15 GREAT POST-APOCALYPTIC MOVIES
The ancient black earth cries out in anguish, the dire heavens pour open with scorn and smoke as dark as a hopeless abyss, a deafening roar like thunder erupts from the void and shakes the highest mountains, the animals of the Earth cry out in tortured agony! A dragon with scales like knives of fire looms above with 7 heads and 10 horns. The angels sing backwards, a pale, sickly horse snorts blue flames from his fetid lungs! The sun, moon and stars are darkened by a third!! The end is coming, the hour of reckoning is AT HAND!!! Quite. Yes, it's the language of the apocalypse. And there are many ways that it could come about: plague, nukes, ecological disaster, killer tomatoes, spiders from Mars, the zombie hordes, cyborgs getting too big for their microchips. But whatever happens to end civilisation as we know it, it'll have an aftermath, and the potential of some human survivors. If you manage to hole up in an abandoned house on the edge of a lake in the middle of nowhere with a chainsaw for a hand and a badass attitude for a companion, or in a deep underground bunker with plenty of canned goods, you might survive. But if you do you'll be stepping out of the apocalyptic dark into the post-apocalyptic light of a new Earth. What can you expect? Well it depends on the cause, but these movies may well turn into survival guides for the generation that takes that apocalyptic punch, so take heed. And make sure you have a telepathic dog.
Dawn of the Dead
ZOMBIIIIIEEEES!!!! Surely everyone's favoured apocalyptic scenario and my favourite zombie movie (the original). You can't help but love their slow yet somehow tragic shuffling. There's something that endears them to our hearts, maybe because they are, or were, us. Even if now they want to spoon our brains into their gaping desperate mouths, rip apart our intestines, gnash at our bones, scrap out our stomach lining and squish our eyeballs. Washing down this smorgasbord of human organs with our hot fresh blood. Come here and give me a hug ya slobbering undead you.
This isn't so much great as great to laugh at, which is why it made the list. The evolutionary cycle is complete. Sort of. The world is underwater due to the polar ice caps melting and only one gilled man can save it! Perhaps future generations will view this movie as a sort of prophetic bible to pore over and dissect, or perhaps they'll look at Mr Costner's gills and go, "What a f#cking 'tard, kill him". The movie is a giant watery string of p#ss, best thing is a pirate Dennis Hopper. Yaarrr, where's the bourbon!!! A decent Kevin Costner movie is not a myth! Except it is.
The Omega Man (I Am Legend)
I didn't much like I Am Legend with Will Smith, but I've included it alongside Omega Man because both are based on the superb novel, which has the same name as the Smith movie, by Richard Matheson (also the author behind What Dreams May Come). A plague has befallen Earth and it appears one man is humanity's only survivor. The novel plays beautifully on the nullifying horror of having no humans around to talk to, bicker with, mate like horny animals. You may think you hate the rest of humanity, well let's see how you feel when you're the sole surviving member of the human race.
Planet of the Apes
"GOD DAMN YOU! GOD DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!!!" Ah yes, what did we do to you Charlton. What can I say but an amazing ending. And Heston seems to like the horror of a post-apocalyptic world, this is the 2nd time he's been in one. But this movie is an absolute classic, a great concept adapted from Pierre Boulle's novel. The end revelation is terrifying, haunting, chilly and iconic. From his cold-dead hands indeed.
The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2)
Back when Mad Mel used to make good movies. It'd be a crime not to have a Mad Max film in a list about post-apocalyptic movies, in fact I think it's written on a dusty desert road somewhere in the outback as a law of the universe. This is the movie that taught us that a post-apocalyptic world will be populated by people with bad Mohicans and clothes that look like they've been clubbed together from spare car parts, construction materials and studded biker leathers. Set the aesthetic standard for the rest to follow.
Escape From New York
Snake Plissken, legend. This movie is set near the end of World War III, so it's pretty much set in a post-apocalyptic world, it'll do for me. Gave us one of cinema's great anti-heroes who I've tried, and failed, to imitate. The eye-patch, the leather jacket, that's a look that transcends fashion, it's timeless like the ocean. And who could forget The Duke, Mr Badass Mofo himself. And, of course, John Carpenter's always brilliant self-penned casino-keyboard music.
