Top Disaster Movies Set in New York City


New York, one of the world’s most populous cities, is not only the favorite tourist site but also the most popular setting for movies and books. With its high rise buildings and round the clock life, it is the best place for directors to destroy in the movies. From natural disasters destroying The Big Apple to violence and science fiction causing massive destruction to the beautiful city, here is the list of Top Disaster Movies Set in New York:

Deluge (1933)

Deluge is a 1933 Hollywood production, an apocalyptic science fiction that is set in the scenario of mighty earthquakes and tsunami inundating New York City. By the 1930s, New York had acquired most of the skyscraper buildings and towers that it is known for today, and all moviemakers from then onward preferred to stage destruction in the city of New York.

The movie is based on a novel by the same title written by S. Fowler Wright. Scientists presume that the world is going to end because of sudden Earthquakes and celestial events. New York City is completely devastated, and the survivors start a new civilization at the end.

The novel was based in England, but the movie’s setting was shifted to New York. Starring Sidney Blackmer (Martin) and Lois Wilson (Helen), who are husband and wife, try to escape the inundated city. However, Martin loses his wife and children. The appearance of other characters follows the entrance of the plot into a love triangle and attempts to rebuild society from the ruins.

King Kong (1933)

“King Kong,” released in 1933, is a landmark film in the history of cinema, directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. This adventure monster film is renowned for its groundbreaking special effects, compelling story, and its iconic portrayal of the giant ape, King Kong.

The film follows a film crew, led by the adventurous Carl Denham, as they travel to a mysterious Skull Island. There, they encounter Kong, a colossal gorilla-like creature who becomes captivated by the crew’s leading lady, Ann Darrow. Kong is captured and brought back to New York City to be exhibited as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” However, he escapes, leading to a climactic and tragic finale atop the Empire State Building.

The Night the World Exploded (1957)

“The Night the World Exploded,” released in 1957, is a lesser-known science fiction film directed by Fred F. Sears. It fits into the genre of disaster films with its theme of natural catastrophes caused by human scientific endeavors.

The film revolves around scientists who discover a new element deep in the Earth’s crust, named E-112, which is unstable and explodes upon exposure to air. The discovery leads to a series of worldwide earthquakes and disasters, as vast quantities of this element reach the surface. The scientists race against time to find a solution to stabilize E-112 and prevent further catastrophic events.

Meteor (1979)

“Meteor,” a 1979 disaster film directed by Ronald Neame, is known for its ensemble cast including Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, Karl Malden, and Henry Fonda. The film combines elements of science fiction and disaster, focusing on a catastrophic event threatening Earth.

The story centers around the discovery of a five-mile-wide meteor on a collision course with Earth. Scientists and government officials scramble to find a way to prevent the impending disaster. As smaller fragments of the meteor begin to impact Earth, causing widespread destruction, the film builds to a climactic effort to divert the main body of the meteor using nuclear missiles.

Escape from New York (1981)

Escape from New York unravels an innovative plot. Due to an uncontrollably high crime index in the United States, Manhattan is turned into a high-security prison. All the prisoners are sentenced to life, surrounded by a 50-foot wall. The bridges have all been demolished, and Manhattan becomes a bloody prison island. The movie unveils as the president is captured, and attempts are made to rescue him among threats to destroy New York City by terrorist organizations. 

The movie is directed by John Carpenter, starring Kurt Russell and Lee Van Cleef. The director, John Carpenter, persuaded the city to shut down the city lights of ten blocks every night for shooting the film, for a touch of originality. It was the first film that was allowed shooting at the Statue of Liberty at night. After tedious routines and shootings, it was released in 1981 and was rather very warmly received by the audience. In addition to learning Top Disaster Movies in NYC, learn more about its film scenes. Visit The Evolution of Broadway and New York Theater

Ghostbusters (1984)

“Ghostbusters,” released in 1984, is a beloved supernatural comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. The film is set in New York City and blends elements of comedy, the paranormal, and elements typical of a disaster movie.

