You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!
Nuclear fire rains down and blackens the land plunging us into eternal darkness. A mysterious contagion spreads throughout the land eradicating 99% of the planet’s population while hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes tear the world asunder. Let’s not forget about the doomsday rock barreling it’s way to Earth that’s set to impact right about the same time cosmic radiation from a super solar flare is about to wash over our soon-to-be gone atmosphere. Yes ladies and gentlemen it’s the apocalypse.
Blockbuster disaster movies like 2012, Armageddon and The Day After Tomorrow have always had good turnouts at the box office due to people’s insatiable appetite for destruction. We’re awed by CGI overkill and ADD-like editing as we gobble down heaping handfuls of popcorn never caring much about plot holes and campy one-liners until after the adrenaline rush is over. There’s no doubt that there’s big money in disaster movies however, what happens after the world has been devastated? Welcome to the proving grounds otherwise known as post-apocalyptia. Disaster movies are fun but post-apocalyptic movies challenge you to do a bit more thinking during and after the movie (in most cases). In honor of my new Fallout-like layout (and having paid a visit to Educlaytion’s Gen X Movie page) I’ve been inspired to do top 10 list of my favorite post-apocalyptic movies of all time. Bear in mind these are just personal favorites and in no particular order as to not show preference over one another. Many of the listed titles originate from fantastic novels. Some miss the mark of the original written work while others stay true to the word. Just to avoid getting into a screenplay translation war I’ll just let the movies stand on their own free from comparison to their respective origins. If you have seen a movie that hasn’t been mentioned here and you feel I should know about it, by all means chime in. I love seeing something new and jump at the chance to expand my Urkel-like movie knowledge.
Bear in mind, being a movie geek of epic proportions, my criteria for classification into the post-apocalyptic genre is quite strict. Some movies I feel don’t quite fit into that category despite being widely regarded as such or having elements in it. For example, let’s look at The Terminator. While it does revolve around a post-apocalyptic future the majority of the movie takes place primarily in (then) present day with time travel being the driving force. This would fall into my upcoming Top 10 Time Travel Movies post more than this one. Another contested title is The Quiet Earth. That was a particularly twisted movie revolving around the last man on earth scenario. However that centered on alternate realities more than the aftermath of an catastrophic event therefore doesn’t quite make the list. It does rank pretty high on the mindf*ck meter so I’m sure it’ll make a future Top List down the road.
Now onto the business at hand:
Plot: This film tells the story of an American astronaut crew that crash lands on a strange planet in the distant future. Although the planet appears desolate at first, the surviving crew members stumble upon a society in which apes have evolved into creatures with human-like intelligence and speech. The apes are dominant species and humans have been subjugated into slavery.
Why I like it: Who can forget the classic line of “Get your hands of me you damn dirty apes!”? Between Heston’s rockin’ old man bod and over-acting and eye candy pin up girl Linda Harrison’s perpetual shock and awe expression in every single scene you have the makings for a classic B movie. For some reason though this film manages to crawl out from bad movie hell and ascend to the top of cult flick charts. I love it. Sure Heston is at his overly-dramatic prime in this but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The majority of the movie is cleverly disguised as an alternate reality story until the end. In one of the most memorable twists in cinematic history it’s revealed that Taylor, the last surviving astronaut, is in fact on a post-apocalyptic Earth and not a foreign world like he presumed. Although the argument can be made that this could quite easily be classified as a time travel movie, the duration takes place in the post-apocalyptic world and deals with the trials and tribulations of said world therefore qualifying it in my book.
Plot: When the world’s population is killed by a man-made plague an experimental vaccination makes Dr. Robert Neville the last man on Earth… at least that’s what he believes. He struggles to find a cure while trying to avoid the trappings of the plague’s survivors – nocturnal homicidal mutants known as The Family that terrorize him daily in an effort to destroy what they perceive him to be as the last remnant of the technological society that caused all of this.
