Brought to you by OBS reviewer Marie-Reine
Consider this a master class in science fiction’s dark side. Like dark chocolate, it’s good for the heart–mostly because it will make you want to take up cardio so you can outrun the zombie hordes. Or the wasteland gangs.
In any case, whether you are a newcomer or a devoted fan from way back, this selection will help you to nerd out like the best of them.
Don Johnson plays a boy who can communicate telepathically with his dog, a useful skill to have in a violent post-nuclear disaster world. They eventually find a community that has managed to survive the devastation but that has some morbid plans for the boy.
B: The Book of Eli (2010)
In a violent post-apocalyptic landscape, a lone man makes his way across America, protecting the last copy of a very important book.
Kicking ass and making enemies, Denzel Washington makes this an interesting movie to watch.
C: Children of Men (2006)
In this chaotic future, humans are no longer able to have children. Clive Owen plays a disenchanted former activist, who is saddled with escorting a young pregnant woman out of all the danger that surrounds them.
A thought-provoking and visually fascinating take on the genre.
D: Death Race 2000 (1975)
In this dystopian world, people have become obsessed with a cross country automobile race where the contestants gain points based on how many people they kill and their brutality in doing so.
Starring a young David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone, it is a raunchy and hilarious exploitation film.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Although the 2004 version could easily have been included in this list, let’s focus instead on George Romero’s zombie classic. The zombies are grey, shambling but they can still take out a man’s aorta with a single bite.
Enjoy the carnage as well as the social commentary on consumerism in modern society.
E: Equilibrium (2002)
Art, music and books have been outlawed in an effort to make the world a more peaceful place. Human emotions have been rooted out of by the use of a drug and being caught expressing any emotion results in execution.
Though not hailed as a critical success, this film has some fun science fiction elements. And Christian Bale. Enough said.
Escape from NY (1981)
Manhattan Island has been turned into a maximum security prison. When Air Force One crashes, leaving the President of the United States stranded in the lawless, violent island, ex-soldier Snake Plissken, played by Kurt Russell, is sent in alone to try and rescue him.
With Russell being his usual irreverent and wisecracking self, this is a fantastic and gritty post-apocalyptic movie.
Escape from LA (1996)
Snake Plissken’s services are needed once again, this time to retrieve an explosive device from Los Angeles. An island now due to earthquakes, LA has become a place where undesirables are deported.
This movie is essentially a remake of the 1981 version, but Kurt Russell is so awesome, it just doesn’t matter.
F: Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
Based on the Ray Bradbury novel of the same name, “firemen” have taken on a distinctly different role in society. Their role is to seek out and destroy any books or literature while the population keeps its attention on television shows.
This film is a classic in science fiction and shouldn’t be missed.
G: Gangs of the Dead (2006)
A meteorite has crashed in Los Angeles, carrying alien spores that transform humans into zombies. But in the midst of the disaster, two LA gangs continue to fight each other for control of the city.
H: Hunger Games (2012)
Based on the popular trilogy by Suzanne Collins, this film portrays a young woman, Katniss Everdeen, and her struggles to remain alive in a cruel arena game where the only way to win is to be the last one standing.
Also responsible for popularizing French braids and mockingjay pins, this movie seems to have rekindled our love for post-apocalyptic stories and so it deserves a high-five. Also noteworthy: the release date for the next installment in the trilogy, Catching Fire, is set for November 22, 2013.
I: I Am Legend (2007)
Though not the first film based on the novel by Richard Matheson, it is the first have the same name. In this interpretation, Robert Neville, played by Will Smith, is the last healthy human in New York City. A virologist prior to the outbreak, he works ceaselessly on a cure for the disease.
Though this film has a different take on the novel’s original conclusion (and suffers from some messy special effects), Will Smith’s performance alone makes it worth watching.
J: La Jetée (1962)
A short film which inspired Twelve Monkeys, it is considered one of the greatest time travel movies of all time. In a post-nuclear war future, a prisoner is used by his jailors to travel backwards and forwards in time to find a solution to the current devastation of world.
K: Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Thematically similar to the 1962 French Film La Jetée, Bruce Willis plays a convict in a devastated future, who allows scientists to use him in their time travel experiments in exchange for parole. Critically acclaimed, this is a great thriller and post-apocalyptic film.
L: The Last man on Earth (1964)
Based on the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend, this film stars the great Vincent Price as the surviving doctor. During the day, he hunts and kills vampires. At night, he barricades himself from the undead creatures. He believes he is doing good but soon finds out certain survivors view him otherwise.
