We study the evolution of structural defects in AlxGa1-xN films (with x=0.0–0.6) bombarded with kilo-electron-volt heavy ions at 77 and 300 K. We use a combination of Rutherford backscattering/channeling spectrometry and cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy. Results show that an increase in Al content not only strongly enhances dynamic annealing processes but can also change the main features of the amorphization behavior. In particular, the damage buildup behavior at 300 K is essentially similar for all the AlGaN films studied. Ion-beam-produced disorder at 300 K accumulates preferentially in the crystal bulk region up to a certain saturation level (∼50%–60% relative disorder). Bombardment at 300 K above a critical fluence results in a rapid increase in damage from the saturation level up to complete disordering, with a buried amorphous layer nucleating in the crystal bulk. However, at 77 K, the saturation effect of lattice disorder in the bulk occurs only for x≳0.1. Based on the analysis of these results for AlGaN and previously reported data for InGaN, we discuss physical mechanisms of the susceptibility of group-III nitrides to ion-beam-induced disordering and to the crystalline-to-amorphous phase transition. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.