50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

There’s something curiously appealing to so many people about viewing the finest post-apocalyptic movies, much like something is appealing about exploring abandoned locales. There’s something intrinsically intriguing about seeing the stretches of emptiness and the scattered individuals inside them, whether it’s the unease or the despair.

I’m one of those people who would rather see the aftermath of the end than practically any other type of film. Post-apocalyptic films strike a chord with me that I can’t quite put my finger on, but it all stems from my love of zombie films. As frightening as writing this, I often wonder what civilization might look like if it crumbled and how humanity would react.

I’m also well aware that I wouldn’t live long in the post-apocalyptic world no matter how much training I’ve gotten from movies. That might explain why I like witnessing others toil and struggle. I’m lucky that these movies are still popular, but I also have games like The Last of Us and Fallout 4 to fall back on. There has never been a better time to be a moviegoer.

With that in mind, I’ve chosen to compile a list of some of the finest apocalyptic films you should see.  

1. I Am Legend, 2007

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

I Am Legend follows Robert Neville, the apparent solitary survivor of a plague that has devastated civilization and has left him eking out a meager and lonely existence in the heart of New York City. With the city overrun by scary, vampiric animals, Neville (and ultimately his loyal canine friend) spends his days scavenging for supplies and his evenings holed up in his safehouse – until one day, he lets down his guard.

This adaptation of Richard Matheson’s famous novel received much criticism for its non-canon ending: taking a very ‘Hollywood’ approach to the film’s climax and potentially altering the entire film’s meaning. If you’re looking for a more faithful adaptation, see Omega Man from 1971.

2. Omega Man, 1971

Omega Man takes the same source material as Will Smith’s glossy, overly-polished version of Matheson’s novel and runs in a completely different way. Even though not without a few creative freedoms (the end of days is caused by bioweapons rather than a mysterious bacterial epidemic), the 1971 version’s underlying theme is considerably closer to the spirit of the novel, resulting in a narrative that is far more meaningful and thought-provoking than the 2007 adaptation.

3. The Road, 2009

It takes a lot to win the award for the most dismal film on a list of post-apocalyptic movies, but The Road manages to portray the bleakest picture of the apocalypse I’ve ever seen.

Based on Cormac McCarthy’s great novel of the same name, The Road stars Vigo Mortensen as ‘the Man,’ a nameless wanderer who guides his lone kid through a frightening and strange world. The Road lives up to its original material’s grandeur by being beautiful and lonely in equal measure.

4. Mad Max, 1979

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

Studded leather, muscle vehicles, and Mel Gibson: either I’m watching a celebrity episode of World’s Wildest Police Chases, or it’s time to discuss the classic Mad Max.

Max Rockatansky, the film’s protagonist, is a former police officer who has been driven to seclusion following the death of his family. As civilization crumbles around him, he unwillingly assumes the role of the vigilante and eventually hero, assisting in stemming the tide of roving bandits threatening to destroy the remaining vestiges of civilization.

Mad Max’s colorful wasteland and larger-than-life characters have influenced the newest generation of post-apocalyptic fiction, including video games such as RAGE and the Fallout series. Mad Max’s popularity generated two sequels (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) and, most recently, a remake, Mad Max: Fury Road.

5. Mad Max 2, 1981

Mad Max 2 continues where the first film left off, with a colorful design style, intense battle sequences, and lonely, stunning photography. The film chronicles an ongoing struggle between peaceful settlers and vicious (bondage gear-wearing) marauders, producing a cult classic in the process.

Mad Max 2 picks up where the previous film left off, with a vibrant design aesthetic, violent fight sequences, and lonely, beautiful imagery. The film portrays a continuous conflict between peaceful settlers and savage (bondage gear-wearing) marauders, resulting in a cult classic.

6. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,1985

Beyond Thunderdome, Mel Gibson’s most recent film, sees Mad Max adopt gladiatorial armor to enter the Thunderdome and fight against a dwarf-giant alliance known as Master Blaster.

From an eternal nuclear summer to a colony of orphans surviving out of the wreckage of a downed 747 (and even starring Tina Turner), the third installment in the Mad Max franchise is a bizarre, thrilling adventure through the post-apocalyptic world.

7. Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015

Thirty years after the previous Mad Max film, Tom Hardy takes over the franchise from Mel Gibson in Fury Road. Following Max’s arrest by despotic bandits and the escape of one of the bandits’ soldiers (played by Charlize Theron), the two form an uneasy partnership as they seek to flee their pursuers in the armored vehicle known as the War Rig.

After ten Academy Award nominations (and six wins), this newcomer to the renowned Mad Max trilogy has established itself as a fitting addition to Max Rockatansky’s history.

8. Children of Men, 2006

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

Children of Men uniquely approach the apocalypse.

Instead of a flood of asteroids, a breakout of a strange virus, or an uprising of intelligent monkeys (I’m looking at you, Planet of the Apes), humanity suffers a far quieter demise: a sudden, unexplainable, and irreversible case of infertility. With humanity’s future in jeopardy, the Earth’s few remaining children are idolized, even battled over: and the world’s aging population comes to a standstill.

This cinematic version of PD James’ classic novel The Children of Men packs a surprising amount of action and drama, making it a must-see for any fans of post-apocalyptic drama.

9. A Boy and His Dog, 1975

If the prior flicks were too sad and ominous for you, it’s time to join the post-apocalyptic world of A Boy and His Dog. The plot follows 18-year-old Vic and his psychic dog, Blood, hunting for sustenance amid America’s devastated wastelands.

When the pair comes upon an underground society, Vic realizes all too late that he’s been brought there for a single, sinister reason: sex. Vic decides to flee and rejoin his trusty psychic friend for reasons I don’t entirely get.

10. Snowpiercer, 2013

As the Earth’s temperature spiraled out of control, the world decided to confront the disaster head-on; however, their attempts at climate engineering turned the globe into an uninhabitable, ice-covered wasteland.

The few survivors now dwell onboard Snowpiercer, a high-speed train that is continuously going around the world. The unbreakable ride is divided into lower-class and upper-class portions in a traditional dystopian scenario – when a strange letter reaches the rear of the carriage, and it looks like an insurrection is on the horizon.

11. Doomsday, 2008

From the construction of Hadrian’s Wall to the development of the deep-fried Mars bar, Scotland has had its fair share of conflict throughout the years. Unfortunately, these events pale into insignificance in the face of The Reaper Virus, which results in Scotland’s complete isolation from the rest of mainland Britain.

