10 Best Apocalypse Movies of All Time
In a world where each waking day seems to welcome a freshly horrifying news story (usually centered around the increasingly unhinged words of a certain Donald J. Trump), it's really not too ridiculous to start fretting about, y'know, the terrifying specter of a global apocalypse. We should give it some thought, at least.
Luckily for us, we have plenty of reference points on how to handle any global meltdown. So grab yourself a pen, a notepad and a big bowl of popcorn, and gain some invaluable tactics from these apocalyptic classics...
(A caveat: no zombies.)
This is the End (2013)
Seth Rogan is well-known for smuggling truckloads of his famous, guffawing mates into all of his films (especially if they're buddy-buddy with director Judd Apatow, too). He's not so well-known, however, for killing them off one by one in some of the most brutally gruesome ways imaginable.
But that's what we got from his co-directorial debut This is the End, where hordes of celebrities (playing themselves) fell victim to an unexpected demon apocalypse. We're talking Rihanna falling down a fiery sinkhole to the center of the Earth. Michael Cera gorged on a lamppost through his spine. That kind of thing.
In an age where 'viewing figures' have replaced 'political competency' in the hiring processes of American high office, we can only hope that Donald doesn't decide to place Armageddon director Michael Bay in charge of national defense.
He's the man, after all, who thought it was a good idea to send a team of random oil drillers into space to destroy an Earth-bound, extinction-dawning asteroid (including Ben Affleck, who can't even do his own trousers up let alone save the human race).
12 Monkeys (1995)
A second appearance from Bruce Willis here, but is that really a surprise? He's exactly the kind of guy you need in any apocalypse scenario. A wise-cracking, shiny-headed action hero who can screw in a light bulb and rebuild civilization with equal ease.
This time around, it's 2035 and a deadly virus has wiped out of almost all of humanity. Willis is sent back in time to stop it happening—but they (the post-apocalyptic scientists) send him too far, and he's thrown into a mental hospital where he needs to fashion a new plan with the help of a tick-happy Brad Pitt. Not only is it critically acclaimed, but also introduced an interesting truth—that you'd probably have a much harder time killing baby Hitler than you might think.
The Road (2009)
Adapted from Cormac McCarthy's 2006 Pulitzer-winning novel of the same name, The Road is a bit of a downer, if we're honest.
It tells the story of an unnamed man (played by Viggo Mortensen) desperately striving to protect his young son in the aftermath of a cataclysmic disaster that has wiped out the majority of the world's population. As they walk the wasteland, where no wildlife or food remains, in search of salvation, pack of gangs roam the streets in search of other survivors to feast upon.
At its cold, bruised heart, The Road is a study on how far a man's humanity can stretch in the face of desperation, fear and the prospect of death. Have fun!
Mad Max (1979)
As captivating as Tom Hardy's turn in Mad Max: Fury Road may be, it would be sacrilegious not to include Max Rockatansky's original adventure in this list. Unlike its 2015 reboot, the makers of 1979's Mad Max didn't boast an endless, wince-worthy budget. Much like it's titular hero, it had to work with scraps—but somehow, despite its shallow pockets, director George Miller managed to create one of the most viscerally thrilling action movies of all-time. The sheer audacity of the stunts on show are made all the more impressive by the fact it was Miller's first feature film.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Don't worry: it's not filmed in the stomach-wobbling shaky cam style of the original Cloverfield. In fact, in many ways, it's not even connected to its predecessor at all. 10 Cloverfield Lane is more of a psychological thriller than a huff'n'puff monster movie.
It all centres around a women who, after being knocked unconscious by a road accident, wakes up to find herself chained to a wall in an underground bunker. A suspicious man tells her that she's been saved from a massive airborne attack, and that they need to avoid the fall-out together alongside another survivor.
The problem is, she has no way of knowing if he's telling the truth, and his behaviour is worrying to say the least. 10 Cloverfield Lane is claustrophobic, paranoid and much, much scarier than a roaring, 65-foot monster could ever be.
Children of Men (2006)
In 2009, women across the globe lost the ability to have children. Nobody knows how. It just happened.
This sends everyone into a spiral of existential, hopeless despair. As the world's youngest citizen dies at 18, humankind is confronted with its own dwindling mortality on a global scale. Societies descend into violent chaos, governments crumble, and the UK emerges as the only semi-functioning country on Earth, leading to an influx of refugees desperate to survive.
In a genre wrought with viral outbreaks, Children of Men deals with refreshingly human concepts like mortality, fervent nationalism, and the power of hope.
Without giving too much away, the events of Arrival don't strictly constitute an apocalypse—though when a series of giant, straightened-out-banana-shaped UFOs wedged themselves silently into skylines across Earth, the end of the world is certainly what everyone fears. Amy Adams' linguist is the person charged with trying to communicate with the aliens—who inconveniently don't speak English—along with Jeremy Renner who fulfils the traditionally female role of eye candy with no back story.
Adams, though, has plenty of backstory and delivers terrific performance in a film that is everything a disaster movie isn't supposed to be: slow, thoughtful, beautifully shot and, ultimately, pretty uplifting, proving the end of the world (or the threat of it) doesn't have to all be panic, screaming and men blowing stuff up.
In 1988, almost a half-decade after America's nuclear attack on Hiroshima, Tokyo is obliterated by a psychic teenager named Akira. It sparks World War III and, 31 years later, the city (now called Neo-Tokyo) is stained with violence, crime and poverty.
But who is Akira? How does he boast such telekinetic powers? Is he still alive? And most importantly, what will happen when someone else develops the same psychic abilities and faces up to him?
Adapted from the manga epic, Akira was the movie that helped anime escape the confines of Japan and spread to the West, and is still considered to be a landmark animation. Japanese popular culture is obsessed with the prospect of apocalypse, from Japan Sinks to Godzilla, but this may be our favourite.
On the Beach (1959)
The radiation hasn't yet spread to Australia, but it will. There's no doubt about that. Slowly but surely, the nuclear fallout wrought by WWIII will engulf the Southern Hemisphere too, and finish off every living creature on Earth.
Well, that was the accepted logic, up until the Royal Australian Navy receive an incomprehensible morse code signal coming from the West Coast of the United States. A group of survivors (played by an impressive cast of Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Anthony Perkins and Fred Astaire) climb into the last American nuclear submarine and set off in search of hope in this black and white Stanley Kramer epic.
Based on Nevil Shute's novel of the same name, it tells the story of how differently human beings can act when the threat of complete annihilation drives their every thought and decision. In other words, when they have nothing left to lose.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.