1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Stanley Kubrick’s pitch black satire of mutually assured destruction and precious bodily fluids. Bona fide masterpiece.
2. Time of the Wolf (2003)
Directed by Austrian miserablist Michael Haneke, “Time of the Wolf” is the stark tale of a family trying to survive an unnamed disaster in Europe. Those who are left behind flee to the countryside and do horrible things to one another. So, y’know, great date movie.
3. The Road (2009)
The adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s heart-breaking novel about a father and son attempting to find any trace of hope on a dying planet. If you have daddy issues or are easily depressed by the color gray, you may want to skip.
4. Last Night (1998)
Bitter-sweet comedy about how a group of Canadians spend their last day on Earth, having known for months about an inevitable cosmic event that will destroy the planet. Horror auteur David Cronenberg has a great cameo as the employee of a utility company who personally calls each one of the company’s customers and thanks them for their business before they die.
5. On The Beach (1959)
A star-studded Hollywood production with Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire, “On the Beach” tells the tale of humanity’s only survivors as they await certain death from nuclear fallout. But at least they’re stranded in Australia, which has lots of beaches. “Waltzing Matilda” is played so much in the film, you start to envy the dead.
6. Miracle Mile (1988)
Anthony Edwards plays a poor sap who stumbles across information that a nuclear war has erupted and he only has 70 minutes before a missile hits Los Angeles. He spends those 70 minutes frantically searching for the girl he’s fallen in love with so they can escape the city together. A movie so tense, Anthony Edwards lost all of his hair.
7. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Why pick this particular installment of George Millers post-apocalyptic series to appear on the list? Three part answer: 1. Thunderdome, 2. Tina Turner, 3. Thunderdome, dammit.
8. Reign of Fire (2002)
Christian Bale stars as one of a handful of survivors who haven’t been wiped off the face of England by dragons, awakened from their centuries long slumber by—shit you not—subway construction. Matthew McConaughey co-stars as a frequently shirtless, psychotic American who’s hell bent on killing the dragons with extreme skydiving. His best work since “Dazed and Confused.”
9. Watchmen (2009)
A lot of people hated Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel (for those without pretense, “Alan Moore’s fancy comic book”), but it at least hit the right notes of doomsday dread and giant blue penis.
10. 28 Days Later (2002)
Danny Boyle’s take on the undead apocalypse genre introduced us to zombies who could run faster than the amount of time it took for the second half of the film to get bogged down in heavy-handed parable (long way to go for a cheap slam). The first half of the film, where Cillian Murphy’s character wakes up from a coma into a world of unending nightmare, is masterful.
11. I Am Legend (2007)
You may be asking, “Why include this Will Smith blockbuster bastardization of Richard Matheson’s novel about the only human to survive a vampire holocaust? Why not the 1971 classic starring Charlton Heston, ‘The Omega Man’? It’s the first and the best adaptation of Matheson’s masterwork!” And I may be responding, “First of all, ‘The Omega Man’ is a classic? Second of all, Mr. or Mrs. Cinephile Smarty Pants, 1964s ‘The Last Man On Earth’ is the first adaptation of Matheson’s book and you need to shut up hard.” What were we talking about? Oh yeah, I like the Will Smith version because he’s forced to kill his own dog and I cried a little. Spoiler. Sorry.
12. Planet of the Apes (1968)
Here’s a bone for all you Charlton Heston teeny boppers who felt “The Omega Man” was snubbed. Is it a spoiler to even include this film on the list?
13. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Like “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome,” had to pick one to represent the series. The first of George Romero’s zombocalypse films remains the best.
14. The Day After (1983)
Another Cold War paranoia film, this time focusing on Soviet nukes that fall on Kansas City, Missouri and Lawrence, Kansas. Rock chalk Jayhawk! Notable for launching the career of Steve “The Gutes” Guttenberg.
15. The Rapture (1991)
Complex theological drama starring Mimi Rogers, who plays a libidinous swinger that becomes born again in anticipation of the titular (giggle) end of days. Features David Duchovney and orgies.
16. Children of Men (2006)
The human race is ending thanks to everyone shooting blanks from their baby-making guns. Bleak, beautiful film with some of the coolest cinematography ever devoted to extinction. And Michael Caine is fantastic as a ganja-huffing gramps.
17. Fail-Safe (1964)
“Dr. Strangelove” minus the absurdism, “Fail-Safe” is another ’60s slice of nuclear whoopsy daisy. Thanks to an electronic glitch, a rogue pilot is accidentally given orders to vaporize Moscow. Sound familiar? Henry Fonda stars as the American president who may have to nuke New York in order to prevent global annihilation.
18. The Stand (1994)
M-O-O-N, that spells an above average adaptation of Stephen King’s Armageddon epic.
19. 12 Monkeys (1995)/La Jetée (1962)
“12 Monkeys” is a loose adaptation of the French short film, “La Jetée.” Both are about prisoners from an apocalyptic future who are sent to our time to try and prevent that apocalyptic future from happening in the first. One is in black and white and told with still images. The other has Brad Pitt with a cockeye. Both are very good.
20. A Boy and His Dog (1976)
In a post-apocalyptic future, teenage Don Johnson and his telepathic dog look for women to rape and eat. Yup.
21. The Day of the Triffids (1962)
Humanity is slowly being devoured by sentient asparagus from space. A vegan revenge fantasy.
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