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Best movies about the end of the world

By Jennifer Vineyard, Special to CNN
updated 5:57 PM EST, Fri December 21, 2012
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Shortages: 'The Hunger Games'
Cannibals: 'The Road'
Zombies: 'Shaun of the Dead'
Vampires: 'I Am Legend'
Machines: 'The Matrix'
Environmental: 'WALL-E'
Meteor collision: 'Melancholia'
Pandemic: '12 Monkeys'
No more fertility: 'Children of Men'
Religious: 'The Rapture'
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • If the world comes to an end today, it won't be the first time -- at least not on film
  • A man tries to protect his son from the horror that is other people in "The Road"
  • Bruce Willis is sent back from the future to isolate the cause of a pandemic in "12 Monkeys"

(CNN) -- If the world comes to an end today, it won't be the first time. At least on film, planet Earth has been destroyed, decimated, and rebuilt countless times over, from a myriad of causes and in a variety of situations that even the Mayans couldn't have seen coming (nuclear war! aliens! zombies!).

If there's one thing that most of the post-apocalyptic genre films have in common, it's the glimmer of hope that perhaps we'll still survive after all (or at least the apes will). We all know the big-scale disaster films ("The Day After Tomorrow," "Deep Impact"), but what movies are actually worth your time if you truly only have one last day to live? Pick your favorite end of the world scenario, and enjoy one of these until the power goes out.

Shortages: "The Hunger Games"

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers (in her sister's place) to take part in a brutal and ritualistic "game" in which children are forced to fight to the death, as a penalty for a rebellious insurrection in a totalitarian version of America known as Panem. Since the war, goods and supplies are strictly controlled, hence the game's reference to the starvation of Panem's people. Katniss survives the game because she learned early on that if she didn't hunt her own food, her family wouldn't eat. Makes you want to take up archery.

You might also like: The "Mad Max" series

Cannibals: "The Road"

A man (Viggo Mortensen) tries to protect his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from the horror that is other people. Food is in such short supply in this desolate version of America that bands of cannibals have formed, kidnapping other people and keeping them locked up until it's time to chop off an arm or a leg (or more). When one man approaches the pair and looks longingly at the boy, you know it's not because he's a pedophile. Makes you want to lock all the doors.

You might also like: "Delicatessen"

Zombies: "Shaun of the Dead"

How to pick from all the great zombie movies over the years? By watching the one that combines them all, and adds a dash of British comedy. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost try to survive (along with friends and family) a zombie apocalypse by locking themselves up in a local pub hangout. The barricade won't last long, but the laughs will. Makes you want to grab a pint.

You might also like: "28 Days Later"

Vampires: "I Am Legend"

From the same story that inspired the movies "The Omega Man" and "The Last Man on Earth," this version stars Will Smith as Robert Neville, who seems to be the sole survivor in New York after a vampire infestation and subsequent evacuation. Desperate to make human contact, he travels the city looking for survivors and broadcasts on AM frequencies that he will be at the South Street seaport every day at midday, in case you want to find him. "Please," he says, "you are not alone." Makes you want to call a friend.

You might also like: "Daybreakers"

Machines: "The Matrix"

The machines have won, and we are their energy source -- living human batteries to power up their system, dreaming we live a normal life while we are connected to their neural-interactive world. But if we were to wake up, and rebel, we might be able to take the Earth back, or at least live in Zion, the last human city on the planet. Makes you question your existence.

You might also like: The "Terminator" series.

Environmental destruction: "WALL-E"

We have no one to blame but ourselves -- no aliens, zombies, vampires, or other monsters have ruined the Earth, but in our greed and stupidity, we've turned the planet into one big trash dump, with nothing but cute little robots (or waste allocation load lifters) left to try to make it less of a mess. The only life left are cockroaches, until one little seedling tries to break through. Makes you want to watch "Hello, Dolly!"

You might also like: "Silent Running"

Meteors: "Melancholia"

A meteor is on a collision course with Earth -- again. This time, however, it can't be thwarted. No NASA space program can save us. We just have to prepare for the inevitable, but at least a depressed Kirsten Dunst is able to make the end a little easier for her sister and her son by just being there as Earth prepares for a collision course with another planet. Makes you want to call your family.

You might also like: "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World"

Viral pandemic: "12 Monkeys"

Bruce Willis is sent back from the future to try to isolate the cause of a pandemic that has caused most of civilization to live underground -- he won't be able to stop it, but maybe they can develop a cure or a vaccine. His time travel mechanism isn't perfect, so he's jolted around to different times, causing him to miss what the cause is until too late, but at least we get some wacky Brad Pitt along the way. Makes you want to get your flu shot.

You might also like: "Contagion"

Fertility failure: "Children of Men"

The last child was born was 18 years ago, and humanity has finally come to terms with the fact that there will be no more children -- until a woman quite miraculously gets pregnant. Clive Owen is entrusted with protecting her and delivering her to some scientists trying to cure infertility, the Human Project. Her baby could be the hope of the future. Makes you want to procreate.

You might also like: "The Handmaid's Tale"

Religion: "The Rapture"

It's in the Book of Revelation -- the End of Days. Mimi Rogers goes from swinger to born-again Christian (with some help from David Duchovny), and believes God's judgment is coming. She goes to the desert to wait for the Second Coming, and growing impatient, kills her daughter and tries to kill herself. And then the Rapture actually happens, much to her dismay. Makes you want to pray.

You might also like: "Dogma"

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