The Gene Hackman movie sees a luxury liner capsize on New Year’s Eve, after being hit by a tidal wave.
A group of survivors attempts to find their way to the top of the ship, which is upside down.
Oscar-winning Titanic, starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet, has been rated the second favourite disaster movie.
However, another 70s movie, The Towering Inferno, starring Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, comes in at third place.
The 1974 film sees a huge fire break out at the opening party of the world’s tallest skyscraper.
Airport, the 1970 movie featuring a bomber on board a plane, came fourth in the poll of 500 UCI Cinema staff, followed by the 1989 ocean movie The Abyss.
Independence Day, Earthquake, The Hindenburg, A Night to Remember and Twister are also included in the top 10.
The poll was carried out to mark the forthcoming release of The Day After Tomorrow, which sees the world hit by global warming.
The disaster genre flourished in the 1970s, before the transformation of special effects technology.
UCI Cinemas spokeswoman Lianne Butterfield said: “The early years spawned some truly wonderful and often completely over-the-top storylines that built on people’s growing experiences of the modern world.
“They capitalised on their fears of just what can happen when the world around you spirals out of control.”