In the past 20 years there have been a tremendous amount of apocalypse and post-apocalyptic films made. While the trend appears to be slowing, the so-called prophecies predicting the end of the world later this year are definitely dragging it out.
As a science fiction fan it would be hard to ignore this sub-genre of destruction, mortality and the fight for survival with some of the best sci-fi films depicting the end of the world as we know it. If you’re a fan of humanity’s demise, you will probably appreciate this week’s Stuff to Watch as we take a look at some of the most memorable apocalyptic moments in film history.
Don’t forget to add your own favourites, recommendations and opinions at the end of this article!
28 Days Later (2002)
Probably the best apocalypse film of the decade, Danny Boyle’s 2002 take on zombies is just as haunting now as it was ten years ago. A film that arguably influenced production studios and game developers to embrace “fast zombies” (Left4Dead anyone?), pretty much every aspect of the film is polished beyond belief – from the acting, to the haunting shots of London that had to be filmed at 5am to the original score, 28 Days Later is must-watch cinema for any apocalypse or zombie fan.
The Road (2007)
The Road will pick you up, shake you with tense action scenes, pull on your heartstrings through tight character relationships and blow your mind with the unforgiving no-holds-barred reality of a lawless society in a post-nuclear setting. Be prepared to feel hopeless and spat-out for a bit afterwards as you try and get your emotions around one of the most depressing yet beautiful films of the decade.
The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
Despite being an old black and white film from the 50s, The Day The Earth Stood still is still highly regarded among sci-fi fans today holding a very “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes despite being over 60 years old. The film tells the tale of an alien spacecraft arriving on earth on an apparent goodwill mission, though tensions rise as the visitor reveals a terrifying robot capable of massive destruction. The film offers an outsider’s view on earth’s situation post-World War II, and while the costumes and some plot turns might look a bit poor by today’s standards, it’s still a very watchable film you should probably check out.
12 Monkeys (1995)
With more twists and turns than is probably necessary for any apocalypse film, 12 Monkeys is another shining example of a modern post-apocalypse production starring some of the 90s best remembered actors. Both Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis take on excellent roles, with Willis playing the hardened criminal to the same standard as the lone cop in Die Hard and Pitt’s portrayal of the unhinged mental patient leaving you worried for the actor’s sanity, 12 Monkeys is a confusing but wonderful edge-of-your-seat epic.
Silent Running (1972)
In the future all plant life on earth has been made extinct and the last remaining specimens of earth life exist in large greenhouse domes that orbit the planet saturn. Freeman Lowell is tasked with the maintenance and preservation of this life when the orders come in from earth to destroy the domes and return the deep-space freighters to commercial service – an order he disobeys. A post-2001: A Space Odyssey sci-fi, Silent Running might be dated but is must-see for fans of 70s sci-fi and anyone searching for pre-CGI productions that used insanely detailed models as opposed to polygons in their special effects.
Mad Max (1979)
Set in “the not too distant future” is the Australian film that split critics and film fans’ opinions alike. Starring a young Mel Gibson the film is said to have inspired a new wave of Australian cinema as well as launching Gibson to fame and generating controversy in the process. Aside from being a gritty tale of the breakdown of the moral fabric of society, Mad Max is one of those classic 70s grungey low-budget productions with plenty of synthesizer and grainy film quality that only serves to add to the atmosphere.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The 1978 remake of 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers was everything a remake should be and more. Opening with a scene of deep space depicting gelatinous creatures abandoning their home, the alien life travels via solar winds to the planet earth where they eventually settle in San Francisco. The blobs soon begin creating clones of the city’s population, distinguishable by their distance and lifeless nature. The apocalypse films itself has received glowing reviews from fans and critics alike, and is a true 70s gem.
A French tale of hunger, romance and vegetarianism sums up the 1991 release Delicatessen, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic France in a time when food is so scarce that grain becomes the currency of choice for the country’s remaining population. In a run-down apartment building a butcher entices “workers” to seek employment as a source of cheap meat until one particular traveller steals the heart of the murderer’s daughter. Cue a tale of romance, secrecy and a vegetarian underground cult in this 1991 French-language epic.
Children of Men
Adapted from a novel of the same name, Children of Men is a highly celebrated dystopian science fiction film about the human race’s struggle for survival. After twenty years of infertility among humans, a man must help a pregnant African refugee seek refuge in the UK where the government imposes oppressive immigration restrictions. The film has been praised for its art direction, cinematography and action sequences, and has won enough awards to prove that you should probably go and watch it if you haven’t already.
The last apocalypse film on the list is the earliest here, having being released in 1927 and lovingly restored for re-release in 2010. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis has been described as “one of the great achievements of the silent era” by critic Roger Ebert, despite Lang’s own dissatisfaction with the film. The picture itself is set in a dystopian future where the rich control the world from vast high-rises and the poor keep the machines running from ground-level in poor conditions. The son of the city’s master begins exploring what life is truly like in the “worker’s city” and discovers some unpleasant truths about life in the metropolis.
You can see the full film, below.
In true apocalyptic fashion I’m going to leave you with one film that’s not a work of fiction but a time-lapse diagram of every known nuclear test between the years 1945 and 1998. After watching this, you’ll probably see where a lot of the writers and production teams got their inspiration for these films.
What did you think of this list? Got any favourite apocalypse or post-apocalyptic films of your own? Let us know in the comments, below!