What would you do if it were your last night on Earth? Well, filmmakers have been exploring that particular philosophical quandary for years with a slew of end-of-the-world movies that run the gamut from darkly hilarious to nightmarishly scary to downright depressing, and sometimes all three at once.
While there are countless movies that deal with life after the apocalypse - and the human race surviving against the odds and eking out an existence while surrounded by zombies or leather-clad raiders - the messages, themes, and questions explored are vastly different when it comes to movies about the literal end of the Earth and the destruction of all life on the planet.
Whether you want to examine the spectrum of how people deal with inevitable tragedy - or how a seed of love can germinate even in the seemingly barren soil of Armageddon - or go for a fun, sci-fi romp through doomsday, there are quite a few surprisingly great movies about the end of everything.
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
Unlike so many films about the complete destruction of the Earth, that prospect in Titan A.E. doesn't serve as a looming threat but rather the backstory that kicks off the plot. In the year 3028 - after humanity has explored the stars and interacted with several alien species - one particularly malicious alien race known as the Drej bombards Earth. A scientist working on something called "Project Titan" puts his young son, Cale, on an evacuation transport ship moments before the entire planet is blown up by an energy device.
Years later, Cale lives (like all humans) as a nomadic refugee on a floating, patchwork spaceship city. He soon discovers, however, that his father secretly left him with a map to the Titan - a spaceship capable of generating a new planet that could serve as a permanent home for the human race. Featuring a stellar cast of voice actors - including Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, Nathan Lane, John Leguizamo, Ron Perlman, and Janeane Garofalo - working with a strong script, Titan A.E. was a criminally overlooked sci-fi epic.
1,266266Solid end-of-the-world flick?
- Actors: Drew Barrymore, Matt Damon, Janeane Garofalo, Ron Perlman, Nathan Lane
- Released: 2000
- Directed by: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, Art Vitello
- Photo: Lionsgate
This horror meta-comedy follows a group of 20-somethings (who also happen to be horror movie archetypes) who go on vacation to the eponymous woodland cabin and end up being hunted by an undead family of redneck cannibals. As it turns out, the friends are unwitting human sacrifices and the cabin itself is a trap, arranged by a secret high-tech organization tasked with finding a different group of sacrifices every few years to appease some slumbering elder gods and keep them from waking up and wiping out the world.
This time, however, a series of mishaps and unexpected events lead to some members of the group discovering the truth and fighting back. When they realize they won't survive either way, they decide to spite the people who wanted to sacrifice them by ruining the ritual and condemning the world. The last image of the movie shows a massive, monstrous hand erupting from the ground and smashing the cabin, thus indicating that the elder gods have woken. This pitch-perfect satire manages to parody all the biggest tropes of the horror genre while still creating a tense, frightening story in its own right. And how often do you see a film where your heroes intentionally cause the apocalypse?
1,466376Solid end-of-the-world flick?
- Actors: Chris Hemsworth, Sigourney Weaver, Amy Acker, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins
- Released: 2012
- Directed by: Drew Goddard
- Photo: Columbia Pictures
Considered to be one of the greatest black comedies ever made, and one of director Stanley Kubrick's most universally acclaimed films, Dr. Strangelove is a dark satire of the Cold War and nuclear brinksmanship. The film tells the story of the insane General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) who orders an unauthorized nuclear strike on the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers, in one of his multiple roles in the film) and the joint chiefs of staff try to stop the strike.
Due to paranoia during times of conflict, general military incompetence, international bickering, questionable allegiances, and general madness, the politicians and military experts struggle to get in touch with the B-52 bomber carrying the payload and - in one of the most famous scenes in film history - the bomb is finally dropped by Major T.J. "King" Kong (Slim Pickens) who rides the nuke through the sky like a bucking bronco, and it initiates a total nuclear holocaust.
The movie ends with a series of shots of mushroom clouds all set to the tune "We'll Meet Again." Like all of cinema's greatest satires, the film is a biting blend of fear, irony, and condemnation, with some timeless quotes and incredibly memorable performances from the stellar ensemble cast.
723165Solid end-of-the-world flick?
- Actors: James Earl Jones, Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens
- Released: 1964
- Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
- Photo: Focus Features
As the title implies, this apocalyptic romantic dramedy belongs to a very specific subgenre that could generally be described as an "idly waiting for your inevitable demise" movie. Scientists discover that a massive asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and will wipe out all life on the planet in a matter of days. A man named Dodge (Steve Carell) befriends his heartbroken neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley), and the pair travel across the country on a road trip to reunite with old friends and find a pilot who can fly Penny back to England to see her family one last time before everyone perishes.
The story is one of love and genuine affection, examining how an emotional bond can grow, even amid ultimate chaos, fear, sadness, and panic. The pair grow close during their semi-surreal road trip and end up falling in love, allowing them to spend their final moments in each other's arms. The movie ultimately feels like a metaphor for the beautiful irrelevance and undeniable necessity of love in the face of the daunting prospect of human mortality. Also, on a less heavy note, Carell and Knightley have a truly delightful chemistry that propels their on-screen bond, even in some of the film's slower, more meandering moments.
777205Solid end-of-the-world flick?
- Actors: Keira Knightley, Steve Carell, Connie Britton, Martin Sheen, Amy Schumer
- Released: 2012
- Directed by: Lorene Scafaria