How will the world end? That’s a very simple question, but no one will ever know unless they’re lucky enough to live till the day the world ends.
But then again, how do you define the end of the world? Is it the end of the world when you’re the only one left on Earth? We have only been told so many times that the end of the word is nigh, but the question on how the world will end is still open to interpretation.
Because of that question, some interpretations are presented in cinematic styles, albeit dramatic at times.
The word “post-apocalyptic” has been thrown around in Hollywood for quite some time now and it’s easy to notice how the post-apocalyptic genre has become more popular to mainstream audiences in recent years.
With “Zorro” also getting a post-apocalyptic reboot, we find ourselves looking at many different interpretations of how our world might look like in the future.
From alien invasions to the zombie uprising to environmental disasters (which will most likely happen to us in the future), let’s take a look at some of our favourite post-apocalyptic movies that showed us a world after the so-called apocalypse:
1. Mad Max Film Series
- Year: 1979, 1981, 1985, 2015
- Director: George Miller
- Cast: Mel Gibson (Original trilogy) / Tom Hardy (“Mad Max: Fury Road”)
Post-apocalyptic films are being released almost every year, yet George Miller’s “Mad Max” film series defines the genre perfectly with its engaging plot and dynamic action sequences. The 4th instalment of the series, “Mad Max: Fury Road“, is even considered by many as one of the best action films in recent years.
But before the 4th film blew our minds and took the world by storm, there was the original “Mad Max” trilogy with Mel Gibson starring in the lead role. Similar to “Mad Max: Fury Road”, the trilogy consists of multiple jaw-dropping car chase scenes. It also features a peculiar group of humans that would do anything for a chance of survival as water and gasoline are the only resources left in this post-apocalyptic world.
Though the lead character hardly says a word, but when he does, it’s pretty epic and profound. The “Mad Max” film series beautifully depicted a future where everyone went insane.
P/S: Also, the guitar-wielding flamethrower is a real jaw-dropper.
2. Children of Men
- Year: 2006
- Director: Alfonso Cuarón
- Cast: Clive Owen, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam
Set in 2027, “Children of Men” is about a world that is on the brink of collapse after 2 decades of global human infertility. People are driven to suicide and made mentally insane by the futility of a world without children, especially after the youngest living person on the planet, aged 18, has just died.
However, Cuarón’s take on the apocalypse in “Children of Men” shows that not all hope is lost. While emphasising on the themes of hope and faith, Cuarón leaves various plot points from this heart-pounding sci-fi thriller up to interpretation. For example, what really causes the global human infertility? Is “human project” just a myth?
In a world where hope depends on future generations, the film encourages viewers to come up with their own conclusions about the sense of hope as shown in the final scenes.
3. 28 Days Later
- Year: 2002
- Director: Danny Boyle
- Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, Christopher Eccleston
Now, here’s the thing: Zombies are not real. They belong to realms of fiction.
However, we are more inclined to believe that they are real because of the way some zombie films made that zombie uprising situation possible. Danny Boyle’s take on our post-apocalypse future is shown through “28 Days Later”. The plot depicts the breakdown of a bleak society following the accidental release of a highly contagious virus. It focuses on 4 survivors who struggle to cope with the destruction of the life they once knew.
Boyle is credited for reinvigorating the zombie genre of horror fiction as the narrative in the film is enhanced with superb realistic editing and documentary-style cinematography. Its commercial and critical success helped spawn a less-than-stellar sequel called “28 Weeks Later” in 2007.
- Year: 2013
- Director: Joseph Kosinski
- Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko
Some post-apocalyptic films focus on extraterrestrial invasion. Joseph Kosinski’s “Oblivion” envisions a future where the Earth was left empty and devastated after a war with aliens known as the Scavengers (Scavs).
Jack Harper, who is one of the few humans left on Earth, is on a mission to protect generators from attack by any remaining Scavs. However, his concept of reality changes after rescuing an unknown woman from a crashed spacecraft. Her arrival did not only help him find out who he really is, but also stir intense memories that eventually help him to save mankind.
While paying homage to sci-fi films of the 1970s, Kosinski’s take on the post-apocalyptic future in “Oblivion” is refreshing and original. However, it’s easy to understand why the visually aesthetic post-apocalyptic movie received mixed reviews from critics as the story and the action pieces are not entirely ground-breaking. A round of applause should be given though, as the film features brilliant performance from the cast and outstanding visual effects.
- Year: 2013
- Director: Bong Joon-ho
- Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Ed Harris
Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer” takes place largely inside a massive train powered by a “perpetual-motion engine”, as the Earth was “accidentally” frozen by mankind a decade and half ago. Every day is struggle for survival for the poor as the remaining human population was segmented by social class in the train that travels the globe continuously with no possible destination.
But the time has come for the poor who live in the back of the train as they’ve decided to rebel against the elite who enjoy their riches at the front. Joon-ho busts out every social metaphor and engaging action scenes that he can instill in the movie while presenting us some of the most eccentric characters in the train.
- Year: 2008
- Director: Andrew Stanton
- Cast: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger
The only animated film to be featured in the list, “Wall-E”, depicts a post-apocalyptic future through the perspective of a robot and it is surprisingly one of the most inspiring films we’ve ever seen.
In “Wall-E”, mankind has long abandoned the Earth for a better, more luxurious lifestyle aboard spaceships. Wall-E trash compactor robots are left behind to clean the garbage-filled Earth for humanity’s eventual return, but only one robot remains active in the year of 2805. After years of life-experience, he eventually develops sentience and falls in love with another robot named EVE. He follows her into outer space on an adventure and little did they know, it will change the destiny of both his kind and humanity.
Unlike the rest of the post-apocalyptic films, “Wall-E” casts a critical eye on mass consumerism beneath the environmental destruction. By grounding us in this familiarity, it shows us that love can grow in even the bleakest of conditions.
7. The Road
- Year: 2009
- Director: John Hollcoat
- Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee
“The Road” features one of the saddest and bleakest post-apocalypse futures of all time. It centres on an unnamed survivor and his son who traverse to find solace from a world ravaged by an unspecified cataclysm. As the civilisation has collapsed, the duo scrounge for supplies while enduring starvation and evading vicious cannibals.
Director John Hillcoat’s depiction of the post-apocalyptic world is almost lifeless, but with cannibals around the corner, it is filled with searing intensity. He put the survivors’ lives into perspective to remind us of the value and the fragility of life. This exposes and builds our fear that is constantly growing in our mind.
- 12 Monkeys
- Warm Bodies
- Planet of the Apes
- The Matrix Trilogy
- The Omega Man
- Stake Land
- A Boy and His Dog
- The Book of Eli
- The Terminator
Have you seen any of the films mentioned in the above list? What are some of the best post-apocalypse movies you’ve seen? Share them with us in the comments box below!