The End Never Looked So Good: The Top 5 Post-Apocalyptic Movies
The world may have ended, but the action hasn’t.
According to some, the world has a good chance of ending on December 21st. Citing the Mayan calendar’s end-date, there’s a fair amount of fervor, or at the very least fake fervor, about the apocalypse. We wish to put forth the idea that the Mayans didn’t know what Leap Years were when they made their calendar, so really we’re probably way beyond it. But hey, that doesn’t stop us from making a list of our very favorite end-of-the-world movies. Any excuse, really.
Doomsday (2008) – The United Kingdom sure becomes a dangerous place in Neil Marshall’s violent adventure film, inspired by movies like The Road Warrior and Escape From New York and Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness. Thirty years after a horrible virus killed or mutated most of the people in the British Isles, the virus surfaces again. Now it’s up to a small group of mercenaries led by Rhona Mitra to cross into the quarantined Scottish countryside to find the one man (played by the great Malcolm McDowell) who might be able to cure it. This movie has it all: cannibalism, car chases and sword fights. There’s literally nothing else you could need.
The Last Man on Earth (1964) – It would certainly stand to reason, in our minds anyway, that the last man on Earth would be Vincent Price. The very first (and still most faithful) adaptation of Richard Matheson’s brilliant novel, I Am Legend, the film is a stripped-down, creepy black & white film with only small amounts of dialogue and a hell of a bleak ending. The entire world has become vampires and Price’s Dr. Robert Morgan (changed from Neville) is alone trying to determine why this happened and how he can rid the world of their undead, garlic-fearing carcasses. It’s also the only one of the film adaptations not to turn the main character into a messianic, superhero figure. The book’s title was ironic, everyone.
WALL-E (2008) – Leave it to Pixar to make what is probably the most believable and disturbing post-human Earthscape committed to cinema. The first half of the movie plays like Silent Running with the robot acting as Bruce Dern. It portrays an Earth bereft of natural resources, where piles of garbage create skyscrapers for our lonely trash-compacting robot to sift through. When humans are finally shown, aboard a massive automated pleasure yacht, they’re so incredibly fat, they can’t even move without the aid of hover-recliners. Its worldview is dour, but the love story at the film’s heart is enough to keep us from killing ourselves.
Planet of the Apes (1968) – Were it possible to accurately type a Charlton Heston impersonation, we would be doing that a lot here. Surely the least plausible but most awesome way the world could end would be for hyper-intelligent apes to rise up against the humans who’ve enslaved them for too long. Good for them, really. The film is one of the best allegories created for the screen and has the benefit of some astonishingly good makeup effects which, by and large, still hold up today. The ending is also one of the most shocking in cinema history: We were the maniacs; we blew it up. Also, “It’s a mad house! A MAD HOUSE!!” We couldn’t help ourselves.
Dawn of the Dead (1978) – This is the one for which everybody’s been preparing, unfounded or not. While he’d already given us a glimpse of zombies (or “ghouls”) in Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero officially set the standard for what a zombie apocalypse might look like with his late-’70s masterpiece. We stay with his four hapless survivors as they try to secure one of those massive newfangled shopping malls for their very own, and the hardships and fleeting calms they experience along the way. If not for this movie, Max Brooks and Robert Kirkman would not be names we recognize and we wouldn’t know how best to quietly dispatch a “walker.”
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