Alien invasions, zombie apocalypses, worldwide pandemics, and climate disasters are just some scenarios depicted as ending the world – or at least the world as we know it – in movies.
They're all terrifying to think about, but we find them all thoroughly intriguing and entertaining as a collective audience, which is incredibly bizarre when you think about it rationally.
In this piece, we'll list 22 of the best movies in which a world-ending scenario has occurred or is taking place. Don't get too paranoid.
1. 2012 (2009, directed by Roland Emmerich)
2012 is a sci-fi disaster movie based on the 2012 phenomenon. It's about a geologist and a novelist struggling to survive a series of catastrophic events, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, megatsunamis, and a global flood, each of which people who believed in said phenomenon imagined would happen.
It's a popcorn flick and nothing more, meant to be enjoyed without overthinking, and it achieves that unashamedly. 2012 is a colossal disaster movie, covering a variety of bases in that regard, and it's a spectacular visual feast. Its ensemble cast is also impressive, as John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandiwe Newton, Danny Glover, and Woody Harrelson all appear and give assured performances.
2. The Day After Tomorrow (2004, directed by Rolan Emmerich)
The Day After Tomorrow is a sci-fi disaster movie in which disruption of the North Atlantic Ocean circulation has resulted in extreme weather events that usher in catastrophic climate change and lead to a new ice age.
This movie would never win any Academy Awards, as its plot borders on ludicrous, and to say its dialogue is clunky would be a colossal understatement. Still, it's a lot of fun, the visuals are stunning, and Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sela Ward, Emmy Rossum, and Ian Holm all give competent performances, making it more than worth watching.
3. This is the End (2013, directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg)
This is the End is an apocalyptic black comedy movie and a feature-length adaptation of the 2007 short film Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse. The plot focuses on fictionalized versions of its cast during a global biblical apocalypse.
That cast includes James Franco, Jonah Hill, Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, and Emma Watson, meaning there's lots of top talent on display – and they aren't afraid to be self-deprecating. This is the End is funny, full of energy, and highly ambitious regarding its concept, and it'll have you laughing your socks off.
4. The World's End (2013, directed by Edgar Wright)
The World's End is an apocalyptic sci-fi comedy and the third and final installment in Edgar Wright's Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, after 2004's Shaun of the Dead and 2007's Hot Fuzz. It follows five middle-aged friends back to their hometown to reattempt a pub crawl they failed two decades earlier, only to find aliens are invading it.
Its fantastic British cast includes Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, and Pierce Brosnan. There's a lot of heart in The World's End, and it's funny, well-performed, and pretty darn zany, making for an entertaining experience from start to finish.
5. Zombieland (2009, directed by Ruben Fleischer)
Zombieland is a post-apocalyptic zombie comedy movie about a group of misfit survivors making their way on an extended cross-country road trip on a mission to find a sanctuary free from the flesh-eating zombies who have taken over society as they know it.
With a great cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and an iconic cameo from Bill Murray, Zombieland is a riot. It's gory enough to satisfy horror fans and more than funny enough to earn its comedy label. In addition, a sequel almost as good as it, Zombieland: Double Tap, was released in 2019.
6. A Quiet Place (2018, directed by John Krasinski)
A Quiet Place is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror movie about a family struggling to survive in a world in which blind extraterrestrial creatures with an acute sense of hearing, impenetrable armor, and a ruthless murderous nature have taken over.
The concept of A Quiet Place makes for a film unlike any other, and it's an excellent watch. It plays on our fears cleverly, resulting in a stylish, intelligent, scary, genre-bending experience like no other. Director Krasinski also stars in the movie alongside his wife, Emily Blunt, and youngsters Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe. They all perform wonderfully, considering they do so in near-silence. A Quiet Place Part II came out in 2021, and future movies are in the works.
7. 28 Days Later (2002, directed by Danny Boyle)
28 Days Later is a post-apocalyptic horror movie that follows a bicycle courier who awakens from a coma in London to find society has collapsed after the accidental release of a highly contagious, aggression-inducing virus that turns its victims into bloodthirsty, fast-moving zombies.
It's a scary horror movie and a startlingly intelligent political allegory with great suspense and drama. What is so unique about 28 Days Later is that it balances gore, death, and terror with some legitimately beautiful moments – it's a genuine work of art, with Boyle at his brilliant best. It stars Cillian Murphy, with the likes of Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, and Brendan Gleeson ably supporting. A sequel, 28 Weeks Later, was released in 2007.
