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2015 has seen a number of post-apocalyptic movies being released. Mad Max: Fury Road was a box-office hit while the future of the Terminator series hangs in the balance after Terminator Genisys disappointed fans, critics and general audiences. The adaptation of Robert C. O’Brien’s novel Z for Zachariah is being released in theaters this weekend, a post-apocalyptical story about two men and a woman in the only valley where there is any life. To celebrate, we at Entertainment Fuse look at some of the best post-apocalyptical movies, whether the cause is war, robots, zombies or environmental devastation that leads to humanity’s downfall.
Post-apocalyptic movies are often associated with being set in the near or distant future. Darren Aronofsky took a different approach when he made his controversial Biblical epic, Noah. Set in an ambiguous time, which is either the past or the future, the descendants of Cain have ravaged the land for its resources, turning the world into a barren wasteland. Society has turned nomadic, savage, primitive and desperate. War follows with fallen angels known as The Watchers and humans kill any animal they come across for meat. Led by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) whose band resorts to cannibalism and blood sports to survive. Because of humanity causing such devastation upon his creation, God purges the corrupt force of humanity with a flood, allowing only Noah (Russell Crowe) and his family to live through his punishment; the only people trying to preserve God’s creation.
9. I Am Legend
Richard Matherson’s novel has seen a number of adaptations and the 2007 version spent over a decade in development hell. The likes of Ridley Scott, Guillermo del Toro and Arnold Schwarzenegger were linked to the movie before Will Smith and Francis Lawrence starred in and directed it.
Set years after a pandemic that wiped out 90% of the world’s population, with the remainding 10% turning into zombie-vampire hybrids that feeds on flesh. The only person left in New York City is Robert Neville, an American army officer and virologist (convenient that someone with those skills survived), searching for a cure. The streets are empty with weeds growing from the concrete, zoo animals room free and the Brooklyn Bridge has been destroyed by the American Air Force. As Neville battles against the hordes of zombie-vampires he also has to fight the affects of living in isolation with one of the movie’s best scenes being this haunting and subdued moment.
8. Nausiccä of the Valley of the Wind
From the mind of anime legend Hayao Miyazaki, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was a movie he adapted from his own manga. Set 1000 years after a war known as the Seven Days of Fire, humanity has regressed into a medieval/steampunk society. Nations are warring with each other for habitable land and a desert and toxic jungle known as the Sea of Decay continues to expand and has mutated insects protecting it. Villages and towns are destroyed by the environmental disaster. The Toxic Jungle’s air is as the name suggests, unbreathable for people. With humanity pushed to the brink by the incoming devastation, some people are willing to take desperate measures to stop it, including reviving an old, devastating weapon.
7. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Robots taking over the world is going to be a popular theme in this list and the first movie to achieve this is last year’s prequel/sequel/reboot of the X-Men series. Based on the popular 1981 comic arc by Chris Claremont, X-Men: Day of Future Past is set in the year 2023 where robots known as Sentinels have conquered the world. Programmed to kill or capture all mutants, they gain self-awareness and take over the planet with their human allies. Almost all humans and mutants have been killed or enslaved and the remaining bits of resistance are being hunted down across the world, from New York, to Moscow, to mountains of China. The movie version of the Sentinels have evolved into being bio-mechanical, having been spliced with Mystique’s DNA, they are able to adapt and counter all mutants’ powers, whether it is super-strength, energy blasts, teleportation, etc…. Even powerful mutants like Magneto and Storm succumb to the robot masses. The world’s only hope to ensure the Sentinels do not win is by sending a lone Wolverine back to 1973 to prevent the assassination of the creator of the Sentinels and stop the Mystique’s capture.
You can read our review for the “Rogue Cut” here.
6. 28 Days Later
The 28 Days Later series shows a more localized post-apocalyptical scenario, one that only focuses on and affects Great Britain. After extreme animal rights activists attempt to free experimented chimpanzees from a research lab, they accidently release the rage virus, turning people into red eyed, blood thirsty beings who crave nothing but human flesh. Jim (Cillian Murphy), a bicycle courier awakes from a coma to find that London has been abandoned and finds out that society has collapsed. But it turns out the international community had quarantined the island and monitors the people from afar.
The sequel 28 Weeks Later sees the American military trying to repopulate Britain, starting with a green zone in the center of London. But after a woman who has a dormant version of the Rage Virus makes it into the green zone a new outbreak starts that could spread to the whole world. A group of Americans have to protect the woman’s children because they may be the key to a cure. It was a sequel that was better than it had any right to be.
Often considered to be one of Pixar’s best movies, Wall-E is also one of the studio’s darkest flicks. Set in the year 2805 humanity has abandoned Earth after polluting the planet to the point it is no longer habitable. They live on a space station called The Axiom and due to the low gravity environment people have become morbidly obese and have forgotten about life on Earth.
