Favorite Apocalyptic SF Movies

Day AfterOver at the USA Today HEA blog, I’m running a second column where I’m asking SF&F authors for their favorite  science fiction or HEAfantasy movies and TV shows. For my post here today, I thought I’d narrow in on some of my favorite End Of The World As We Know It (or EOTWAWKI) movies. I was reading Entertainment Weekly at breakfast and they have an “Ultimate Apocalyst” of 52 movies, which is what started me thinking along this vein.

On the magazine’s list of 52, I’ve seen 37, which I guess tells you how much I do enjoy this subgenre. EW might be missing a few but probably nothing too major. I mean, they’ve omitted the 1955 “Day The World Ended” AND the 1967 TV movie remake, entitled “Year 2889”, both of which I’ve seen. “The Day After” is missing.  They only include one version of “War of the Worlds”, the original in 1955 (sorry Tom Cruise) and they include “The Thing,” which I’m not sure counts because the world doesn’t actually end…

EW includes a lot of big budget flicks, like the Terminators, World War Z and Hunger Games, plus some lower budget classics. I’m not sure I would have included “WALL-E” but seeing it on the list did make me stop and ponder for a moment.

Elsewhere in the magazine they discuss how each era creates EOTWAWKI movies around the particular threat that seems most snowpiererlooming at the time, so the 1950s was all about aliens and the 1960’s had a lot of nuclear wars and currently we’re having ecological/climatological disasters. (I can’t wait to see “Snowpiercer,” which sounds wayyy cool, set on a train that endlessly circles the frozen globe.) Oddly EW left off “Day After Tomorrow” and “Independence Day,” maybe because humans figure out ways to survive. “The Walking Dead” TV series is missing too.

The epic movie I’m waiting for would be about the effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP).  Of course that might be due to my having the power suddenly and mysteriously go out in our area last week! (It did come back on in about two hours.) Maybe EMP wouldn’t be dramatic enough for the movie/TV folks but it sure would be hard to live through if it ever happens!

I don’t have a single favorite – what I watch and rewatch depends on my mood at the time. I occasionally pull out “Testament,” which was a very well done, grim little 1983 film starring Jane Alexander, where “the life of a suburban family is scarred after a nuclear attack” says the Internet Movie Database. That’s putting it mildly! The thing that’s fascinating about this movie is how it starts out like so many others – brave survivors, carrying on as best they can, neighborhood stalwart ham radio operator getting news of the outside for them, they go ahead and let the children perform their school play, everyone’s rationing, pulling together…and then things get worse…and worse…and it’s pretty clear no one is going to survive this.

On_The_Beach_(2000)Which leads me to “On The Beach,” neither version of which is on the EW list. Taken from the excellent, if grim, Nevil Shute novel, Australia is pretty much the last place on Earth anyone is left alive and the radiation is advancing with such mathematical precision that a person can literally count the days he or she has left. So they have the big road race, they open the fishing season early, they break out the blue poison pills…

I think part of the attraction of EOTWAWKI movies and novels is trying to figure out what we would do, what edge or knowledge or advance planning we have that would give us and our loved ones that tiny advantage, enabling us to survive. Because surely we would, right?


Do you have a favorite EOTWAWKI movie?



10 comments on “Favorite Apocalyptic SF Movies

  1. I love reading post-apocalypse books! My favorite post-apocalypse movie would probably be, “The Road,” which is based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel, one of my favorite novels of all time. It’s such a bleak world, and there is so much evil, but this father and son never completely lose hope. They are each other’s worlds, and it’s so sweet and poignant. The book is filled with poetic prose if that’s your thing, lol.

  2. I am not a big post-apocalypse film/book fan, though I love Sci-Fi, but if I have to choose, I would say On the Beach. I read it in middle school (most of it, anyway) and forgot the title, until you mentioned it. I am going to look for a copy today.

    • I LOVED On The Beach, no matter how grim the story was. I thought the TV mini series was *pretty* good. They had more time to explore the events than the older B&W Hollywood movie. I’m glad I spurred a memory for you!

  3. I do love post-apocalyptic shows, books, and movies. And when I checked out the list at EW, I’d actually seen more than I’d expected to have seen from the list. I’m glad you also mentioned Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day. Another that should be added to the list is The Colony. It’s a little more horror, but still about survival after the world has changed. The 100, a new show that I’m addicted to, would fit well into this category as well. Great post, Veronica!!! 🙂

  4. There is a great book by Victoria Sutton on this very subject. She coves what she calls a sub genre bio horror. It is the best read on these types of movies and how likely these things are to actually happen. She lists some great movies, and explains how they could be very accurate in the way they portray a post apocalyptic world. Her site is reelbiohorror.com and the book name is The Things That Keep Us Up At Night. Really great food for thought!

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