8. Don't Look Up (2021, directed by Adam McKay)
Don't Look Up is an apocalyptic political satire black comedy movie about two astronomers attempting to warn the world about a comet that will collide with the planet in a few months and bring human civilization to an end.
It's a brilliant allegory for climate change, and the whole thing satirizes the indifference shown to the climate crisis by governments, politicians, celebrities, and the media. The superb ensemble cast is worth watching Don't Look Up for. It includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep. This movie is funny and depressing but thoroughly entertaining, and the actors sell it perfectly.
9. Quarantine (2008, directed by John Erick Dowdle)
Quarantine is a found footage horror movie that follows a television reporter and her cameraman stuck inside a Los Angeles apartment building quarantined by the CDC following the outbreak of a mystery virus that turns humans around the world into murderous zombies.
It's atmospheric, claustrophobic, well-acted, and brilliantly plays on our fears. The camera can be shaky sometimes, making it difficult to see what's happening, but that only adds to the experience and the faux realism. A sequel, Quarantine 2: Terminal, was released in 2011.
10. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012, directed by Lorene Scafaria)
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is an apocalyptic romantic comedy-drama, the title of which was inspired by a line in Chris Cornell's 1999 song “Preaching the End of the World.” It's about two strangers who meet and form an unlikely bond when they help each other find life closure before an asteroid kills all life on Earth.
It stars Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, both delightful in this movie and the latter with surprisingly astute comedy chops. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a charming, sensitive, sweet, impactful, and amusing film unlike any other in the apocalyptic genre.
11. World War Z (2013, directed by Marc Forster)
World War Z is an action horror movie based on Max Brooks' 2006 novel. It follows a former United Nations investigator who embarks on a globetrotting mission to find a solution for a sudden viral outbreak that turns people into flesh-eating zombies within 12 seconds of infection.
It's an intelligent, creative, fast-moving, thrilling, and suspenseful movie experience, with a fantastic performance from Brad Pitt in the lead role. World War Z will grip you from the moment you start watching until the film's highly satisfying conclusion. Peter Capaldi's cameo as “W.H.O. Doctor” was a fun foreshadowing of his role as the Doctor in Doctor Who.
12. I Am Legend (2007, directed by Francis Lawrence)
I Am Legend is a post-apocalyptic action thriller and the third movie based on Richard Matheson's 1954 novel (after 1964's The Last Man on Earth and 1971's The Omega Man). It follows the last human in New York City, U.S. Army virologist Robert Neville after a virus created to cure cancer turned most humans into hostile mutants.
Will Smith gives a captivating, effortless, and classy performance as Neville. I Am Legend isn't a scary movie but is highly intriguing due to its poignant questions about humanity. It has some great action sequences, a strong script, and an alternative ending you should watch as it's better than the original.
13. The Omega Man (1971, directed by Boris Sagal)
The Omega Man is a post-apocalyptic action movie and the second adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 I Am Legend novel. In this one, biological warfare has decimated life on Earth, turning most humans into violent mutants, and U.S. Army Colonel Robert Neville forages for supplies in a desolate Los Angeles.
Charlton Heston plays the lone survivor in this one, and he's excellent, as he tended to be. It's full of harrowing apocalyptic imagery, energetic and fast-paced, and often credited with starting the trend of cheesy one-liners that are now associated with Arnold Schwarzenegger in his action flicks.
14. Mad Max (1979, directed by George Miller)
Mad Max is a dystopian action movie about the eponymous police officer turned vigilante in a near-future Australia amid societal collapse. As the world self-destructs, Max attempts to thwart a violent motorcycle gang.
Mel Gibson is fantastic in the lead role. Mad Max is deliciously violent with incredible stunts that make it one of the best action flicks ever made – and the sequel, 1981's Mad Max 2, is arguably even better. It launched a franchise consisting of three sequels, with two more planned. Tom Hardy has taken over the role of Max as of 2015, and he's equally fantastic.
15. Melancholia (2011, directed by Lars von Trier)
Melancholia is an apocalyptic drama art movie and the second film in von Trier's unofficially titled Depression Trilogy. It follows two sisters as one gets married just before a rogue planet crashes into Earth.