Why I like it: I should really be shot for claiming to be all about everything post-apocalyptic yet not having read Richard Matheson’s novel I am Legend by now. I always hear how this movie differs so greatly from the book but it really doesn’t matter to me. I dug this when I first saw it and still do to this day. It’s yet another Charlton Heston survival classic. Although severely dated the premise of the movie is still strong. Will Smith’s 2007 I am Legend almost tied in this spot due to his amazing performance in pulling off that isolated-slipping-into-dementia feeling but once again, CGI killed it for me. I’d rather lean more towards the Count Chocula cape having, pasty white, wig wearing 70’s freaks from the Omega man than some fake green screened creatures any day.
Plot: It’s the tale of a community of settlers struggling to defend themselves against a roving band of marauders with a aide of a reluctant drifter known as Mad Max.
Why I like it: Classic. Classic. Classic. Seriously. How iconic is that picture of Mel with his leather outfit and gun? This movie has long been the measuring stick that all other post-apocalyptic flicks compared against. From Fallout to South Park, everyone has referenced it to some extent. It’s the future that everyone dreads, bondage freaks gone wild. Gimp outfits and stylized shoulder pads aside, what makes this movie work so well (more so than even Mad Max) is the whole archetypal Wild West frontier motif that’s achieved with Mad Max’s role as a cynical, hardened drifter who rediscovers his humanity when he decides to help the proverbial town under siege. It’s good old fashioned cowboy movie topped with a nice buttery coating of S&M and depravity.
Plot: The story follows a man and his son as they journey through the wastelands of a devastated Earth trying to survive by any means necessary.
Why I like it: Again, another book I should really read (Cormac McCarthy’s The Road) because the movie was so deep. I can’t figure out why it didn’t get more recognition than it did because both Viggo Mortensen (Hollywood’s most underrated actor) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (starring in October’s Let Me In) dominate this film with their strong performances. This is as bleak as it gets with regards to cinematography. The desaturated destroyed landscapes paint a portrait in itself of how desperate the world they live in is. The cause for the catastrophic events that lead to their predicament are tastefully never explained leaving you to formulate your own conclusions. Though the movie takes place in a wasteland populated by raiders, cannibals and miscreants the story is more about a father’s love for his son and what they have to go through just to get by day to day. It’s extremely depressing and not recommended for those looking for some kind of knock ’em down drag ’em out action flick. However if you think you’re having a bad day, watch this movie and you’ll absolutely know you don’t have it that bad.
Plot: This film depicts a future in which the reality that is perceived by most humans is actually a complex simulation created by sentient machines to pacify and subdue the human population, while their bodies are cultivated and used as an energy source for them. A young computer hacker is drawn into a rebellion involving others who have been freed from the “dream world” and their quest to rescue mankind from imprisonment.
Why I like it: It only happens once in a blue moon but every so often a movie comes along and shakes Hollywood up and spawns countless knock-off and wannabe imitations. This was one of those instances. When this movie burst onto the scene it rocked the world because of its perfect timing with events in pop culture. The Internet and computer revolution were just starting to gain speed and The Matrix took full advantage of that momentum introducing us to a world within a world. Great story, stunning effects (at the time) and Ted Theodore Logan. What more could you ask for? I’m sure some can contest that it isn’t quite a post-apocalyptic theme considering the majority of the story takes place in the simulated world. Despite that they are actually in the scorched Earth environment while all of this is taking place so I suppose it can go either way. It’s my list so I say it stays so there. ;p
Plot: The story takes place in the United Kingdom in 2027 and explores a grim world in which two decades of global human infertility have left humanity with less than a century to survive. In the midst of societal collapse, terrorism, and environmental destruction, a former activist must find safe transit for a pregnant African woman who is in danger of being persecuted by the government’s fierce anti-refugee policies.
Why I like it: This one was a shocker for me because I didn’t know what to expect when I first heard about it. True this is a dystopian theme and not quite post-apocalyptic but considering the circumstances at hand with the world being in a destabilized state I let it slide. To me the whole key to a good post-apocalyptic tale is the removal of the conventional institutions we have in society today such as government and religion and the injection of a loss of morality and anarchy. This film has all of that. Gritty and forceful it serves as a exaggerated commentary on how governments currently manage their immigration policies.