Logan’s Run (1976)
Sealed in a doomed city, the remnants of the earth’s inhabitants lead pleasurable and hedonistic lives, but they are “renewed” (read “killed”) when they reach age thirty. Logan 5 decides to escape his fate by running away and escaping the computer-controlled dome with a young woman.
M: Matrix Trilogy (1999-2003)
Now an integral part of pop culture and top science fiction movie lists, this trilogy really came out with a bang both because of subject matter and visual effects. Incorporating elements of anime and martial arts movies, this cyberpunk trilogy is a must-see for sci-fi geeks. Delve into the Matrix, see the code, and rebel against the machines.
N: Nine (9) (2009)
This computer animated film follows the struggles of a small ragdoll, 9, against the destructive machines that have taken over the world. This movie is a fun little adventure and is well-animated.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
A princess of the Valley of the Wind, Nausicaa tries to stop the confrontation between a neighbouring kingdom and the mutant insects that inhabit a toxic jungle.
This is one of the many beautifully animated films from genius Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, and although they aren’t all post-apocalyptic films, you should look them up and watch them all anyway.
Night of the Comet (1984)
Sisters Reggie and Sam seem to be the only survivors left after a comet leaves all humans disintegrated into red dust. They soon learn, however, that those who did not die have been turned to zombies. They try and find other survivors, but also take a break to go shopping at the mall.
Think of this movie as a Can’t Buy Me Love meets Dawn of the Dead. They sure knew how to make post-apocalyptic films in the eighties (or is that just my nostalgia showing?).
O: Omega Man (1971)
Yet another interpretation of the Richard Matheson novel, I Am Legend, this time with Charlton Heston as the lead. In this adaptation, the plague turns humans into crazed albino mutants, who band together to create a cult called the Family.
P: Planet Terror (2007)
A toxic gas is released by a demented colonel and it infects the neighboring town, turning some of the inhabitants into “sickos” the survivors have to fight to survive.
Gritty and delightfully gory, this film was written directed by Robert Rodriguez as an homage to the “grindhouse” exploitation films of the seventies.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Charlton Heston stars in this science fiction movie as well, where a futuristic astronaut crew crash-lands on a strange planet. Apes are the dominant species and humans are mute and subservient.
Again, the classic sixties version of this film is prioritized here rather than the 2001 version (sorry, Marky Mark). Mostly because the original is better.
The Postman (1997)
In the year 2013 (yikes!), after a global nuclear disaster, a nameless drifter finds an old mail carrier and takes the car and the remaining mail. He pretends to be the official postman of the restored government in an effort to counter the violence and chaos of the post-apocalyptic world.
Q: Quiet Earth (1985)
After a strange darkness and red light appears in the sky, Zac awakes alone. There are no more people. He eventually finds two other survivors. Made in New Zealand, this film has a reputedly ambiguous ending.
R: Reign of Fire (2006)
This film blends both fantasy and post apocalyptic genres in one. The world has been scalded and ruined by the rediscovery and subsequent proliferation of dragons. A group of survivors, led by Christian Bale, tries to keep the dragons at bay. After running into a group of militarized Americans, they come up with plan to finally rid the world of the dragon plague.
The Road (2009)
Based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name, this film shows the bleak survival of a man and his son. The world has been destroyed, by a nuclear holocaust presumably, and plants no longer grow. Food is so scarce, the man and son must scavenge while avoiding cannibal gangs.
S: Serenity (2005)
This movie serves as the continuation/conclusion to the fantastic TV series, Firefly. Set in a space western universe, space has been explored and settled. Weary of the power and oppression of the centralized government, the crew of the spaceship Serenity flies the edges of the galaxy in search of not-so-honest work. One passenger, River, holds a dark secret which will upend their lives.
Watch the show, then watch the movie. Then cry because that’s all you’re going get of the best characters you’ve ever experienced.
After a vampire-zombie apocalypse, an orphaned young man is taken in by a vampire hunter known only as “Mister”. They roam the countryside, training the young man and killing vampires. They also have to avoid a perverted clan calling itself the Brotherhood.
Though it is another variation on a very familiar genre, it still manages to create genuine characters and very eerie atmosphere.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
This British zombie comedy stars the very funny duo, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. A young man tries to deal with his humdrum life and then has to cope with a zombie apocalypse on top of everything else.
Hilarious and heartfelt all at the same time, this comedy winks heavily at the stereotypes of the genre while giving it a fresh and entertaining treatment.