When the virus resurfaces in England 27 years after the quarantine, the government dispatches an investigating team over the border — and within minutes of their arrival, they find themselves imprisoned in a Medieval castle.

Fun fact: if you’re a Fallout 4 lover, you can download Doomsday’s iconic face paint in high-resolution mode.

12. The Day After Tomorrow, 2004

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

The Day After Tomorrow is a buffet of climate-induced post-apocalyptic horror, from wolves roaming the snow-covered wastelands of New York to helicopter pilots freezing solid.

The plot follows paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (and general doomsayer) to urge governments worldwide to prepare for a climate-changing weather event. After a few hurricanes, snowstorms, and tsunamis, a new Ice Age threatens to consume the globe – and Jack’s son with it.

13. Damnation Alley, 1977

Damnation Alley, based on Roger Zelazny’s book of the same name, depicts the globe succumbing to the effects of nuclear war as the United States and Russia dealt world-ending blows during the height of the Cold War.

The final consequence is a planet that has shifted off its axis, causing massive sandstorms, extreme radiation levels, and a few enormous, mutant scorpions for good measure. Against this post-apocalyptic background, we follow Lieutenant Jake Tanner and Major Sam Denton as they attempt to cross the hazardous “Damnation Alley” in pursuit of the source of a peculiar radio broadcast.

14. Oblivion, 2013

Oblivion’s earth has seen better days: following an intergalactic conflict, Earth is a devastated, empty place inhabited only by a few rogue aliens and the drones entrusted with killing them.

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is sent down from the orbiting platform that houses the world’s inhabitants to repair these drones – until a fortuitous meeting with a scavenger (Morgan Freeman) leads Jack to realize that not everything is as it appears.

Oblivion takes place in the year 2077, which many fans of post-apocalyptic literature will recognize as the year of the Fallout franchise’s Great War.

15. 9, 2009

What will be left behind after the earth ends? The Tim Burton film 9 attempts to address that issue by following a tiny group of sentient rag dolls as they fight to avoid the robots that are always on the lookout for them.

Based on the same-named short tale, the film addresses vast, existential problems under the unsuspecting garb of an animated picture. It combines stunning graphics with some deep and frightening storyline twists, making 9 one of the most meaningful and creative post-apocalyptic films.

16. The Last Man on Earth, 1964

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

The film version of Richard Matheson’s famous novel I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth, was the first cinematic adaptation (along with Omega Man and Will Smith’s namesake interpretation) — and the only one to contain Matheson’s guidance.

This half-century-old take on a classic post-apocalyptic narrative, starring famous screenwriter Vincent Price and shot nearly entirely in the Italian city of Rome, suddenly came into the public domain, allowing you to view it for free!

17. Shaun of the Dead, 2004

Who said the end of the world had to be all doom and gloom?

Shaun of the Dead, the first installment in Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s legendary “Cornetto Trilogy,” is a terrifying and funny blend of romance, humor, and zombies (yes, it’s a romantic zom-com). The film’s protagonist, Shaun, attempts to juggle his love life, best friend, family, and work when a more significant, zombie-shaped problem appears on the horizon. In typical British fashion, he finds safety in the only haven he knows: the pub.

Personal favorite scene: the titular character beating the living crap out of a zombie with a pool cue while Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” plays in the background.

18. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 2011

Dark and brooding reboots appear to be the defining cinematic trend of the 2000s, so it seems appropriate that the now minor campy, out-of-date Planet of the Apes series be given new life.

The genesis tale, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, concerns a scientist’s attempts to treat Alzheimer’s illness. One of the victims escapes on a violent rampage as the medication is being tested on, you guessed it, chimps. The scientist (James Franco) takes on the responsibility of raising the chimp’s orphaned offspring — a chimp with human-like intellect.

19. The World’s End, 2013

The World’s End completes the ‘Cornetto Trilogy,’ with most of the action in British pubs and clubs, similar to Shaun of the Dead.

The movie depicts a group of grown-up childhood pals who are seeking to recreate their glory days with a pub crawl to end all bar crawls. Unfortunately, the plot proceeds in an all-too-literal manner, with an extraterrestrial invasion forcing the inebriated anti-heroes to protect humankind as a whole. Things aren’t going so well.

20. This Is the End, 2013

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

It’s a classic story: you’re hanging out with your rich celebrity buddies in your home when you realize you’ve run out of smokes. The rapture occurs while you’re on your way to the convenience store, transforming your entire neighborhood into an apocalyptic struggle between the forces of good and evil.

This is the End gives a very gratifying solution to a question I had no idea I had: what would happen to a group of comic performers (including Emma Watson) if the world ended? Exorcism, cannibalism, homicide, and a lot of laughter.

21. World War Z, 2013

World War Z is a film version of Max Brook’s gruesome pseudo-documentary novel of the same name.

The film follows Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator (played by Brad Pitt), attempting to hunt out the root of a zombie epidemic that is rapidly sweeping the world’s governments. Despite being a significant deviation from Max Brooks’ original material, World War Z succeeds as a thrilling big-budget Hollywood take on the traditional zombie apocalypse scenario.

22. WALL-E, 2008

The year is 2805, and the Earth as we know it has been destroyed, buried beneath billions of tons of rubbish. The planet’s only resident is an artificially intelligent robot entrusted with resurrecting and restoring the earth to its former grandeur.

Doesn’t it seem terrifying? Well, perhaps not: Wall-E is an animated family film developed by the same team that brought you, Finding Nemo. And, while it isn’t a particularly gloomy, dismal, or frightening depiction of the post-apocalypse, it does offer a prominent image of the harm humans may cause to the world. If you want to see anything other than edge of your seat thrillers and hide-behind the sofa horror films, Wall-E is a must-see.

23. Threads, 1984

Hollywood does not have a monopoly on post-apocalyptic filmmaking. Threads, a BBC-produced film from 1984, manages to give one of the most brutally realistic representations of life after nuclear Armageddon while being made on a meager budget of only £250,000.

The film follows two families as the confrontation between NATO, and the Warsaw Pact reaches a fever pitch and then follows them as they face tragedies and horrors after a nuclear exchange. Threads are the picture that comes closest to capturing the absolute horror of nuclear war and its aftermath, as well as the disastrous influence on human society.

24. 28 Days Later, 2002

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

Remember the entire “waking up in a hospital bed” scenario from The Walking Dead’s first episode? That cliché can be attributed to the British film 28 Days Later.

