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Honorable Mention: Cloverfield
The wreckage: Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Grand Central Station, Statue of Liberty, Woolworth Building
The tally: 10 points
The verdict: When the head of the Statue of Liberty crashes your going-away party, you might regret not leaving earlier. Clover, as the monster is affectionately referred to by the filmmakers, is seemingly impervious to heavy artillery, but seems cuddly compared to the frighteningly fast spider parasites whose bite makes people explode. Avoid those subway tunnels.
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10. Deep Impact
The wreckage: Brooklyn Bridge, Chrysler Building, Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Washington Square Arch, World Trade Center
The tally: 12 points
The verdict: Even the hardest of hardcore action movie fans may tear up at the thought of Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni) holding her estranged father tightly, reconciling just as the meteorite crash-induced mega-tsunami envelopes them. Deep Impact makes up for the lack of back-to-back overextended destruction porn with little things like plot and character development. The mature, a-bit-too-serious sister of the fun and wild Armaggedon, Deep Impact nevertheless features characters we actually care about — and Morgan Freeman as one of the best fake presidents in movie history.
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9. G.I. Joe Films
Rise of Cobra: Eiffel Tower
Retaliation: Big Ben, London Eye
The tally: 13 points
The verdict: For a squad of highly trained military operatives, they sure do cause a lot of collateral damage, the worst being the failure to stop the nanomites missile hitting the Eiffel Tower. They manage to shut down the green little buggers but not before the Eiffel Tower is half engulfed and collapses. G.I. Joe? More like G.I. Uh-Oh!
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8. Team America: World Police
The wreckage: Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Mount Rushmore, Panama Canal, Sphinx
The tally: 21 points
The verdict: Team America satirizes the best and worst of action movies that depict total and utter devastation. It contains destruction of famous landmarks, sassy dialogue, and American patriotism — wait, is it an Emmerich movie? No, it's a puppet movie by South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. America, f--- yeah!
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The wreckage: Arc de Triomphe, Chrysler Building, Eiffel Tower, Grand Central Station, Notre Dame, Shanghai, World Trade Center
The tally: 22 points
The verdict: If ID4 is the quintessential Roland Emmerich film, Armageddon is the perfect Michael Bay movie. When the world is in danger — which we know is true since meteorites strategically hit well-known international locales — the United States, specifically American oil riggers, is the only one who can save the world. Or even attempt to save the world because — America, that's why.
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6. The Day After Tomorrow
The wreckage: American Museum of Natural History, Capitol Records, Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Hollywood Sign, New York Public Library, Statue of Liberty, United Nations Headquarters (half points awarded for Big Ben, Brandenburg Gate, Rainbow Bridge, Sydney Opera House, and U.S. Bank Tower — all shown ravaged on international posters)
The tally: 23.5 points
The verdict: Another Emmerich film, this one focuses of most of the Northern Hemisphere — primarily New York City. Although the flooding and subsequent deep freeze of Manhattan make for a serious a spectacle, the most harrowing moment is the human-caused crush during a mass exodus of Americans over the Mexican border.
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5. Superman Franchise
Superman: Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood Sign, Hoover Dam
Superman II: Mount Rushmore, Washington Monument, White House
Superman III: Leaning Tower of Pisa
Superman IV: Great Wall of China, Statue of Liberty
Superman Returns/Man of Steel: None
The tally: 25 points
The verdict: Superman may have turned the world around to travel back in time and save Lois Lane, but watch out when he's angry. Clark Kent's alter-ego is the strongest being in the known universe and, while most of the chaos in these films was caused by the Man of Steel's nemeses, who knows what he could do without his moral fiber? He might destroy cities, massacre thousands of people, or just straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa (we counted half points for that little prank).
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4. Independence Day
The wreckage: Big Ben, Capitol Records, Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Manhattan Bridge, St. Basil's Cathedral, Statue of Liberty, Sydney Harbor Bridge, U.S. Bank Tower, U.S. Capitol Building, White House, World Trade Center,
The tally: 34 points
The verdict: ID4 is practically the Platonic form of a Roland Emmerich movie — destruction of famous landmarks, snappy dialogue, and fervent American jingoism. The aliens' incineration of the White House remains one of the most iconic moments in disaster movie history.
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3. Godzilla Films
Godzilla (1998): Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building, Grand Central Station, Madison Square Garden, Manhattan Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge
Godzilla (1954): Diet Building, Tokyo Tower, Wako Clock Tower
Godzilla Final Wars: Sydney Opera House, Sydney Tower
Godzilla vs King Gwodah: Hiroshima Dome, Tokyo City Hall
Godzilla vs Mothra: Burj Al Arab
Godzilla Rides Again: Osaka Castle
Best of the rest: Basically all of Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama
The tally: 40 points
The verdict: The granddaddy of kaijus on film, Godzilla has wreaked his fair share of destruction through the years. Tokyo received the brunt of his wrath during his heyday, but in Emmerich's 1998 disaster film (we mean that in more ways than one), the giant lizard brought his propensity to knock down skyscrapers with a flick of his tail to the Big Apple. With yet another iteration coming in 2014, who knows what devastation is to come?
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2. Mars Attacks!
The wreckage: Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, Houses of Parliament (London), Las Vegas Strip (half points for Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Great Pyramids of Giza), Moai, Taj Mahal, U.S. Capitol Building, Washington Monument
The tally: 41 points
The verdict: Based on the eponymous cult trading card series, Mars Attacks! features aliens treating Earth like their own plaything. One highlight: When the alien craft uses a giant rolling ball to literally bowl down the ancient Moai statues on Easter Island.
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The wreckage: Christ the Redeemer, Honolulu, Las Vegas Strip (half points for Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, and Great Pyramids of Giza), Vatican (Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica), Taj Mahal, U.S. Bank Tower, USS John F. Kennedy, Washington Monument, White House, Yellowstone Caldera
The tally: 50 points
The verdict: Many disaster movies are isolated to certain pockets of the world — cities, coastlines, and/or major landmarks. But in 2012, there is nowhere to run. No hiding in a bunker, no driving to the Midwest — everything and everyone is threatened. Well, except a tiny portion of the African continent...but good luck getting there without a giant, apocalypse-resistant steel ship. On the Emmerich scale, this movie is a perfect 10.