Soylent Green (1973)
The world is overpopulated, overheating due to greenhouse gases and much of the population survives on processed food rations. Charlton Heston stars as a detective investigating the death of a powerful businessman. While investigating the murder, he finds out something unsavory and shocking about the provenance of some of the food supply.
T: Twenty-Eight (28) Days Later (2002)
A young man wakes up from a coma. The streets are deserted, signs of catastrophe are everywhere. He learns that there has been an outbreak of a dangerous virus. Once infected, the host becomes mindless and extremely violent–thus the name “Rage” virus.
The characters are complex and wonderful, and the update to the zombie genre in this film is terrifying.
Twenty-Eight (28) Weeks Later (2007)
A companion piece/sequel to the 2002 28 Days Later, this film looks at the events 28 weeks after the outbreak of the Rage virus. Great Britain has been declared safe but is still quarantined and a man reunites with his children, feeling guilty for having abandoned their mother during an attack by the infected.
This film focuses more on stampeding hordes of zombies than the characters. In other words, more thrills and chills, less heart.
U: Sunshine (2007)
The Earth’s Sun is dying, threatening all life with a complete solar winter. After a first spaceship meant to detonate a massive bomb fails to complete its mission, a second ship and crew is sent in the hopes of reviving the Sun.
This is another beautiful, character driven and tragic movie from director Danny Boyle (also the director of 28 Days Later).
V: Terminator Salvation (2009)
Back in the future, before Sarah Connor meets Kyle Reese and a Terminator is sent to kill her in the past, John Connor leads a group of resistance fighters against the machines of Skynet. Judgment Day has eradicated much of humanity. Any remaining humans are hunted down and destroyed like pests. Rising from a pit, an ex-convict wakes up after decades of sleep to this strange, new reality.
Technically, Terminator I and II could also appear on this list, since they are post-apocalyptic… But in the future… Where the villains and some heroes come from… But to avoid the verbal gymnastics involved (and to quiet any dissenters), they will be acknowledged briefly (see above) and recommended as highly enjoyable and highly quotable.
W: Wall-E (2008)
Wall-E is a small robot left behind by humans to clean up the pollution that has made Earth unsuitable for life. The last one of his kind, he busies himself compressing the junk left behind, and collecting interesting things he finds. His lonely existence is changed with the arrival of the sleek, beautiful EVE, sent to find evidence of plant life.
This is a wonderfully animated film from Pixar, and the characters are instantly lovable.
Two million years after a nuclear war has devastated the world, some humans survivors have changed into mutants and some are like their ancestors–elves, fairies and dwarves. Two wizard brothers, one good and the other a cruel mutant, oppose each other for control of the fairy kingdom.
X: Mad MaX movies (1979, 1981, 1985)
Following the breakdown of law and order due to global oil shortages, violent motorcycle gangs and marauders terrorize survivors. Starting out as a policeman, Max Rockatansky (portrayed by Mel Gibson) becomes a loner following the brutal murder of his wife and son. Throughout the series, he acts as a force of justice in a world where force and cruelty rule.
This is a chance to see Mel Gibson “before”, when he still had an Australian accent. And he’s totally punk rock.
Y: IdiocracY (2006)
Two ordinary people–a U.S. army library and a prostitute– are selected for a suspended animation experiment. Only meant to last one year, they are forgotten for 500 years and wake up to a world where intelligent people are no more.
Though crass, this film is able to deliver the biting satire that makes us all cringe and run to the nearest I.Q.-boosting activity. Like reading this post!
Z: Zombieland (2009)
Mad cow disease has mutated into a zombie plague, turning many Americans into flesh-eating zombies. A loner college student runs across a successful zombie killer and two sly sisters in his trek across the country.
This is another immensely quotable and enjoyable film; hilarious while still delivering the gory scariness expected of zombie movies. Jesse Eisenberg delivers an angsty performance while Woody Harrelson plays the wild man (with a Twinkie heart of gold) to perfection. Fantastic performance also from Emma Stone and a brilliant cameo by Bill Murray.
Ruled over by Eternals who have limitless life spans, Brutals do all the dirty work. Exterminators in particular, since they are the warrior class. Zed, one of those Exterminators, is taken captive by some Eternals.
This film features Sean Connery in a red Speedo with a ponytail and handlebar mustache. Which is a recommendation in itself. Though an obviously quirky movie, it is a cult classic.
After this comprehensive list, you should be ready for any type of post apocalypse scenario. Just remember rule #2: the double-tap.
And Soylent Green is people!