The Top Ten Post-Apocalpytic Movie Landscapes
Joseph Kosinski's Oblivion is only the latest in a long line of post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies that ravage the planet and then make it look real pretty. Take a look back at some of the best and most iconic images of Earth's destruction in The Top Ten Post-Apocalyptic Movie Landscapes. [Warning: At least one spoiler lies ahead...]
10. Escape from L.A. (dir. John Carpenter, 1996)
Source of Apocalypse: Earthquake [See also: "The Big One"]
John Carpenter's sequel to his dystopian sci-fi classic Escape from New York doesn't have many fans, but it's hard not to appreciate its satirical look at the Los Angeles of the future, complete with permanent gridlock and an underwater Universal Studios, which is now home to an actual Great White Shark.
9. I Am Legend (dir. Francis Lawrence, 2007)
Source of Apocalypse: Virus [See also: "Vampires (Sort of)"]
Will Smith carried most of this epic sci-fi tale all by his lonesome, as the last man on Earth in a world where a deadly virus (which he created) killed most of humanity and turned the rest into monsters. But I Am Legend's most memorable images are of a New York City overgrown with vegetation, like nature was already reclaiming our monuments.
8. Reign of Fire (dir. Rob Bowman, 2002)
Type of Apocalypse: Dragons [See Also: "Yes, Really"]
Rob Bowman's silly post-apocalyptic tale finds Christian Bale teaming up with Matthew McConaughey - who is overacting his head off - against the backdrop of the English countryside, and, in the climax, a London now overrun with giant monsters who have scorched everything in sight. Bizarre, but unique.
7. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (dir. Steven Spielberg, 2001)
Type of Apocalypse: Global warming [See Also: "Waterworld"]
Waterworld did it first, but Steven Spielberg did it better in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which found New York City (a popular locale for the post-apocalypse, although society's technically still going in A.I.) now submerged under water, with only the tips of the tallest skyscrapers and the torch of the Statue of Liberty proving it was ever there in the first place.
6. War of the Worlds (dir. Steven Spielberg, 2005)
Type of Apocalypse: Martians [See Also: "War of the Worlds (1953)," "Mars Attacks"]
Steven Spielberg's contemporary version of H.G. Wells' alien invasion novel wasn't the instant classic we were all hoping for, but the film's disturbingly beautiful image of a New England countryside painted bright pink with human viscera is unforgettably gross.
5. The Road Warrior (dir. George Miller, 1981)
Type of Apocalypse: Nuclear [See Also: "The 1950s"]
The desolate wastelands of George Miller's Mad Max sequel may look like just another desert, but The Road Warrior gives you the distinct impression that there's nothing left after the nuclear holocaust. The whole world looks like this. It may be a low budget landscape, but when most people think of the apocalypse, they still think it's going to look like this.
4. WALL-E (dir. Andrew Stanton, 2008)
Type of Apocalypse: Capitalistic Overconsumption [See Also: "Idiocracy"]
Wall-E is and perhaps always will be the cutest post-apocalyptic movie ever made, about a little robot left all alone on Earth to pick up all the garbage that makes the planet uninhabitable to organic life forms. Poor little Wall-E has been at it so long his trash piles are now the size of skyscrapers: mankind's unwanted refuse clearly dwarfing its supposedly greatest accomplishments.
3. The Terminator (dir. James Cameron, 1984)
Type of Apocalypse: Robot [See Also: "#2"]
Normally a post-apocalyptic wasteland of unrecognizable scrap metal and hollowed out buildings would be enough, but James Cameron added homicidal killer robots to the mix in his 1984 classic The Terminator, and the image has stuck with us ever since.
2. The Matrix (dirs. Wachowski Starship, 1999)
Type of Apocalypse: Robot [See Also: "#3"]
The world seemed so normal until hapless hacker Neo took the red pill and saw it for what it really was: a virtual reality simulation distracting humanity from the truth, that they're all just organic power batteries for artificially intelligent computers who won the war ages ago. Vast fields of embryonic fully grown humans harvested by giant mechanical monsters? That's a post-apocalypse for the ages.
1. Planet of the Apes (dir. Franklin J. Schaffner 1968)
Type of Apocalypse: You blew it up. [See Also: "Didn't you?!"]
The ending of Franklin J. Schaffner's Planet of the Apes was a huge twist back in 1968, but the image of the Statue of Liberty sticking out of a desolate shoreline has become so iconic that countless homages and parodies have robbed the image of its surprise... just not it's poignancy. Charlton Heston lands on a planet overrun by apes, but he'd never accept the film's final tragic revelation without this unmistakable and tragic sight to hammer it home. One of the greatest shots in all of cinema, sci-fi or otherwise.