List of Post Apocalyptic Movies

I’ve always been into post apocalyptic stuff. I said in my recent review of The Road that I think it’s because it’s such an interesting thing to fantasize about. Kind of like how you can daydream forever about what you would do if you won the lottery.

I thought it would be fun to put a list together of real post apocalyptic movies. This isn’t going to be a comprehensive list. There are going to be some rules as well as somewhat arbitrary moderation by me for what makes the list. This is what I’m thinking:

  • The movie takes place in the future. That is, a time beyond when the movie was made. So in this case, post-apocalyptic means post-apocalyptic EARTH and the HUMAN RACE.
  • But not just “the future”. There are some movies that take place in a Dystopian (Brazil) or Utopian (Time Machine, kinda) future that sort of imply that the reason was the apocalypse. But these movies aren’t really about the apocalypse, they are about the future.
  • The reason can be ridiculous. Zombies, aliens, giant space bugs from mars… bring it on.
  • But not just an excuse. Action movies are fine, and B movies are fine, but movies that are just total pieces of shit don’t get to go on the list.
  • There is some kind of vision. The bottom line is that I’m interested to see an interpretation of the apocalypse from someone who really thought about it and had some ideas about it.
  • It’s a movie. There are some absolutely fantastic post-apocalyptic things that have been on TV: Battlestar Galactica, Jericho, Kings… But this list is for movies.
  • It could be pre-apocalyptic as long as it’s also at least partly post-apocalyptic (The Day After Tomorrow).

Categories: Technological, Disease/Biological, Biblical, Nuclear/War, Meteor/Comet

