackson, and stars Tommy Lee Jones, Don Cheadle, and Keith David. The film delivers on mayhem caused by natural disasters, as a volcano ever-so-casually forms underneath Los Angeles. Because of this development, the film starts off with a series of earthquakes that causes Michael Roark (Jones) — the director of LA's Office of Emergency Management — to spend his vacation with his daughter working instead.

Unfortunately for the city, once geologist Amy Barnes (Anne Heche) theorizes that a volcano is, in fact, forming under Los Angeles, no one takes her seriously. So, when the volcano erupts, the damage is severe. While the premise of "Volcano" may be slightly outlandish, it's always fun to see a group of serious and award-winning actors take part in a disaster film of this magnitude. "Volcano" may not be winning any scientific awards, but it's won the award of the most fun in our books. And isn't that what all disaster movies are at the end of the day? A good time.

World War Z

This list has seen aliens, meteors, and natural disasters. So, it's high time that our favorite disaster movies like "2012" include zombies. "World War Z" was released in 2013 and was adapted from Max Brooks' 2006 novel of the same name. The film is a high-intensity action-packed story that sees the world abruptly overrun by a zombie virus.

The zombie disaster is seen through the eyes of Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a retired field agent with the United Nations. He's brought in to help understand the zombie outbreak and hopefully, to find a cure. He travels around the globe, from South Korea to Jerusalem, which allows audiences to see just how widespread this disaster is. While the film isn't as faithful to the original source material as fans of the book would have liked, "World War Z" is still a good time. The tense atmosphere and frightening moments make it a standout in the zombie genre and an excellent disaster film for this list.


It's understandable if you haven't yet heard of this 2020 sci-fi horror flick directed by William Eubank, as it went by relatively undetected. However, "Underwater" is a gem that's worth discussing. The film stars Kristen Stewart as mechanical engineer Norah Price, who works for the Kelper, an underwater research facility.

Right off the bat, you are pulled into the story as the Kepler gets hit by an earthquake, which forces the remaining crew to try and survive. Due to the high intensity of the film, audiences experience a claustrophobic tale of how you would fare when you're trapped 11,000 feet below sea level. Not only does the crew have to deal with that sense of impending doom, but they also discover a humanoid creature that appears to be hunting the survivors as well. All in all, "Underwater" is an exciting disaster tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. It mixes together horror, science fiction, and disaster tropes in one slippery adventure.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Director Scott Derrickson's 2008 "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is a modern update of the 1951 film of the same name. The movie introduces the alien Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), who is sent to Earth to either eradicate humanity or to change humans' behavior. "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is an interesting concept, which focuses on how humans have caused so much environmental damage to the planet. Klaatu's species believes that humans must be stopped by any means necessary.

While Klaatu sees the value in humanity, his other alien companions do not. In fact, they believe that they must save the Earth from humans. "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is a unique addition to this list because, while the aliens are intent on destroying humanity, their goal is actually to preserve life. Just not humanity's. The film dares to ask the question of who is really causing the disaster: aliens or humans?


Simon West's 2019 film "Skyfire" stars Wang Xueqi and Jason Isaacs. Since it was meant to be a blockbuster disaster film for the Chinese market, "Skyfire" takes place in Tianhuo, which is a volcanic island off the coast of China (via Variety). The film follows Meng (Hannah Quinlivan), as she monitors a volcano that erupted when she was a little girl, which killed her mother. 20 years after that eruption, Tianhuo has been turned into a resort by Jack Harris (Jason Issacs), who believes that the island's volcano won't become active again for another 100 years.

Well, since this is a disaster movie, Jack is ultimately proven wrong, as the volcano devastates the island with its fireballs that fall from the sky. The film is similar to "Volcano" and has a hint of "Jurassic Park" splashed in for good measure, so it's a fun time to watch as things go wrong for the characters.


Director Matt Reeves debuted  "Cloverfield" in 2008. When the teaser trailer of this found-footage monster film was first released, it had no title attached and the plot was shrouded in secrecy. Due to this unique marketing approach, "Cloverfield" had audiences guessing at what this mysterious film was all about.

Flash-forward a few years, and there have been three films set in the Cloverfield universe: "10 Cloverfield Lane" and "The Cloverfield Paradox" followed the first movie. While each film has offered a unique take on the Cloverfield story, one thing has remained the same: Aliens have landed on Earth to cause absolute mayhem and destruction. However, it's the original "Cloverfield" that most closely follows the idea of a disaster movie. 

In the movie, a group of young people happen to capture the events as they unfold. Their found footage showcases earthquakes, power outages, and the now-iconic image of the Statue of Liberty's head being tossed to the ground. As the film progresses, the survivors become fewer and fewer, with some getting infected after being bitten by parasitic creatures, and the others just straight up dying due to the chaos.