After a series of genetic experiments go wrong, a lethal virus (dubbed Rage for obvious reasons) is unleashed on the populace. A month later, the film’s protagonist awakens in a hospital in the heart of London, forced to fight his way through the zombie-infested metropolis in pursuit of a legendary safe zone: a military post hundreds of miles away.

28 Days Later is my personal favorite post-apocalyptic film, with plenty of suspense, action, and unexpectedly significant societal criticism. It also contains zombies.

25. 28 Weeks Later, 2007

After 28 weeks, Later follows up six months after the Rage outbreak, as NATO soldiers try to dig out a safe zone in the heart of post-apocalyptic London. Refugees are gradually reintroduced to their nation, but one of them bears a terrible secret. Soon, London’s “safe zone” will no longer appear to be so safe.

26. The Postman, 1997

Following the destruction of nearly all of the world’s technology in ‘The Doomwar,’ the United States is thrown into a second dark age. Small villages emerge from the ashes of society. Still, they are continuously preyed upon by roving survivalists, and society’s embryonic growth is hampered by a lack of communication with neighboring settlements.

Enter the film’s protagonist: a man who discovers the decaying remains of a pre-war postman and proceeds to take his identity, first for selfish gain, then for the benefit of civilization.

The film is based on David Brin’s famous novel The Postman, and it features the kind of bizarre plot twist that you’d expect from a science-fiction author. Though the film did not live up to the book’s lofty standards, it is nevertheless a must-see for any die-hard lover of post-apocalyptic movies. And suppose you think Kevin Costner and the apocalypse is a winning combination. In that case, it might be worth checking out Waterworld: another sprawling, post-apocalyptic epic that reached a little too far.

27. Waterworld, 1995

Kevin Costner had an awful run in the 1990s – almost ruinously bad – but both of the films responsible are decidedly good for some reason.

It seems ironic that two post-apocalyptic films would be responsible for terminating Costner’s career. We can probably credit the slow-paced epic The Postman and the massive financial overrun of Waterworld for postponing the cause of post-apocalyptic fiction by a decade.

Waterworld, for example, was the (then) most costly film ever filmed – and while the narrative of melting ice caps and roaming gangs of pirates never quite lived up to the promise, it remains a must-see for any lovers of the genre.

28. Planet of the Apes, 1968

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

When alone astronaut crashes landings on a foreign planet, he expects to discover survivors of a previous trip to the surface; instead, he is abducted by a frightening race of intelligent beings. The astronaut learns that a society of intelligent apes has enslaved humankind in one of the most renowned scenarios ever portrayed in a post-apocalyptic film – and that returning home may be more complex than he had thought.

The incredible success of The Planet of the Apes spawned an army of sequels and reboots, and the series is still alive and well. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, released in 2011, delves into the origins of the film’s super-intelligent apes, with a sequel (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) released in 2014 and War for the Planet of the Apes released in 2017.

29. Zombieland, 2009

Zombieland is yet another spin on the zombie-comedy genre. A deadly ensemble (including the superb Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Emma Stone) is battling their way across post-apocalyptic America.

Faced with swarms of zombies (thanks to a terrible strain of mad cow disease), the film’s protagonists utilize any tools at their disposal to get to their destination. Whether that’s finding love, visiting a creepy-as-hell amusement park, or, in one case, searching for the world’s last Twinkie.

Bill Murray has an appearance in the film, which is a semi-spoiler warning. Like, hilarious enough to make you want to see the movie just for his scenes.

30. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 2014.

Without spoiling the last film’s ending, — Dawn of the Planet of the Apes depicts a swarm of super-intelligent apes on their journey to retake their home planet after Simian Flu has wiped off over 99 percent of the world.

The film follows Caesar, the show’s protagonist and now the head of an ape tribe, as he attempts to build a safe haven for himself and the other chimps.

31. War of the Planet of the Apes, 2017

Following the first film, the second movie chronicles the events of an all-out battle between man and ape. Despite Caesar’s best intentions, it depicts the apes grappling with their deeper, darker instincts – their desire for vengeance against the race who enslaved them.

32. Logan’s Run, 1976

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

Humanity is gathered in a sealed metropolis in 2274, huddled beneath a massive complex of geodesic domes and supervised totally by a super-intelligent computer. The computer controls every element of humanity’s existence, from birth until death at 30.

Logan’s Run follows one citizen as he approaches the end of his life. He flees the dystopian world and its militarized police force, the Sandmen, into the overgrown woods of post-apocalyptic Washington.

33. Escape from New York, 1981

Modern-day, when compared to the New York of John Carpenter’s iconic picture, Manhattan’s crime issue doesn’t seem that severe.

With the country’s crime rate out of control, the whole island of Manhattan has been turned into a maximum-security jail. After Air Force One crashes into the center of the prison island, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), an ex-soldier, is assigned 24 hours to discover and rescue the president from the island’s criminal residents.

34. Terminator Salvation, 2009

I genuinely enjoy The Terminator films, but despite my desire to put Terminator 2 in every film collection ever produced, Salvation is the only one that cuts. Though the prospect of total global destruction looms over the whole saga, we only get to truly immerse ourselves in the post-apocalyptic world in the most current film.

I genuinely like The Terminator movies, but despite my wish to include Terminator 2 in every film collection ever made, Salvation is the only one that makes the cut. Though the threat of total global destruction hangs over the whole series, we only get to fully immerse ourselves in the post-apocalyptic world in the most recent film.

35. The Matrix, 1999

At some time in the distant past of The Matrix world, humanity reached a watershed moment: the development of genuine artificial intelligence. Unfortunately (as is often the case in the post-apocalyptic genre), things get a little out of hand, causing humans to resort to extreme means to battle the sentient machines and destroy their source of power: the sun. Morpheus, one of the film’s key characters, says:

“We’re not sure who came first, ourselves or them. But we are certain that it was our actions that burned the sky. “

The Matrix is a fantastic post-apocalyptic picture jam-packed with mind-blowing action and a slew of deadly story twists.

36. The Matrix Reloaded, 2003

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

With its fast automobiles and massive French chateaus, the Matrix Reloaded feels like an opulent bourgeois counterpoint to its predecessor’s film noir universe.

Reloaded is packed with even more mind-blowing action than the previous film. It follows Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity on their trip through the warped reality of The Matrix, as well as the crew of the hovercraft Logos on their struggle through the bleak, hazardous “real world” outside.

