How big were disaster movies in the '90s? Not only did they rule the box office, but there were two volcano movies going head to head in 1997, followed by two "killer comet" movies in 1998. That's huge.
We rank the decade's best disaster flicks -- and realize just how many of these the much-missed Bill Paxton was in. Sigh.
9. "Daylight" (1996)
It's Sylvester Stallone to the rescue after a horrific explosion in the New Jersey Tunnel traps a handful of survivors in this underrated feature from "The Fast and the Furious" director Rob Cohen. Future "Lord of the Rings" star Viggo Mortensen is one of the first to go as a cocky mountaineer who thinks he can save the day. Sorry, it's Sly's movie. And it's a darn good one.
8. "Deep Impact" (1998)
Emmy-winning "ER" director Mimi Leder made her feature film debut here as one of the first women to be hired to helm a a big-budget movie. It's a solid film, but a much more somber one than the other movies on this list. Bonus points for scientific accuracy ... and Morgan Freeman as one of our favorite movie Presidents, although the visual effects haven't exactly aged well.
7. "Volcano" (1997)
If you want extra cheese with your disaster movie, "Volcano" delivers it in spades. Let's start with the premise that there's a volcano under Los Angeles, add in the bubbling La Brea Tar pits as the place things first start heating up, and some truly ridiculous ways to combat lava. And don't forget the many times it points out that if a natural disaster is big enough, it just might heal all of society's problems. Done!
6. "Twister" (1996)
Flying cows! Bill Paxton in a starring role! This heart-pumping film about tornado chasers might overdo it a bit: The angelic choir "awwwing" as the first twister is sighted? Okay, sure. But, it's the rare disaster movie where the female lead (Helen Hunt) is the biggest risk taker.
5. "Dante's Peak" (1997)
The other volcano movie from 1997 offers a satisfyingly scary eruption, panicky small-towners, and a side of romance. The disaster unfolds just as it should, with the first few signs of danger being foolishly dismissed by everyone but Pierce Brosnan, a volcanologist who's seen "the big show" before. We learned a lot from this movie: The "frog in hot water" metaphor, don't choose a chopper as your escape vehicle if fleeing plumes of deadly ash, and that if you're James Bond, you can drive a car through flaming hot lava.
4. "Armageddon" (1998)
Undoubtedly the cheesiest movie on this list (for the Animal Crackers scene alone), it also gives you some of the biggest bang for your buck. We love the oil rig crew who get to save the world, from Bruce Willis to Steve Buscemi and Michael Clarke Duncan, none of whom we want to see bite the big one. And yes, we readily admit to crying over a Michael Bay film.
3. "Independence Day" (1996)
This eminently re-watchable blockbuster established Will Smith as a movie star, gave us another favorite movie prez (Bill Pullman), and, of course, the most iconic "landmark blowing up" scene with the destruction of the White House. Once again, a disaster brings out the best in humanity, and anyone can be a hero, even Randy Quaid's crackpot aviator.
2. "Apollo 13" (1995)
Proof that "disaster" and "prestige" movies can be one and the same: Tom Hanks, stars in the real-life drama of astronauts who were stranded in space after a major malfunction. Every single NASA employee works around the clock to get him and his shipmates (Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton) home safely. One of its 9 Oscar nominations went to Ed Harris, who anchors the film as NASA's Gene Kranz, and gets to deliver some of the other famous lines, including: "I believe this is gonna be our finest hour."
1. "Titanic" (1997)
James Cameron's retelling of the fateful sinking of the most famous ship in history was the biggest box-office hit in history, until it was surpassed by Cameron himself with "Avatar." And only 1959's "Ben-Hur" has won as many Oscars. Whether you were in it for the doomed romance of Jack and Rose or the spectacular special effects, it was epic on all levels. If you saw it in the theater (and who didn't?), the sound of the glass shattering on the bridge made you feel like you were right there with the poor Captain as the water came crashing in. Still gives us chills.