The star-studded cast includes Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Stellan Skarsgård, and Kiefer Sutherland, and they're all terrific. Melancholia is bold, beautiful, profound, and visually striking. It's not for everyone, but if you can appreciate the creativity and expression behind it, you'll love it.
16. Testament (1983, directed by Lynee Littman)
Testament is a sci-fi drama movie based on Carol Amen's 1983 three-page story, “The Last Testament.” It's about a small suburban town near the San Francisco Bay Area that gradually degenerates following a nuclear war that destroys global civilization.
It stars Jane Alexander, whose performance earned her a nomination for the Best Actress Academy Award, William Devane, and Leon Ames. Also, Kevin Costner and Rebecca De Mornay appeared before they were stars. Testament is a powerful, influential, highly personal movie without the need for special effects because it's human drama at its finest.
17. The Cabin in the Woods (2012, directed by Drew Goddard)
The Cabin in the Woods is a sci-fi comedy horror movie about five college students who head to a remote forest cabin where technicians manipulate events from an underground facility. The students become sacrifices to giant evil gods who will emerge and destroy humanity if they survive.
It's one of the most meta movies ever made, and it executes that perfectly. From the mind of Buffy the Vampire the Slayer creator Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods simultaneously succeeds in being intelligent, funny, scary, sexy, and utterly unique. The impressive cast includes Chris Hemsworth and Richard Jenkins.
18. Night of the Living Dead (1968, directed by George A. Romero)
Night of the Living Dead is an independent horror movie that follows seven people trapped in a farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania as they get attacked by a horde of undead ghouls.
Frequently described as the first modern zombie film, Night of the Living Dead also spawned a franchise of five sequel movies and two remakes, and there's another on the way. It was terrifying at its release, and it remains chilling today. It's quite an arty film with a cunning political undercurrent, but it's also gory, tense, brilliantly edited, and well-performed.
19. Snowpiercer (2013, directed by Bong Joon-ho)
Snowpiercer is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action movie based on the 1982 French climate fiction graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette. It takes place in a future where a failed climate-change experiment killed everyone apart from those who boarded the eponymous super-fast train that travels around the globe, resulting in a new class system emerging.
The excellent cast includes Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, and Ed Harris. It's a spectacular movie that's ambitious, peculiar, unique, and teeming with amazing special effects. The cinematography is a thing of beauty, taking you into a world like nothing you'll ever have experienced before.
20. Planet of the Apes (1968, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner)
Planet of the Apes is a sci-fi movie loosely based on Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel. It follows three marooned astronauts who believe they've landed on a new world only to find out they're actually on a future earth where intelligent apes are now the dominant species.
It's a bona fide classic film and with good reason. Planet of the Apes is fast-paced, imaginative, fun, and a fantastic adventure for all who watch it, and Charlton Heston is superb as astronaut George Taylor. It spawned a franchise, including four sequels and a reboot series of three movies, with one more scheduled for 2024.
21. Shaun of the Dead (2004, directed by Edgar Wright)
Shaun of the Dead is a zombie comedy movie and the first installment in Wright's Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy we mentioned earlier. It follows the eponymous downtrodden electrical salesman as a zombie outbreak is happening in London, and he heads to the local pub for safety with those closest to him.
It's one of the best British movies in history, with a fantastic intimate cast of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, and Penelope Wilton. The script is excellent, and Shaun of the Dead teems with clever satire, memorable gags, and cultural references, resulting in a funny, witty, intelligent, and sometimes even mildly scary film.
22. Dr. Strangelove (1964, directed by Stanley Kubrick)
Dr. Strangelove – or, to give it its full name, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – is a satirical black comedy movie based loosely on Peter George's 1958 thriller novel Red Alert. It satirizes the fears of a nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War. It ends with a mass atomic genocide of the global population, save for a chosen few that will be enslaved or used for reproduction.
It's one of the greatest films ever made. Dr. Strangelove has a legendary cast led by Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, and Slim Pickens, all of whom are fantastic. Its razor-sharp biting satire is as good as any you'll ever see, making it a brilliant, clever, and funny movie. If you're putting together a bucket list of films you must watch before the world ends, this should undoubtedly be on it.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.