With the November 13 release of 2012 (starring John Cusack and Amanda Peet and directed by sci-fi veteran Roland Emmerich) fast approaching, we’ll help you get into the apocalyptic mood by putting together the top ten Best Apocalypse Movies in film history… Not one of which is "Apocalypse Now", which, as it turns out, isn’t even technically an apocalpyse movie! Who knew? We’ve never made it through that one without falling asleep!
The Quiet Earth
A man, Zac Hobson, kills himself over the guilt of his involvement in helping destroy the planet, but wakes up to discover that he hasn’t died, and may actually be the last person left in the world. He eventually finds two others who were in the process of dying when the apocalyptic accident occurred. With impressive graphics and an ending that ranks among the best in all of film history, The Quiet Earth is not to be missed for disaster film enthusiasts.
A little boy finds a paper with a number sequence written by another kid from 50 years earlier, which his father (Nicolas Cage) deciphers to reveal the date and body count of every major global disaster in the past 50 years, as well as several that have yet to happen – including the end of the world. Add some incredible scenes of devastation – including an incredibly realistic plane crash – and an alien sub-plot, and you’ve got yourself a strangely awesome end-of-the-world film. Bonus points for Nicolas Cage not destroying the film just by being in it.
This groundbreaking 1988 anime film takes place in a new city rebuilt over the remains of Tokyo, and involves a mysterious group of individuals with psionic powers. Caught in the middle of a war between the government and the rebellion, a young gang soon discovers that one of their friends is far more than he appears. This film is intensely psychedelic and complex, and demands several viewings to fully grasp the full concepts behind it. All the same, it’s a milestone for animated films, and one of the more original in terms of armageddon scenarios.
Terminator (all of them)
Robots with glowing eyes and Austrian accents wreak havoc in the ’80s and ’90s with a time machine and a mission to wipe out mankind, but are thwarted by a former diner waitress who realizes her kid is the savior of all mankind – because some bug-eyed dude in a trenchcoat got her pregnant and told her so. Before getting killed by the robots, of course. Fast forward to the future, after a nuclear holocaust has left the world a ball of Skynet-monitored wreckage with few human survivors and turned Christian Bale into a raging maniac when someone sets foot on his movie set. We’re four films deep into this franchise, and things aren’t looking any better for humanity.
A government-spawned superflu wipes out all of mankind, and the few survivors left face a terrifying new reality. While the film doesn’t do half of the justice to the Stephen King that it should (most of his films don’t), the overall concept and visual execution of The Stand – including the mass death in the Lincoln Tunnel – is one of the most terrifying apocalyptic depictions you’ll see on film. Bonus points for the appearance of the horrifying Randall Flagg, a frequent character among King’s novels.
A comet is screaming through space on a collision course with Earth, and a desperate attempt to use missile-borne nuclear weapons to deflect it fails. Fragments of the massive comet strike the planet in advance of the Big Bang, causing megatsunamis and catastrophic conditions that set this film far ahead of its knockoff film Armageddon, which was released two months later. Aerosmith may have lent one of heir daughters and written songs for that one, but critics and experts agree that Deep Impact was far better in real-life depiction and execution of events. It’s worth a viewing, if you haven’t seen it in a while.
Based on a short film called La Jetee, the film follows Bruce Willis as a criminal from a horrible future in which a global plague has pushed mankind underground, with devastating result. Cole is sent back in time to obtain a sample of the original plague before it mutated, for obvious intents of finding a cure. On his first time-trip to the past, Cole is committed to a mental hospital where he meets Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) who we eventually learn is part of a terrorist group called The Army of the Twelve Monkeys – the group believed to be behind the spreading of the plague. What Cole doesn’t grasp in his delirium (he loses the ability to determine what time he’s in or whether he’s dreaming) is that, at least in this reality, changing history is impossible, so his efforts are essentially useless and mankind is inevitably doomed.
28 Days Later
A man wakes up alone in a hospital, only to realize that the entire city has been abandoned. He soon comes to realize the horrible truth: everybody has either fled in terror or fallen victim to the Rage, a blood-borne virus that transforms humans into the ravenous undead. He and a ragtag group of survivors must make their way to safety before they, too, fall victim to the Rage. While it could technically be defined as a zombie film, the Rage plague is as disastrous as any threat to humanity could get.
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
The second and best of the Mad Max series takes place at a time when nuclear war has annihilated the world, and Mel Gibson travels through a devastated Australia looking for fuel to keep moving through the desolation and despair. Fuel is more valuable than gold, and when Max finds a settlement of good people defending a refinery from a murderous biker gang, he’s forced into confrontation against his will that finds him as the anti-hero in a brutal fight for survival. Easily one of the best post apocalyptic movies ever made.
The Omega Man
Remade from a 1964 film called The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man finds Charlton Heston as Robert Neville, a man who appears to be the only uninfected survivor of a super-plague that’s killed off all of mankind. All other survivors have been reduced to night-dwelling race of vampiric mutants, and Neville discovers that he’s the only surviving recipient of a serum against the plague. The effects aren’t fantastic, but the acting is great, and without it, we wouldn’t have I Am Legend. Imagine that horrible, horrible world.
Want Tips For Surviving the End of the World? Read this!