Top 5 geodynamic movies to watch during lockdown

Top 5 geodynamic movies to watch during lockdown

Now that the craziness of the first online EGU ever is over (it was great, wasn’t it?), it is time to sink back into our lazy lockdown routine. Essential part of this routine? Watching bad science movies of course! So here is the top 5 geodynamic movies you should watch this lockdown! Get some popcorn, video call some friends, and laugh while all the geodynamic principles you hold dear are butchered for the sake of sensationalism. Enjoy!

1. The Core (2003)

Image from Wikipedia, copyright of Paramount Pictures.

This classic should be required watching for every Earth scientist. The premise is that the Earth’s core stops spinning, which – of course – means that everyone will die within a year. Bad. So smart scientists take a little trip to the core (as you do), to fix this minor problem. Of course, it’s not completely trivial to go to the core and they encounter some obstacles along the way (hot, molten lava in the mantle, among other things).

Watching this movie begs the question why there are still core geodynamicists out there trying to model the core. Clearly, they could just invert a rocket and see for themselves what’s happening at depth.

Highly recommended to watch with deep Earth friends and/or a few drinks.

Warning: Passionate deep Earth scientists might start to shout angrily at the screen or heavily sigh in frustration. Plenty of giggles guaranteed.

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2. Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)

Image from Wikipedia, copyright of 20th Century Fox Animation.

Everyone studying lithosphere dynamics and tectonics can rejoice with this fourth instalment of the Ice Age franchise. Mammoth Manny, sloth Sid, and sabre tooth tiger Diego try to manage their family and love life while battling with the additional complexity of continents breaking up left and right, separating them from their loved ones in the process. For some reason, the writers of Ice Age thought prehistoric animal pirates were the way to go, so there is also that.

It certainly does make you wonder if anyone has ever modelled the effect of acorns on lithosphere dynamics. Maybe something for a future project?

Go into this movie with the lowest expectations possible and enjoy the crazy ride!

Warning: Although the title includes the famous ‘continental drift’, the execution of this concept in the movie is questionable at best and might make geodynamicists tear their hair out.

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3. Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)

Image from Wikipedia, copyright 2008, © New Line Cinema.

The famous novel of the same name by Jules Verne from 1864 has resulted in many movie adaptations with respectable ratings on IMDb ranging from 2.1 to 7.0 out of 10. Essentially, it shows that mantle geodynamicists are completely redundant, because we already know what’s inside the Earth: dinosaurs. Obviously. At present, I have not yet come across any mantle convection models exploring the effect of dinosaurs living in the centre of the Earth, but I am looking forward to the first publication on this.

The 2008 version knows that it shouldn’t take itself too seriously and heavily plays on the comedy, making this delightfully light entertainment. They occasionally try to sound scientific and even manage to throw in jargon like ‘muscovite’. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this lighthearted movie with a geodynamic touch.

Warning: Overexposure to this movie can result in chronic eye damage for Earth scientists due to continued eye rolling.

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4. Armageddon (1998)

Image from Wikipedia, copyright of Touchstone Pictures.

An asteroid is Earth-bound and the impact will effectively obliterate all life on Earth. Nothing new there, but it needs to be dealt with nonetheless. NASA to the rescue!

This movie is particularly suited for all planetary geodynamicists out there, impact modellers, fans of meteorites, and – of course – people studying the Moon-forming impact. I am sure your work will greatly improve by seeing the effect of such a large impact first-hand.

If you insist on a more scientifically accurate movie, you could opt for Deep Impact (1998) which is apparently basically the same movie, but the science is supposedly a bit better. Therefore, it subsequently did worse at the box office than Armageddon. Or am I confusing my correlation and causation again?

Warning: Space engineers have an increased risk of drowning in their tears while watching this movie.

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5. Dante’s Peak (1997)

Image from Wikipedia, copyright of Universal Pictures.

This movie is a classic one for the geologists and volcanologists among us. A little town called Dante’s Peak lies next to a dormant stratovolcano. I mean, I say dormant, but is it? Probably not, because otherwise the movie would be very boring. Debating whether or not to warn the town of an impending eruption (don’t want to give false alarms now, do we?), geologist Harry is tasked with keeping everyone save amidst burning lava flows!

Seeing how hands-on this geologist is, I fully expect all natural hazard scientists to personally visit their research areas, give a warning, and try to evacuate everyone on their own. Good luck.

