If you’re anything like me, you love “end of the world movies,” you know, the type of movie where the world actually ends and is not saved during its third act.
Many of these movies are considered old cult classics. I did sit down and watch all of them before writing this article.
Some of these films can be hard to find because of their age, so there will be an Amazon link for each movie at the end of their description.
Because I will be discussing plot details of these films, SPOILER ALERT!
1 – Interstellar
The earth, in this Christopher Nolan sci-fi epic, is no longer a lush and vibrant planet. Food growth has become nearly impossible, and the future of humanity is in jeopardy. This survival movie follows the crew aboard a spaceship as they desperately search for a new inhabitable planet via interstellar travel.
Earth is facing blight, food shortages, and lack of oxygen. According to the book The Science of Interstellar by Kip Thorne, the film imagines a future where a combination of catastrophes reduces the population of North America tenfold or more, with similar consequences for the rest of the world.
In this world, society has moved to an agrarian existence (everyone’s a farmer). The crops are failing due to blight from a plant disease caused by pathogens. Blight is also reducing oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere – as Professor Brand (Michael Caine) observes: “the last people to starve will be the first to suffocate.” In other words, Earth is no longer a suitable home, and humanity is facing extinction.
Interstellar is a visual masterpiece that will keep you guessing along every move and will hit you at an instinctual level. Interstellar is a worthy addition as humankind is forced off its home permanently. You might have to watch this film a couple of times to fully grasp the scope that Nolan is trying to project. Interstellar Amazon Link
2 – Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
While the two main characters are sitting in their vehicle, a radio announcement is telling them; “Once again if you are just tuning in, the CSA Space Shuttle deliverance has been destroyed. The final mission to save mankind has failed. The seventy-mile astroid known commonly as Mathilda is set to collide with earth in exactly three weeks time.”
After humanity finds out they only have three weeks left to live; Carell and Knightly’s character befriend each other and try to make each other’s final week happier. In his case, he’s trying to find “the one that got away” while she is just trying to get home to England to be with her family.
They find that they are the missing ingredients in each other’s lives. Their story may have a grim ending, but at least these two did not face the end of the world alone. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Amazon Link
3 – Miracle Mile (1988)
As a man finally finds the woman of his dreams, a phone rings, and he finds out that nuclear war is imminent. At times Harry is uncertain that the end is in fact near and that the information he received was in fact accurate.
He becomes increasingly worried that he alone sparked the mass panic around him. Harry still tries to find a way to escape his impending doom and finds himself going to great lengths to do just that.
It would certainly not surprise me if you’ve never heard of this cult film, but while maintaining the feel of an 80s comedy while tackling a horrific situation, Miracle Mile stands as exceptional to some. Miracle Mile Amazon Link.
4 – These Final Hours
At fourth in our end of the world movies, These Final Hours is another Meteor Impact film. When a Meteor strikes the opposite side of the planet sparking a global firestorm, an Australian named James leads his lover to travel across the city where anarchy rules; In an attempt to reunite a girl with her family and to join his girlfriend to enjoy one huge party.
This is an Australian film that is mostly unknown in some parts of the world. These Final hours deserves a great deal more acclaim and notice.
The characters in this film a far from being innocent; and a goal that seems fruitless, the performances, story, and situation have you rooting for them despite the odds. These Final Hours Amazon Link.
5 – The Day After
“The Day After” is undoubtedly one of the best “made for TV” movie ever made and is still the highest rated; That makes The Day After a product of its time.
The movie takes place within three timelines (Past, present and after the war destruction) during the cold war and showing a worst-case scenario outcome of the nuclear conflict. They introduce the audience to a world we know well and a wholly unfamiliar one at the same time. One world where failing to find food and shelter means your very survival.
The movie ends with a single stark voice calling over the radio. “Hello, is anybody there? Anybody at all?”. As scary as it may seem to most people, The Day After feels entirely possible. The Day After Amazon Link.
6 – This Is the End (2013)
When a group of self-obsessed celebrities gathers for a housewarming party on the same night as the apocalypse, the results are hilarious.
