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Top 10 Post-Apocalyptic Movies To See Before The World Ends

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey

In these films, the end of the world is yesterday’s news. For this list, we're looking at the best flicks set after global disasters. We’re including animated movies, but excluding anime, which deserves a list of its very own. Our list includes “Children of Men” (2006), “Snowpiercer” (2013), “WALL-E” (2008), “Dawn of the Dead” (1978), “The Road” (2009), and more! Join WatchMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Post-Apocalyptic Movies.

Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Post+Apocalyptic+Movies. Special thanks to our user erick palacios for suggesting this idea!


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Script written by Nicholas Roffey

Top 10 Post-Apocalyptic Movies

In these films, the end of the world is yesterday’s news. Welcome to, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Post-Apocalyptic Movies.

For this list, we're looking at the best flicks set after global disaster. We’re including animated movies, but excluding anime, which really deserve its very own list.

#10: “Snowpiercer” (2013)

Like a runaway train, this South Korean-Czech adaptation of a French graphic novel seemed to come out of nowhere, becoming a smash with critics. In an all-too-plausible future, humans geoengineer a solution to climate change that instead freezes our home into an inhospitable Earthsicle. The last survivors live on in a train circumnavigating the globe. Featuring standout performances from Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, it was inventive, it was thrilling, and even if it didn’t always make complete sense, the most farfetched elements were part of a compelling political parable about class struggle and revolution.

#9: “Dawn of the Dead” (1978)

Another day . . . another apocalypse. George A. Romero’s classic zombie horror film “Night of the Living Dead” spawned a horde of sequels, but none so definitive as “Dawn of the Dead.” The zombie outbreak from the first film has torn apart social and political order, leading four survivors to seek refuge in an abandoned shopping mall. The result is a clever, gleeful combination of gruesome gore and social satire taking aim at materialism and consumer culture. Often imitated, but seldom eclipsed, the film’s exploration of what people would do in a world without rules set the stage for countless post-apocalyptic movies to come, and inspired a pretty decent remake.

#8: “The Road” (2009)

Abandon all hope, ye who enter the world of “The Road.” Bleak and all-too-believable, John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is faithful and uncompromising. A father and son traverse the ash-choked, desolate landscape of post-apocalyptic America, dodging cannibals and scrounging for food. It’s a bare-boned, horrifically convincing take on human nature and life after disaster, all the more memorable for a harrowing realism hammered home by strong performances from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee. You might only be able to bring yourself to watch it once, but it’s an emotional tale and a crowning moment in the genre.

#7: “Stalker” (1979)

In a dystopian future, the enigmatic “Zone” offers a tantalizing promise: inside is a Room that grants wishes. Based on Boris and Arkady Strugatsky’s novel “Roadside Picnic,” Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky’s masterpiece is a philosophical and visually-arresting journey into the heart of our innermost fears and desires. It’s also a meditation on our fascination with apocalyptic narratives, with the surreal and dreamlike “Zone” representing the possibilities and even hope inherent in chaos, as well as the twisted landscape of the human mind. Elusive and inspired, “Stalker” is an unforgettable film set in a world both uncanny and familiar.

#6: “WALL-E” (2008)

“WALL-E” offers something rare in post-apocalyptic movies: hope! Pixar’s delightful tale about a robot in love begins on a ruined Earth before following the adorable trashbot onto the starliner Axiom, where humans live pampered lives of carefree excess. Like “Dawn of the Dead,” “WALL-E” is another satire of consumerism - but without people eating each other. It’s up to WALL-E and love interest EVE to inspire humans to greater aspirations. A worthy winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, “WALL-E” managed to be thoughtful and heartwarming at the same time, a pretty rare feat . . . especially for a movie about global catastrophe.

#5: “Children of Men” (2006)

In 2027, the world looks much the same. At least, on the surface. And that may be where Alfonso Cuarón’s Academy Award nominated adaptation of P. D. James’ novel derives much of its impact; even in a society close to collapse, it’s all too easy to recognize ourselves in “Children of Men.” As human infertility sews global chaos, and anti-immigration sentiment sweeps the United Kingdom, a reluctant hero, played with gripping intensity by Clive Owen, must protect a pregnant refugee from the political machinations of revolutionaries and the authorities. Gritty and suspenseful, the sci-fi thriller portrays a world ending not with a bang, but a whimper; slowly unravelling in the face of crisis.

#4: “12 Monkeys” (1995)

We can’t change the past, but we might be able to save the future in Terry Gilliam’s neo-noir sci-fi thriller “12 Monkeys.” In the future, a lethal virus has returned the planet’s surface to the animals, while humans hide underground. Prisoner James Cole is sent back in time to collect information to develop a vaccine. Inspired by French featurette “La Jetée,” “12 Monkeys” similarly explores themes of memory, time, and perception. Its convoluted plot is carried confidently forward by a talented cast, in particular Brad Pitt as mental patient Jeffrey Goines.

#3: “The Matrix” (1999)

“The Matrix” was a seminal sci-fi film both for its special effects and post-apocalyptic premise. Sure, robots had risen up in other movies, but the Wachowskis’ Academy Award winning modern classic combined AI takeover and environmental disaster with provocative philosophical ideas about reality and illusion, and the nature of human desire and suffering. On the way, it also managed to be damn good fun - with iconic, stylistic action sequences and a climactic finale that left audiences begging for more. A touchstone of the genre, “The Matrix” was a science fiction mind-bender of the best kind.

#2: “Planet of the Apes” (1968)

Before movies chronicled their Rise, Dawn, or War, we beheld their Planet. When American astronauts crash land, they discover a world in which apes are the advanced species, and humans the animals, hunted down, and kept in captivity. Based on Pierre Boulle’s novel “La Planète des Singes,” Franklin J. Schaffner’s ambitious adaptation deftly blends adventure, science fiction, and social commentary with a memorable performance from Charlton Heston at its core. Inspiring sequels and reboots galore, it’s a trailblazing tale that continues to influence the way we imagine life after civilization.

Before we reveal the identity of our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:

“Delicatessen” (1991)

“On the Beach” (1959)

“28 Days Later” (2002)

#1: “Mad Max 2” (1981)

Mad Max has come a long way since his 1979 debut. While the acclaimed original established the iconic character, it was the sequel that fully realized Mad Max’s dog-eat-dog, dustbowl world, and set the tone for the future of the franchise. In a barren, post-apocalyptic Australia, loner Max Rockatansky must defend a ragtag band of survivors - including the lethal but adorable Feral Kid. It’s an excuse for some fantastic car chases, but also delivers an emotional punch. While subsequent installments might be bigger, faster, and more visually spectacular, with “Fury Road” worth a mention, “The Road Warrior” remains the definitive “Mad Max.

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