Over the years, we have seen one too many disaster movies. Of these, a favored theme is movies involving massive waves that could swallow us whole. Known fondly as Tsunamis, these gigantic waves could destroy entire cities in a single swoop.
We know what you’re thinking, swimming lessons will not help. What makes this a bit scarier is that this is real, unlike other horror and thriller movies.
If you see a tsunami coming at you, run with all you have. This is also precisely what brings such a broad audience to the genre, the reality that it could happen at any given time. Many people all over the world have witnessed it, and they would not even wish it upon their worst enemy.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best movies about or with tsunamis in them. While some are pure entertainment, some give us a small insight into what to expect and what steps we can take to best survive something like this. Whatever you want to take away from them is on you.
Let’s dive in! (pun intended)
#20 The Abyss (1989)
Tsunami Height: 300+ ft
Runtime: 71 minutes
James Cameron seems to have always dabbled with the seemingly impossible. The Abyss is a sci-fi movie created by the Avatar director that pushed the boundaries of story-telling and imagination.
The story follows a team of US Navy SEALs sent on a mission to retrieve the remains of a US Navy Submarine, racing against time with an impending hurricane and other vested interests coming right at them.
What this team of SEALs did not expect was a Non-Terrestial Intelligence, or NTI, to be waiting for them. It becomes clear to them that the submarine was taken down by this unknown entity, and they were going up against this alien force. What ensues is a gripping underwater drama that was not too well received by critics back in the day but is now being viewed as a movie beyond its years.
To be fair, there is technically no tsunami in this movie, at least in its initial release. However, James Cameron released a special edition of the film that showed a mega-tsunami coming right for US shores.
Throughout the movie, we learn that these entities are mad at Human civilization for the damage it has caused to the oceans and seek to avenge the seas. Well, that’s the short version. These mega-tsunamis never make it to shore, but they could have easily taken away a good chunk of the entire human population if the aliens showed heart and stopped the tsunamis. Phew, close one!
#19 Tidal Wave: No Escape (1997)
Tsunami Height: 100+ ft
Runtime: 91 minutes
In case you didn’t, there is a difference between tidal waves and tsunamis. Tidal waves are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon or sun or simply by ocean tides. Whereas, Tsunamis are caused by underwater earthquakes, which are significantly larger than tidal waves. Although, if you ask me, a big-ass wave is a big-ass wave.
Tidal Wave is a thriller by George T Miller that follows the story of a disgruntled scientist and Nobel Prize winner who must come out of retirement to investigate a series of tidal waves that have been demolishing coastal cities all around the world.
The scientist soon discovers that these massive waves are man-made and a mad genius is holding the world at ransom. This movie is fun to watch and a bit of a guilty pleasure. This movie is for you if you like a good race against time, predictable drama, and a James Bond-type lousy guy.
#18 Crack in the World (1965)
Tsunami Height: 100+ ft
Runtime: 96 minutes
A Crack in the World is one of the oldest movies on this roster and is considered way ahead of its time. The science fiction and the visual effects used for the movie were top-notch for that age, and yet, it was not a bad job. The makers of this movie reached and almost got to where they wanted to be.
A Crack in the World follows the story of a group of scientists working on digging deep into the Earth’s core and harnessing the geothermal energy lying inside. They reach a standstill as they encounter an extremely dense material that they decide to get passed with a small atomic bomb.
Despite opposition from within the team of scientists itself, they decided to go forward with the plan and inadvertently create a small crack in the Earth’s crust that seems to expand ever so slowly.
The characters of the movie race against time and all odds to stop this crack from going all the way around the Earth and destroying the planet. The crack sends massive earthquakes and tsunamis across the globe, sending everyone into a state of panic and chaos. Will they succeed in stopping this crack? You’re just going to have to watch the movie and see. Also, The poster says, “Thank god for it’s only a motion picture.”
