It's hard to capture the majesty of a volcano on film. No matter how well you shoot the scene, volcanic eruptions are so grand, so mysterious, so fascinating that you just have to be there.
But that doesn't mean directors haven't tried! For as long as cinema has been around, filmmakers have tried to convey big events (like natural disasters) in ways that audiences can viscerally feel.
Often linked to deities and folklore, humans have tried to understand—and appease—volcanoes for millenia. But for those of us who don't live near one, cinema is as close as we'll ever get.
In this article, I'll share some of my favorite movies with volcanoes and volcanic eruptions, involving a cross-genre selection of classic disaster movies, experimental movies, dramatizations of true stories, and documentaries about real-world volcanoes.
10. The Burning Dead (2015)
Directed by Rene Perez
Starring Danny Trejo, Thomas Downey, Moniqua Plante
Action, Fantasy, Horror (1h 22m)
The Burning Dead (a play on the better-known The Walking Dead) is a delightful B-movie that blends the disaster genre with the zombie genre, resulting in a cocktail of suspense, special effects, and more.
When a family gets lost on a mountain, Sheriff Denton (Thomas Downey) must go and rescue them. Easy, right? Unfortunately, being lost on the mountain isn't the dangerous part.
In fact, a volcano is about to erupt—and, for some reason, there are lava-filled zombies who are hungry for brains.
Look, The Burning Dead is not a good movie. It has abysmal ratings and it doesn't even have any certified reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. However, if you like Danny Trejo (who stars as Night Wolf) and you like crazy films that are so bad they're good, you'll enjoy this one.
9. Destruction Los Angeles (2017)
Directed by Tibor Takács
Starring Craig Sheffer, Cynthia Watros, Romeo Miller
Action, Adventure, Thriller (1h 33m)
Destruction Los Angeles is a disaster movie that doesn't just feature a volcano, but also an earthquake caused by the volcano.
The film centers on John Benson (Craig Sheffer), a journalist who's looking to catch the perfect bit of news that will catapult his career.
One day, that opportunity finally shows up but leaves him in a tough spot: when an earthquake shakes Los Angeles, he must decide whether to pursue the story or bring his family to safety. The earthquake is, of course, connected to the eruption of a nearby volcano.
Destruction Los Angeles is the definition of a brainless popcorn flick, but if you're in search of a fun movie about volcanoes and earthquakes, this one is a great way to kill an hour and a half.
8. Samsara (2011)
Directed by Ron Fricke
Starring Balinese Tari Legong Dancers, Ni Made Megahadi Pratiwi, Puti Sri Candra Dewi
Documentary, Music (1h 42m)
Samsara is an ambitious documentary that was filmed over five years across 25 different countries. Its mission? To explore the corners of the planet in search of sacred grounds, disaster zones, and other such interesting landscapes and locations.
Even for a documentary, Samsara is a unique film to behold—because it's more than just a documentary. It's a hybrid that blends the usual nature documentary with experimental filmmaking.
There's no narrative. It's not even a travelogue. Samsara puts a sensory experience at its center, balancing visuals and sounds with a love for the world and its natural landscapes.
So why am I including it? Because Samsara does feature volcanoes, and they're a majestic sight to see in this meditative film.
7. Dante's Peak (1997)
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton, Jamie Renée Smith
Action, Adventure, Thriller (1h 49m)
Harry Dalton is a volcanologist who makes a tragic discovery: a nearby volcano is on the verge of erupting, which would destroy his town and kill everyone in it.
Now it's up to him to convince everyone that they need to evacuate, but it won't be easy because nobody believes him. After all, the volcano has been dormant for many years—plus, he's an outsider.
Dante's Peak is one of the best disaster movies about volcanoes, if only because it's a stark depiction of what happens when we live in denial and refuse to accept a harsh truth.
6. The Northman (2022)
Directed by Robert Eggers
Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang
Action, Adventure, Drama (2h 17m)
The latest film by Robert Eggers as of this writing, The Northman is an epic historical film about a Viking who's on a path of revenge.