37. The Matrix Revolutions, 2003

Revolutions are the third and final installment of the Wachowskis’ sentient puzzle. Almost entirely in the Matrix’s “real world” — a charred wasteland of bleak skyscrapers and violent robots.

The third and final part of the Wachowskis’ sentient puzzle, Revolutions, takes place almost entirely in the Matrix’s “real world” – a burned wasteland of dismal buildings and vicious machines.

38. Equilibrium, 2002

Equilibrium has everything a tremendous dystopian picture needs:

  • A secret police army of highly armed, unwaveringly loyal troops.
  • A post-apocalyptic society ravaged by World War III.
  • The obligatory regimen of emotion-suppressing drugs.

However, when one enforcement officer (played by Christian Bale) unintentionally misses a dosage, he begins to doubt the morality of his activities, landing him in the hands of a tiny resistance-fighting group.

39. Stake Land, 2010

Stake Land begins with a basic premise: The United States has been destroyed by economic and political turmoil, and its citizens are trying to live. The film’s characters wobble from the frying pan into a raging flame as things take an apocalyptic turn as a vampire pandemic sweeps throughout the country.

From then, it’s up to Martin, a youngster, and his vampire-hunting mentor Mister to carve out a safe patch of farmland for themselves amid the vampire-infested nation they once called home.

40. Reign of Fire, 2002

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

Reign of Fire is as near to traditional, Medieval-styled fantasy as post-apocalyptic films go.

In 2000, British workers were tunneling under the London Underground when they came across a long-forgotten relic of England’s past: dragons. With humanity’s arch-enemy reawakened, it is up to a tiny band of survivors to hunt down and slay the creatures.

41. Delicatessen, 1991

Good cuisine is hard to get by at the end of the earth, even if you live in France, the once-heart of exquisite dining.

Delicatessen is a bizarre narrative about a French apartment building and its resident butcher’s ability to source exquisite, fresh meat. When their new superintendent arrives into the facility, a former circus town, the provenance of the meat is called into doubt — with grim, oddly hilarious results.

42. Stalker, 1979

Roadside Picnic is one of my all-time favorite post-apocalyptic novels, mixing Chernobyl-inspired radiation dread, alien lifeforms, and merciless scavengers known as Stalkers. The classic novel inspired the 1979 film of the same name, with the script written by the book’s writers, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.

The film depicts an excursion into the radioactive, supposedly sentient zone known as The Zone, comprised of a writer seeking inspiration, a scientist eager for discovery, and their guide, a Stalker.

43. Dawn of the Dead, 1978

George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was one of the first zombie films to acquire popularity. For a good reason: it mixes a horrific zombie apocalypse with genuinely intriguing characters and subtle social criticism that catches the Zeitgeist of America during the chaotic 1970s.

Though it is a sequel to the equally fantastic Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead makes it to the list due to the sheer number of post-apocalyptic clichés it gave birth to. From the whole seeking apocalyptic sanctuary in a retail mall’ premise to the incredible amounts of gross-out gore featured throughout The Walking Dead.

If indeed the original 1978 film doesn’t appeal to you (and it should), there’s a great 2004 remake to choose from, as well as a host of sequels, spin-offs, and homages.

44. Day of the Dead, 1985

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

The third episode in George A Romero’s Dead series is Day of the Dead. It follows a group of scientists, soldiers, and survivors striving to solve the zombie outbreak in the Florida Everglades. Unfortunately, as is so frequently in these scenarios, zombie experimentation goes wrong, and the survivors rapidly turn on each other.

Day of the Dead was also rebooted in 2008, so even if you’re not a fan of earlier production qualities, you can still enjoy some vintage, Romero-inspired horror.

45. Dawn of the Dead, 2004

While we’re on the subject of reboots, Dawn of the Dead’s reanimation in 2004 is an excellent example of contemporary, post-apocalyptic zombie fiction.

Following the same narrative as the original, the film incorporates modern visuals, makeup, and cinematography into what is perhaps the most renowned post-apocalyptic film ever created, resulting in some of the most brutal, gory, and unforgettable scenes in all cinema.

46. On the Beach, 1959

On the Beach, set amid the golden age of post-apocalyptic fiction, recounts the story of a small group of survivors waiting for the end in the aftermath of a worldwide nuclear exchange. With only Australia spared from the battle, the residents of a tiny coastal town and the crew of an offshore submarine band together to wait out the end of days – and an impending shower of fatal radioactivity.

On the Beach is based on Nevil Shute’s famous novel of the same name and stars Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire. It offers the kind of powerful, profoundly evocative storytelling that genuinely captures the apocalypse’s few remaining survivors.

47. The Book of Eli, 2010

Denzel Washington plays a lone nomad traveling across the harsh wastelands of post-apocalyptic America in The Book of Eli.

As a proficient hunter, the film’s protagonist ultimately attracts the notice of a group of vicious mobsters who are hell-bent on acquiring his fighting talents – and the little book that never leaves his side.

The Book of Eli is a deep, engaging, and just fantastic post-apocalyptic film that combines the grim violence of a devastated world with the underlying human decency of a handful of individuals.

48. 12 Monkeys, 1995

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

In the year 2035, humanity’s few remaining survivors are forced to live underground after a fatal virus wipes off 5 million of the Earth’s population. In a desperate attempt to save civilization, convicted criminal volunteers to be transported back in time to discover, investigate, and destroy the virus before it annihilates humankind.

12 Monkeys, directed by Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python, Brazil, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas fame), stars Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. It is a strange and beautiful take on the post-apocalypse – and, while largely ignored by history, it’s a must-watch for lovers of the genre.

49. Blindness, 2008

Blindness stalks the residents of an unidentified city, destroyed by a total and immediate episode of blindness. Within hours of the disaster, society came to a stop, with criminal groups swooping in to grab control and prey on the vulnerable.

Blindness is based on the novel Blindness by Jose Saramago, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. As one might imagine, the story is a brilliantly written novel that intertwines real human emotion with layers of cultural criticism and astute analysis.

Though the film adaptation falls short of the novel’s lofty heights, Blindness is nonetheless an excellent look at life during a period of social disintegration.

50. Soylent Green, 1973

The Earth is massively overpopulated in 2022 (so we only have one more year, folks!) and suffocated by terrible pollution as a result. Soylent Industries is tasked with the monumental task of feeding humankind, depending on the ocean’s plankton to do it.

During a murder investigation, Detective Thorn (played by none other than Charlton Heston) discovers Soylent’s terrible secret, calling the world’s survival into doubt.


