Top 10 End of the World Movies

After attending a very strict Christian school for most of middle school and high school, and being a die hard fan of the Terminator films, I guess it was inevitable for the apocalypse to be sort of a fetish for me. In most of my reading, watching, and musical endeavors, I devoured anything with an apocalyptic theme, fascinated deeply by it. As social media has allowed that senile old bastard, Harold Camping’s false prophesies to spread like wild fire, you literally cannot go anywhere this weekend without someone talking about the rapture. So, in honor (or maybe to dishonor) all this talk about the end of the world, and getting eaten by Satan for 153 days (which is kind of what my hangover today feels like), I’ve decided to compile a list of my absolute favorite end of the world movies. Feel free to comment with your own top 10.

10. Rabid (1977 aka Rage, directed by David Cronenberg)- This story of a town overrun by a disease spread by a phallic stinger that hides in Marilyn Chambers’ armpit (nope, not kidding) is a true classic of the genre. Victims of the disease transform into rabid zombies that in turn spread it to others. This early effort by master of body horror David Cronenberg serves as an allegory for sexually transmitted diseases and is also a wildly entertaining romp through a doomsday scenario.

9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, starring Donald Sutherland)- I was a big fan of this one when I was young. The paranoia and ominous sense that permeated the 1950s original was cranked up to maximum volume and when you add a terrifying final scene that is bound to stay with the viewer, you have a remake that is in many ways superior to the original. It is a damn good end of the world movie.

8. Independence Day (1996, yes, THAT Independence Day)- A part of me is ashamed to have this film on here as it is pretty damn cheesy, however, it was one of my very first experiences with such subject matter. It induced in my fragile little mind a very vivid daydream as I sat in the dark theater, where I wondered what it would be like if I exited the theater and found that the world around me had all been destroyed. So while the film can tread (heavily) in campy territory, it is still loads of fun, and its creators, in my opinion, have yet to outdo it in their subsequent apocalyptic efforts.

7. Jason X (2002)- Just kidding…

7. Night of the Comet (1984)- This 1980s film about the tail of a comet passing through Earth’s atmosphere and turning all but the immune into zombies may seem dated for some, but for those of us who enjoy films from this era are in for a treat. Full of 80s cheese, but not afraid to kill off major characters and create a gloomy atmosphere, this one comes highly recommended.

6. In the Mouth of Madness (1995, directed by John Carpenter)- In this moody creepshow, John Carpenter takes on Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, crafting a dark story about a bestselling author, haunted by creatures from beyond that are compelling him to write their bible. Their arrival is eminent, and fraud investigator Trent (played brilliantly by Sam Neill) is all that stands between them and world domination.

5. Planet of the Apes (the orginal starring Charlton Heston)- It felt wrong not including this one. Moreso a dystopic, post-apocalyptic film, this one follows a group of astronauts who land on a planet overrun by primates. At the end of the film, they are treated to a shocking (but not for anyone who knows the story) revelation. This one is a true classic, folks.

4. Dawn of the Dead (1978, 2004)- I think both remake and original deserve a spot on this list, and because of this I opted to have them share a position at number 4. They both follow the story of a group of survivors holing up in the local mall after the zombie apocalypse. The similarities end there. Romero’s original vision is a somber look at consumer society and is both tragic and comedic. Zack Snyder’s 2004 version is an adrenaline-fueled ride through the zombie apocalypse filled with amped up intensity from beginning to end. Both films do what they do very well and deserve recognition.

(God the top 3 are hard…)

3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991 starring Arnold Schwarzenegger)- James Cameron’s vision of our near annihilation and then subjugation by machines is very close to my heart. It takes all the tropes of Arnold’s usual action fare and places them in the context of a very heavy film about humanity, sacrifice, and fatalism. Absolutely beautiful.

2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)- The godfather of the modern zombie film is also an eerie look at the armageddon on a personal level. Seven folks of diverse races, ages, and walks of life are holed up in a house as the world falls to shit around them. It is the formula of a masterpiece and no one before or since has executed it better.

1. The Thing (1982 directed by John Carpenter)- I guess this may or may not be an apocalyptic film depending on how you interpret the ending. Assuming that the Thing is one of the remaining survivors, this is definitely an end of the world movie. Atmospherically, it is flawless. Carpenter knows how to shoot a claustrophobic, paranoia inducing story and the cast led by Kurt Russell does an exceptional job. A true favorite of mine that still holds up today. Even the practical effects are up to date, proving that CGI is not always the best route to take. We can thank Rob Bottin for that. Great doomsday flick.

Whew, tough narrowing it down to 10. I know there may be better films in this subgenre (The Road Warrior comes to mind, and The Stand is a close runner up), but these were some that, for whatever reason, influenced me heavily. If you haven’t seen some of these, I highly recommend you do…. pending that we’re not in a state of tribulation tomorrow. 🙂

6 responses to “Top 10 End of the World Movies

  1. These are some good choices. I just watched “In the Mouth of Madness” (which is one of my favorites on this list) and will maybe try to fit in one more “End of the World” movie. I think I will try to fit in “The Thing” (it has been a REALLY long time since I’ve seen it).


  2. Thank you for including Night of the Comet in there. Best. Movie. Ever. You can’t go wrong when you combine Valley Girls and Zombies.


  3. Great list. You’re right – Carpenter’s The Thing is #1. 2 of my EOTW (end of the world) favorites not on the list are Dr. Strangelove and On the Beach. The latter is very depressing, but served it’s anti-war purpose well during the nuclear arms race.


  4. I saw The Thing, Dawn of the Dead, Independence Day, and a couple of the other films listed. They were great films.


  5. Good choices, but there is definitly one movie missing: Last Night, a 1998 Canadian movie by Don McKellar. It’s one of my all time favorite movies….not horror, but about the end of the world…the Last Night.


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