Many of us don't want to set the world on fire, but we do like to take a trip to a post-apocalyptic wasteland now and again.
Recently a member of a popular film forum was looking to take his latest trip into the post-apocalypse and was explicitly looking for movies without aliens, zombies, and monsters; films like the Bethesda video game series Fallout, that RPG where you explore a post-apocalyptic wasteland, full of sentient zombies, mutated-monsters, and the occasional UFO.
Despite whoever requests these films seemingly playing Fallout blindfolded, here are our suggestions for 25 unique, zombie-free, post-apocalyptic movies.
1. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
This Australian dystopian action-adventure directed by George Miller and George Ogilvie is the third installment in the Mad Max film series and stars Mel Gibson and Tina Turner.
Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where resources are scarce, and society has collapsed, Max finds himself pulled into a struggle for the survival of Bartertown, ruled by Aunty Entity (Tina Turner), who keeps order by having disputes settled in cages matches to the death in the titular Thunderdome.
2. Waterworld (1995)
Directed by Kevin Reynolds and starring Kevin Costner, Waterworld is set in a future where the polar ice caps have completely melted, and the planet's surface is almost entirely covered in water. The story revolves around The Mariner (Kevin Costner), a drifter who encounters a young girl with a mysterious map tattooed on her back, and the pair set out on a quest to find the mythical Dryland.
3. Snowpiercer (2013)
Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer follows the exploits of the passengers aboard a giant climate-controlled train after the Earth has become a frozen wasteland due to a failed climate change experiment.
4. Escape From New York (1981)
Set in a future America where Manhattan has been turned into a maximum-security prison. John Carpenter's post-apocalyptic action thriller stars Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a disgraced Special Forces soldier offered a pardon if he rescues the president after Air Force One is hijacked and crashes in the city.
5. Tank Girl (1995)
This film is based on the British post-apocalyptic comic series by Gorillaz co-creators Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin.
Set in a dystopian future where water is scarce and corporations control the only supply, Tank Girl (Lori Petty, is an anarchic tank-driving outlaw who battles against the oppressive corporation that controls the world.
6. Six-String Samurai (1998)
Lance Mungia's eccentric action-comedy blends a post-apocalyptic setting with martial arts and rock and roll.
Set in an alternate history where the Soviet Union nuked the USA in 1957, and Elvis Presley became the King of Lost Vegas. A guitar-playing samurai known as Buddy (Jeffrey Falcon) embarks on a journey to Lost Vegas to claim the title of King after Elvis dies.
7. The Road (2009)
Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, The Road is a bleak and emotionally intense trip to a world devastated by a catastrophe. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee star as a father and son as they navigate a desolate and dangerous world and attempt to retain their humanity despite overwhelming odds.
9. Book of Eli (2010)
The Hughes Brothers' post-apocalyptic biblical action film stars Denzel Washington as Eli, a lone wanderer on a mission to transport a mysterious book, believed to hold the key to rebuilding society, to a safe location on the West Coast.
10. Delicatessen (1991)
This French black comedy film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro is set in a post-apocalyptic world where food is scarce; Louison (Dominique Pinon) becomes the handyman at a dilapidated apartment complex owned by a butcher called Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) Clapet, a cannibal who lures his tenants into his deli to use as a source of meat. However, Louison's arrival changes the dynamics of the building and its residents.
11. Turkey Shoot (1982)
Set in a dystopian future, criminals and rebels are held in re-education camps where they're supposed to become better citizens for the fascist government. But the guards torture and kill the prisoners for sport and curving in the camps is more than just obeying.
12. I Think We're Alone Now (2018)
This introspective character-driven drama from Reed Morano tells the story of Del (Peter Dinklage), a recluse who believes he is the last person left alive in a small town after a mysterious illness wipes out the world's population. Del spends his days cleaning a small town and burying the residents to maintain a sense of order. However, his solitude is disrupted when he encounters Grace (Elle Fanning).
13. Finch (2021)
This post-apocalyptic drama about a man, a dog, and his robot stars Tom Hanks as Finch, one of the few survivors left on Earth after a solar flare destroys the ozone layer and makes most of the world completely uninhabitable. The aging survivor, aware that his beloved pet dog may outlive him, builds a robot to protect and care for his pup when he's no longer there.
