2012 (2009)


2012 (2009)

Dr. Adrian Helmsley, part of a worldwide geophysical team investigating the effect on the earth of radiation from unprecedented solar storms, learns that the earth's core is heating up. He warns U.S. President Thomas Wilson that the crust of the earth is becoming unstable and that without proper preparations for saving a fraction of the world's population, the entire race is doomed. Meanwhile, writer Jackson Curtis stumbles on the same information. While the world's leaders race to build "arks" to escape the impending cataclysm, Curtis struggles to find a way to save his family. Meanwhile, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes of unprecedented strength wreak havoc around the world.
IMDb   5.8 /10
Metacritic   49 %
TheMovieDb    5.8 /10
FilmAffinity   4.8 /10
Release Date2009-11-11
Runtime2h 38mins
GenreAction, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Content RatingPG-13 (PG-13)
Awards5 wins & 21 nominations.
CompanyColumbia Pictures, Centropolis Entertainment, Farewell Productions
LanguageEnglish, French, Tibetan, Mandarin, Russian, Hindi, Portuguese, Latin, Italian, Spanish
Jackson Curtis
Kate Curtis
Adrian Helmsley
Laura Wilson (as Thandie Newton)
Carl Anheuser
Gordon Silberman
Charlie Frost
President Thomas Wilson
Noah Curtis
Lilly Curtis
Yuri Karpov

2012 (film)

2012 is a 2009 American science fiction disaster film directed and written by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Harald Kloser, Mark Gordon, and Larry J. Franco, and written by Kloser and Emmerich. The film stars John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Thandiwe Newton, Danny Glover, and Woody Harrelson. Based on the 2012 phenomenon, its plot follows geologist Adrian Helmsley (Ejiofor) and novelist Jackson Curtis (Cusack) as they experience the events that the phenomenon predicted.

Filming, originally planned for Los Angeles, began in Vancouver in August 2008. After a lengthy advertising campaign which included the creation of a website from its main characters' point of view and a viral marketing website on which filmgoers could register for a lottery number to save them from the ensuing disaster, 2012 was released on November 13, 2009, to commercial success, grossing over $769 million worldwide against a production budget of $200 million, becoming the fifth highest-grossing film of 2009. The film received mixed reviews, with praise for its visual effects, but criticism of its screenplay and runtime.


In 2009, American geologist Adrian Helmsley visits astrophysicist Satnam Tsurutani in India and learns that an exotic new type of neutrinos from a huge solar flare are heating Earth's core. In Washington, D.C., Helmsley presents his information to White House Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser, who brings him to meet U.S. President Thomas Wilson.

In 2010, Wilson and other world leaders begin a secret project to ensure humanity's survival. China and the G8 nations begin building nine arks, each capable of carrying 100,000 people, in the Himalayas near Cho Ming, Tibet. Nima, a Buddhist monk, is evacuated and his brother Tenzin joins the ark project. Funding is raised by secretly selling tickets to the rich and famous for €1 billion per person. By 2011, valuable art is moved to the arks but art expert and First Daughter Laura Wilson is told it is being sent to the Alps for preservation.

In 2012, struggling Manhattan Beach, California-based science-fiction writer Jackson Curtis is a chauffeur for Russian billionaire Yuri Karpov. Jackson's former wife Kate and their children, Noah and Lilly, live with Kate's boyfriend, plastic surgeon and amateur pilot Gordon Silberman. Jackson takes Noah and Lilly camping in Yellowstone National Park. When they enter an area fenced off by the United States Army, they are caught and brought to Adrian, who is studying the geology of the area and has read Jackson's books. After being released they meet conspiracy theorist Charlie Frost, who hosts a radio show from the park about the end of the world.

