Top Ten Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Films

Top Ten Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Films

It seems Hollywood's infatuation with the end of the world has found its place in 2009 with releases such as Knowing this past March and upcoming releases such as 9, The Road and 2012 later this year. I never saw The Horsemen, but I know it had an apocalyptic theme, and films such as Terminator Salvation and even Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen threaten the continued existence of the human race. So, with such a situation at hand what better time than now to take a look at what I believe to be the best apocalyptic films of all-time... or at the very least of those I have seen...

We all have a morbid curiosity when it comes to the world's end. Will it go with a whimper or a bang? Will the apocalypse be man-made, ape-made, E.T.-made, nature-made, or God-made? Will I be holding Nicolas Cage's hand when the fireball hits or will I survive and roam the wasteland in my Toyota Prius searching for gas and Twinkies? Who knows? The only thing I know is I dig a good film involving the apocalypse. And for decades Hollywood has obliged by giving us several glimpses into what could be the end. Here are the ones that have made a lasting impression. I must warn though. Spoilers lie ahead... just as may the end of life as you know it. BEWARE!

The Quiet Earth (1985)
Here's a cult classic all the cool people know about. When it comes to "last man on Earth" movies, everyone trots out one of the adaptations of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" for discussion. Bah. The Quiet Earth nails the lonely madness of the concept better than any of those movies and without including silly vampires too. Oh, and then there's the ambiguous ending, which catapults the film into a territory of genuine, thought-provoking science fiction. Try to track down this gem if you can.

Chance of Apocalypse via Dimensional Mishap: 30%

Network (1976)
Huh? Network, the movie with the newscaster who's mad as hell? Yes, that Network. However, the inclusion of Network is not a massive typo on this list. Sure, no comets strike Earth. Yet, the film is as apocalyptic as any other presented here. It just details a silent Armageddon. One in which the human species continues to breathe and live, but our humanity is dead, crushed and dissolved by corporate culture with us being none the wiser. If we go with a whimper as opposed to a bang, this is how it will happen. Or maybe it already has. Sidney Lumet's film remains as relevant as ever.

Chance of Apocalypse via Corporate Takeover: 99.9%

The Rapture (1991)
Don't let the lame trailer fool you. Instead, let's quote Roger Ebert's review for a better perspective: "Here is one of the most radical, infuriating, engrossing, challenging movies I've ever seen." The Rapture depicts the biblical Judgement Day - you know, the one where four horsemen will tramp across your front yard and God will vacuum up Stephen Baldwin to the heavens. Yet, this isn't preachy drivel such as the odious Left Behind franchise. Same source material, but The Rapture illustrates the lunacy a literal belief in Revelations inspires and the insanity of a God who would deliver the end under such rigid conditions.

Chance of Apocalypse via an Old-fashioned Yahweh Rapture: 1%

  • Guy Lodge

    Interesting list, but I'm confused as to which "The Rapture" you're talking about -- that trailer is for a bargain-basement British production yet to be released.

  • Brad Brevet

    @Guy Lodge: That's my fault on that one... I have never seen "The Rapture" and when I was editing together David's piece that was the only trailer I found and wrongly assumed it was the right one. He's talking about Michael Tolkin's '91 film.

  • Zeus

    Where is Matrix??

    • Khorne11

      Dude the matrix is exactly a post apocalyptic movie, I mean it is, but thats not the point of it, an example of post apocalyptic is book of eli, the road, and mad max. The matrix is more of a sci-fi thriller.

  • Carson Dyle

    Great seeing Network in there... one of my favourite films of all time. A decidedly more typical apocalyptic film by Sidney Lumet, though, is Fail-Safe, which by my estimation is a terrific film. The serious version of Dr. Strangelove, if you will. The Bedford Incident is also terrific... Moby Dick during the Cold War.

  • GregM

    Does if have to be about Earth? Neverending Story?

    • Khorne11

      I love that movie :D!

  • tom

    how can 12 Monkeys be there but no La Jetee?!!!! 12M was BASED entirely ON La Jetee. Thats like putting the Mark Wahlberg version of Apes over the Heston one.

    kudos on the Network selection. Ned Beatty's Oscar nominated boardroom soliloquy is more apocalyptic than 50,000 mushroom clouds.

  • The Jackal

    @Zeus: You are absolutely right; how can any post-apocalyptic films list not include "The Matrix." For me, the best example of doom-and-gloom in film never got any better than "Dr. Strangelove."

