Top 10 Favorite Post-Apocalyptic Films

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
June 6th, 2014

People love the thrill and the voyeuristic peek into the worst-case scenario that post-apocalyptic films offer. This sub-genre of science fiction details the end of civilization, usually due to some catastrophe. Typical catastrophes include war, environmental disaster, pandemic and alien invasion. Just like with movies in general, what makes a post-apocalyptic film a fan favorite doesn't follow a formula. Sometimes it's the pathos of the remaining characters, and sometimes it is the campiness of the characters. Other times it is the strength of the leading actor.



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10. "The Stand"

Adapted from Stephen King's book by the same name, "The Stand" came out in 1994 as a six-hour mini-series, which is fitting since the book runs 1,152 pages. These are not superfluous pages. The movie has to wind around the destruction of civilization by a man-made pandemic and the resultant good-and-evil struggle between the survivors. The mini-series is naturally unable to capture the depth of the book, but it nonetheless features the essence of King's story. "The Stand" is due to be remade into a cinematic film.



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9. "Carriers"

The film "Carriers" is gloomy, showcasing the best depression-inducing qualities central to post-apocalyptic films. However, the movie offers a refreshing take on the theme, focusing on individual loss in the face of a worldwide viral pandemic. As critic Rob Nelson stated in Variety, "'Carriers" has moments of genuinely communicable horror."  People can relate to the characters in this film as well as the personal suffering both great and small that they endure.



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8. " Zombieland"

Post-apocalyptic films can be amusing – at least in campy, dark-humor sort of ways. "Zombieland" became a cult favorite from the moment it was released in 2009. Why wouldn't it when the movie features Woody Harrelson as a gun-toting maniac named Tallahassee? The plot offers a shy teen, a pair of tough-girl sisters and loads of gore. However, Harrelson's camping around as the Twinkie-obsessed Tallahassee, who's literally ready to blow people away for the treat, is what makes this zombie flick so popular. 



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7. "Soylent Green"

One of the most iconic post-apocalyptic films, "Soylent Green" is a commentary on modern society. This world is over-populated, polluted and suffering from global warming. Because of the scarcity of natural resources, the population is surviving on over-processed food. The movie is still very popular despite the fact that the technological "innovations" shown in the film are laughable by modern standards.



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6. "Twelve Monkeys"

People love the twist ending of this film as well as all the twists along the way that lead to that ending. A viral pandemic decimates the world population, but the future world is still able to invent imperfect time travel. The scientists decide to send a convicted felon back in time to stop the epidemic by infiltrating the terrorist organization responsible, and despite being a criminal, he actually attempts this feat. The terrorist band calling themselves Army of the Twelve Monkeys is actually about animal rights. Pitting Bruce Willis against Brad Pitt with Madeline Stowe in the center only adds fillip to the film's appeal.



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5.  "The Book of Eli"

Perhaps it should be surprising that few post-apocalyptic films carry Biblical undertones. "The Book of Eli" is all about the wandering man fighting to protect a sacred book with the secrets for saving humanity. Denzel Washington is that wandering man, providing one of the reasons this film is such a fan favorite despite mixed critical reviews.


mad_max.jpgPhoto Credit: American International Pictures

4. "Mad Max"

Just like "Soylent Green," "Mad Max" is one of those iconic films that transcends its technical insufficiencies. Of course, at its heart lies the human drama of a man avenging the murder of his wife and baby. It just so happens that the drama is set in a dystopian future when the earth's oil supplies are on the brink of exhaustion. Add a young and handsome Mel Gibson, and the reason for the film's endurance becomes obvious.



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3. "I Am Legend"

Even better than a man wandering the earth in search of a cure for the virus that turned the rest of humanity into mutants is when that man brings along his dog because, for some reason, pets are infrequently featured in post-apocalyptic films. Plus, there's Will Smith as the hero and the fact that DVD viewers get to choose between two alternate endings.


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2. "28 Days Later"

The film never quite explains how a virus that turns its victims into violent zombies within minutes of infecting them becomes an epidemic that decimates all of England and is spreading worldwide. After all, why would an infected person be allowed onto a bus or train, much less a plane? With that glitch out of the way, though, the film progresses through the horror of the protagonist – played hauntingly by Cillian Murphy -- waking up from a coma and trying to come to terms with the horror the world has become in just 28 days. That horror endures with viewers.



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1. "Planet of the Apes"

There are icons, and then there is "Planet of the Apes." It is likely that no post-apocalyptic film has been more referenced or more parodied than this film. The 1968 movie reached that balance between commercial success and critical acclaim. Four sequels were made, two remakes were released and the film even got selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

These films reaffirm what it means to be human, strip away humanity and sometimes kill off humanity altogether. However, they have continued to endure as fan favorites, in some cases for decades.