#17 The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Tsunami Height: 100+ ft
Runtime: 117 minutes
The Poseidon Adventure is another disaster thriller movie that came out when Hollywood was exploring the boundaries of visual effects and how they could make things seem more believable, and yeah, This particular movie does not disappoint in any way.
The Poseidon Adventure pursues the story of a ship of the same name traveling from the US to Athens. The vessel is filled with passengers who are traveling for various personal reasons, unbeknownst to the danger about to befall them. The ship moves at an increased speed at the haste of its new owner, and during the journey, the Captain is made aware of an underwater earthquake and that a tsunami might be coming towards them at any moment.
Not long after, a large tsunami hits the ship, causing it to capsize. What comes next is a series of daring acts by a few survivors, trying to get out of the ship before it fully sinks.
Poseidon’s adventure does an impressive job of keeping you on the edge of your seat and brings even more curiosity as to how the filmmakers were able to pull this off with their limited resources at the time. This is one tsunami film you don’t want to miss.
#16 Bait (2012)
Tsunami Height: 80+ ft
Runtime: 93 minutes
Tsunamis are scary enough, but if you think about the ocean’s vastness and the myriad of sea creatures that live in it, the fear factor goes up a notch. This horror disaster thriller stays true to all these genres and might make you stay away from the beach for a while.
The story follows a group of survivors stuck in a supermarket after a Tsunami hits a coastal region in Australia. The group manages to survive the flooded supermarket by climbing on the shelves but soon learns that the water has brought in a great white shark who seems hungry.
What follows is a series of acts by the survivors to escape the supermarket and reach some kind of safety. Like every shark movie, a good number of people die, and it gets very gory.
The movie, though not of the best ones out, does a good job of making you nervous, and if you’re someone who wants to take that sharp-teeth action to the next level, this one is for you.
#15 Fukushima 50 (2020)
Tsunami Height: 133+ ft
Runtime: 122 minutes
We travel to Japan for this one. Fukushima 50 tracks the story of a few workers at a Nuclear plant who must do everything in their power to stop a nuclear reactor from destroying a massive portion of Japan’s largest Island.
The movie is based on a true story wherein an earthquake of the same magnitude wreaked havoc on Japan and caused the meltdown of their Fukushima Nuclear reactor. The film treads cautiously and tries to give us the original story as it happened. This is why it is so intriguing. We get to see what went on there as a few brave souls decided to work tirelessly to stop the reactor from exploding and causing more damage to Japan.
The film was received very well and even revered as an honest version of the ensuing events. While a tsunami itself screams danger, adding a damaged nuclear plant is enough to send everyone into a frenzy. The movie achieves impressive results in creating that madness in the viewer’s mind.
#14 Hereafter (2010)
Tsunami Height: 100 ft
Runtime: 129 minutes
Unlike the other tsunami films on this list, this one takes a different turn. Well, a few different turns.
The movie follows the stories of three different individuals in different parts of the world whose lives seem to be intertwined, and it all starts with the Indian Ocean tsunami back in 2004.
Our main protagonist and a french journalist, Marie, gets caught in the Indian Ocean tsunami and dies for a few minutes but returns to life, convinced that she has been to the Afterlife. What ensures is her quest to make more people aware of the existence of the Afterlife, the story of a psychic and a young boy who wants to communicate with his deceased brother.
Sure, this isn’t your conventional tsunami movie, but it takes you on a journey that will make you rethink the existence of an Afterlife or, at least, what faith in one can do to you and how people might look at you as a crazy person. So if you like your movies with a touch of supernatural narratives, then this might be right for you.
#13 The 5th Wave (2016)
Tsunami Height: 150+ ft
Runtime: 112 minutes
Like the previously mentioned movie, this one too does not focus entirely on the tsunami, but it does play a critical role in the story. Not to mention, tsunamis manage to destroy a major part of landmass worldwide.
