The top 10 end of the world movies

The top 10 end of the world movies. By Simon Miraudo.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and we feel fine! And why wouldn’t we, when there are these great apocalyptic flicks to enjoy in the lead up to Earth’s eventual shuttering? The old girl still may have a little life in her yet, but eventually she will explode/implode/pop like a balloon and erratically spurt around the cosmos. Or maybe civilisation will be wiped out before then; perhaps by zombies, perhaps by robots, perhaps by nuclear war, perhaps by viral outbreak, or, most likely, by an army of Nicolas Cage clones with a plan to take revenge on everyone who ever laughed at him and his cinematic choices (spare me Nic!). To celebrate the release of Lars von Trier‘s new DVD/Blu-ray release Melancholia, we’re sharing our picks for the top 10 end of the world movies. So, when the apocalypse comes, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

10. The Tree of Life

The jury is still out on whether or not existence comes to a close at the end of Terrence Malick’s magnum opus, but the image of both young and old Jack O’Brien (Hunter McCracken, Sean Penn) reuniting with his mother (Jessica Chastain), father (Brad Pitt), late brother, and the rest of humanity on some sort of ethereal beach while doing the dance of death (as seen in The Seventh Seal!) is truly something to behold, whether you believe in life after apocalypse or not.

9. The Road

We prefer Cormac McCarthy’s novel, but John Hillcoat still paints a vivid, stark portrait of our planet after an ecological disaster. It doesn’t pull any punches with that ending either. Super depressing.

8. 28 Days Later

Imagine waking up naked on a hospital bed, and then discovering that London has been overtaken by a zombie horde (sorry purists – we know they’re not technically zombies, just people infected by the rage virus, but you know what we mean). The sequel suggested that humanity was able to, at least temporarily, stave off total elimination. That’s the thing about zombies though: what they lack in hygiene, they make up in determination.

7. Knowing

And Nicolas Cage returns to the Top 10 fold in Alex Proyas‘ surprisingly thoughtful disaster flick Knowing! Cage happens upon a notepad filled with numbers that are revealed to predict catastrophic events across the globe. But what happens when the numbers run out? Some have scoffed at the nutso, ballsy finale; we maintain it’s one of the most spectacular and stirring of the past few years.

6. Watchmen

We don’t want to spoil anything here. We’ll just say that, similar to Dr. Strangelove (which was excised from this list on account of it appearing in no less than four prior Top 10s), it concludes with a hint of imminent nuclear warfare. Rorschach, you rabble-rouser, you.

5. 12 Monkeys

Terry Gilliam‘s 12 Monkeys is heavily inspired by the French short film La Jetée, in which a time traveller discovers that a dream he had as a boy was actually of his own death as a man (cue Keanuwoah‘). Bruce Willis is sent back through time to halt the release of a deadly virus, but in his dying moments he discovers that his plight is hopeless. Bummer!

4. The Terminator

To combat the rise of the machines, the human resistance of a post-apocalyptic wasteland sends a freedom fighter to protect the not-yet-pregnant mother of their eventual saviour from an unstoppable cyborg assassin… come on, you know what it’s about. Don’t make me try to explain it.

3. Take Shelter

Michael Shannon stars as a husband and father haunted by images of the looming rapture. Is he a modern-day prophet, or is this merely the first sign of his descent into madness? The final scene is sure to fire up some arguments between viewers, but Shannon’s powerful performance is undeniable, and the movie itself presents some fairly ungodly, nightmarish visions of an impending reckoning.

2. Children of Men

Suddenly, and without explanation, men and women lose the ability to procreate. Alfonso Cuarón‘s chilling Children of Men offers up a fairly realistic depiction of Earth’s untimely demise while embracing its fantastical sci-fi premise. Keeping it from #1 is the semi-optimistic end. No, we’ve got to save the top spot for something truly nihilistic.

1. Dawn of the Dead

“When there’s no more room in hell, the dead shall walk the Earth.” If that proclamation by a televangelist on George Romero‘s still-biting (geddit?) zombie satire Dawn of the Dead doesn’t send chills down your spine, perhaps the prospect of having to live in a shopping mall will do the trick. The original cut featured the final two survivors committing suicide; Romero eventually pulled his punches and had them escape, postponing their inevitable death until later. So, props to Zack Snyder for following through on the bleakness with his 2004 remake!

Discuss: OK, what did we miss?

4 Responses to “The top 10 end of the world movies”

  1. Almost every movie in this list worth seeing even more than 1 time but i can’t stand the movie The Tree of Life, that’s my opinion.

  2. As a film critic I’m seriously taken back that you have not mentioned Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em! In my opinion best apocolyptic film Watchmen? BAH what a piece of overhyped s#@t bad acting crap story etc just a terrible film as was 28days seriously don’t care what anyone else has to say.
    Anyway whoever has the rights to the Aussie small budget film “Smoke E’M” (if you haven’t seen it it basically shows the happenings etc of a ‘party’ in a bomb shelter as the world is ending via nuclear holocast, absurdly dark humour and all round good film, where i’d want to be if you knew the world was ending!)PLEASE release it on DVD I’d be very suprised if it did’nt garner interest from a whole new audience if simply for the fact that it is ENJOYABLE to watch, wish I owned a copy. oh agre with 12monkeys Gilliam at his sombre best!

  3. nicholas mahanets Reply April 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Hey,,,what about 2012 ?? Pretty cheesy but loosely based on ‘old world predictions’,,& if yer gonna put ‘zombie apocalypse’ movies in the ‘top 10’,, shouldn’t Return of the Living Dead knock off Dawn of the Dead ??? ,,,but then again,,one is before the downfall,,the other after. Sorry I’m not ‘highbrow’,,couldn’t make heads or tails of Tree of Life.

  4. Props for using the original Dawn of The Dead as number 1. Will never be beaten! I have seen and loved all these movies (bar tree of life, must watch).

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