50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

There’s something curiously appealing to so many people about viewing the finest post-apocalyptic movies, much like something is appealing about exploring abandoned locales. There’s something intrinsically intriguing about seeing the stretches of emptiness and the scattered individuals inside them, whether it’s the unease or the despair.

I’m one of those people who would rather see the aftermath of the end than practically any other type of film. Post-apocalyptic films strike a chord with me that I can’t quite put my finger on, but it all stems from my love of zombie films. As frightening as writing this, I often wonder what civilization might look like if it crumbled and how humanity would react.

I’m also well aware that I wouldn’t live long in the post-apocalyptic world no matter how much training I’ve gotten from movies. That might explain why I like witnessing others toil and struggle. I’m lucky that these movies are still popular, but I also have games like The Last of Us and Fallout 4 to fall back on. There has never been a better time to be a moviegoer.

With that in mind, I’ve chosen to compile a list of some of the finest apocalyptic films you should see.  

1. I Am Legend, 2007

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

I Am Legend follows Robert Neville, the apparent solitary survivor of a plague that has devastated civilization and has left him eking out a meager and lonely existence in the heart of New York City. With the city overrun by scary, vampiric animals, Neville (and ultimately his loyal canine friend) spends his days scavenging for supplies and his evenings holed up in his safehouse – until one day, he lets down his guard.

This adaptation of Richard Matheson’s famous novel received much criticism for its non-canon ending: taking a very ‘Hollywood’ approach to the film’s climax and potentially altering the entire film’s meaning. If you’re looking for a more faithful adaptation, see Omega Man from 1971.

2. Omega Man, 1971

Omega Man takes the same source material as Will Smith’s glossy, overly-polished version of Matheson’s novel and runs in a completely different way. Even though not without a few creative freedoms (the end of days is caused by bioweapons rather than a mysterious bacterial epidemic), the 1971 version’s underlying theme is considerably closer to the spirit of the novel, resulting in a narrative that is far more meaningful and thought-provoking than the 2007 adaptation.

3. The Road, 2009

It takes a lot to win the award for the most dismal film on a list of post-apocalyptic movies, but The Road manages to portray the bleakest picture of the apocalypse I’ve ever seen.

Based on Cormac McCarthy’s great novel of the same name, The Road stars Vigo Mortensen as ‘the Man,’ a nameless wanderer who guides his lone kid through a frightening and strange world. The Road lives up to its original material’s grandeur by being beautiful and lonely in equal measure.

4. Mad Max, 1979

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

Studded leather, muscle vehicles, and Mel Gibson: either I’m watching a celebrity episode of World’s Wildest Police Chases, or it’s time to discuss the classic Mad Max.

Max Rockatansky, the film’s protagonist, is a former police officer who has been driven to seclusion following the death of his family. As civilization crumbles around him, he unwillingly assumes the role of the vigilante and eventually hero, assisting in stemming the tide of roving bandits threatening to destroy the remaining vestiges of civilization.

Mad Max’s colorful wasteland and larger-than-life characters have influenced the newest generation of post-apocalyptic fiction, including video games such as RAGE and the Fallout series. Mad Max’s popularity generated two sequels (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) and, most recently, a remake, Mad Max: Fury Road.

5. Mad Max 2, 1981

Mad Max 2 continues where the first film left off, with a colorful design style, intense battle sequences, and lonely, stunning photography. The film chronicles an ongoing struggle between peaceful settlers and vicious (bondage gear-wearing) marauders, producing a cult classic in the process.

Mad Max 2 picks up where the previous film left off, with a vibrant design aesthetic, violent fight sequences, and lonely, beautiful imagery. The film portrays a continuous conflict between peaceful settlers and savage (bondage gear-wearing) marauders, resulting in a cult classic.

6. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,1985

Beyond Thunderdome, Mel Gibson’s most recent film, sees Mad Max adopt gladiatorial armor to enter the Thunderdome and fight against a dwarf-giant alliance known as Master Blaster.

From an eternal nuclear summer to a colony of orphans surviving out of the wreckage of a downed 747 (and even starring Tina Turner), the third installment in the Mad Max franchise is a bizarre, thrilling adventure through the post-apocalyptic world.

7. Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015

Thirty years after the previous Mad Max film, Tom Hardy takes over the franchise from Mel Gibson in Fury Road. Following Max’s arrest by despotic bandits and the escape of one of the bandits’ soldiers (played by Charlize Theron), the two form an uneasy partnership as they seek to flee their pursuers in the armored vehicle known as the War Rig.

After ten Academy Award nominations (and six wins), this newcomer to the renowned Mad Max trilogy has established itself as a fitting addition to Max Rockatansky’s history.

8. Children of Men, 2006

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

Children of Men uniquely approach the apocalypse.

Instead of a flood of asteroids, a breakout of a strange virus, or an uprising of intelligent monkeys (I’m looking at you, Planet of the Apes), humanity suffers a far quieter demise: a sudden, unexplainable, and irreversible case of infertility. With humanity’s future in jeopardy, the Earth’s few remaining children are idolized, even battled over: and the world’s aging population comes to a standstill.

This cinematic version of PD James’ classic novel The Children of Men packs a surprising amount of action and drama, making it a must-see for any fans of post-apocalyptic drama.

9. A Boy and His Dog, 1975

If the prior flicks were too sad and ominous for you, it’s time to join the post-apocalyptic world of A Boy and His Dog. The plot follows 18-year-old Vic and his psychic dog, Blood, hunting for sustenance amid America’s devastated wastelands.

When the pair comes upon an underground society, Vic realizes all too late that he’s been brought there for a single, sinister reason: sex. Vic decides to flee and rejoin his trusty psychic friend for reasons I don’t entirely get.

10. Snowpiercer, 2013

As the Earth’s temperature spiraled out of control, the world decided to confront the disaster head-on; however, their attempts at climate engineering turned the globe into an uninhabitable, ice-covered wasteland.

The few survivors now dwell onboard Snowpiercer, a high-speed train that is continuously going around the world. The unbreakable ride is divided into lower-class and upper-class portions in a traditional dystopian scenario – when a strange letter reaches the rear of the carriage, and it looks like an insurrection is on the horizon.

11. Doomsday, 2008

From the construction of Hadrian’s Wall to the development of the deep-fried Mars bar, Scotland has had its fair share of conflict throughout the years. Unfortunately, these events pale into insignificance in the face of The Reaper Virus, which results in Scotland’s complete isolation from the rest of mainland Britain.