That night, after the military evacuates Yellowstone, Charlie shows Jackson his video of Charles Hapgood's theory that polar shift and the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar predict a 2012 phenomenon and the end of the world. Charlie reveals that anyone attempting to inform the public was or will be killed. After Jackson and his children return home, the sudden departure of Karpov makes Jackson realize Charlie was right and he races to get to his family as a large earthquake hits California. Jackson gets everyone into his limousine and they go to Santa Monica Airport, where they jump into a private Cessna 340A. Gordon is convinced to fly the plane even though he protests he has no experience with this particular plane. With the land collapsing behind them, Gordon gets them off the ground just in time. As the Earth-crust displacement begins, causing a 10.9 magnitude earthquake, Gordon, Jackson, Kate, and the children escape Los Angeles as much of the West Coast sinks into the Pacific Ocean.

The group flies to Yellowstone to retrieve a map from Charlie with the arks' location. As they leave, the Yellowstone Caldera erupts; Charlie stays behind to finish his radio broadcast and dies during the eruption. The group lands in Las Vegas because they need a larger plane to get to China and run into Yuri, his twin sons Alec and Oleg, his girlfriend Tamara and their pilot Sasha. Sasha and Gordon fly them out in an Antonov An-500 as the Yellowstone ash cloud envelops Las Vegas.

Adrian, Carl, and Laura fly to the arks on Air Force One. President Wilson elects to remain in Washington, D.C. to address the nation while billions of people die in earthquakes and megatsunamis worldwide, including himself and the Vice President who is killed in the ash cloud. With the presidential line of succession broken, Carl assumes the position of acting commander-in-chief. When Adrian and Laura are surprised to see mostly wealthy people boarding the arks, Carl explains that they sold tickets to pay for the cost of construction but most of them won’t get on the arks.

As Jackson's group reaches China, their plane runs out of fuel. Sasha continues flying the plane as the others escape in a Bentley Continental Flying Spur stored in the cargo hold. Sasha is killed when the plane slides off a cliff. The others are spotted by Chinese Air Force helicopters. Yuri and his sons, who have tickets, are brought to the arks but the Curtis family, with Tamara and Gordon, are abandoned. They are picked up by Nima and brought to the arks with his grandparents. With Tenzin's help, they stow away on Ark 4, where the U.S. contingent is located. While welding the door closed Tenzin is injured and Gordon is crushed to death by the gears. An impact driver gets lodged in the gears, jamming them and keeping a boarding gate open, which prevents the ship's engines from starting. A large megatsunami is headed for the ark site and Carl orders the loading gates be closed while most people haven’t boarded. Adrian begs the captain and the other arks not to begin the future of humanity with such a cruel act. The loading gates are opened and Yuri falls into a deep canyon as he pushes his sons into one of the arks. The wave breaches the Himalayas and the back of the ark fills with water and is set adrift heading for impact with the north face of Mount Everest without the engines needed to avoid a fatal collision. Adrian rushes towards the hydraulic chamber to fix the gears but the flood doors have closed trapping the stowaways and drowning Tamara. Jackson hears Adrian say the gears must be cleared but the chamber is flooded so it is a suicide mission. Jackson kisses his family goodbye, takes a deep breath and swims to clear the gears. Noah sneaks off and follows him and together they dislodge the tool. The crew regains control of the Ark before it strikes Mount Everest. Noah makes it back safely followed by Jackson.

One year, one month and twenty-seven days later, the waters are receding. The arks approach the Cape of Good Hope, where the Drakensberg mountains have now become the highest mountain range on Earth, after the continent of Africa has risen above the waters. Adrian and Laura begin a relationship, while Jackson and Kate rekindle their romance and reunite their family.

Alternate ending

An alternate ending appears in the film's DVD release. After Captain Michaels (the Ark 4 captain) announces that they are heading for the Cape of Good Hope, Adrian learns by phone that his father, Harry, and Harry's friend Tony survived a megatsunami which capsized their cruise ship, the Genesis. Adrian and Laura strike up a friendship with the Curtis family; Kate thanks Laura for taking care of Lily, Laura tells Jackson that she enjoyed his book Farewell Atlantis, and Jackson and Adrian have a conversation reflecting the events of the worldwide crisis. Jackson returns Noah's cell phone, which he recovered during the Ark 4 flood. The ark finds the shipwrecked Genesis and her survivors on a beach.