Things to Come 1938
Five 1951
Invasion U.S.A 1952
Captive Women 1952
The Day the World Ended 1955
World Without End 1956
On the Beach 1959
The Day the Earth Caught Fire 1961
Panic in Year Zero! 1962
The Earth Dies Screaming 1962
The Last Man on Earth 1964
Omega Man
Charlton Heston has this badass shelter where he keeps out the night dwelling vampire zombies (“The Family”). He meets some resistance type folks, hooks up with a hot black chick, and ultimately develops the cure, which he delivers to save humanity before dying in a fountain posed as Jesus. Disease – 3/5
1971
A Boy and His Dog
Easily the most fucked up in the genre I have ever seen. It starts weird, and just gets weirder and weirder and weirder. The dog can talk telepathically, and that is the least weird thing that happens. Nuclear – 3/5
1975
Logan’s Run 1976
Wizards
Bizarre half-realized cartoon. The drawn/ilustrated interludes are cool but don’t jive with the movie. But hey, it was 1977.
1977
Mad Max
Mel Gibson
1979
Zombie 1979
Stalker 1979
The Road Warrior 1981
Bladerunner
Dust is killing people on Earth, and they are being encouraged to leave to other colonies, which are no picnic.
1982
The Day After
I watched this whole thing and barely remember it. It was mostly inside and focused on character struggles rather than post apocalyptic stuff. It was originally made for TV so don’t expect much.
1983
Terminator
The first in this series. Also has Arnold but was far less popular. Sets the stage pretty well and a decent movie in its own right. – Technological -3/5
1984
The Quiet Earth
This old balding dude has some classic isolation freakout scenes. Then ends up meeing this chick and dude and there is some love triangle stuff going on. Turns out they lived because they actually were dying at the time of the apocalypse. Plus, a super weird ending. Technological? 4/5
1985
Epidemic 1987
Miracle Mile 1988
Hell Comes to Frogtown
Most people on earth have gone steril. Mr. Hell has not. He is a criminal, captured by the government and coerced into signing a contract to do their bidding. He gets sent out with two smoking hot chicks on a journey to Frogtown, to free even more hot chicks and impregnate them. It’s even better than I can describe, but for a movie all about fucking there isn’t a whole lot of it going on though. Boobs though. Disease – 4/5
1988
Cyborg
Jean-Claude Van Damme 1) has a scene where he’s nailed to the cross like Jesus 2) does the splits thing like in every other movie he’s ever done and 3) totally rules in this movie like in every other movie he’s ever done. It qualifies as post-apoc because it’s a virus that has destroyed most of mankind. Biological – 3.5/5
1989
Delicatessen 1991
Terminator 2
Arnold is sent from the future to protect a boy who is to become the leader of the resistance against the machines. Other terminators have the opposite idea. Technological – 5/5
1991
The Stand
Steven King’s book adapted into a one-million hour movie.
1994
Tank Girl
A couple of hot chicks battle against mega-corp with a tank and a jet with hot lesbian overtones and girl power. It’s either based on or spawned a series of comics that has as many or more fans than the movie.
1995
Waterworld
Kevin Kostner is “The Mariner” who sails around on his cadamaran doing whatever he wants with his webbed feet. He meets this chick and his daugher, who has this crazy tattoo which points to dry land on her back. He tries to keep them from the Smokers and get there themselves.
1995
12 Monkeys
Bruce Willis is some crazy prisoner sent to the past to investigate a disease that wiped out much of the human race. Super weird and good. Brad Pitt is involved.
1995
The Postman
Kevin Costner is captured and escapes from an evil army. He finds some old mail in a truck and pretends to be a postal worker from a restored government to get into a nearby town. He swears in this kid who wants to be a postman too, which inadvertently begins a social revolution which is ultimately mobilized to destroy the evil army. Disease – 5/5
1997
Apocalypse 1998
Tycus 1998
Last Night 1998
The Matrix
I hope everyone has seen this. It’s kind of amazing. Machines have taken over the world and people are used as human batteries. Their minds are kept occupied by a digital virtual reality (the matrix). Some humans have escaped are are battling the machines. Neo is a badass who can control the matrix. Technological – 5/5
1999
Virus 1999
Ever Since the World Ended 2001
28 Days Later
Disease from chimps turns people into sweet zombies that can run in quarantined London. Disease – 5/5
2002
The Last Man 2002
Numb 2003
Terminator 3
Another terminator is sent back to kill John Conner, and another terminator is sent back to protect him. John is in his 20’s but still rocking some teen angst. We get to see the real beginnings of “the machines”. – Technological 3/5
2003
Dawn of the Dead 2004
Resident Evil: Apocalypse 2004
Post Impact
A comet hits earth after a bizarre half-hearted laser beam effort to stop it. The laser beam continues to play a role as some weirdos try and use it for evil after the apocalypse, but honestly I had to stop watching it because it was so bad even I couldn’t take it. One star just for subject matter. – 1/5
2004
Lost: Black Earth 2004
The Day After Tomorrow
Scientists learn that due to climate change the world is going to go into an ice age in two days. Natural – 3/5
2004
Puzzlehead
A guy creates an android and puts all his memories into it. They both get involved with the same chick. It was kind of an interesting post-apocalyptic world, but the story would have stood alone without that aspect.
2005
Children of Men
Woman lose the ability to have children. Disease – 5/5
2006
The Signal
Signals that come across TV and Radio turn most people into murderers, who retain their rationality. Not a whole lot of the outside world is shown, focusing instead on smaller groups of people. Technological – 2/5
2006
Resident Evil: Extinction 2007
20 Years After 2007
28 Weeks Later
Best zombie killing scene of all time, when a helicopter tilts forward and runs through a tribe of zombies in a field.Disease – 5/5
2007
I am Legend
Will Smith and his dog are among the last on Earth. There are crazy vampire/zombie things that can only come out at night. They are just trying to survive. They met some chick who kinda joins the gang. This is based on a book and has various film adaptions with different endings. Disease – 5/5
2007
Tooth & Nail 2008
City of Ember
An underground city is built to save humanity since the surface is ruined. Hundreds of years underground. People get weird. The cities systems are failing (power, water). A kid stumbles upon to some lore. Ultimately escapes and saves everyone. Underutilizes Bill Murray and Tim Robbins, but still fun. – Nuclear? 4/5
2008
Terminator Salvation
Christian Bale is John Conner in the first in the series to actually take place post-apocalypse. I thought it was the weakest of the series. Technological – 5/5
2009
Knowing
Nicolas Cage gets obsessed with this sheet full of numbers that turn out to be a message from the future fortelling major disastrous events. The biggest disaster of all though, is apparently a solar flare which will incinerate Earth. Plus, aliens.
Natural / Aliens – 4/5
2009
2012
Some kind of sun activity heats up the Earths core and destabilizes the crust. The government has known about it for a few years and builds futuristic Arcs to save rich people. Littered with ridiculous plot holes and non-nonsensical scenes, but visually incredible. – Natural 3/5
2009
Zombieland
Woody Harrelson and that kid who looks like the kid from Arrested Development traveling around killing zombies. Hilarious, and does a good job of capturing the apocalyptic feeling. – Disease – 4/5
2009
The Road
Very well done and accurate translation of the Cormac McCarthy novel. The Man and the Boy are traveling South toward the coast in the extremely bleak ash-ridden post-apocalypse. – Nuclear? – 5/5
2009
The Book of Eli
Denzel is a blind (you find that out later) vagabond badass carrying around the Bible. Gary Oldman wants it to control the world. He eventually gets it but it’s in brail. Plus Jackie from that 70’s show is there. Then he receites the entire Bible to some dude on Alcatraz.
2010