    Here's a few other films:

    (1953) The War of the Worlds
    (1996) Independence Day
    (2002) 28 Days Later
    (2007) I Am Legend

    And even though it only addresses an "almost-apocalypse," I really think M. Night Shymalan's "Signs" belongs on this list.

    • Jason

      2007 I Am Legend?


      Vincent Price - Last Man on Earth
      Charleton Heston - The Omega Man

      Much better, and still based off Richard Matheson's novel...

    • nonh

      Independence Day and I Am Legend? You're kidding, right?

  • Steve

    Let me add a TV mini-series, the first two hours of "The Stand".

  • Ross

    Children of Men = OVERRATED

    • Steven

      You mean way underated. Watch it again.

  • King Ralph

    Decent list but how can you not have The Day After in there?

  • David

    On The Beach

  • Adam

    The Omega Man.

  • Ceasar

    where's George A. Romero's The Crazies and Don DcKellar's Last Night?

  • William

    Great List!! I'd put Children of Men at one, Road Warrior a close second. I was afraid that Road Warrior wouldn't make it, since I didn't think it would be number one. But that was a pleasant surprise. It also contains one of my favorite death scenes of its main villain"s".

  • JoeJoe

    I think you missed "When Worlds Collide", "Armageddon", and "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". You see I too don't believe in the "no win scenario." "Millennium" has the benefit of Cheryl Ladd dressed only in a man’s shirt.

  • sandy

    How about a little humour with your devastation? A Boy and His Dog? Tank Girl? Cherry 2000?

  • Brian

    On the Beach. Absolutely one of the best. No question it belongs on the list.


    Good list. I still have not watched Children of Men. Now I have too.
    Heres MY list-

  • The Judge

    what about "The Postman"? that movie was excellent.

  • The Judge

    @Zeus: I Know!

  • Vince


    You know what, I agree! I'm honestly the only person I know (I have a ton of movie-watching friends/family) who didn't fall in love with that film. It felt like it was pandering to it's audience the whole time with this message about "hope" and "being a faith-filled savior" and whatever. Everything about the film was excellent except its moral, which it bashed into your head every 10 seconds, just in case you forgot about what movie you were watching.

  • Greg

    The Last Wave

  • Tim

    Time of The Wolf

  • Roger

    where's 28 Days Later?

  • John

    The Happening

    • ChrisVise

      Hell no

    • julius

      worst movie list!!!

  • Jason

    would The Seventh Seal count?

  • Kodos

    You left far too many goodies off of your "list".

    re: 2
    Can't you liberal Euro-trash types ever knock it off with the Bush-bashing or the Palin-hate?
    Quit kissing Obama's ass.

    • The Silencer

      Haha, irony, fundamentalist christians who believe more than anyone in the 'end of the world', 'apocalypse', 'four horseman', 'fire n brimstone', 'judgement day' cataclysmic end of humanity.
      Muck fe, if only Bill Hicks & George Carlin were still alive :( we could clone a million of them and put them in power all across the planet... Ahhhh... UTOPIA!!!

  • Adam

    "The Noah".

  • Tina

    John Carpenter's The Thing.

  • Rob

    Half the films you guys are suggesting have nothing to do with the destruction of the world, mankind or anything else for that matter..... and matrix!!!! please go watch a proper movie! good list i agree with most if not all!

  • BOB

    The first half of DEF-CON 4. The concept is good.

  • BOB

    Whooa, what about "The Road". I can imagine trying to survive zombies, killer robots (Skynet), Murderous Angels, etc. but if I had to live thru this I would have wondered off into the cold night with Charlize.

  • Josh

    tv series "Jericho" was as good as they come.

    "The Road" - pretty good - 3 1/2 out of 5

    "Lord of the Flies" - gotta be on there

    "Southland Tales" - strange and interesting

    no way is "Children of Men" in top ten - 3 out of 5

    "The Book of Eli" is another new movie which was as good as "children of Men"

  • Quirky

    I agree with Ross... Children of Men is probably one of the most overrated films in movie history. Complete Rubbish! The rest of the on!

    • Steven

      You mean UNDERRATED. Watch it again and concentrate.

