9 Iconic Apocalyptic Movies You Must Watch

Apr 28, 2020 | 12 min read
Hey! I'm Manvinder - BPharm student, certified meme connoisseur, a little too passive, and not very aggressive. Oh yeah, I like to write too.

I’ve always said, the best time to watch an apocalyptic movie is when the atmosphere is just right. Fortunately, while most of us have nothing on our hands but sweet, sweet time, we still have our trusty streaming platforms for entertainment. Unfortunately, now is the best time to watch, uh, apocalyptic movies. Hopefully they can offer some catharsis to get us through such trying times, here are 9 Iconic Apocalyptic Movies You Must Watch. Best enjoyed with a bucket of KFry or your favourite takeaway.

28 Days Later (2002)

9 Iconic Apocalyptic Movies You Must Watch, Niesh Blog: Cillian Murphy in 28 days later (2002)

When 28 Days Later was released, it literally popularised the entire concept of zombies being able to run. It kickstarted the whole zombie craze in 2000’s pop culture, making it our first choice for 9 iconic apocalyptic movies that you must watch. This post-apocalyptic flick stars a young Cillian Murphy (of Peaky Blinders fame) as Jim, a patient who awakens from a coma 28 days after the ‘Rage’ virus has overtaken the world. Indeed, this movie is set only in Britain as opposed to the entire world, but the non-existent London society that opens the film does a fine job of showing us the eventual worldwide battle for survival. The allegorical nature is hard to miss – makes you wonder, really, if humans are just as evil as their monstrous counterparts.

Unfortunately, the movie spawned a sequel (28 Weeks Later) which proved to be somewhat less satisfying to audiences and critics.

🎫 Fun fact: The producers actually managed to close down part of London to make the film.

Children of Men (2006)

9 Iconic Apocalyptic Movies You Must Watch, Niesh Blog: Clive Owen in children of men (2006)

The future looks grim. It’s the year 2027. The world is on the brink of extinction due to mass infertility. No child has been born in 18 years.

Theo (Clive Owen) is a white-collar worker who finds himself fraught with the task of smuggling a refugee woman, who he discovers is pregnant, out of the now barely functioning UK. The original book the movie was based on caused an uproar when it was released in 1992, partly due to this startling premise. Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón’s take is no different: while it was critically acclaimed, it didn’t do so hot at the box office. Children of Men is loaded with unflinching action and one of the most memorable epic tracking shots in film history (over 7 minutes long)!

What initially seems to be a slow-burning thriller emerges to become a powerful and frighteningly realistic social commentary.

🎫 Fun fact: The author of the novel (P.D. James) loved the film so much he made a cameo in the beginning.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

simon pegg and nick frost in shaun of the dead (2004)

If 28 Days Later kickstarted the new wave of zombie popularity, then Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead only helped the virus spread, so to speak. It’s like your standard buddy comedy, only with better music and more razor-sharp British wit.

In this romantic-zombie-comedy (rom-zom-com, if you will), Londoner Shaun (Simon Pegg) gets dumped by his girlfriend and plans to take her back – however, his plans are interrupted when a zombie outbreak occurs. Shaun, along with his deadbeat pal Ed (Nick Frost) must then embark on a mission to protect his family and friends. I won’t say more than this, but the funniest bit has to be the life-or-death music review scene, where Shaun and Ed decide which records should be saved or used to fight off hungry zombies. The movie also features not one, but two Queen songs. ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ is unquestionably the superior record, but ‘You’re My Best Friend’ makes for a wonderful ending track. Shaun of the Dead is the first of three films that make up Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, followed by Hot Fuzz and The World’s End.

🎫 Fun fact: Quentin Tarantino named this as one of the top 20 movies made since 1992.

Zombieland (2009)

9 Iconic Apocalyptic Movies You Must Watch, Niesh Blog: woody harrelson and jesse eisenberg in zombieland (2009)

Welp, it’s the end of the world, so you may as well chow down on a truckload of Twinkies. That’s how it goes in Zombieland — where your town is your name, where you must always beware of the bathroom, and where you must never, ever, doubt double-tapping a zombie when you’ve got one down.

Those are the rules bestowed upon you, faithful watcher, by a paranoid zombie-hunting geek known as Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg). Don’t be fooled though, as much of the movie plays out like a traditional road trip: a mistrusting group of apocalypse survivors join forces, bond with each other along the way, and come to understand what they hope to get out of the less-than-ideal situation. Of course, the occasional zombie horde shows up but they’re more annoyances than actual obstacles at that point.

And out of the plethora of zombie movies, only one stars Bill Murray (as Bill Murray). IMO, he has the greatest line in the film – I’m not going to reveal it, but it’s got something to do with Garfield.

🎫 Fun fact: During filming, Woody Harrelson was arrested for marijuana possession, which delayed shooting for a day.

Contagion (2011)

9 Iconic Apocalyptic Movies You Must Watch, Niesh Blog: jude law in contagion (2011)

Currently, Contagion is the most watched movie on HBO Now, and similarly on other streaming platforms it has shot up to the top of the charts. What’s more is that the movie’s actors have also recently made short video PSAs about preventing the spread of the coronavirus engulfing the world right now.

So it’s no surprise that 2011’s eerily prophetic viral pandemic movie from director Stephen Soderbergh plays out more like a dramatic re-enactment than science fiction. But what makes it so dramatic is that it’s not. ‘MEV-1’ isn’t a virus that wipes out 99% of the world’s population. There’s no bleeding from the eyes, no emotional words before shaky last breaths, no desire to eat brains. It’s also a smart thriller which does a good job of weaving between how diseases spread and the difficulty in finding a cure while giving attention to how malicious theories and authorities can influence how people respond.