When the virus resurfaces in England 27 years after the quarantine, the government dispatches an investigating team over the border — and within minutes of their arrival, they find themselves imprisoned in a Medieval castle.

Fun fact: if you’re a Fallout 4 lover, you can download Doomsday’s iconic face paint in high-resolution mode.

12. The Day After Tomorrow, 2004

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

The Day After Tomorrow is a buffet of climate-induced post-apocalyptic horror, from wolves roaming the snow-covered wastelands of New York to helicopter pilots freezing solid.

The plot follows paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (and general doomsayer) to urge governments worldwide to prepare for a climate-changing weather event. After a few hurricanes, snowstorms, and tsunamis, a new Ice Age threatens to consume the globe – and Jack’s son with it.

13. Damnation Alley, 1977

Damnation Alley, based on Roger Zelazny’s book of the same name, depicts the globe succumbing to the effects of nuclear war as the United States and Russia dealt world-ending blows during the height of the Cold War.

The final consequence is a planet that has shifted off its axis, causing massive sandstorms, extreme radiation levels, and a few enormous, mutant scorpions for good measure. Against this post-apocalyptic background, we follow Lieutenant Jake Tanner and Major Sam Denton as they attempt to cross the hazardous “Damnation Alley” in pursuit of the source of a peculiar radio broadcast.

14. Oblivion, 2013

Oblivion’s earth has seen better days: following an intergalactic conflict, Earth is a devastated, empty place inhabited only by a few rogue aliens and the drones entrusted with killing them.

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is sent down from the orbiting platform that houses the world’s inhabitants to repair these drones – until a fortuitous meeting with a scavenger (Morgan Freeman) leads Jack to realize that not everything is as it appears.

Oblivion takes place in the year 2077, which many fans of post-apocalyptic literature will recognize as the year of the Fallout franchise’s Great War.

15. 9, 2009

What will be left behind after the earth ends? The Tim Burton film 9 attempts to address that issue by following a tiny group of sentient rag dolls as they fight to avoid the robots that are always on the lookout for them.

Based on the same-named short tale, the film addresses vast, existential problems under the unsuspecting garb of an animated picture. It combines stunning graphics with some deep and frightening storyline twists, making 9 one of the most meaningful and creative post-apocalyptic films.

16. The Last Man on Earth, 1964

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

The film version of Richard Matheson’s famous novel I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth, was the first cinematic adaptation (along with Omega Man and Will Smith’s namesake interpretation) — and the only one to contain Matheson’s guidance.

This half-century-old take on a classic post-apocalyptic narrative, starring famous screenwriter Vincent Price and shot nearly entirely in the Italian city of Rome, suddenly came into the public domain, allowing you to view it for free!

17. Shaun of the Dead, 2004

Who said the end of the world had to be all doom and gloom?

Shaun of the Dead, the first installment in Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s legendary “Cornetto Trilogy,” is a terrifying and funny blend of romance, humor, and zombies (yes, it’s a romantic zom-com). The film’s protagonist, Shaun, attempts to juggle his love life, best friend, family, and work when a more significant, zombie-shaped problem appears on the horizon. In typical British fashion, he finds safety in the only haven he knows: the pub.

Personal favorite scene: the titular character beating the living crap out of a zombie with a pool cue while Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” plays in the background.

18. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 2011

Dark and brooding reboots appear to be the defining cinematic trend of the 2000s, so it seems appropriate that the now minor campy, out-of-date Planet of the Apes series be given new life.

The genesis tale, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, concerns a scientist’s attempts to treat Alzheimer’s illness. One of the victims escapes on a violent rampage as the medication is being tested on, you guessed it, chimps. The scientist (James Franco) takes on the responsibility of raising the chimp’s orphaned offspring — a chimp with human-like intellect.

19. The World’s End, 2013

The World’s End completes the ‘Cornetto Trilogy,’ with most of the action in British pubs and clubs, similar to Shaun of the Dead.

The movie depicts a group of grown-up childhood pals who are seeking to recreate their glory days with a pub crawl to end all bar crawls. Unfortunately, the plot proceeds in an all-too-literal manner, with an extraterrestrial invasion forcing the inebriated anti-heroes to protect humankind as a whole. Things aren’t going so well.

20. This Is the End, 2013

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

It’s a classic story: you’re hanging out with your rich celebrity buddies in your home when you realize you’ve run out of smokes. The rapture occurs while you’re on your way to the convenience store, transforming your entire neighborhood into an apocalyptic struggle between the forces of good and evil.

This is the End gives a very gratifying solution to a question I had no idea I had: what would happen to a group of comic performers (including Emma Watson) if the world ended? Exorcism, cannibalism, homicide, and a lot of laughter.

21. World War Z, 2013

World War Z is a film version of Max Brook’s gruesome pseudo-documentary novel of the same name.

The film follows Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator (played by Brad Pitt), attempting to hunt out the root of a zombie epidemic that is rapidly sweeping the world’s governments. Despite being a significant deviation from Max Brooks’ original material, World War Z succeeds as a thrilling big-budget Hollywood take on the traditional zombie apocalypse scenario.

22. WALL-E, 2008

The year is 2805, and the Earth as we know it has been destroyed, buried beneath billions of tons of rubbish. The planet’s only resident is an artificially intelligent robot entrusted with resurrecting and restoring the earth to its former grandeur.

Doesn’t it seem terrifying? Well, perhaps not: Wall-E is an animated family film developed by the same team that brought you, Finding Nemo. And, while it isn’t a particularly gloomy, dismal, or frightening depiction of the post-apocalypse, it does offer a prominent image of the harm humans may cause to the world. If you want to see anything other than edge of your seat thrillers and hide-behind the sofa horror films, Wall-E is a must-see.

23. Threads, 1984

Hollywood does not have a monopoly on post-apocalyptic filmmaking. Threads, a BBC-produced film from 1984, manages to give one of the most brutally realistic representations of life after nuclear Armageddon while being made on a meager budget of only £250,000.

The film follows two families as the confrontation between NATO, and the Warsaw Pact reaches a fever pitch and then follows them as they face tragedies and horrors after a nuclear exchange. Threads are the picture that comes closest to capturing the absolute horror of nuclear war and its aftermath, as well as the disastrous influence on human society.

24. 28 Days Later, 2002

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

Remember the entire “waking up in a hospital bed” scenario from The Walking Dead’s first episode? That cliché can be attributed to the British film 28 Days Later.