All that is left on Earth are cities of trash with broken robots that were tasked to clean up the mess. Only one robot survived, Wall-E, continuing his duty to sort and clean up the effects of humanity’s over-consumption. His only company is a cockroach until EVE comes down to Earth, allowing him to hold hands for the first time. Wall-E holds the key to humanity returning to their planet when he finds the first plant in centuries.
4. The Mad Max Series
The Mad Max series came back with a bang when Mad Max: Fury Road was released earlier this year. Since 1981, Mad Max has become the archetype for an action-orientated, exaggerated post-apocalyptic world that influenced movies like Doomsday and Waterworld. After the first movie in the series, the world succumbed to a nuclear war over oil and people are only able to live in the deserts of Australia. Leather-clad gangs roams the landscape, killing and raping people, stealing and harvesting oil and using brutal force to control the land. Mad Max: The Road Warrior showed a world that turned into the dark ages where the largest armed bands conquer the land and in “Beyond Thunderdome” a singer tries to rebuild civilization with Bartertown, using fights to the death as a method of control. “Fury Road” was a slight reimagining of the series as a cult of people suffering from radiation sickness having access to water, irrigated land and an arsenal of vehicles, including a man with a flamethrower guitar. The leader of the cult has a harem of wives he uses for breeding who attempt to escape from his citadel. He sends his whole horde to bring them back with Max forced on for the ride.
3. The Matrix Trilogy
The Matrix was the Wachowskis’ magnum opus, a feat they have failed to replicate, though Cloud Atlas was close. Made as a passion project by the siblings, it turned out to be one of the most revolutionary blockbusters in recent times for its use of CGI, martial arts and complex worldbuilding. Using Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation as well as other philosophical ideas like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as influences, it turns out the world that humanity is living in is a lie and it is really a giant computer programme designed to keep people content. The real world is much a bleaker place with giant squid-like robots conquering the world after a long war. Humanity had blocked the sun in an attempt to defeat the machines by taking away their power source. Instead all the world’s cities are in nothing but ruins and rubble and the few free humans live in an underground city called Zion with the machines coming to invade in the sequels. But it’s not all bad, there are plenty of sweaty raves for clubbers.
2. The Road
Based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy the adaptation of The Road by John Hillcoat and Joe Penhall is one of the grimiest, most depressing post-apocalyptic movies ever. After an event that set the world ablaze all trees and wildlife have been killed and a father and son travel the wilderness that was America, searching for a fabled salvation on the coast. Along their journey they have to scavenge for food and water and have to avoid the gangs that roam the wasteland. Some have turned to cannibalism and round up weaker people as cattle.
As the Man (Viggo Mortenson) protects the Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) in this hostile world his own body and morality deteriorate as he becomes a more ruthless being. His socialization is in decline at the same time as society collapses.
Dishonorable Mention: Battlefield Earth
The 1982 sci-fi novel Battlefield Earth has been considered one of L. Ron Hubbard’s most famous works, a work that is over 1000 pages long and a way for him to promote his Scientology cult. Even at the time of publication it was a criticized for being old-fashioned, having one-dimensional characters and filled with plot-holes. Despite this, John Travolta made it his personal mission to see Battlefield Earth being adapted, acting as a producer and as the movie’s villain. It was a box-office bomb and a critical disaster to a hilarious degree. It won nine Razzies for its trouble, including Worst Picture of the Decade.
Battlefield Earth is set in the year 3000 and Earth has been ruled by an alien race called the Psychlos. Most of humanity has been killed off and the remaining few that live have regressed to a Stone Age society, living in fear of being captured by the Psychlos. The leader of the Psychlos on Earth, Terl (Travolta) who ends up stuck on the planet, decides to study humans, the creatures on the planet they have controlled for a millennia and give one human of them all the knowledge of the Psychlos. What could possibly go wrong?
Battlefield Earth was a movie riddled with plot holes such as the Psychlos’ lack of knowledge of the local wildlife and giving their enemies the weapons to defeat them, the Psychlos making their human slaves to mine for gold, only monitoring them with an aircraft fly pass every few hours . The movie ends with humans defeating the Psychlos with a thousand year old fighter jets and a nuclear bomb that destroys the Psychlos’ home planet. Even its filming style was notorious, looking cheaper than its $73 Million budget suggested and killed the use of Dutch Angles as a legitimate filming technique.
1. The Terminator Series
Topping this list is the most recognizable robo-apocalypse in cinema, is The Terminator series. The series has lasted five movies so far and all have shown the horrific war between man and machine in the year in 2029. Most of mankind has been wiped out after the artificial intelligence network Skynet gained self-awareness and took control of America’s nuclear weapons. The machines are armed with robots with laser cannons, advanced aircraft and tanks that run over human skulls while the human resistance are a ragtag force that are outnumbered and outgunned by their advanced enemy. Humans are rounded up and born in camps, can only eat high protein gruel and have to fight at night. Humanity’s hope comes from their leader John Connor and they are able to defeat Skynet and the Machines, taking down their communication network. But Skynet has time travel as a final weapon, sending terminators back in time to assassinate their foes in the past.