  • John Cusack as Jackson Curtis, a struggling writer and a father of two children.
  • Amanda Peet as Kate Curtis, a medical student and Jackson's former wife.
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as geologist Adrian Helmsley, chief science advisor to the U.S. President.
  • Oliver Platt as Carl Anheuser, the White House Chief of Staff.
  • Thandiwe Newton (credited as Thandie Newton) as Laura Wilson, an art expert and First Daughter.
  • Danny Glover as Thomas Wilson, the President of the United States and Laura's father.
  • Woody Harrelson as Charlie Frost, a fringe science conspiracy theorist and radio talk-show host.
  • Liam James as Noah Curtis, Jackson and Kate's son.
  • Morgan Lily as Lilly Curtis, Jackson and Kate's daughter.
  • Tom McCarthy as Gordon Silberman, a plastic surgeon/pilot and Kate's boyfriend.
  • Zlatko Burić as Yuri Karpov, a Russian billionaire and former boxer.
  • Beatrice Rosen as Tamara Jikan, Yuri's girlfriend.
  • Alexandre and Philippe Haussmann as Alec and Oleg Karpov, Yuri's twin sons.
  • Johann Urb as Sasha, Yuri's pilot.
  • John Billingsley as Frederick West, a colleague of Adrian.
  • Ryan McDonald as Scotty, Adrian and Frederick's assistant.
  • Jimi Mistry as Satnam Tsurutani, an Indian astrophysicist who discovers the neutrinos which are warming Earth's crust. He is killed along with his family by a tsunami after their rescue helicopter fails to arrive.
  • Agam Darshi as Aparna Tsurutani, Satnam's wife.
  • Chin Han as Tenzin, an ark worker who attempts to save his family.
  • Osric Chau as Nima, a Buddhist monk and Tenzin's brother.
  • Tseng Chang as Grandfather Sonam, their grandfather.
  • Lisa Lu as Grandmother Sonam, their grandmother.
  • Blu Mankuma as Harry Helmsley, Adrian's father and Tony Delgatto's vocal partner.
  • George Segal as Tony Delgatto, a jazz singer
  • Stephen McHattie as Captain Michaels, the captain of Ark 4.
  • Patrick Bauchau as Roland Picard, the director of the Louvre who is killed with a car bomb by the U.S. government
  • Henry O as Lama Rinpoche, a Buddhist monk.
  • Karin Konoval as Sally, President Wilson's secretary.
  • Michael Buffer as himself, announcing for a boxing match in Las Vegas.
  • Dean Marshall as the Ark 4 communications officer.
  • Zinaid Memisevic as Sergey Makarenko, the President of Russia.
  • Merrilyn Gann as the German Chancellor.
  • Lyndall Grant as Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California.
  • Vincent Cheng as a Chinese colonel.
  • Leonard Tenisci as the Italian Prime Minister.
  • Parm Soor as the Saudi Arabia Prince
  • Elizabeth Richard as Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Frank C. Turner as Preacher.



Graham Hancock's Fingerprints of the Gods was listed in 2012's credits as the film's inspiration, and Emmerich said in a Time Out interview: "I always wanted to do a biblical flood movie, but I never felt I had the hook. I first read about the Earth's Crust Displacement Theory in Graham Hancock's Fingerprints of the Gods." He and composer-producer Harald Kloser worked closely together, co-writing a spec script (also titled 2012) which was marketed to studios in February 2008. A number of studios heard a budget projection and story plans from Emmerich and his representatives, a process repeated by the director after Independence Day (1996) and The Day After Tomorrow (2004).

Later that month, Sony Pictures Entertainment received the rights to the spec script. Planned for distribution by Columbia Pictures, 2012 cost less than its budget; according to Emmerich, the film was produced for about $200 million.