  • ChrisVise

    I think the new movie "The Book of Eli should be added on this list, top 5 at least. Don't care if your atheist or not. One damn good movie

  • pocketdare

    Apparently it's just me but I don't understand the attraction that (admittedly) many people seem to have to Children of Men. I thought the theme had been explored before, the story a bit dull, and a few too many plot holes. In short - BLAH.

  • Trisomy21

    Children of men wasn't really anything special. But then again some of the other suggestions here like The Road and Book of Eli weren't really anything special either. Where's A Boy and His Dog? That's my #1

  • Abject

    Three from the UK that might not qualify for the list on grounds of not precisely being movies, but will almost certainly be right up the alley of anyone reading this list.

    The War Game (1965) - Banned for many years a dramatised documentary highlighting the ridiculous nature of plans for the UK under a nuclear attack. Manages to be both quaint and frightening. (No games of tic-tac-toe in this one folks).

    Threads (1984)- Half documentary, half drama this pulls no punches and makes "The Day After" look like a Disney movie.
    Have a stiff drink to hand and be glad we lived through the eighties. The most disturbing thing I watched as a teen.

    When The Wind Blows (1986) - Genuinely creepy this cartoon by Raymond Briggs follows an old couple preparing for and dealing with a nuclear blast by following the instructions in the governments informational booklets. Horribly bleak.

    Bit Torrent 'em today - quiver watching 'em tomorrow.

  • julius

    just to correct you,
    the FIRST MAD MAX movie is NOT a POST APOCALYPTIC movie.
    It's a future dystopian, disastrous and "living in the middle of the apocalypse" movie.
    It's based ont the future Australia. the Aussies have gone mad and it's almost the end of the world... NOT YET!
    the movie has too many flaws and it wasn't very exciting as the second.
    loved Road Warrior
    now THAT'S what I call an epic sci fi adventure PA movie!

  • julius

    The Road was a good book and an ok movie
    Book of Eli isn't as great as I thought
    LOTF was terrible. the book is so much better.
    I liked RW the best.

  • julius

    holy shit! THE MATRIX!!!

  • Leslie

    I have been looking for the name of a Japanese post-apocalyptic drama film which was their version of "On the Beach". It was made I believe in the 1960's but maybe earlier or later than then. I saw it one time and would like to see it again but it was 20 years ago and I can't remember the name. If anyone knows this film's name please let me know.

  • Neil

    The Japanese film was called Virus, good film. From wikipedia

    1980 post-apocalyptic science fiction movie directed by Kinji Fukasaku and based on a novel written by Sakyo Komatsu. The movie starred Masao Kusakari, George Kennedy, Robert Vaughn, Chuck Connors, Olivia Hussey, Edward James Olmos, Ken Ogata, Glenn Ford and Sonny Chiba. The film is notable for being the most expensive Japanese film ever made at the time.

  • http://Allornone Cory

    Hey all just wanted to offer and update to this well put together list of movies and tv shows that are of value one or both the apocalyptic post apocalyptic nature,

    Reguarding Tv Shows that i have followed and more than likely downloaded. I would like to submit,

    1. The walking Dead,
    2. Falling Skies,
    3. Survivors
    4. The colony, Though this is less fictional and more reality.
    5. jerhico,
    6. Tera Nova, Which is a poor excuse for an end of the world type of show but is still in the mix.

    Reguarding updates to movies,

    1. The Road,
    2, The Book Of Eli
    3, Carriers,
    4. I am Legend,
    5. The Road,
    6. The Book Of Eli,
    7. The Day after Tommorrow,
    8. Knowing,
    9. 2012
    10. Children Of Men
    11. Sunshine
    12.A Boy And His Dog, Which many want to see remade with todays special effects,
    13. 28 Days Later
    14. 28 Weekds Later,
    15. Dawn Of the dead
    16. day of the dead,
    17. The Post man
    18. Water World
    19. Blindness, though the ending has far too much happy for me.
    20. The happening,
    21. Armageddon,
    22. Deep Impact
    23. The Day the earth Stood still.
    24. Zombie land, Humorous look at the end of the world zombie movies
    25. All the resident evil movies,
    26. The core
    27. and ive been told vanishing on 7th street was good but have yet to check it out.
    Any other suggestions are aprecieated and im open to more ideas on tv series that i have missed.

  • Spartacus

    Basically you don't like anything after the 90s

    • Brad Brevet

      Did you read the article or just make this comment based on nothing?