There are surely many more I’m missing, so feel free to leave links to others. I’d like to make this as comprehensive as I can (within the stipulations above).

Comments

  1. Dave Naylor says:

    Kudos for Omega Man although I do really like it’s (sic) remake I Am Legend. My favourite apocalyptic movie though: Cloverfield.

  2. Dave Naylor says:

    Dang – apostrophe abuse in my last post. I hang my head in apocalyptic apostrophic shame.

  3. Chris Coyier says:

    Cloverfield…. interesting… I’m not sure if I’d officially put it in the post-apocalyptic category. The monster was attacking a city, but I’m not sure if it ever implied that the human population of Earth was devastated. Am I wrong?

  4. j says:

    Stalker
    (1979) directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.
    An area known as the ‘Zone’, created perhaps by a meteorite or an alien visitation, is cordoned off by the army. A burnt out writer and a scientist are guided into by a Stalker (someone who knows how to traverse the mysterious and dangerous forces inside the Zone) in search of a hidden room where your deepest desires come true.
    Long, very slow, oppressive, subtitles. This isn’t Independence Day – many people find it unwatchable. More philosophy than sci-fi. I love it. One of my favourite films.

  5. Dani says:

    “Knowing” is another good one.

  6. How about District 9, sorta?

  7. Jonas Bergenudd says:

    the links are a bit messed up. auto generated i guess…

    [EDITORS NOTE] This is fixed.

  8. deb says:

    Oh i also dig this types of movies a lot, just didn’t know they are called “post-apocalyptic”. And 1012 is coming soon too :)

  9. Ben Piper says:

    The Book of Eli looks like a good “post-apocalyptic” film, Gary Oldman rules!

  10. jeff says:

    how did you forget Bladerunner?

  11. Chris Coyier says:

    @j – Never heard of it, sounds awesome, adding it.

    @Dani – Definitely, added. It was 99.9% pre-apocalyptic, but the last little bit DOES destroy earth. Just destroying Earth alone doesn’t count, but this whole movie was about foretelling that event and preparing for it and whatnot.

    @Jesse Dijkstra – Nah, that was awesome, but just “aliens” not post-apocalyptic.

    @deb – You mean 2012? Yeah for sure that’ll be on there.

    @Ben Piper – How did I not see that yet?! Awesome!

    @Jeff – That was just kind of a Dystopian future + outer space. It didn’t really elude to the fact that the human race was destroyed did it?

  12. jeff says:

    In Bladerunner, they were being encouraged to move off planet, because there was some sort of dust that was slowly killing everyone left behind. The exact cause of the apocalypse was left mysterious and open ended, but it is pretty clear that all the earthlings were just waiting around to die off, or were too scared to leave Earth because of the stories they had heard of enslavement, mass killings out in space.

  13. jeff says:

    One more thought: what about the Terminator Series. They would be pre-apocolyptic, with some post-apocalyptic moments, right?