As a bonus, the movie illustrates some good health advice: cover your mouth when coughing, don’t touch your face in public, wash your hands often, etc (and most importantly, that homeopathic remedies are a scam). Ring a bell?

🎫 Fun fact: The virus in the film was created by Dr. Ian Lipkin, who based it on the Nipah virus from Malaysia in the late 90s, which spread from pigs to farmers.

A Quiet Place (2018)

john krasinski and noah jupe in a quiet place (2018)

Silence. Shhhh. Not a word. That’s what’s required to survive in this unconventional world, where a family is trying to lead a conventional life. Because if you make a sound above a whisper, that could spell death. A Quiet Place doesn’t waste time on trying to build context. We can see pretty early on that Earth has been taken over by sightless aliens who possess an acute sense of hearing and thick, armoured skin. The family at its centre does well for themselves, communicating in sign language, implementing a coloured-light warning system, building sound-proof rooms and stockpiling enough tools for any end-of-the-world scenario. However, matters become more complicated as the pregnant mother approaches her due date (cause babies are kind of noisy, if you didn’t know).

Yeah, the movie is just as tense as it sounds. The monster looms closer, we hold our breath. The protagonist’s heart beats faster, our hearts beat faster. The suspense makes it a perfect movie to place in my list of 9 iconic apocalyptic movies that you must watch. It’s as much about the family as it is the jump scares. Who needs zombies when you have this?

🎫 Fun fact: The filmmakers purchased 20 tons of corn and hired local farmers to grow it for the film.

I Am Legend (2007)

9 Iconic Apocalyptic Movies You Must Watch, Niesh Blog: will smith and dog in i am legend movie (2007)

If you want to boil it down to simple terms, I Am Legend is sort of like the American version of 28 Days Later. Loosely based on Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel of the same name, the movie centres on virologist Robert Neville (Will Smith), the last survivor in Manhattan, who works to create a cure after a ‘vampire’ plague has infected nearly all of the human race. And by loosely based, I mean they only share the same name. The movie chose to deviate from the book’s truly legendary ending with one of its own (excuse the pun).

It’s for this reason that most people will have a strong opinion on the movie, and Will Smith’s performance (memey as it may be), but there’s no denying how visually impressive the first half of the film is. The Fresh Prince’s one-man-show as a horribly lonely survivor is a career highlight. Mostly it’s just Neville and his dog hopelessly wandering around New York’s empty streets trying to find any sign of human life. It really allows us to feel his isolation – something that should be very familiar to all of us by now.

🎫 Fun fact: Will Smith tried to adopt Abbey, the dog, when filming was finished, but the dog’s trainer didn’t want to give her up.

The World’s End (2013)

9 Iconic Apocalyptic Movies You Must Watch, Niesh Blog: simon pegg nick frost and martin freeman in the worlds end (2013)

The World’s End represents the conclusion to the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. It’s probably the least funny of the three, but then again that’s comparing it to two very entertaining masterpieces. In this movie, a group of five childhood friends, now middle-aged men, reunite to finish an epic pub crawl they failed to complete in high school, after the insistence of good-for-nothing man-child Gary (Simon Pegg). There are touching moments where these five individuals are fleshed out and some poignant discussion on adults hiding their insecurities behind professional success. Seems like a typical nostalgic drama, right?

Nope! Midway through the movie there’s a reveal…which means a complete 180 genre switch. Just as they’re about to call it a day, the gang notices that something feels off about the pubs. Really off. It soon comes to their realisation that they have to grapple with way more than they signed up for – that is, saving mankind from disaster. Because nothing says apocalypse quite like chugging 12 pints of beer over one night.

The trilogy could definitely be a movie marathon and plays perfectly into our 9 iconic apocalyptic movies that you must watch.

🎫 Fun fact: There’s a company that offers to do The Crawl with the pubs that were actually used in the film in Hertfordshire.

Snowpiercer (2013)

9 Iconic Apocalyptic Movies You Must Watch, Niesh Blog: tilda swinton and chris evans in snowpiercer (2013)

This is a rare, genre-busting kind of film. The closest classification would be something along the lines of ‘steampunk apocalypse’, but even that doesn’t do it justice. In 2014, a failed experiment to eradicate global warming turns the planet into a frozen wasteland. It’s now the 2030’s, and the last remnants of humanity live divided on a speeding train powered by a perpetual motion engine, the Snowpiercer. You’ll find Chris Evans as Curtis (the polar opposite of Captain America), a passenger made to lead the persecuted ‘lower caste’ back car in a rebellion to disrupt the class divide and topple an oppressive regime not unlike that of a dictatorship. In simpler terms, he’s been there 15 years too long and he’s mad. As hell.

Snowpiercer is the first English-language film from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (Parasite, The Host). No doubt it’s a dark and violent tale. It tackles issues of class and liberty, and in a way, it reminds us not to take freedom for granted. Because once you board the train, you never really leave.

🎫 Fun fact: The ‘cockroach’ protein block in the film was actually made up of seaweed, sugar, and gelatin. Jamie Bell hated it, but Tilda Swinton liked it.

There you have it, our 9 iconic apocalyptic movies that you must watch. Have any other apocalypse favourites? Let us know what you think down below!