Top 10 End-of-the-World Movies

All those end of the world movies that were either really good or at least outlandishly ridiculous….

28 Days Later (2002)


Danny Boyle’s (Slumdog Millionaire) brilliant zombie movie, shot on digital video, is infamous for shutting down central London very early one morning to film Cillian Murphy wandering around a deserted capital. How very Day of the Triffids.

Boyle’s film reinvigorated the zombie genre for the 21st Century, where an ‘anger’ virus seemed to fit with the times. Of course it’s not really the end of the world, as it happened again 28 Weeks Later, and is rumoured to break out again 28 Months Later soon. But try telling yourself that when you’re being chased by a sprinting blood-fiend.

End of the world via angry zombies.

Independence Day (1996)


Back in 1996, when most of us at Flicks were in our early teens, this was the film to see. The jingoistic and overtly American take on an extraterrestrial invasion shot Will Smith to superstardom and gave Roland Emmerich his first taste of Earth-destroying movies (he followed it with Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow and the upcoming 2012).

Iconic imagery included a massive disc-shaped spaceship gliding over Manhattan, emerging from ominous stormclouds. And yes, the dog survived.

End of the world via agressive power-hungry alien invaders.

Donnie Darko (2001)


Time-travel, giant rabbits, premonitions, pedophiles, alternative universes… the end of the world.

Released mere months after the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, audiences were terrified by the fact that a doomsday clock is triggered off by an airplane’s engine, crashing into a house. With a world in turmoil, many empathised with the film’s withdrawn anti-hero.

Donnie Darko soon put both of the Gyllenhaal siblings on the map and, in the process, it re-wrote the rule-book for low-budget movie-makers around the globe, who now had license to bring the apocalypse to street-level.

End of the world via weird parallel universes.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)


Kubrick’s comedy about the nuclear war, an irony never lost on its star, Peter Sellers, who plays three different characters.

Because the world of politics never stopped promoting idiots to high-powered positions, Sellers’ multiple roles remain hysterically funny even though it’s been four decades since this picture was released. A good laugh about the cold war and global extinction.

End of the world via the nuclear bomb.

The Omega Man (1971)


The Omega Man was based on 1954 novel I Am Legend (which itself was adapted into another film in 2007 with Will Smith in the Heston role, and was made once before as 1964’s The Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price).

The Heston film was set in 1977 Los Angeles, two years after biological warfare has wiped out most of the planet’s population or turned them into light-sensitive flesh-eating psychopathic mutants who are highly jealous of the lead character’s immunity to the virus. Heston, a longtime fan of firearms, was in his element here, shooting at everything that moves, fortifying his apartment and going slightly mad.

End of the world via biological war and its mutant creations.

The Quiet Earth (1985)


Kiwi actor legend Bruno Lawrence bears the loss of humanity in his mournful body language, filling his days with superficial distractions to disguise the pain of being utterly alone. The Quiet Earth warns us of the perils of technology and reminds us how important it is to maintain community.

End of the world via technology.

Planet of the Apes (1968)


The 1968 sci-fi classic about a crew of astronauts (including Charles Heston) stranded on a strange planet where primitive humans are enslaved by a race of talking, thinking, upright apes.

Some are old apes with beards, and some are sexy apes. Charlton Heston – he likes the sexy ape. Let’s not talk about Tim Burton’s lame remake, which involved mankind being replaced by a disappointing sense of boredom. Classic line: “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”

End of the world via ape.

Sunshine (2007)


The sun doesn’t just give Superman his powers, it also comes with the added benefit of fuelling life on Earth. So, what would we do if we found out our solar system’s star-in-residence was dying? Hollywood’s answer to this type of question usually involves throwing nuclear bombs at the problem. Same goes here, but director Danny Boyle (again) thankfully gives his audience a bit more to think about.

Let’s call it the thinking man’s Armageddon. This is the film for you if you appreciate pretty explosions and hard questions about utilitarianism.

End of the world via the death of the sun.

Deep Impact (1998)


This movie about a space rock on a collision course with Earth came out at exactly the same time as Michael Bay’s Armageddon. We’d pick this as the superior option, only because the asteroid actually hits (in small bits, thanks to the heroics of Robert Duvall). It had a deep impact on us.

Look for a young pre-Lord of the Rings Elijah Wood, who runs for higher ground after a tidal wave strikes New York City and swirls around the towers of the World Trade Center. We liked the concept of the lottery that selected 1,000,000 American citizens to bunker down in underground caves and ultimately save the human race from extinction.

End of the world via asteroid collision.

Children of Men (2006)


Universal infertility would do two things: put Durex out of business and end life as we know it.

Vaguely based on a grim novel by P.D. James, the film asks what the future would be like if children weren’t around.

You’ve never seen such a desolate world. Director Alfonso Cuaron emphasises this horrible emptiness by pirouetting his camera around the city in stunning, long, documentary-styled shots that garnered several Academy Award nominations. It’s not just a good apocalypse movie, it’s one of the decade’s best movies.

End of the world via infertility.