It may seem counterproductive, but when the weather outside gets frightful, I enjoy popping in a disaster movie or two. Believe it or not, I find them comforting.
Awful weather is just so much cooler on the big screen, and there’s a satisfying moral component to the formula of these stories: The heroes try to warn people before the climate turns deadly, are ignored and then have to brave the elements to save their loved ones. Some nice supporting folks may perish, but usually a couple of the leads see the end credits.
With climate change deniers in the highest eschelons of the government, with mega-corporations ceaselessly pumping toxins into the water and air, with ocean pollution reaching critical levels and ice caps melting at a devastating pace, the once-hokey disaster genre feels more and more possible.
So yeah: When I get too stressed about these polar vortexes and abrupt climate shifts, I put in a disaster flick. Because then, at least for a couple hours, the impossible can be navigated and survived by a hardy band of likable characters. Despite the death and destruction, someone will live to see the next day.
Here are six cathartic catastrophe films to binge while we’re all bundled up inside:
6. “DEEP IMPACT” (1998). A comet is heading straight for Earth; if it strikes, there will be an extinction-level event. While a team of American and Russian astronauts try to intercept and destroy it, the rest of humanity seeks shelter or comes to terms with the approaching impact.
Yeah, it sounds a lot like “Armageddon” — the bigger blockbuster that came out that same summer — but “Deep Impact” is a much, much better film in my books. For starters, the science involved is more realistic. Then there’s the much more likable/compelling cast of characters, led by Elijah Wood as the super smart teen astronomer Leo Biederman, who gives up guaranteed safety for a chance to save his new wife (Leelee Sobieski). It makes for a super emotional, romantic climax; far more romantic than Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler eating animal crackers.
5. “SAN ANDREAS” (2015). An earthquake along the San Andreas faultline in California destroys most of Los Angeles/San Francisco and triggers a tsunami, creating a series of hurdles that must be surmounted by Ray Gaines (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a helicopter rescue pilot, in order to save his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) and daughter (Alexandra Daddario).
It’s the Rock in full Papa Bear mode. Gugino is as beautiful and fierce as ever. The supporting cast includes a smarmy Ioan Gruffudd, pop star Kylie Minogue, the always stellar Paul Giamatti and Australian cutie Hugo Johnstone-Burt. There’s reconcilliation! Budding romance! The 89th cinematic destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge! It’s just a rousing, action-packed extravaganza of destruction from start to finish.
4. “DANTE’S PEAK” (1997). Volcanologist Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) tries to warn the people of Dante’s Peak, Washington, that the volcano next door is on the verge of erupting. But his superior scoffs, and Harry finds himself teaming up with Mayor Rachel Wando (Linda Hamilton) in order to rescue her children before the entire town is obliterated.
Not to be confused with the other volcanic-based film from 1997 — the aptly titled “Volcano” with Tommy Lee Jones (why do so many similar disaster flicks come out in tandem?) — “Dante’s Peak” is over-the-top in the best of ways. It’s James Bond and Sarah Connor joining forces as lava swallows cars, acid lakes burn hardcore grannies and ash fills the air. There’s a high death toll, but at least the dog survives.
3. “TWISTER” (1996). The rocky relationship of meteorologist Jo (Helen Hunt) and storm chaser Bill (Bill Paxton) plays out against a series of escalating tornadoes as the two work together to deploy their DOROTHY storm-tracking technology.
Oh, “Twister.” You gave us that iconic cow scene. You foolishly suggested a pair of people could survive a tornado by wrapping their belts around a pipe. You let Cary Elwes chew the scenery flavorless as an evil meteorologist — an evil meteorologist! This is the campiest of the camp, but dang if it’s not fun as hell.
2. “TIDAL WAVE” (2009). South Korea’s first disaster film follows a sprawling cast of characters — helicopter rescue pilots, lifeguards, thieves, high-powered businesswomen, geologists, college students — as their relationship dramas take backseat to a sudden tsunami in Busan.
While it’s a long build before the tsunami hits — 75 percent of the film focuses on establishing the large cast in the days leading up to the disaster — it just makes the climax all that more emotional as several likable people sacrifice themselves to save others. One of the heavier films on this list, it still manages to have a relatively uplifting, if bittersweet, ending and some stellar special effects.
1. “THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW” (2004). Thanks to a massive change in the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation, extreme weather — tornados in California, killer hail in Japan — turns into a new ice age that freezes most of America. Paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) has to trek across the new tundra to find his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), who sought refuge with a small group of survivors in the New York Public Library.
It’s laughably improbable and incredibly exaggerated, but “Day” remains my all-time favorite disaster flick thanks to the A-list cast and settings; I just love that Sam and his friends hole up in a library, outrun escaped zoo wolves to get medicine from a beached ship and use their brains — and some advice from a homeless man — to survive a flash deep freeze. And, right now, there’s no movie more apropos for us in the Midwest.
• ANGIE BARRY is a page designer and columnist for The Times. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers pop culture, history and literature, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.