Disaster movies have been a staple of the film industry for decades and some of the best disaster movies are about Tsunamis. Tsunamis are giant waves caused by earthquakes or undersea volcanic eruptions and they have historically been a compelling topic for disaster films.
Tsunami movies give filmmakers a unique opportunity to meld catastrophic events with unparalleled stories of human emotion and survival instincts.
Tsunamis are one of the most dramatic natural disasters possible and it takes a great storyline, a solid vision from the production team and, of course, incredible special effects and cinematography to truly capture the intensity of a tsunami and translate that onto the silver screen in a compelling way.
Our list of the 10 Best Tsunami Movies from around the world has been compiled using extensive research from various news outlets as well as ratings and reviews from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.
Our list includes films from the United States, Norway and Japan and includes completely fictional stories, such as science fiction thrillers and stories of real people and actual tsunamis that devastated areas of our planet.
1. The Impossible (2012)
English, Thai, German, Swedish, Spanish 1h 54m IMDb
Stars: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland
In this film, Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as parents of three who are vacationing in Thailand with their three sons when the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 hits.
Both Naomi Watts and Tom Holland were nominated for several awards for their acting in the film and the heartfelt, sincere, emotional performances are one of the highlights of the film. Many of the extras in this film were actual survivors of this tsunami, which helps give the film a truly authentic feeling.
The visual and sound effects are superb and definitely illustrate the total devastation the tsunami left behind. The Impossible is gut wrenching and intense and it successfully meets its goal of showing audiences what it would actually feel like to be in and survive a tsunami.
2. The Wave (2015)
Norwegian, English 1h 45m IMDb
Stars: Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Hoff Oftebro
The Wave takes place in Norway, when a massive fjord collapses and triggers a monstrous tsunami. This film’s character development and storyline are its definite major strengths.
Its easy to see right away that this story will be the driving force of the movie and the audience’s care and concern for the characters about to undergo this massive natural disaster is what will make it effective, not heavy special effects.
One of the best parts of this film is the slow and deliberate character development and the way that the main character is so easy to relate to. The script and storyline is remarkably believable for a disaster movie and the entire premise that this event has happened before and is predicted to happen again gives it a genuineness that is hard to match in this genre.
3. The Perfect Storm (2000)
English 2h 10m IMDb
Stars: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly
This blockbuster starring mega-stars George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg chronicles the real-life story of the sword-fishing vessel the Andrea Gail. In October 1991, an unprecedented killer formed in the North Atlantic and a giant rogue wave overtook the boat.
While some claim the storyline of the film has been sensationalized and that no one could know what really happened on board that fateful night, overall, this is a well done film with great care taken by the filmmakers and actors to make it believable and authentic.
The recreation of the storm itself is incredibly well done. This film does an amazing job of paying tribute to the New England fishing industry and shows the men that sailed on the Andrea Gail as the heroes that they truly were. Both Clooney and Wahlberg turn in fantastic performances, as does the supporting cast, including John C. Reilly and Diane Lane.
4. San Andreas (2015)
English 1h 54m IMDb
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as a helicopter rescue pilot who teams up with his ex-wife, played by Carla Gugino, after a devastating earthquake and tsunami hits California to rescue their teenage daughter.
The story is a fairly basic one and there isn’t really a ton of time for character development before the world starts shaking apart, yet you still can’t really help but root for them.
However, it could be argued that the real story in San Andreas is Mother Nature and the major strength of the film is that it is laid out to highlight one disaster after another throughout the course of the film, which allows the pulse-pounding, spectacular special effects to really shine.
5. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
English, Japanese, French, Arabic 2h 4m IMDb
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum
An international mega-storm plunges the planet into darkness when an unprecedented outbreak of natural disasters, such as tornadoes,earthquakes, hurricanes and a massive tsunami, which ushers in a new Ice Age.
As with most disaster movies, there is questionable science behind the storyline, but one of the strengths of this movie, aside from the spectacular special effects, are the little stories it tells about modern-day people and how they live and interact with each other.
The desperation of Dennis Quaid as a father trying to get to his son in another state after a devastating disaster is something that any parent can relate to.
6. Poseidon (2006)
English, Spanish 1h 38m IMDb
Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Kurt Russell, Emmy Rossum
Passengers on the Poseiden, a luxury ocean liner, are expecting a fun New Year’s Eve celebration, but instead they are plunged into a night of terror and death after the liner is overtaken by a rogue tidal wave.
The aftermath of the wave leaves people struggling to escape the rapidly sinking ship. This film is a new take on the classic 1970’s “The Poseidon Adventure” and while it tells basically the same story, it does not share as strong a script or storyline as the original nor does it do as much character development.
However, the cinematography and special effects definitely make it adventurous and exciting and overall entertaining to watch.
7. Deep Impact (1998)
English, Russian 2h IMDb
Stars: Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood
A teenage astronomy student and his teacher discover that a comet is set to smash into the earth’s surface, causing complete annihilation of the human race, which prompts nations to work together to try to avert the imminent disaster.
This film has a star-studded cast of heavy hitters, including Jon Favreau, James Cromwell, Robert Duvall, Tea Leoni and the incomparable Morgan Freeman. The cast and the acting is one of the things that sets this disaster flick apart from so many others.
These actors did a phenomenal job of bringing the script to life and showing the emotional devastation of what they are facing. Of course, the special effects are impressive, but the acting in this film is what makes it one of the our 10 best tsunami movies.
8. Fukushima 50 (2020)
Japanese 2h 2m IMDb
Stars: Ken Watanabe, Takumi Saitoh, Masane Tsukayama
Based on the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in November 2011, this film follows the workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. This film does a remarkable job of really showing the determination, discipline and culture of Japanese workers.
Despite a catastrophic event, the workers show unwavering ethics and responsibility and the actors do a superb job of translating this onto the silver screen.
The film is a drama, but it does have a documentary feel to it and the filmmakers did an impeccable job of making the story about the earthquake and tsunami itself and the real timeline surrounding the efforts.
9. Geostorm (2017)
English, Cantonese, Russian, Hindi, Spanish 1h 49m IMDb
Stars: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish
In this blockbuster starring Gerard Butler, Ed Harris and Andy Garcia, satellites that were meant to control the Earth’s climate fail and instead begin attacking the earth and initiating an international Geostorm.
The special effects in this film are really well done and the difference in this movie from other tsunami disaster films is that it is more of a science fiction thriller with villains controlling the climate crisis rather than mother nature.
Instead of the storms being the plot drivers, the people behind creating the storms and uncovering who they The Dubai tsunami is one of the special effects highlights of the film.
10. Greenland (2020)
English, Spanish, Russian 1h 59m IMDb
Ric Roman Waugh
Stars: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd
Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin star in this film about a comet that is set to collide with the earth and cause an extinction level event. This film definitely focuses a lot on the human emotions and impacts of a devastating natural disaster.
Baccarin and Butler have a great deal of rapport and chemistry which makes their on-screen relationship believable and strong. The storyline is intense and emotional and the special effects are very well done throughout.
Each of the movies listed here in our 10 Best Tsunami Movies showcases stellar film-making and acting performances. They are exciting, harrowing and captivating depictions of the terror and devastation that tsunamis cause.
Blending incredible special effects with superb acting and storylines makes each of these unique and unmissable in their own way. If you enjoy disaster movies and you haven’t seen each of these films at least once, add them to your watch list today!