For those who don’t know I guess September 23 is the end. The numerically predicted day of the end of the world according to those who study the Bible…I mean never mind the fact that numerology and Christianity are literal opposite belief systems and the fact that their justifications for the rapture prediction have literally happened before but hey you never know right? Anyways in the spirit of this prediction it got me thinking about movies that have effectively predicted the end of the world. So let’s hope this is not my final countdown as I take a look at the Top 10 Films That Depict the World’s End.
For this list I considered only movies where the end of the world is shown to be happening or in progress. That being said no post-apocalyptic movies that take place AFTER the world as we know it comes to an end are included here. Those are for another list some time down the road. These are ten of the best depictions of world-changing catastrophes or events that bring an end to modern society through such methods as weather, disease, war, astronomical or cosmic occurrences or any other event that would change the world permanently, and not for the better, or even end in its absolute destruction.
These are movies that, whether they are good or not as a whole, were effective in creating paranoia and fear about the possibilities of what could bring an end to humanity someday and what it would be like to live through that event. The event has to happen within the film, which is what makes it a great depiction of the apocalypse. As long as the end of the world was shown in the movie it qualifies. Any movie that depicts potential apocalyptic events that don’t actually destroy the world, like “Armageddon” or “Independence Day” where the end of the world is stopped by human intervention, were not considered for this list as they depicted possible apocalyptic scenarios but the world didn’t really change for the worse or end as a result. However movies where the post-apocalyptic results of the end of the world scenario are left up in the air do qualify.
So as the end apparently nears feel free to tell me your favorite film that depicts the end of the world. Good luck and God speed! Enjoy the list.
Let start with a film that depicted events predicted to occur in real life only three years after its release. The “2012” movie was based on the popular theory that in December of 2012 the world would change or end due to mysteries surrounding the Mayan calendar. Obviously that never happened, but this Roland Emmerich film took a look at what that apocalyptic end could have looked like with the earth erupting in fire and massive waves and catastrophic events destroying much of humanity over the course of the movie. While ridiculous and over the top in many ways, this movie was an imaginative take on the fear associated with the potential destruction of the predictions concerning the Mayan calendar and it wasn’t Emmerich’s first foray into armageddon either. In addition to “Independence Day” he also directed our #9 film on this list which also explored a possible extreme scenario that could someday end the world.
9. “The Day After Tomorrow”
A film that was a bit ahead of its time in terms of subject matter “The Day After Tomorrow” depicts the possible results of global warming that many modern scientific theorists do believe is a real threat to human existence. Taking the potential fallout to the extreme this movie shows New York City engulfed in a wave of water, China destroyed by basketball sized hail, and a series of winter-weather hurricanes that can freeze air instantly engulf the northern hemisphere. As a result half of Earth’s populated landmass is made unlivable as nature takes back what man has destroyed. It’s an intriguing over the top cautionary tale that is more relevant today than it was when it first brought the possible drama of nature versus man to the big screen as the possible consequences of global warming were first being explored by the masses. For those without a religious clock to follow, Mother Nature is considered the most likely of enemies to humanities survival and seeing a representation of her wrath was not only frightening in scale, but also in the details and thought provoking images included in the film for effect.
8. “The World’s End”
A film with a double meaning to its name, “The World’s End” is the third film in the Cornetto Trilogy of disconnected movies parodying major film genres including horror, action, and science fiction. This movie took on science fiction as a group of old friends rekindle their bond during an epic pub crawl with “The World’s End” being the final stop. Over the course of the film however they realize their old stomping ground has become the haven for a robotic species replacing humanity and the friends become involved in a fight against their soon-to-be robot overlords that results in a technological shutdown of the world, cutting all of humanity off from modern technology and ushering in a post-apocalyptic reality. While another member of the trilogy, “Shaun of the Dead”, also shows the apocalypse as zombies take over the world “The World’s End” was a more unique take that got us thinking about whether the end has been under wraps for a long time and a larger power is just waiting for the right moment.
7. “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”
Alright so it’s not the best “Terminator” film, or even the second best, but “Rise of the Machines” finally showed us the result of Skynet’s attempt to eradicate humanity and bring about the end of the world as we know it. Throughout this third entry in the franchise John Conner and his future wife Kate are protected by yet another Terminator as a more advanced female-based model hunts them down. Despite their best efforts, the two find themselves facing the inevitable as Skynet’s apocalypse does indeed happen in the film’s closing, touching on concepts of fate and destiny as it appears that despite their best efforts the end was always going to happen. While this film does have a lot of problems, its final depiction of the end of the world that promises the rise of the machines and the entry into the post-apocalyptic Earth provides a moment of hopelessness that few films are able to capture. If the end of the world is inevitable is it truly worth it to try and stop it? Can it be stopped? Once you see the results of this film you start to wonder how much of a difference the events of the first two really made providing what should have been the proper conclusion to the original “Terminator” trilogy.