One day, while Prince Amleth is growing up and preparing to become the leader of his clan, his uncle kills his father and kidnaps his mother. Amleth manages to escape, then spends the next two decades avoiding home, where revenge awaits.
The Northman might've received mixed reviews, but I'm featuring it on this list because of the absolutely epic final scene, which takes place on a volcano.
5. 2012 (2009)
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Starring John Cusack, Thandiwe Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi (2h 38m)
Remember when people around the globe actually thought the world was going to end in 2012? If you want to jump back to that time, 2012 is the perfect disaster movie for doing that.
In 2012, while the planet edges closer to its apocalyptic end, world leaders prepare to get through the armageddon on their own, happy to leave everyone else behind if it means their own survival.
One such person who's left behind is Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), a wannabe writer who never quite succeeded. Well, now he has other things to prioritize, like saving his family from extinction.
4. Into the Inferno (2016)
Directed by Werner Herzog
Starring Werner Herzog, Katia Krafft, Maurice Krafft
Documentary (1h 44m)
Into the Inferno is the volcano movie by acclaimed documentarian Werner Herzog. In it, he explores active volcanoes all around the world, with a special focus on the people who live near them.
Together with volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, Herzog puts an anthropological lens on one of the most fascinating and deadly natural phenomena—volcanoes—and in doing so, he sheds light on their majesty as well as our fascination with them.
Into the Inferno isn't just an outstanding work or a unique piece of cinema; it's one of the best educational movies about volcanoes that you can watch right now.
3. Volcano (1997)
Directed by Mick Jackson
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, Gaby Hoffman
Action, Drama, Sci-Fi (1h 44m)
We already mentioned Dante's Peak earlier in this list, but that very same year, we got another volcano disaster movie—with a suspiciously similar premise—called Volcano.
Also set in Los Angeles, Volcano starts with a minor earthquake and a nearby volcanic eruption, at which point a seismologist tries the impossible: to stop the eruption from reaching the city.
Both Dante's Peak and Volcano will forever be remembered as twin films, a phenomenon where two very similar movies come out in the same year. (Another iconic example: Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down, which both released in 2013.)
Between the two, Dante's Peak might've been more successful, but my preference actually goes to Volcano!
2. The Volcano: Rescue From Whakaari (2022)
Directed by Rory Kennedy
Starring Mark Inman, Hazel Osborne, Pouroto Ngaropo
Documentary (1h 38m)
Back in 2019, a sudden volcanic eruption off the coast of New Zealand resulted in 47 tourists being trapped and needing rescue.
The entire ordeal was captured and recreated in The Volcano: Rescue From Whakaari, featuring minute-by-minute footage and personal accounts of the tragedy.
This is a very real and very tragic documentary that isn't easy to watch. Viewer discretion is advised because it can be unsettling.
But I do recommend that you watch it because it's an important work of remembrance, a reminder of nature's dangers, a tribute to the solidarity of mankind, and a powerful example of how real footage of a disaster can be so impactful.
While different from the other movies on this list, The Volcano: Rescue From Whakaari is one of the greatest movies about volcanoes ever made and a must-watch if you want to see a real eruption.
1. Fire of Love (2022)
Directed by Sara Dosa
Starring Katia Krafft, Maurice Krafft, Miranda July
Biography, Documentary (1h 38m)
Fire of Love is an independent documentary film about two volcanologists—Katia and Maurice Krafft—who died back in 1991 during the eruption of Mount Unzen on the Japanese island of Kyushu.
This film uses archival footage to celebrate their lives and careers, all while tracking their shared tragic ending.
From disaster movies to documentaries, this list has provided all kinds of movies about volcanoes, which we find so fascinating—but the truth is that volcanoes are dangerous and destructive.
Director Sara Dosa created Fire of Love to not only make sense of our fascination with volcanoes, but to ultimately celebrate it.