Considered by some to be the least bad geology movie out there, Dante’s Peak is sure to delight anyone with or without an affinity for the Earth Sciences.

Warning: Excessive derisive snorts could result in a permanent altered sense of smell in trained geologists and volcanologists.

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Bonus: Lava (2014)

Image from Wikipedia.

A sneaky bonus must-see is the Pixar short Lava from 2014. It somewhat (emphasis on somewhat) accurately depicts how hot-spot volcanoes work and how a volcanic seamount chain develops. Of course it cuts some scientific corners, but it is just too cute and adorable, so this is easily forgiven. If you need a pick-me-up during lockdown, I highly recommend you invest a little less than 6 minutes of your life to watch this amazing short.

Another beautiful ‘geodynamic’ Pixar short is La Luna (2011), which provides an alternative explanation for the phases of the Moon.

Google/youtube these Pixar shorts. You will not be disappointed.

Warning: Since this is Pixar, it is advisable to perhaps have some tissues at the ready.

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Avatar photo
Iris is a postdoc at the German Aerospace Center in Berlin, Germany. Her current research revolves around modelling Venus. Previous projects concerned subduction dynamics and the associated seismic and tsunami hazards. Iris is the former Editor-in-chief of the GD blog team and now sometimes just blogs for fun. You can reach Iris via email. For more details, please visit Iris' personal webpage or check out her youtube channel:


  1. Avatar photo

    Great list Iris! All the movies you listed here are great, but my two favourite “science” movies are The day after tomorrow, and 2012. Watching them you can’t help but think that the script writers Googled a scientific word and ran with it. For The day after tomorrow it is “Heinrich event” (but in Antactica) which I am pretty sure is never actually named in the movie, and for 2012 it is “Nutrinos”.

    Bonus bit for me is Chris Pratt outrunning the pyroclastic flow/slope collapse in Jurassic world!

    • Avatar photo

      Thanks Hannah!

      Oh, I still need to watch those movies you mention, but now I have high hopes for them! Based on the comedy-factor of course; not science. No hopes for the science.

      I absolutely love Jurassic Park, but also still need to see Jurassic World! Will keep an eye out for Chris Pratt running!

  2. Let us not forget “Volcano” starring Tommy Lee Jones and Ann Heche in which volcanic eruptions begin beneath Los Angeles at the Lebrea Tar Pits after an earthquake and rather fluid lava threatens the city. This is a twofer: bad geology and over dramatized emergency management. Bring out the S’MORES fixings!

    • Avatar photo

      Sounds like another classic to add to the list!

  3. Dear Iris,

    I can’t believe that you’ve not discussed the best disaster movie to date: “San Andreas”. For anyone who ever visited AGU when housed in San Francisco, the underlying threat of an imminent, major earthquake is only mitigated by the abundance of science thrown in your face at the conference. The movie’s got it all as it contains major earthquake (do you need anything more geodynamical?), an earthquake-induced tsunami (can this get more realistic?) and of course the protagonist of all protagonists who’s played by the most geological actor of all times: the Rock (scrumptuous, no?). I like Ice Age as much as the next couch potato, maybe even more, but when you’re talking geodynamic movie lists, I don’t think you should be allowed to ignore a pearl like San Andreas.

    Yours truly,
    The Movie Critic Master

    • Avatar photo

      Dear The Movie Critic Master,

      Is it just me or are the Sassy Scientist vibes I am getting real?

      Whether or not you are my one and only Sassy, I do agree with you that ‘San Andreas’ is a modern classic that everyone should watch. In fact, it was the first bad science movie I ever watched with a bunch of colleagues. Seismologists to be exact. You can imagine our shared joy. But, you see, the things is, if you are going to do a top 5 post, you need to limit yourself to 5 things (and I already sneaked in a couple more). So, I had to be critical and decide what would make the top 5. Ice Age is amazing and the short clip in this post alone makes it a worthy mention in the top 5 list. So. San Andreas didn’t make it. *This* time. Because who knows how long the lockdown will go on for? Maybe there will come a time when a post with the title ‘5 more must-watch geodynamic movies’ sees the light of day. And then this top 5 will come from all the suggestions posted by readers, and then…

      Excuse me, I need to go to my editor-suite now. I have a post to write.

      Until next time,



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