After a series of genetic experiments go wrong, a lethal virus (dubbed Rage for obvious reasons) is unleashed on the populace. A month later, the film’s protagonist awakens in a hospital in the heart of London, forced to fight his way through the zombie-infested metropolis in pursuit of a legendary safe zone: a military post hundreds of miles away.

28 Days Later is my personal favorite post-apocalyptic film, with plenty of suspense, action, and unexpectedly significant societal criticism. It also contains zombies.

25. 28 Weeks Later, 2007

After 28 weeks, Later follows up six months after the Rage outbreak, as NATO soldiers try to dig out a safe zone in the heart of post-apocalyptic London. Refugees are gradually reintroduced to their nation, but one of them bears a terrible secret. Soon, London’s “safe zone” will no longer appear to be so safe.

26. The Postman, 1997

Following the destruction of nearly all of the world’s technology in ‘The Doomwar,’ the United States is thrown into a second dark age. Small villages emerge from the ashes of society. Still, they are continuously preyed upon by roving survivalists, and society’s embryonic growth is hampered by a lack of communication with neighboring settlements.

Enter the film’s protagonist: a man who discovers the decaying remains of a pre-war postman and proceeds to take his identity, first for selfish gain, then for the benefit of civilization.

The film is based on David Brin’s famous novel The Postman, and it features the kind of bizarre plot twist that you’d expect from a science-fiction author. Though the film did not live up to the book’s lofty standards, it is nevertheless a must-see for any die-hard lover of post-apocalyptic movies. And suppose you think Kevin Costner and the apocalypse is a winning combination. In that case, it might be worth checking out Waterworld: another sprawling, post-apocalyptic epic that reached a little too far.

27. Waterworld, 1995

Kevin Costner had an awful run in the 1990s – almost ruinously bad – but both of the films responsible are decidedly good for some reason.

It seems ironic that two post-apocalyptic films would be responsible for terminating Costner’s career. We can probably credit the slow-paced epic The Postman and the massive financial overrun of Waterworld for postponing the cause of post-apocalyptic fiction by a decade.

Waterworld, for example, was the (then) most costly film ever filmed – and while the narrative of melting ice caps and roaming gangs of pirates never quite lived up to the promise, it remains a must-see for any lovers of the genre.

28. Planet of the Apes, 1968

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

When alone astronaut crashes landings on a foreign planet, he expects to discover survivors of a previous trip to the surface; instead, he is abducted by a frightening race of intelligent beings. The astronaut learns that a society of intelligent apes has enslaved humankind in one of the most renowned scenarios ever portrayed in a post-apocalyptic film – and that returning home may be more complex than he had thought.

The incredible success of The Planet of the Apes spawned an army of sequels and reboots, and the series is still alive and well. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, released in 2011, delves into the origins of the film’s super-intelligent apes, with a sequel (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) released in 2014 and War for the Planet of the Apes released in 2017.

29. Zombieland, 2009

Zombieland is yet another spin on the zombie-comedy genre. A deadly ensemble (including the superb Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Emma Stone) is battling their way across post-apocalyptic America.

Faced with swarms of zombies (thanks to a terrible strain of mad cow disease), the film’s protagonists utilize any tools at their disposal to get to their destination. Whether that’s finding love, visiting a creepy-as-hell amusement park, or, in one case, searching for the world’s last Twinkie.

Bill Murray has an appearance in the film, which is a semi-spoiler warning. Like, hilarious enough to make you want to see the movie just for his scenes.

30. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 2014.

Without spoiling the last film’s ending, — Dawn of the Planet of the Apes depicts a swarm of super-intelligent apes on their journey to retake their home planet after Simian Flu has wiped off over 99 percent of the world.

The film follows Caesar, the show’s protagonist and now the head of an ape tribe, as he attempts to build a safe haven for himself and the other chimps.

31. War of the Planet of the Apes, 2017

Following the first film, the second movie chronicles the events of an all-out battle between man and ape. Despite Caesar’s best intentions, it depicts the apes grappling with their deeper, darker instincts – their desire for vengeance against the race who enslaved them.

32. Logan’s Run, 1976

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

Humanity is gathered in a sealed metropolis in 2274, huddled beneath a massive complex of geodesic domes and supervised totally by a super-intelligent computer. The computer controls every element of humanity’s existence, from birth until death at 30.

Logan’s Run follows one citizen as he approaches the end of his life. He flees the dystopian world and its militarized police force, the Sandmen, into the overgrown woods of post-apocalyptic Washington.

33. Escape from New York, 1981

Modern-day, when compared to the New York of John Carpenter’s iconic picture, Manhattan’s crime issue doesn’t seem that severe.

With the country’s crime rate out of control, the whole island of Manhattan has been turned into a maximum-security jail. After Air Force One crashes into the center of the prison island, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), an ex-soldier, is assigned 24 hours to discover and rescue the president from the island’s criminal residents.

34. Terminator Salvation, 2009

I genuinely enjoy The Terminator films, but despite my desire to put Terminator 2 in every film collection ever produced, Salvation is the only one that cuts. Though the prospect of total global destruction looms over the whole saga, we only get to truly immerse ourselves in the post-apocalyptic world in the most current film.

I genuinely like The Terminator movies, but despite my wish to include Terminator 2 in every film collection ever made, Salvation is the only one that makes the cut. Though the threat of total global destruction hangs over the whole series, we only get to fully immerse ourselves in the post-apocalyptic world in the most recent film.

35. The Matrix, 1999

At some time in the distant past of The Matrix world, humanity reached a watershed moment: the development of genuine artificial intelligence. Unfortunately (as is often the case in the post-apocalyptic genre), things get a little out of hand, causing humans to resort to extreme means to battle the sentient machines and destroy their source of power: the sun. Morpheus, one of the film’s key characters, says:

“We’re not sure who came first, ourselves or them. But we are certain that it was our actions that burned the sky. “

The Matrix is a fantastic post-apocalyptic picture jam-packed with mind-blowing action and a slew of deadly story twists.

36. The Matrix Reloaded, 2003

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

With its fast automobiles and massive French chateaus, the Matrix Reloaded feels like an opulent bourgeois counterpoint to its predecessor’s film noir universe.

Reloaded is packed with even more mind-blowing action than the previous film. It follows Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity on their trip through the warped reality of The Matrix, as well as the crew of the hovercraft Logos on their struggle through the bleak, hazardous “real world” outside.