The story revolves around three eccentric parapsychologists – Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Raymond Stantz, and Dr. Egon Spengler – who start a ghost-catching business in New York City. After losing their academic positions at Columbia University, they convert an old firehouse into their headquarters and develop technology to capture ghosts. The team, later joined by Winston Zeddemore, becomes the city’s only defense against a surge in paranormal activity.

Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day is a 1996 American science fiction disaster film based on an alien invasion on earth. It stars Will Smith and features an attack on earth by an extraterrestrial race. The UFO appears over Washington on the 2nd of July as the celebrations of Independence Day are midway.  The president is informed of the impending disaster, and he orders mass evacuations of New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, but he is too late. The UFO begins firing and kill many, leaving the cities in ruins.

The plan to destroy the UFOs is executed in an Adriatic turn on the American Independence day, blowing the ships into fireworks celebrating independence. The movie won academy awards for the best visual and sound effects and sparked the patriotic hearts.

Armageddon (1998)

Objects from outer space bombarding and bent on destroying Earth have always been a major theme of movies throughout time. Talking about asteroids and comets hitting the mother earth, Armageddon is a memorable name when it comes to disaster movies. This movie, directed by Michael Bay, shows a massive meteor entering the Earth’s atmosphere and bombarding New York City. 

The services of Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) are acquired by NASA to get the Earth rid of the incumbent annihilation of the human race. Harry and his team improvise a plan in an emotional and romantic setting. Working with Harry is his daughter, Grace, whom he wished to be married to a crew member. The story is all emotion and tension as the meteor is going to hit the Earth at any moment.

Godzilla (1998)

“Godzilla” (1998) is a science fiction monster film directed by Roland Emmerich, known for his work on other disaster and action movies. This iteration of the Godzilla franchise presents a reimagined version of the iconic Japanese monster in the heart of New York City, offering a blend of action, science fiction, and disaster film elements.

The movie follows the story of an enormous, irradiated lizard-like creature, dubbed Godzilla, which emerges from the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Attracted by the radiation levels in New York, Godzilla makes its way to the city, causing widespread panic and destruction. The story centers around Dr. Nick Tatopoulos (played by Matthew Broderick), a biologist who is recruited by the U.S. government to study the creature and find a way to stop it.

Deep Impact (2001)

Deep Impact, unfolds in an actual deep impact on the city of New York, by a comet that hits the Pacific Ocean. The stir in the Pacific Ocean causes disastrous Earthquakes and tidal waves in New York. The Tidal waves rise higher than the mighty Statue of Liberty. They show no mercy to the proudly owned skyscrapers of New York City, knocking them over like Lego blocks. 

Amidst the mayhem, Elijah Wood tries to escape the destruction by mounting on a motorcycle and driving away from the chaos. Meanwhile, the Governments everywhere prepare for the landing of the comet by building underground shelters. A spacecraft called Messiah and its crew take up the mission to save the Earth from the apocalypse.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

The film Day After Tomorrow is a glimpse of the future of global warming, set in a science fiction setting. Jack Hall is an American climatologist who realizes the melting of ice shelves due to global warming. The government ignored his constant warnings. But all his fears prove true when the world is taken over by a disastrous snowstorm. The storm begins in the Northern hemisphere and divides into three parts. The American part of the storm takes over New York, bringing down the temperature to -150 degrees. In New York, Jack’s son fights for survival along with his friends. 

The movie is an attempt by its moviemakers to open the eyes of the ignorant. As the situation alleviates, the president apologizes publicly for his ignorance. This disaster movie is perhaps an attempt to bring to light the issue of global warming and aware people how it can destroy us.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

The makers of this movie chose neither aliens not extraterrestrial objects to cause chaos, but they employ robots for the purpose. The movie begins with an airship mooring over the Empire State Building, aboard is Dr. Joe Vargas who had arrived to deliver a package. The sudden disappearance of the doctor causes a stir among reporters, who later find more scientists vanishing.  A reporter, Polly Perkins, is looking into the matter and meets Dr. Jennings, to whom the package was to be delivered. 