Filming, originally scheduled to begin in Los Angeles in July 2008, began in Kamloops, Savona, Cache Creek and Ashcroft, British Columbia. With a Screen Actors Guild strike looming, the film's producers made a contingency plan to salvage it. Uncharted Territory, Digital Domain, Double Negative, Scanline, and Sony Pictures Imageworks were hired to create 2012's computer-animated visual effects.

The film depicts the destruction of several cultural and historical icons around the world. Emmerich said that the Kaaba was considered for selection, but Kloser was concerned about a possible fatwā against him.


2012 was marketed by the fictional Institute for Human Continuity, featuring a book by Jackson Curtis (Farewell Atlantis), streaming media, blog updates and radio broadcasts from zealot Charlie Frost on his website, This Is The End. On November 12, 2008, the studio released the first trailer for 2012. With a tsunami surging over the Himalayas and a purportedly scientific message that the world would end in 2012, the trailer's message was that international governments were not preparing their populations for the event. The trailer ended with a suggestion to viewers to "find out the truth" by entering "2012" on a search engine. The Guardian called the film's marketing "deeply flawed", associating it with "websites that make even more spurious claims about 2012".

The studio introduced a viral marketing website operated by the Institute for Human Continuity, where filmgoers could register for a lottery number to be part of a small population which would be rescued from the global destruction. David Morrison of NASA, who received over 1,000 inquiries from people who thought the website was genuine, condemned it. "I've even had cases of teenagers writing to me saying they are contemplating suicide because they don't want to see the world end", Morrison said. "I think when you lie on the internet and scare children to make a buck, that is ethically wrong." Another marketing website promoted Farewell Atlantis, a fictional novel about the events of 2012.

Comcast organized a "roadblock campaign" to promote the film in which a two-minute scene was broadcast on 450 American commercial television networks, local English-language and Spanish-language stations, and 89 cable outlets during a ten-minute window between 10:50 and 11:00 pm Eastern and Pacific Time on October 1, 2009. The scene featured the destruction of Los Angeles and ended with a cliffhanger, with the entire 5:38 clip available on Comcast's Fancast website. According to Variety, "The stunt will put the footage in front of 90% of all households watching ad-supported TV, or nearly 110 million viewers. When combined with online and mobile streams, that could increase to more than 140 million".


The film's score was composed by Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander. Singer Adam Lambert contributed a song to the film, "Time for Miracles", and expressed his gratitude in an MTV interview. The 24-song soundtrack includes "Fades Like a Photograph" by Filter and "It Ain't the End of the World" by George Segal and Blu Mankuma. The trailer track was "Master of Shadows" by Two Steps From Hell.


2012 was released to cinemas on November 13, 2009, in Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Mexico, India, the United States, and Japan. According to the studio, the film could have been completed for a summer release but the delay allowed more time for production.

The DVD and Blu-ray versions were released on March 2, 2010. The two-disc Blu-ray edition includes over 90 minutes of features, including Adam Lambert's music video for "Time for Miracles" and a digital copy for PSP, PC, Mac, and iPod. A 3D version was released in Cinemex theaters in Mexico in February 2010. It was later released on Ultra HD Blu-ray on January 19, 2021.


Box office

2012 grossed $166.1 million in North America and $603.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $769.6 million against a production budget of $200 million, making it the first film to gross over $700 million worldwide without crossing $200 million domestically. Worldwide, it was the fifth-highest-grossing 2009 film and the fifth-highest-grossing film distributed by Sony-Columbia, (behind Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy and Skyfall). 2012 is the second-highest-grossing film directed by Roland Emmerich, behind Independence Day (1996). It earned $230.5 million on its worldwide opening weekend, the fourth-largest opening of 2009 and for Sony-Columbia.