Plot: Set in a Utopian yet ageist future society in which both population and the consumption of resources are maintained by requiring the death of everyone reaching a particular age, the story follows the actions of Logan, an officer charged with enforcing the rule, as he tracks down and kills citizens who “run” from society’s inevitability — only to end up “running” himself.
Why I like it: The concept of ritualistic extermination of people 30 and over is just mind boggling. I’d be screwed if that were the case. The movie puts the theory of utopia on its head by challenging us to come to grips with our own mortality and humanity. Add to the mix a very scantily clad and provocative Jenny Agutter and a dynamic Michael York and it’s great romp with through the future that mysteriously looks very much like the 70’s.
Plot: The story revolves around Eli, a nomad in a post-apocalyptic world, who is charged by an inner calling to deliver his copy of a book, the last remaining King James Bible, to a safe location on the West Coast of the United States.
Why I like it: I was a bit leery about seeing this movie at first because of the strong religious overtones in the commercials but it had Denzel in it (which is always a plus) and looked pretty darn post-apocalyptic so I caught it in the theaters. Wonderful movie. Everyone kind of knew the general premise so I was expecting it to be a bible-thumping preachy film about how we need God and what not. Instead I found it to be pretty spiritual without forcing any belief structure on the viewers. Eli is a man who believes in what he believes in and that’s all that is conveyed. Religion’s role in this is from a observational stand point showcasing how it can be used for good or evil. Regardless of all that the almost monochrome tone to the film and desolate lifeless landscapes pretty much pull you right into that world. Not to mention the fact that it’s just awesome to watch Denzel whup some ass, it just makes for a enjoyable thought provoking experience. One of the better films of this genre in recent years.
Plot: In 1997, World War III is nearing an end. Both the United States and Soviet Union have suffered greatly in the conflict and are looking for a peaceful resolution. Ex-soldier and legendary fugitive “Snake” Plissken is given 24 hours to find the President of the United States, who has been captured by inmates after Air Force One crashed in Manhattan – now a converted maximum security prison island.
Why I like it: Come on. This movie wreaks of cheesy goodness. Everything about it from Russell’s awful one liners to his trademark patch just screams anti-hero. Like Children of Men this leans heavily on the dystiopian theme rather than post-apocalyptic but a lot of details are purposefully left out allowing audience to fill in the blanks. I tend to believe that if there was a World War III in it’s conclusion there wouldn’t be much stability anywhere. Considering the script was written during the mid 70’s when the nuclear arms race was starting to boil over it’s reasonable to assume bombs got dropped at some point or at the very least there were global skirmishes. Either way it makes my list albeit tentatively.
Plot: In 2024 a young man and his telepathic dog scour the wastelands in search of food and women.
Why I like it: That is the premise of the movie. I do not lie. When I heard about it a while back I thought to myself “I have to see this”. With the King of the 80’s Don Johnson in the title role of Vic I figured it should be worth a laugh or two. This is highly criticized for it being misogynistic and often cruel towards women. It’s hard to argue with that point since Blood, the rather snarky canine companion, has the ability to sense and track women so that Vic can “fulfill his manly urges”. When you strip away the comical facade the movie tackles a lot of controversial subjects like cannibalism, beastiality, murder and even rape. Nothing is ever graphically shown but they’re certainly explicitly implied . It’s an interesting film to say the least and had a profound influence on the Fallout game series. My wife enjoyed it so I guess it can’t be all that bad.
Worth Noting: The Last Man on Earth, The Postman, Akira, 12 Monkeys, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Idiocracy, Equilibrium, I am Legend, Mad Max, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Matrix Revolutions, Matrix Reloaded, Escape from LA, The Blood of Heroes, Reign of Fire,
Geek Fact: I’ve said post-apocalyptic 15 times in this post. Geez I need to use a thesaurus more often. ;p
Disclaimer: As always if you are the rightful owner of any image used in this post and want it removed just contact me and it’ll be resolved asap. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the free publicity.