7 best disaster movies on Netflix to stream right now

Amber Midthunder and Liam Neeson in Ice Road
(Image credit: Alamy)

With all that's going on in the world, there's something wonderfully predictable and entertaining about a good disaster flick. As exaggerated as the disaster seems, it removes us from the existing trials of life and puts us into an extreme that's beyond the possibility of ever happening. That's what makes them so appealing. Add vivid special effects and a brave hero to save a few survivors, and you have a recipe for an excellent movie-watching experience.

Netflix has some of the best disaster movies available. Whether you prefer to watch a flood, total world destruction, or watch a fire in the tallest building in the world, there is something for just about everyone. These movies will keep you on the edge of your seat and have you relieved that at least whatever is on your screen isn't happening outside your window.


In this disaster movie, a team of scientists discovers that a massive solar flare has caused the Earth's core to heat up. Eventually, this will cause the entire crust to become severely unstable and trigger massive tsunamis that threaten the entire planet. In preparation for this apocalyptic event, leaders around the world join together to build arks that will save a select few. 

John Cusack stars as Jackson Curtis, an author who escapes from the terrifying events along with his ex-wife, their two kids, and her new husband. Chiwetel Ejiofor does an excellent job as Adrian Helmsley, the scientist who sounds the alarm. Oliver Platt's Carl Anheuser contrasts as the cynical government official set on mainly saving whose most important. You'll appreciate the numerous familiar faces in this film as well as the over-the-top special effects.

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'Don't Look Up'

The movie "Don't Look Up" has all of Earth under threat by a comet that could obliterate the planet. Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) discover the impending doom and go on a media tour to share the news with the planet. Unfortunately, thanks to other priorities, no one seems to care, including the U.S. President (Meryl Streep) and her Chief of Staff son (Jonah Hill).

This disaster movie is less about the effects as much as it is about the message that our society does not pay attention to urgent problems happening right before our eyes. However, that underlying theme is played out skillfully thanks to the blend of comedy and action in the film as well as a healthy dose of urgency (from those who care) typically found in disaster flicks.

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This list of disaster movies wouldn't be complete without including at least one starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. In "Skyscraper," Johnson's Will Sawyer is hired to review the security of the tallest buildings in the world in Hong Kong. However, when a fire erupts in the building, he's blamed for it. His mission is to not only clear his name but also save his family who are stuck inside the blazing building.

For disaster movie lovers, this film offers plenty to enjoy, from the exciting action to the cool downtown scenery to the realistic effects of the building going up in flames. It has a vibe similar to "Die Hard," so it's got big entertainment value.

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'The Ice Road'

When a diamond mine in the remote regions of Canada collapses, Liam Neeson's Mike McCann is hired to drive much-needed wellheads to the mine. Joining him is his brother Gurty McCann (Marcus Thomas) and an indigenous woman named Tantoo (Amber Midthunder). However, all of this trucking has to happen over frozen ocean waters, enhancing the intensity of their journey. 

While "The Ice Road" leans more toward an action flick, watching Liam Neeson navigate the treacherous icy roads, and on a mission to save the miners gives it all the vibes of a classic disaster movie. Jonathan Hensleigh wrote and directed this film, known for his work on a lot of action movies like" Armageddon" and "Die Hard with a Vengeance."

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'The Wave'

If you can't get enough of tsunamis, you should check out "The Wave." The film is based on the idea that the Norwegian mountain, Åkneset, will collapse into the Geiranger fjord — a deep and narrow body of water — and trigger a massive flood. 

The primary focus is on Kristian Eikjord (Kristoffer Joner), a geologist who gets swept up in the action while he and his family are trying to move out of the area. He is separated from his wife, Idun (Ane Dahl Torp), and his children who are spending time at the hotel where she has to work for a few remaining days. This adds to the chaos as the wall of water crashes into the small town. 

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"Melancholia" uses the impending collision of a mysterious planet with Earth to offer a deeper meaning that will resonate long after it's over. Kirsten Dunst stars as Justine, who is newly married to Alexander Skarsgård's Michael. However, things are complicated in light of the tragic events about to happen. The movie switches focus to follow the storyline of Justine's sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who struggles to face the potential end of life on Earth as we know it. 

This film isn't your typical disaster film and focuses more on the characters' emotional states. It also has excellent cinematography that captures everyone's emotional state. Director Lars von Trier is known for his thought-provoking and fairly dark films, so that will give you some insight into what to expect in this remarkable but somber disaster movie.

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'The Impossible'

Watching a disaster movie based on true events is always captivating. "The Impossible" takes you on the journey experienced by the Belon-Alvarez family, who survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Marie (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) are on Christmas vacation in Thailand with their two children. However, they barely have time to relax when the wave hits, separating the family and leaving them wondering if their loved ones survived.

The film does an excellent job of portraying the real experiences of the survivors. Watts earned an Oscar nomination, which was well-deserved considering how expertly she displayed the roller coaster of emotions her character experienced. You'll likely be crying throughout this film, so grab some tissues.

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Nicole Pyles is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She loves movies, especially Lifetime movies, obscure TV movies, and disaster flicks. Her writing has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Mental Floss, WOW! Women on Writing, Ripley's Believe it or Not, and more. When she isn't watching movies, she's spending time with family, reading, and writing short stories. Say hi on Twitter @BeingTheWriter.