Suddenly New York is under attack by giant metal robots, which tear down roads and buildings of The Big Apple that come their way. When things get out of hand, Sky Captain, Joe Sullivan, also Polly’s ex-lover, is called to save the city. What is so important about the package and how does Joe manage to save the city, unveils later in the film. 

King Kong (2005)

The movie King Kong features a giant ape climbing over the Empire State Building, a scene most people have seen at some point or another in life. This 2005 film is the second remake of the original 1933 movie. The movie revolves around the idea of animal and human emotions. Ann, a female movie star, is kidnapped and offered as a sacrifice to King Kong, a giant 25 feet gorilla. 

Scared at the beginning, Ann gradually wins over the giant through her singing and dancing. She directs the ape’s intelligence into emotion. When her rescuers arrive, Kong runs carrying her in his hand, tearing down the New York City, including the roads, houses, and buildings. Little did the rescuers know that he would not harm Ann. Kong, who is seen as a threat to the city, is brought down after he climbs the famous Empire State Building.

To the residents of New York, it must be an emotional watch as they see the giant tearing down their buildings and killing people. On the other hand, he gains favor with the audience by befriending the protagonist. 

I am Legend (2007)

This post-apocalyptic action-thriller movie starring Will Smith, based on the 1954 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson, is directed by Francis Lawrence. This movie set in New York City sees no human as an enemy but a mutated virus that was originally created to cure cancer. The mutated virus annihilates the human race, killing 98% of humans while turning most of the rest into Cannibalistic creatures, and leaving the remaining few as prey to them. 

Neville (Will Smith) is the only human left in New York since he is immune to the virus. Neville is left as a lone warrior against the mutants until he finds two more immune humans. Neville is bent on finding the cure for the dark-seekers and the movie praises his lone efforts for the cause, ending in a dramatic and emotional turn.

Cloverfield (2008)

“Cloverfield,” released in 2008, is a groundbreaking science fiction horror film directed by Matt Reeves and produced by J.J. Abrams. The movie gained notable acclaim for its innovative storytelling, found-footage format, and intense depiction of a monstrous disaster in New York City.

The film’s narrative is conveyed through the lens of a handheld camera, used by the film’s characters. The story revolves around a group of friends in Manhattan who are thrown into chaos when a gigantic monster suddenly attacks the city. The movie starts with a farewell party for Rob, the protagonist, who is moving to Japan. Their night of celebration turns into a nightmarish ordeal as they witness the decimation of New York City by a colossal creature, along with smaller parasitic creatures that add to the horror.

Knowing (2009)

“Knowing,” released in 2009, is a science fiction thriller that blends elements of mystery, suspense, and apocalyptic prophecy. Directed by Alex Proyas, the film stars Nicolas Cage as John Koestler, a professor of astrophysics at MIT.

The story of “Knowing” begins in 1959 with a time capsule being buried at a school’s inauguration. A mysterious girl, Lucinda, contributes a page of seemingly random numbers to the capsule. Fifty years later, this capsule is unearthed, and the page ends up in the hands of John Koestler’s son. John, intrigued by the sequence, deciphers that the numbers predict the dates, death tolls, and coordinates of every major disaster over the past five decades. Shockingly, he realizes that three of these events, potentially catastrophic, are yet to occur.

Final Words

Of all the movie genres, the most thrilling one is that include disasters and apocalypse. If you are a big fan of disaster movies that include destruction by alien invasions, natural catastrophes, and massive violence, you will love all these movies set in New York City.

From the gritty to the glamorous, discover how New York City shaped the narratives of the most memorable 90s movies.

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