  14. Chris Coyier says:

    @jeff – Absolutely, I’m adding bladerunner and all four terminator movies.

  15. eamonn says:

    Hey Chris – just how apocolyptic does the movie have to be? I mean, Akira has a post WWIII setting, but there’s clearly been a rebuilding. That film is a work of art

  16. eamonn says:

    Oh, and ‘Soylent Green’ when you’ve got munchies!

  17. Chris Coyier says:

    Thanks for the ideas eamonn but I’m gonna veto both just for this particular list. I down with animation, and some level of fantasy elements, but for whatever reason Akira feels too much like it’s own fantasy world and not a vision of the “real” apocalypse. Maybe I need to watch it again though…

    Soylent Green is just Dystopian future. There is over-population and stuff, but there was no ‘apocalypse’.

  18. Great list! Where’s Hell comes to Frogtown ;)

  19. Tim says:

    I also think you left out :

    Epidemic
    Delicatessen
    Panic in the year Zero
    Tycus
    The Earth Dies Screaming
    Pulse
    Apocalypse and the Beauty Queen
    Tooth and Nail
    The Screwfly Solution
    Miracal Mile
    The day the Earth Caught Fire

  20. Tim says:

    oh and add

    Last Night in there too.

    (sorry about the spelling-fail)

  21. Jesse says:

    I personally was shocked to discover that Bladerunner is post-apocalyptic and not dystopian. While the movie does not discuss those details in length, apparently the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” is clearly post-apocalypse, nuclear style. I guess you learn something every day.

  22. Mike says:

    “Six String Samurai” = undeniable classic

  23. Chris Coyier says:

    All awesome suggestions guys! I’ve added most of them. I have a few I’m leaving on the ‘maybe’ pile. Pulse seems like they are fighting against what *might* be the apocalypse. I’ll have to watch it to find out. Apocalypse and the Beauty Queen seems like a particular country is devestated but doesn’t say anything about the whole world. Again I’ll have to watch it. The Screwfly Solution seems to be listed as a part of a TV series. I’ll definitely watch it but this particular list is movies only.

  24. Dusan says:

    There is a nice collection of movies here if you don’t mind the fact that all of them are illegal:
    List of Dystopian Films
    http://www.surrealmoviez.info/forum/viewthread.php?forum_id=26&thread_id=1546
    (you need to register, though, but its free)

  25. Sean says:

    ummmm I think you forgot the granddaddy of all post apocalypse movies.

    Planet of the Apes.

  26. Sean says:

    oh… and sorry, not that Mark Wahlberg one..

  27. Neil says:

    I didn’t see Doomsday on this list. It wasn’t the best but it fits the theme.

    If you’re included animated movies, Titan AE and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within are two more.

  28. Micheal says:

    Why did you only go back to the early 60s? There were several post-apocalypse films in the 50s.

    Also, your description for “last man on earth” belongs under “Omega Man”. Vincent Price starred in the ’64 film. Similar story, but no hot black chick.

  29. Chris Coyier says:

    @Michael – Indeed, I screwed that up. Thanks. If you got some 50’s films for me, drop em down I’d love to add them and watch them.

  30. Tim says:

    ahem ahem

    Things to Come (1938)
    on the beach (1959)
    Onvasion U.S.A. (1952)
    Captive Women (1952)
    The day the world ended (1955)
    Five (1951)
    Terror from the year 5000 (1958)
    world without end (1956)

  31. Tim says:

    Invasion USA that is

    yet another spelling fail!

  32. groundxero says:

    Hardware. Look it up. Great movie.

  33. jo says:

    YOU FORGOT SHAWN OF THE DEAD

  34. Ash says:

    Wow. My girlfriend’s gonna wish I never found this list.

    Good work, guys!

  35. Mike says:

    What about “The Mist”? Would it qualify?

  36. Chris Coyier says:

    The mist really only affected a single town. I haven’t seen it recently enough to remember if it eluded to the fact that little critters were affecting people worldwide or not.

  37. Ferris says:

    “The Noah”, probably the most original post-apocalyptic films (sans zombies) that few have seen since it was never released theatrically but now on DVD.