This Is the End features some of the most popular comedic actors of this generation with Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, and Emma Watson.
I think this movie is underrated. You need to have the right sense of humor for this type of film to truly appreciate it. This Is the End is rated R for a reason and might be why this movie is not going to be your cup of tea if;
- You are expecting a horror film – this is much more like “Shaun of the Dead.”
- Blasphemy is offensive to you.
- You have a low vulgarity threshold.
- Your knowledge of pop culture is not great.
- If You do not know who these celebrities are.
- You do not like neurotic humor.
Watch it already, it’s funny, and in this crazy world we all live in, we certainly need some humor once in a while. This Is the End, Amazon Link.
7 – On the Beach (1959)
On the Beach follows the aftermath of World War 3, a brief but devastating nuclear war. A deadly radiation fallout cloud is quickly spreading across the world. Australia is the last place where humans are still alive but they must come to terms that the deadly radiation cloud is heading their way, resulting in the end of humanity.
I first read the book and I honestly have to say that I found it very disturbing because everything that happens is something that could actually become our reality. The movie was a bit different in the way that we never find out who started the war and why. One quote I have to share sums up a World War 3 event very well.
“The war started when people accepted the idiotic principle that peace could be maintained; By arranging to defend themselves with weapons, they couldn’t possibly use; Without committing suicide.”
That quote stands true, there will be no winners post World War 3 when everything is either destroyed by bombs or contaminated with radiation.
The people in this movie has to come to terms with making the difficult decision of letting radiation sickness kill them or ending their lives themselves. This film loomed heavy when it came out in 1959 and is still relevant today. On the Beach Amazon Link.
8 – Last Night (1998)
Last Night is a low budget Canadian film that revolves around a society that knows their world will end at midnight. The movie details how a different bunch of people will spend their last night on earth.
Two strangers agree to take each other’s life at midnight by gunshot.
A mother that throws a big Christmas party with her family in hopes to relive their happiest moments as a family.
And then there’s a man trying to experience as many different sexual experiences as possible before the end of the world. He goes on to tell someone “I just don’t want to risk having bad sex today. Just don’t want that to be the last thing on my mind.”
It may never be evident in the film what deadly force will end them but what is clear is the films strong direction, script, and cast makes this an excellent end of the world movies. Last Night Amazon Link.
9 – Melancholia (2011)
Melancholia is arguably the artsiest end of the world movie on our list and probably of all time as well. A newfound planet is on a collision course with earth which is an obvious metaphor for the inevitability of depression.
This doomsday portrayal is certainly a majestic vision told through the eyes of various different types of characters; all of which are relatable. While that may sound depressing in itself, it does achieve to hit you in a deep emotional level, for me anyway. The movie does have a great cast like Kirsten Dunst and Kiefer Sutherland.
Melancholia does end on an oddly hopeful note having some of their characters believing in a magic cave that will keep them safe. Melancholia then fills the sky as the world comes to an end.
Many critics and film scholars have considered Melancholia to be a personal masterpiece, and one of the best films of 2011. Melancholia Amazon Link.
10 – Dr. Strangelove
In fairness to all other “end of the world movies” that didn’t make our Top 10 list, it’s quite difficult to beat a Stanley Kubrick directed film. This movie gets going when an Air Force general order a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, an Air Force officer and the President of the United States comes together in the “war room” in hopes of preventing an apocalypse. Unfortunately for humanity’s sake, the war room proves to be full of idiots; As these people are not exactly a cool-headed bunch in the face of such an impending doom.
By the end of this end of the world movie, you can just imagine what goes down. KA-BOOM!
I have to admit that the Cold War fears and detonating nukes have never been so hilarious. Ya, it’s kinda corny but it does make for an interesting watch none the less. I did also mention this movie and a couple more on this list in our “Learn How to Survive a Nuclear Blast Through Television and Film” article, make sure to check that one out! Dr. Strangelove Amazon Link.
There you have it my fellow survivalist movie buffs. Please let us know in the comment section below if you agree or disagree with our list; and what other movies you would have added that we may have forgotten.