The Terminator Movies
Robots, the future; the robotic future. It's coming; the terminator movies aren't just a coincidence, hell no. They're preparing us for the inevitable. The point at which AI or computer intelligence will surpass our own, the singularity. According to futurist Raymond Kurzweil this point of post-human evolution will occur in 2045. So prepare yourselves for our mechanical overlords and start stashing weapons in the middle of the desert. It's our comeuppance for years of yelling at our broken kitchen appliances, thwacking our TVs, throwing monitors out the window, and kicking our cars when they wouldn't start.
A Boy and His Dog
If there is one 80s white-suited icon that has survived World War IV, that man is Sonny Crockett aka Don Johnson. Or Vic in the movie and his smart-ass dog Blood who he can communicate with telepathically. Together they forage for food and sex, Vic helps the dog get food, Blood helps Vic get the ladies. There's no dinner and dancing though. It's a weird, deranged and bizarre movie which in one scene sees Don jizzing into a test tube. Pure 1975 freakdom. Based on a short story by Harlan Ellison it has become a cult classic, and is a quite exceptional movie - they truly do not make them like this any more. If this film were a human being it would be locked up in a mental institution, babbling incoherently about the coming apocalypse.
Said to be one of the greatest anime films ever, and I wouldn't disagree. Set in Neo-Tokyo after World War III it's very much a Blade Runner aesthetic, it's a vision of a post-apocalyptic world that is very Japanese. There's none of the dusty desolation of Mad Max or A Boy and His Dog. The city and the cityscape are very modern, full of skyscrapers and street gangs riding about on futuristic bikes. It's a world with psychics, military conspiracies. The films throws in references to Buddhist symbolism, esoteric philosophy, free will and nightmare-inducing, terrifying teddy bears.
When The Wind Blows
Possibly one of the most depressing animations ever. But still, what's a post-apocalyptic world if not depressing. It's a dark movie that looms over your head like a nuclear cloud. The confusion of Jim and Hilda Bloggs, their "normal everyday people" nature (hence the name Bloggs) in the face of such a devastating attack just adds to the pathos and the bleak horror - as harrowing and disturbing as an actual nuclear attack, which I guess is the idea. Adapted from the graphic novel by Raymond Briggs, it doesn't shy away from the unimaginable psychological and physical pain, but ever present is the humanity felt between this dying couple. Wonderfully depressing.
La Jetée/12 Monkeys
La Jetée is a 28 minute long film shot beautifully in black and white using mostly stills, made by Chris Marker. It was the inspiration behind Gilliam's 12 Monkeys and like that it tells the tale of a post-nuclear war experiment in time-travel. While 12 Monkeys is a great movie, the original is powerful in a way that is lost in 12 monkeys. It has a surreal, poetic, recurrent quality and a beautiful human love story. Check it out.
Who doesn't love little Wall-E and EVE. If you don't you're a rotten heartless robot, but, obviously, not like Wall-E. The opening part without dialogue is remarkable and thoroughly engrossing. Chaplinesque, as has oft been remarked. And underlying the whole story is a, somewhat heavy-handed, ecological warning. But the visuals are exquisite and Wall-E and EVE are adorable, using sounds and body-movements to communicate rather than direct language. Awww.
Every film list possible has to include this movie. Why? Because its Baudrillardian-reality-is-just-imagined bullsh#t rocks my fu#king world! Plus it has a great post-apocalyptic set-up. The world is run by sentient machines that grow human beings as batteries in giant fields while controlling them by immersing them in a virtual world, the matrix. F#ck yeah!
On the Beach
Another nuclear attack, another bleak, despondent, desolate world. And, of course, if gave us the brilliant line that Ava Gardner was alleged to have said about Melbourne. 'The perfect place to make a film about the end of the world.' There are disputes as to whether she said it or not, I don't care. Print the legend.
The Quiet Earth
A strange New Zealand movie. A man awakes in his bedroom, abruptly, he turns the radio on to the sound of dead air. Is he the sole human survivor of experiments that he's been carrying out? Touches upon how insane you'd go if you awoke to find you were the only human left, features a love triangle and the jealousies that go with it and an ending that hints at being the beginning, plus some great end credit music. A forgotten classic.