It’s The Rock versus The Fault this week, as San Andreas rumbles into movie theaters across the country. The film stars Dwayne Johnson as Chief Ray Gaines, a helicopter rescue pilot with the Los Angeles Fire Department; after Southern California is decimated by “The Big One,” Gaines and his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) must travel to San Francisco to find and save their daughter (Alexandra Daddario). Along the way, many buildings will topple, many cracks will rip the Earth apart, and many extras will die. It’s a disaster movie; that’s what happens.

The disaster genre is a long and storied one. It reached its zenith in the 1970s but it stretches back decades earlier, to the time of In Old Chicago (about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871) and The Last Days of Pompeii (about the, uh, last days of Pompeii). The genre is somewhat amorphous; its disasters can be natural (earthquakes, floods) or man-made (airplane crashes, sinking boats), chillingly plausible (an asteroid strike) or hilariously absurd (massive swarms of killer bees that chase Michael Caine). The only thing that’s essential to the proceedings: A large-scale life-or-death struggle and a large-scale cast to fight for survival.

The genre’s had its ups and downs, but one thing’s remained consistent throughout its history: Disaster movies almost always have great posters. The intense melodrama and enormous stakes seem to bring out the best (or at least the most luridly sensational) in artists and designers, and produce great, pulpy artwork. With that in mind, this seemed like a great week to collect, rank, and celebrate, the very best posters in the genre’s history. San Andreas itself didn’t make the cut (although this teaser poster is pretty great), but we’ve got 25 amazing pieces, all good enough to yank off the wall and carry with you to safety if you were ever trapped in a towering inferno.


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