37. The Matrix Revolutions, 2003

Revolutions are the third and final installment of the Wachowskis’ sentient puzzle. Almost entirely in the Matrix’s “real world” — a charred wasteland of bleak skyscrapers and violent robots.

The third and final part of the Wachowskis’ sentient puzzle, Revolutions, takes place almost entirely in the Matrix’s “real world” – a burned wasteland of dismal buildings and vicious machines.

38. Equilibrium, 2002

Equilibrium has everything a tremendous dystopian picture needs:

  • A secret police army of highly armed, unwaveringly loyal troops.
  • A post-apocalyptic society ravaged by World War III.
  • The obligatory regimen of emotion-suppressing drugs.

However, when one enforcement officer (played by Christian Bale) unintentionally misses a dosage, he begins to doubt the morality of his activities, landing him in the hands of a tiny resistance-fighting group.

39. Stake Land, 2010

Stake Land begins with a basic premise: The United States has been destroyed by economic and political turmoil, and its citizens are trying to live. The film’s characters wobble from the frying pan into a raging flame as things take an apocalyptic turn as a vampire pandemic sweeps throughout the country.

From then, it’s up to Martin, a youngster, and his vampire-hunting mentor Mister to carve out a safe patch of farmland for themselves amid the vampire-infested nation they once called home.

40. Reign of Fire, 2002

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

Reign of Fire is as near to traditional, Medieval-styled fantasy as post-apocalyptic films go.

In 2000, British workers were tunneling under the London Underground when they came across a long-forgotten relic of England’s past: dragons. With humanity’s arch-enemy reawakened, it is up to a tiny band of survivors to hunt down and slay the creatures.

41. Delicatessen, 1991

Good cuisine is hard to get by at the end of the earth, even if you live in France, the once-heart of exquisite dining.

Delicatessen is a bizarre narrative about a French apartment building and its resident butcher’s ability to source exquisite, fresh meat. When their new superintendent arrives into the facility, a former circus town, the provenance of the meat is called into doubt — with grim, oddly hilarious results.

42. Stalker, 1979

Roadside Picnic is one of my all-time favorite post-apocalyptic novels, mixing Chernobyl-inspired radiation dread, alien lifeforms, and merciless scavengers known as Stalkers. The classic novel inspired the 1979 film of the same name, with the script written by the book’s writers, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.

The film depicts an excursion into the radioactive, supposedly sentient zone known as The Zone, comprised of a writer seeking inspiration, a scientist eager for discovery, and their guide, a Stalker.

43. Dawn of the Dead, 1978

George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was one of the first zombie films to acquire popularity. For a good reason: it mixes a horrific zombie apocalypse with genuinely intriguing characters and subtle social criticism that catches the Zeitgeist of America during the chaotic 1970s.

Though it is a sequel to the equally fantastic Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead makes it to the list due to the sheer number of post-apocalyptic clichés it gave birth to. From the whole seeking apocalyptic sanctuary in a retail mall’ premise to the incredible amounts of gross-out gore featured throughout The Walking Dead.

If indeed the original 1978 film doesn’t appeal to you (and it should), there’s a great 2004 remake to choose from, as well as a host of sequels, spin-offs, and homages.

44. Day of the Dead, 1985

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

The third episode in George A Romero’s Dead series is Day of the Dead. It follows a group of scientists, soldiers, and survivors striving to solve the zombie outbreak in the Florida Everglades. Unfortunately, as is so frequently in these scenarios, zombie experimentation goes wrong, and the survivors rapidly turn on each other.

Day of the Dead was also rebooted in 2008, so even if you’re not a fan of earlier production qualities, you can still enjoy some vintage, Romero-inspired horror.

45. Dawn of the Dead, 2004

While we’re on the subject of reboots, Dawn of the Dead’s reanimation in 2004 is an excellent example of contemporary, post-apocalyptic zombie fiction.

Following the same narrative as the original, the film incorporates modern visuals, makeup, and cinematography into what is perhaps the most renowned post-apocalyptic film ever created, resulting in some of the most brutal, gory, and unforgettable scenes in all cinema.

46. On the Beach, 1959

On the Beach, set amid the golden age of post-apocalyptic fiction, recounts the story of a small group of survivors waiting for the end in the aftermath of a worldwide nuclear exchange. With only Australia spared from the battle, the residents of a tiny coastal town and the crew of an offshore submarine band together to wait out the end of days – and an impending shower of fatal radioactivity.

On the Beach is based on Nevil Shute’s famous novel of the same name and stars Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire. It offers the kind of powerful, profoundly evocative storytelling that genuinely captures the apocalypse’s few remaining survivors.

47. The Book of Eli, 2010

Denzel Washington plays a lone nomad traveling across the harsh wastelands of post-apocalyptic America in The Book of Eli.

As a proficient hunter, the film’s protagonist ultimately attracts the notice of a group of vicious mobsters who are hell-bent on acquiring his fighting talents – and the little book that never leaves his side.

The Book of Eli is a deep, engaging, and just fantastic post-apocalyptic film that combines the grim violence of a devastated world with the underlying human decency of a handful of individuals.

48. 12 Monkeys, 1995

50 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time (2021 Update)

In the year 2035, humanity’s few remaining survivors are forced to live underground after a fatal virus wipes off 5 million of the Earth’s population. In a desperate attempt to save civilization, convicted criminal volunteers to be transported back in time to discover, investigate, and destroy the virus before it annihilates humankind.

12 Monkeys, directed by Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python, Brazil, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas fame), stars Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. It is a strange and beautiful take on the post-apocalypse – and, while largely ignored by history, it’s a must-watch for lovers of the genre.

49. Blindness, 2008

Blindness stalks the residents of an unidentified city, destroyed by a total and immediate episode of blindness. Within hours of the disaster, society came to a stop, with criminal groups swooping in to grab control and prey on the vulnerable.

Blindness is based on the novel Blindness by Jose Saramago, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. As one might imagine, the story is a brilliantly written novel that intertwines real human emotion with layers of cultural criticism and astute analysis.

Though the film adaptation falls short of the novel’s lofty heights, Blindness is nonetheless an excellent look at life during a period of social disintegration.

50. Soylent Green, 1973

The Earth is massively overpopulated in 2022 (so we only have one more year, folks!) and suffocated by terrible pollution as a result. Soylent Industries is tasked with the monumental task of feeding humankind, depending on the ocean’s plankton to do it.

During a murder investigation, Detective Thorn (played by none other than Charlton Heston) discovers Soylent’s terrible secret, calling the world’s survival into doubt.

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