Director Rawson Marshall Thurber's action thriller "Skyscraper" was released in 2018. The movie stars Dwayne Johnson as Will Sawyer, a Marine veteran and leader of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. After suffering an accident, Will takes up private security, and accepts a job to work for the world's newest and tallest skyscraper, called "The Pearl." While living and working out of the tower, Will brings his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and their two kids to stay with him. Unfortunately, Will discovers a group terrorists are planning to hijack The Pearl, which would result in the destruction of the building, while Will and his family are trapped inside.

"Skyscraper" doesn't showcase millions dying due to a natural disaster or monsters. What happens to The Pearl won't result in the end of the world. However, if Will's family dies, it would be the end of his world. Audiences become attached to Will and Sarah as they fight to keep their family alive. That intense feeling of survival, combined with the stakes being high as a skyscraper, is enough to include this movie on our list.


This list of movies like "2012" has seen aliens, meteors, natural disasters, and even power-hungry humans as being the cause for disaster films. However, "Crawl" takes things one step further as the disaster here is alligators. We promise that it's not as ridiculous as it sounds.

2019's "Crawl" was directed by Alexandre Aja and stars Kaya Scodelario as Haley Keller, a young woman who travels back home to Florida, where a Category 5 hurricane is fast-approaching. She's concerned because she can't reach her father, and she wants to get him, so that they can evacuate together. Unfortunately, with the hurricane just around the corner, most of her hometown has been flooded. Now, large alligators are swimming around the neighborhood and trap Haley and her father. 

Suddenly, it's a race against time for these two, as they must survive the alligators and escape before the hurricane hits. "Crawl" ensures that audiences experience the same panic as the characters, who bounce from one near-fatal moment to another. The entire world may not be in danger, but for these residents of Florida, their lives are.


Ben Young's "Extinction" — starring Michael Peña and Lizzy Caplan — was released on Netflix in 2018. Initially, when watching this film, it seems like it's your state-of-the-art science fiction disaster movie: Earth gets invaded by aliens, who are looking to destroy everything. Viewers experience the film through the eyes of every-man Peter (Peña), who does whatever he can to keep his family safe. However, this is where the film flips the script.

Audiences soon discover that the alien invaders are actually humans, who have returned to Earth to take the planet back from the true invading force: the characters that the film has been following the entire time. Everyone that has been introduced thus far is actually artificial intelligence, which rose up against the human race and forced them off the planet. This twist changes the dynamic of the disaster film, as audiences no longer know who to root for. Clearly, this battle for the planet has been ongoing for years.

The Wandering Earth

Frank Gwo's "The Wandering Earth" is a Chinese science fiction post-apocalyptic film, which was released in 2019 and was loosely adapted by Liu Cixin's 2000 novel of the same name. In the film, the story is set in the not-so-distant future, when the sun is predicted to go supernova. This catastrophe would kill all life on Earth and obliterate the planet.

In order to combat this new form of extinction, the human race decides to shift the entire planet to avoid the supernova event. Unfortunately, moving the planet causes various natural disasters, such as tsunamis and a freezing of the Earth's surface, which causes the death of millions. The film does a time jump to show how humanity attempts to survive, as the planet travels through space towards its new home in the Alpha Centauri star system. While the story seems far-fetched, "The Wandering Earth" has amazing special effects and intense drama that all make the story believable. The film was a moderate hit with the critics and a sequel is in the works for 2023 (via Variety).


2014's disaster film "Pompeii" is a guilty pleasure. This film is by no means going to win any awards, but it is a good time and offers some fun visuals that showcase the true story of Pompeii. This city in the Roman Empire was destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE.

The film stars Kit Harington as the gladiator Milo, who is going to Pompeii to participate in a gladiator competition. There, he falls in love with Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of Pompeii's governor Severus (Jared Harris) and his wife Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss). As the film progresses, audiences can feel the looming presence of Mount Vesuvius, as we're all aware of how this tragic story will end. And the film does not disappoint with the absolute destruction caused by the volcano's exploding flames. The film ends with Milo and Cassia embracing each other, waiting to be engulfed by Mount Vesuvius' lava. We can only imagine them as part of the many historical bodies preserved by the volcanic eruption.

The Impossible

"The Impossible" is based on a true story from the 2004 disaster of the earthquake and tsunami, which devastated parts of Indonesia, Thailand, and India. María Belón detailed her family's experience about getting separated by the tsunami during a vacation to Thailand. Her family's story resulted in the 2010 film "The Impossible," directed by J. A. Bayona and starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, and a young Tom Holland in his film debut.

While disaster films are generally a fun time, "The Impossible" brings it back down to reality, as the film showcases a heart-wrenching tale of what living through one of these experiences truly looks like. "The Impossible" treats audiences to an emotional story that showcases people's strength, courage, and selflessness, all of which allows the family to reunite by the film's end. The story is a harrowing tale with exceptional acting that keeps audiences attached to every single character. Make sure you have tissues at the ready, as this is a beautiful yet devastating film to get through.