6. “Dawn of the Dead (2004)”
More subtle than any other film on this list, “Dawn of the Dead” provides a spooky look at how a small group of survivors would fare if the world suddenly turned on them. A remake of the George A. Romero classic, this movie is among the best remakes in existence and showed much more of the actual dawn of the apocalypse than Romero’s original placing most of that action at the beginning of the movie as one of the film’s central characters, Ana, finds herself thrust into the end of days after her husband is killed and the otherwise peaceful world around her goes to hell when the zombie pandemic takes over. The remainder of the movie covers the opening days of the destruction as Ana joins a small group of survivors inside a local mall. A story of survival with an ending that leaves the fate of the protagonists up in the air, the “Dawn of the Dead” remake is not only a great depiction of how fast chaos would spread when and if it all comes crashing down, but also how many would work to survive in the first days after the world as we know it comes to a close.
5. “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”
A personal favorite of mine, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” showcases a society that knows the end is coming with only days to spare. Steve Carell plays a lonely man who decides to spend his last few days trying to reconnect with a lost love and, in the process, falls for Kiera Knightley’s character as the two become companions in a trip across the country. Along the way they experience many different groups dealing with the oncoming disaster, including a man who has hired an assassin to kill him with dignity and a group of drugged up restaurant employees, as they realize in their final days that they really want to be with each other at the end even though they went their whole lives not knowing each other existed. The movie shows the heartbreaking end as the two lay together waiting for their final moments in a heart wrenching depiction of a more uplifting finale to Earth and humanity. While the end of the world may only occur in the final flash on screen, the heart and soul of this film is about cherishing the moment and how it’s never too late to find new love, which is a message that makes the eventual end a little easier to swallow, no? Plus, let’s face it, it would suck to die alone.
4. “World War Z”
The second zombie film on this list, “World War Z” depicts a zombie apocalypse as it happens with fast and furious infected individuals taking over streets, cities, and nations in the blink of an eye. As most films of this kind do this movie starts off slow and builds to a fear inducing reality where what we know as the typical zombie is replaced with faster, more vicious and cunning monsters with a thirst for flesh and blood. Brad Pitt portrays a former United Nations investigator who embarks on a mission to find a cure for the pandemic. Along the way we see how the world quickly transforms as the zombies take over. Riots and looting become commonplace, walls are built to keep the monsters out, and danger lies around every turn even on an airplane. In the end its disease itself that defeats the zombies as the movie’s clever twist makes sick individuals unworthy of the pandemic’s goal of survival. While “Dawn of the Dead” provided a more subtle start of the end of the world, “World War Z” was a more brutal and straightforward depiction on a grander scale which, when you think about zombies at least, makes this a worst case scenario nobody would want to experience themselves.
3. “Dr. Strangelove or : How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”
A classic black comedy and political satire, we don’t see the end of the world in this movie until the very end, but it is among the most iconic apocalyptic events in all of film. A satire of the U.S. and Soviet standoff during the Cold War the final moments of this film sees bombs dropped creating nuclear destruction across the globe. We don’t know the fallout, but we know the drama and comedic situations that led to it and that’s what makes this masterpiece so fascinating. It’s not hard to believe that political back and forth and bantering could lead to such events. Our lives are in the hands of a few men with fingers on the trigger and those who survive would be selected by the men in charge. “Dr. Strangelove” is a comical prediction of what might have been and, despite its moments of levity, it can also be seen as a concerning potential truth especially with a new Cold War brewing with North Korea.
2. “This is the End”
With this Saturday predicted to be the rapture I had to include at least one film that portrayed the rapture itself right? Well theme aside any apocalyptic movie list deserves to have this comedy gem that showcases comedians Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride as fictional versions of themselves when the rapture begins. Many other celebrities make cameos in the film as they are left behind when the destruction takes hold with depictions of the devil, cannibalism, and the hell on earth prophesied in the Bible all prominent throughout the movie. If you believe the end of the world will not happen this weekend, this would be the perfect film to watch to throw slight to theorists saying we won’t make it past Saturday. Comical and, in some ways, pretty deep in its tackling of personal and religious themes, “This is the End” is by far one of the most epic depictions of the apocalypse and a very rare project that shows how God himself could someday bring an end to the world we call home. It’s also a rare film that, despite Earth being lost, has somewhat of a happy ending for..well most of the main characters as least.
Considered by many to be a modern masterpiece, “Melancholia” take an artistic direction in its depiction of the end of the world as a planet, the film’s namesake, careens towards earth in an eventual cataclysmic collision that destroys everything on the planet. Before that however we see the film’s characters all deal with the impending disaster in different ways, similar to “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” but much darker. What makes “Melancholia” such a spectacular apocalyptic tale is its deeper meaning. The movie is a metaphor for depression with the main character, played by Kirsten Dunst, experiencing a horrible event in her life and finding the end of the world to be more welcoming than scary, a symbolic representation about how depression can make truly scary events not only seem more normal to the human mind, but inevitable. The final moments of this film are heart wrenching, showing several characters displaying different reactions to the oncoming disaster. When and if the end ever comes, this movie depicts, probably better than anything else, how human beings as individuals would probably react on a personal level. Many would experience intense fear and maybe even come to peace with their fate. As much as this film is a great interpretation of depression and tragedy, it’s also a very human depiction of the end of it all.