The story depicts the world of a young girl and her brother who try to navigate a world that has been nearly devastated by an alien force in a systematically disastrous way. Each of their attacks came in waves that were different from one another and targeted each pillar of human civilization. They even managed to take out world governments and killed off most of the populace.
In one such wave, the aliens created earthquakes and tsunamis to take out the major cities. These mega-tsunamis were unstoppable, and everything in their path was destroyed.
The 5th Wave has a good mix of sci-fi and disaster movie elements. The film was not too well received storywise, but the action and monumental-level destruction are reason enough to give this one a watch.
#12 The Wave (2015)
Tsunami Height: 260 ft
Runtime: 104 minutes
The Wave is a Norwegian disaster film and was Norway’s official entry for the 88th Academy Awards. The movie revolves around a geologist working in the tourist region of Geiranger when he discovers that the Akerneset crevice has collapsed into itself and that it would result in an avalanche at any minute.
What makes things worse is that the rock slide avalanche crashes into the fjord (a long, deep, narrow body of water reaching far inland), creating a massive tsunami hurdling toward Geiranger.
A series of daring, nail-biting sequences follow, and our main characters fight against all odds to save themselves while many perish beside them. This may not have been nominated for the Academy Awards, but it sure is a good watch. If you like watching movies that might turn you into a nervous wreck who can’t look away at the horror unfolding in front of you, this one fits the bill!
#11 Flood (2007)
Tsunami Height: 100+ ft
Runtime: 188 minutes
If you’re all about tsunamis and the destruction that comes with them, then look no further. The Flood tells us what would happen if a raging storm met the high seas.
A Storm surge that raises the sea levels near mainland Europe begins to devastate coastal regions and destroy everything in its wake. The story of the Flood revolves around a marine engineer and his ex-wife as they try to save a London, which has already been devastated by the tsunami and flooding.
The film gives a very real-life depiction of how politicians don’t properly listen to scientists and how things can go very wrong when that happens.
The two main protagonists must race against their very own government, which wants to make things worse by blowing stuff up. How is their answer to everything? Overall, a good disaster movie for a night in. If you’re scared of water, you might just want to skip this one.
#10 Tidal Wave (2009)
Tsunami Height: 100+ ft
Runtime: 120 minutes
This one is all about the waves. We don’t just get tsunamis in Tidal Waves. We get many. After an underwater earthquake similar to the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake hit the East Sea in Korea (Sea of Japan), it created a series of massive tsunamis that devastated the coastal regions of Korea.
We follow the stories of different people who are affected by the tsunami and how they race to survive this horrific incident. The cast and the director work towards creating a nail-biting experience that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
What makes this movie even more special is that it is made with the familiar charm that most Korean movies bring. This brings us closer to the characters and makes us worry about them.
Korean films are all the rage now, and if you want to avoid moving away from that world but still want to see a thrilling disaster movie, Tidal Wave is the one to go with.
#9 San Andreas (2015)
Tsunami Height: 270 ft
Runtime: 114 minutes
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has taken Hollywood by storm, and this movie has one that helped him reach the top of the mountain. Or should we say – top of the wave?
Like any other Rock movie, this one is filled with almost unbelievable action sequences and daring stunts. However, it takes it up a notch and is easily one of the Rock’s better movies. The movie is centered around a crack in the fault line that expands, creating a series of massive earthquakes.
Some even reached a 9.6 magnitude. This devastates LA and surrounding cities and creates a massive tsunami that threatens to destroy many coastal areas.
The movie works as a sort of survival thriller as it depicts most of these characters trying to find a way to escape the ruins of the earthquake and find safety before the gigantic wave hits them.
Every fan of the Rock should check this one out. The plausibility of this all is a debate for another day, but it sure is an entertainer.
#8 Noah (2014)
Tsunami Height: 100+ ft
Runtime: 138 minutes
This one is a bit tricky. We know the difference between a tidal wave and a tsunami at this point, but what if God created a massive wave to kill all humans?