2012 ranked number one on its opening weekend, grossing $65,237,614 on its first weekend (the fourth-largest opening for a disaster film). Outside North America it is the 28th-highest-grossing film, the fourth-highest-grossing 2009 film, and the second-highest-grossing film distributed by Sony-Columbia, after Skyfall. 2012 earned $165.2 million on its opening weekend, the 20th-largest overseas opening. Its largest opening was in France and the Maghreb ($18.0 million). In total earnings, the film's three highest-grossing territories after North America were China ($68.7 million), France and the Maghreb ($44.0 million), and Japan ($42.6 million).

In 2020, the film received renewed interest during the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming the second-most popular film and seventh-most popular overall title on Netflix in March 2020.

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 39% based on 243 reviews and an average rating of 5.02/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Roland Emmerich's 2012 provides plenty of visual thrills, but lacks a strong enough script to support its massive scope and inflated length." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 49 out of 100 based on 34 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.

Roger Ebert praised 2012, giving it 3+1⁄2 stars out of 4 and saying that it "delivers what it promises and since no sentient being will buy a ticket expecting anything else, it will be, for its audiences, one of the most satisfactory films of the year". Ebert and Claudia Puig of USA Today called the film the "mother of all disaster movies". But Peter Travers of Rolling Stone compared it to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: "Beware 2012, which works the dubious miracle of almost matching Transformers 2 for sheer, cynical, mind-numbing, time-wasting, money-draining, soul-sucking stupidity."


Broadcast Film Critics Association AwardsBest Visual EffectsVolker Engel, Marc Weigert, Mike VézinaNominated
NAACP Image AwardOutstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion PictureChiwetel EjioforNominated
Danny GloverNominated
Motion Picture Sound EditorsBest Sound Editing – Music in a Feature FilmFernand Bos, Ronald J. WebbNominated
Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects and Foley in a Feature FilmFernand Bos, Ronald J. WebbNominated
Satellite AwardsBest Sound (Editing and Mixing)Paul N.J. Ottosson, Michael McGee, Rick Kline, Jeffrey J. Haboush, Michael KellerWon
Best Visual EffectsVolker Engel, Marc Weigert, Mike VézinaWon
Best Art Direction and Production DesignBarry Chusid, Elizabeth WilcoxNominated
Best Film EditingDavid Brenner, Peter S. ElliotNominated
Saturn AwardsSaturn Award for Best Action, Adventure, or Thriller Film2012Nominated
Best Special EffectsVolker Engel, Marc Weigert, Mike VézinaNominated
Visual Effects Society AwardsOutstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion PictureVolker Engel, Marc Weigert, Josh JaggarsNominated
Best Single Visual Effect of the YearVolker Engel, Marc Weigert, Josh R. Jaggars, Mohen Leo for "Escape from L.A."Nominated
Outstanding Created Environment in a Feature Motion PictureHaarm-Pieter Duiker, Marten Larsson, Ryo Sakaguchi, Hanzhi Tang for "Los Angeles Destruction"Nominated

North Korean ban

North Korea reportedly banned the possession or viewing of 2012. The year was the 100th anniversary of the birth of the nation's founder, Kim Il-sung, and was designated as "the year for opening the grand gates to becoming a rising superpower"; a film depicting the year negatively was deemed offensive by the North Korean government. Several people in North Korea were reportedly arrested for possessing (or viewing) imported copies of 2012 and charged with "grave provocation against the development of the state".

Cancelled television spin-off

In 2010 Entertainment Weekly reported a planned spin-off television series, 2013, which would have been a sequel to the film. 2012 executive producer Mark Gordon told the magazine, "ABC will have an opening in their disaster-related programming after Lost ends, so people would be interested in this topic on a weekly basis. There's hope for the world despite the magnitude of the 2012 disaster as seen in the film. After the movie, there are some people who survive, and the question is how will these survivors build a new world and what will it look like. That might make an interesting TV series." However, plans were later cancelled for budgetary reasons. It would have been Emmerich's third film to spawn a spin-off; the first was Stargate (followed by Stargate SG-1, Stargate Infinity, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Universe), and the second was Godzilla (followed by the animated Godzilla: The Series).