Celebrate Richter Scale Day with 10 great sci-fi movie earthquakes

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012

Believe it or not, today is National Richter Scale Day—apparently, someone somewhere has the silly job of making sure every day has a "thing" for it—so to celebrate, we're running down a handful of the best times Hollywood has made the earth move under our feet.

Sometimes the quakes are integral parts of a film's story, while other times they are simply side effects of some other, larger menace—and occasionally they're just window dressing. But things are rarely boring when the landscape rearranges itself.

We've added a special cheesiness scale: The higher the Richter, the thicker and more inescapable the cheese.

Superman: The Movie

It's all Lex Luthor's fault, really. His "can't fail" land scheme involved buying up a crapload of worthless property in the middle of the California desert and detonating a nuke in the San Andreas fault, causing most of California's coast to fall into the sea. Unfortunately, he didn't take into account what'd happen when a furiously bereft Man of Steel would fly the Earth back in time. Whoops.
Richter Scale of Cheesiness: 4.2

War of the Worlds

The aliens have been here all along. And, before Tom Cruise can spend a movie running away from them, they've gotta rise from their subterranean slumber—an act that causes a ton of collateral damage.
Richter Scale of Cheesiness: 2.3


Los Angeles does so much writhing and convulsing and undulating in Roland Emmerich's destructoporn opus, you'd think it was having sex with another city. But, no, it's just the end of days.
Richter Scale of Cheesiness: 9.9

Dante's Peak

Volcanoes, man. They'll just ruin your day. And your town.
Richter Scale of Cheesiness: 6.0


And if you let a volcano into your major metropolitan city, it'll totally jack up traffic.
Richter Scale of Cheesiness: 7.7


You can keep all that shiny CGI devastation; there's something delightfully lo-fi about this Charlton Heston disastravaganza.
Richter Scale of Cheesiness: 4.9

Crack in the World

Oh, scientists and your wacky ideas of tapping into the "near-limitless" power of geothermal energy. Because, yeah, anything would react well if you fired a nuclear missile into it.
Richter Scale of Cheesiness: 8.0

The Core

Once again, science meddles with what it shouldn't, and an attempt to be able to wield seismic power like a weapon yields catastrophic results. As they do.
Richter Scale of Cheesiness: 5.3

Aftershock: Earthquake in New York

Even though New York pretends it's so hip and doesn't really care, it was a wee bit jealous that Los Angeles was getting all the earthquake attention.
Richter Scale of Cheesiness: 6.9

Escape From L.A.

You should really just stop watching this clip after the opening narration, because this is as bad a movie as you remember. But John Carpenter did stage a pretty neat little devastation.
Richter Scale of Cheesiness: 9.1

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