This biblical drama thriller follows the story of Noah. If you’re unfamiliar with the epic, God grows tired of the wretchedness of man and decides that he wants a do-over. For that, he must cleanse the Earth of humans and choose a mighty flood to do so.
The movie uses this story as a premise but takes it a little further, exploring the boundaries of morality and the idea of goodness. Russel Crowe’s brilliant portrayal of Noah is enough to engulf you, and the special effects give us an excellent view of what a global flood might have looked like if it had happened.
The massive waves flood the Earth in the movie and end up killing all but one family, Noah’s. If you’re into religious epics with a real-life twist, Noah will do wonders for you.
#7 Deep Impact (1998)
Tsunami Height: 300 ft
Runtime: 120 minutes
This sci-fi disaster movie has a cult following of its own. While critics of the film did not receive it well, the audience seemed to go another way, giving it a 4 on 5 rating on Google. Safe to say that it is a pure entertainer.
After predictions of a comet on its way to striking the Earth, world superpowers combine their resources to fight this predicament. A spaceship is launched to obliterate the asteroid but fails and splits it into two.
The tsunami in the movie goes on to destroy most of the US coastal area as one of the asteroid pieces hits the Atlantic Ocean. Our protagonists rush to find shelter from the impending danger, but there are only a few places one can hide from a mega-tsunami.
One thing we can learn from this movie is that if you know that a tsunami is coming, get to the highest ground you can find. Not hotels, We’re talking mountains, at the least.
This cult classic is one you should not miss.
#6 The Impossible (2012)
Tsunami Height: 100 ft
Runtime: 114 minutes
The impossible is one of the most critically acclaimed movies on this list. It boasts a star-studded cast of Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, and a young Tom Holland.
The film won Watts many accolades, including the Golden Globe Award for best actress and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress in a Leading role.
What makes this all the more interesting is that it is the true story of Maria Belon, who happened to be vacationing with her family in Thailand when the Indian Ocean Tsunami hit.
Rather than focusing on the tsunami, the movie is about the aftermath of such a disaster. Each family member is given a space to tell their story, and we follow as they try to find each other amidst the post-tsunami chaos.
The cast has done a tremendous job on this one, and it is a must-watch.
#5 Poseidon (2006)
Tsunami Height: 80 ft
Runtime: 98 minutes
This is a loose remake of another film on this roster – The Poseidon Adventures. The movie follows the story of a cruise ship and its passengers making a Transatlantic crossing.
On this journey, while the passengers are all partying, the ship is hit by a rogue wave almost the size of a tsunami itself. This causes the boat to capsize, leaving all the passengers to find refuge before the ship sinks completely. Many of the passengers die as they refuse to move, and a small group, along with our protagonist, decides to start moving.
The start studded cast makes this movie attractive, and it even won the award for Best Visual Effects at the 79th Academy Awards. Poseidon does a good job of keeping the audience in suspense, and it’s the perfect tsunami movie for a movie night. There is one thing to remember, though, take deep breaths.
#4 Geostorm (2017)
Tsunami Height: 200+ ft
Runtime: 109 minutes
Right off the bat, let us get one thing clear. Geostorm is not the greatest movie of all time. It has issues in its plot that could have been saved even by Gerard Butler’s acting.
However, there is so much going on and so much destruction that it might just be one of the biggest disaster movies ever made. The sheer scale of the disaster in this movie is off the hook.
The film follows the creation of a climate control device that can stop natural disasters from happening. With the current state that we’re in, that sounds pretty handy. However, what if that device falls into the wrong hands? That is precisely what happens in the movie.
Geostorm is full of twists and turns, some that may not have even been necessary, but the massive scale of destruction makes it a lot like a car crash you can’t look away from. Oh, also, the mega-tsunamis in the movie are super cool.
