505 voters

The Scariest Fictional Diseases In Movies And TV, Ranked By How Much You Don't Want To Get Them

April 9, 2020 3.2k votes 505 voters 17.5k views14 items

List RulesVote up the fictional afflictions from movies and TV that make your skin crawl.

Viruses and diseases are on a lot of people's minds these days. They've been on the minds of television and movie creators for a long time, though, as the following famous fictional diseases prove. Movies and television shows have repeatedly used contagions of various sorts as part of their stories. Aside from being inherently dramatic, they tap into universal fears of illness and death. In other words, few things hook a viewer more powerfully.

Vote up the fictional diseases in movies and TV shows that you would most want to avoid getting if they were real - which, thankfully, they are not.

  • Photo: ABC

    What Is It? Developed as a biological weapon, Captain Trips is the virus from Stephen King's The Stand, which was adapted into a TV miniseries in 1994. It is unleashed upon the public after an infected soldier working on the base where it's being developed travels to Texas.

    How Contagious Is It? This one is as contagious as a virus can be. It wipes out 99% of the population in the story. There's no escaping it.

    Symptoms? Captain Trips starts off with symptoms resembling a common cold, then develops to more severe levels, including unbearable physical pain and significant delirium.

    Is It Treatable? Nope. Because it was conceived as a biological weapon, the virus was fundamentally designed to evolve. That makes developing a treatment impossible. 

    Is this terrifying?
  • What Is It? The flesh-eating bacteria from Eli Roth's Cabin Fever is a bit of a McGuffin. We don't really learn much about its origins. Instead, it's here solely to set the film's events in motion.

    How Contagious Is It? Because it gets into the water supply, the bacteria is able to spread among people very quickly.

    Symptoms? The symptoms are extremely unpleasant: vomiting blood, having your skin peel off, and eventual passing.

    Is It Treatable? No. The film ends with children selling lemonade made with tainted water, as well as a delivery truck carrying bottles of it driving off into the distance. Clearly, this particular disease is just getting warmed up. 

    Is this terrifying?
  • What Is It? MEV-1, from Steven Soderbergh's 2011 film Contagion, is a paramyxovirus, meaning it affects the respiratory system. It contains DNA from bats and pigs.

    How Contagious Is It? To say it's highly contagious would be an understatement. The movie portrays MEV-1 spreading across the globe rapidly. Because it's airborne, something as simple as a cough or sneeze can cause it to pass from one person to another.

    Symptoms? Those infected with MEV-1 develop severe, potentially fatal respiratory problems and sometimes seizures. They additionally can become very frail.

    Is It Treatable? Yes, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle), a CDC research scientist who uses herself as a guinea pig to test a cure. 

    Is this terrifying?
  • What Is It? Motaba, the virus from the 1995 movie Outbreak starring Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman, is a hemorrhagic virus. The host is a capuchin monkey that someone smuggles into the United States from Africa. It ends up in an animal testing facility, put on the black market, and then is released into the woods.

    How Contagious Is It? Extremely contagious. Motaba evolves to become airborne and blood borne. It has a 100% mortality rate if left untreated.

    Symptoms? The unpleasant symptoms are a fatal fever and both internal and external bleeding.

    Is It Treatable? Eventually, yes. The film's characters develop an antiserum by mixing the monkey's antibodies with a previously developed serum.

    Is this terrifying?