Not really a traditional disaster movie but Ron Howard’s 1991 thriller (gosh, is it really that old?) draws on the same primal fear of fire that fuelled The Towering Inferno. Here, the emphasis is not on one dominant conflagration, but a string of arson attacks and a Chicago fire crew containing two Irish-American brothers, maverick Kurt Russell and wet-behind-the- ears William Baldwin. The “backdraft” gives sentient life to the fire through clever use of special effects and sound, while a whodunnit combines with civic corruption and action set pieces to keep the story alight. Robert De Niro is the arson investigator, Donald Sutherland a jailed pyromaniac, JT Walsh a cost-cutting public servant and the thrilling score is by Hans Zimmer (Gladiator). I guess it took 9/11 to really enshrine firefighters as heroes, but Backdraft taps presciently into that.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news