#3 2012 (2009)
Tsunami Height: 1000+
Runtime: 158 minutes
We grew up hearing the prophecy that the world would end in 2012. This was mostly purported by the Mayan Calendar that ended on the same day. We’re here now in 2023, well and alive, so obviously, that did not happen. What if it did?
What if, in 2012, the world was hit by disaster after disaster, and life as we know it came to a standstill?
Enter 2012 The movie.
2012 follows the plot of a geologist and a writer who work separately to save the people dear to them. The movie starts with a massive conspiracy that the world is about to end, and slowly the world realizes that the prophecy is coming to life.
The Earth is riddled with earthquakes that end up destroying most of the landmass. What makes this nightmare even worse are mega-tsunamis that sweep across the entire planet. The tsunami this movie depicts is larger than any seen in human history, and there is no escape.
The film could have done better with critiques, but the general audience accepted it completely. If nothing, you can show this to your kids one day and tell them you lived through it. Imagine how badass that would make you look.
#2 The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Tsunami Height: 100 ft
Runtime: 124 minutes
The Day after tomorrow is probably one of the best disaster movies to be ever made. The major commercial success was the 6th highest-grossing movie of 2004, and though it received mixed reviews from critics, it went on to be a massive success with the audience.
The film follows the story of a paleoclimatologist who discovers that another ice age could soon be upon us. Climate change has affected the North Atlantic Ocean Circulation, and this, in turn, has created disastrous weather phenomena.
From superstorms to rapid cooling and tsunamis, there seemed to be no escape. The film is widely praised for its brilliant special effects, and the star-studded cast does a fantastic job of pulling the audience in. As part of the superstorm, massive tsunamis are created, flooding New York and leaving inhabitants stranded.
You cannot miss this if you are a true disaster movie fan.
#1 The Perfect Storm (2000)
Tsunami Height: 80+ ft
Runtime: 130 minutes
The Perfect Storm might just be the perfect tsunami movie. Ironically, the film does not depict a tsunami technically. However, it is debatable.
The plot line follows the crew of a commercial swordfishing ship that decides to go beyond its usual fishing spots. Their adventurous spirit gets them what they want but unbeknownst to them, massive storm dawn upon them.
The movie is called as such because the storm they are caught is just right, enough to give them every hardship they could face at an open sea. From breaking communication antennas to having strong winds that they struggle against, to giant waves crashing onto the deck, the disastrous possibilities seemed endless. Then, we’re introduced to what they call a rogue wave that hits the boat and causes it to topple.
The entire movie is about a crew battling mother nature to stay alive, and it is a nail-biter.
Most Popular Tsunami Movies You Should Watch
If our countdown of the 20 best films about Tsunamis isn’t enough, Here are a few more movies you should check out.
|Movie||Release Date||Runtime||IMDB Rating|
|Category 7: End of the World||6/11/2005||169 minutes||4.6|
|Tsunami: The Aftermath||28/11/2006||111 minutes||6.9|
|Hard Rain||16/1/1998||97 minutes||5.9|
|Hurricane, The wind Odyssey||8/6/2016||83 minutes||7|
|Umizaru: The Last Message||18/9/2010||129 minutes||6|
|Greetings from Fukushima||10/3/2016||104 minutes||6.8|
|The Red Turtle||29/6/2016||80 minutes||7.5|
|The Land of Hope||20/10/2012||134 minutes||6.5|
|When Time Ran Out…||28/3/1980||121 minutes||4.5|
|Atlantis: The Lost Empire||3/6/2001||95 minutes||6.9|
|The Asadas||2/10/2020||127 minutes||7.4|
|Poseidon Adventure||13/12/1972||117 minutes||7.1|
|Japan Sinks||15/7/2006||135 minutes||5.9|
|The Storm||17/9/2009||96 minutes||6.1|
With this, we end our list of some of the best tsunami movies out there. If you’re not picky about the giant waves being tsunamis specifically, then we have those too. We hope this countdown helps you better pick your next disaster movie. Let us know which of these you are about to try next!
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