14. Stalker (1979)
This contemplative Soviet science fiction film from Andrei Tarkovsky, based on the novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, follows Stalker as he guides a writer and a scientist as they explore a mysterious area known as The Zone, in search of a room that is rumored to grant deepest desires of anyone who enters it.
15. When The Wind Blows (1986)
This powerful British animated drama directed by Jimmy Murakami, based on the graphic novel by Snowman creator Raymond Briggs, follows elderly couple Jim and Hilda Bloggs. When they learn of an impending nuclear attack, they follow the government's advice on how to protect themselves by turning their home into a makeshift shelter. However, despite their best efforts, the couple's health deteriorates as they try to survive the harsh realities of a nuclear winter.
16. Nausicaä of The Valley of The Wind (1984)
This feature film was the first one created by the legendary Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli. Hayao Miyazaki's environmental drama is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a toxic forest called the Sea of Decay covers much of the world. Nausicaä, the young princess of the Valley of the Wind, one of the last habitable areas left.
When a war between humans and a mysterious race of insectoid creatures known as the Ohmu threatens the Valley, Nausicaä becomes a bridge between humans and nature in the hopes of returning balance to the world.
17. 9 (2009)
Shane Acker's visually striking animated feature, set in a post-apocalyptic world where machines have wiped out humanity, follows a group of sentient ragdolls numbered from one to nine, who contain the memories of the humans who created them. Together, they must navigate a world inhabited by malevolent machines and uncover the mysteries of their existence.
18. Ever Since The World Ended (2001)
This documentary-style post-apocalyptic indie drama from Calum Grant and Joshua Atesh Litle follows a group of survivors trying to rebuild their lives 15 years after a virus wiped out most of humanity and society functionally collapsed.
19. Turbo Kid (2015)
François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell's homage to the 1980s blends retro aesthetics with a unique take on the post-apocalyptic genre.
Set in a post-apocalyptic 1997, The Kid (Munro Chambers) is a scavenger who discovers a powerful weapon and becomes an unlikely hero. With the help of a quirky and resourceful young woman named Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), The Kid battles a sadistic warlord named Zeus (Michael Ironside.)
20. Silent Running (1972)
This ecological drama, directed by Douglas Trumbull, explores humanity's relationship with its environment and stars Bruce Dern as Freeman Lowell, an astronaut who cares for Earth's last forests preserved in domes aboard a spaceship orbiting the planet. When he receives an order to destroy the trees and return to Earth, Lowell rebels to protect the last remnants of Earth's natural beauty.
21. Reign of Fire (2002)
Rob Bowman's unique post-apocalyptic movie, set in a future where dragons have decimated the world and brought about a new dark age, stars Christian Bale as Quinn, the leader of a group of survivors who struggle daily to fight off the dragons. When skilled dragon hunter, Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey), arrives with a plan to restore humanity's dominance, Quinn must decide whether to trust him and join the fight.
22. Threads (1984)
This British TV film directed by Mick Jackson is an unflinching and harrowing portrayal of the devastating impact nuclear war and the fallout that follows would have on society.
Set in England, the drama depicts the events leading up to and following a full-scale nuclear war between NATO and the USSR. It follows several families as they struggle to survive the immediate aftermath of the attack and deal with the catastrophic effects of radiation, societal breakdown, and the eventual collapse of civilization.
23. Children of Men (2006)
Alfonso Cuarón's bleak drama, based on P.D. James' 1992 novel, is set in a dystopian future where humanity faces extinction due to a global infertility crisis and follows Theo Faron (Clive Owen), a disillusioned bureaucrat who becomes embroiled in a mission to protect a miraculously pregnant woman (Claire-Hope Ashitey) and take her to safety.
24. 12 Monkeys (1995)
Inspired by the 1962 short film La Jetée, Terry Gilliam's time-traveling dystopian thriller follows the exploits of James Cole (Bruce Willis), a prisoner living in a dystopian future sent back to the 90s to gather information about a deadly virus that has wiped out most of humanity, by discovering its origins.
25. Greenland (2020)
Greenland is about a family that fights for their own survival as a comet that's set to destroy Earth comes racing toward the planet. As the comet gets closer, natural disaster and panic leave everyone to try to find safety and survival as their chances of living through the events is near zero.