  38. DesignLovr says:

    Amazing List! I simply love this kind of movies and this is definitely going to be one of my future sources of inspiration!

  39. Film Studies Guy says:

    Um, it seems like many people get dystopian movie themes mixed-up with apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic themes. For example, Bladerunner and Logan’s Run are NOT apocalyptic films. They are dystopian (a totalitarian are fascistic society) as no event such as a nuclear war or plague has afflicted mankind. So, I think you should either change your genre or create a new subgenre to include or exclude films of a dystopian nature.

  40. Chris Coyier says:

    I agreed with you at first about Bladerunner, Film Studies Guy, but the fact is that there is Dust that is killing off the population of Earth, which is why they are on the colonies. That is post-apocalyptic by my standards.

  41. David Judik says:

    I think there is a bug: before the list, there is something, which is belong to Terminator 3.

  42. aWayne says:

    I personally like doomsday, i suppose it only effected a certain part of the plant, so not a total apocalypse. I any event I enjoy it, Its over the top, kinda cheezy and poorly acted… which is alright with me.

    also semi P-A but enjoyable for most who like the genre
    Escape from New York and Escape from LA.

  43. schlantino says:

    “It’s All About Love”
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0273689/
    another great pre-apocalyptic movie, totally underrated maybe because of it’s misleading title.
    Transports the feeling of helplessness without giving answers.
    Starring: Joaquin Phoenix,Claire Danes, Sean Penn (!)

  44. robert thorton says:

    Testament – awesome nuclear war film from the early eighties. Bombs aren’t depicted, just flashes of light and fallout. It mirrors the book ‘Alas Babylon’ in some ways but turns out to be more bleak. Kevin Costner is here before he was a star, and isn’t half bad.

  45. Ty65 says:

    The noha
    radioactive dreams- really out there sex mission- funny The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy- we have all seen it
    Reighn of fire- dragon movie
    La jetee- what made 12 monkeys
    Fantastic Planet- 70 cartoon
    nine- that new cartoon
    Zardoz- Flying head space ship!
    Six string samurai- remake of el topo (art film?)
    Night of the comet- girl zombie movie
    Battel field earth

  46. Ty65 says:

    Galaxy express 999
    dragonhead
    solarbabies
    steel dawn
    blue gender
    cafe flesh (XXX)
    steel fronter
    America 3000
    Origen
    warriors of the wasteland
    damnation alley
    in the valley of the wind
    the last women on earth

  47. Ty65 says:

    2020 Texas Gladiators.  After the Fall of New York
    Battle Queen 2020
    1990 – The Bronx Warriors
    Tank girl

    well I think that’s about all I can come up with but I know there is more I just froget the names of them…

  48. Ty65 says:

    Le Dernier Combat (The Last Combat)

  49. candra says:

    I think personally that the best post apocalyptic movie is by far soylent green.
    think about it the world is going that way and quick we are running all our resources so low that we will begin to mirror that movie.my second fav is if youve never seen it find it. night of the comet.

  50. Ronnie says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Threads

    Threads is a bbc made tv movie, made by the BBC for television in the early 80’s when the cold war stil was going on, like The day After it’s about surviving on a nuked world. For me it is a great piece of work, especialy because the absolut despair and no hope left message in it….

  51. Jack S. says:

    hey guys how about Deathlands Homeward Bound and Last warrior? they were pretty good and mode definitely post apocalyptic

  52. Ewout says:

    “WALL-E” is a post-apocalyptic movie

  53. Me says:

    Right at your door

  54. Pat says:

    Cherry 2000, a Mad Max-esque post-apocalypse movie. Not the best but it’s entertaining and the villain is pretty funny.

    Also, 12 Monkeys, Brad Pitt? That was totally Bruce Willis!

  55. when i am watching action movies, i really love to see bruce willis in it “,*

  56. Dodge City says:

    One of my oldie favorites: Night of the Comet. I loved it when those kids went shopping for clothes with nobody left on earth.

  57. mark says:

    Love your list. I would add testament from the 80’s and the ultimate warrior with yul brynner from 1975