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Post-Apocalyptic Movies


As far as movies go, post-apocalyptic movies are probably my favorite types and so I find myself remarkably forgiving of films that have other faults as long as they give me a good dose of Apocalypse! There are a couple of different types of post-apocalyptic movies and I happen to like them all -- so let's take a look at what we're talking about, staring with a few different series of films within the genre.

The Mad Max Movies

Might as well start off with the post-apocalyptic film series -- first up, Mad Max. I love all three of these movies, but The Road Warrior, is by far my favorite. This was the first movie I ever saw Mel Gibson in and it may even be one of the first post-apocalyptic film I've ever seen. I saw it when I was 17. At the time I was reading a lot of Philip K. Dick, but I don't think I was reading much post-apocalyptic stuff, except for maybe Lucifer's Hammer? I dunno. At any rate, this film probably had a strong influence on my love for the genre. Of that, I'm sure.

While some people hate Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, I personally think it is gloriously cheesy fun. Tina Turner is awesome! Also, the scene with Max unloading all of his weaponry is classic and is frequently copied by other movies.

Plans are afoot for a 4th movie, to be called Mad Max: Fury Road. I haven't quite decided how I feel about this yet. It is unlikely that Gibson would be in it (he's getting a bit old to play the part, don't you think?), so I don't have quite the same trepidation about it that I have about the new Indiana Jones movie, but still... do we really need a 4th Mad Max film?

Planet of the Apes

The first Planet of the Apes film, starring Charles Heston, is a classic of the genre, but I think at least a few of the other movies are pretty awesome as well. In fact, the only thing that is not awesome is the remake of The Planet of the Apes, starring Mark Wahlberg. That movie is quite wretched and dull. No, trust me, stick with the original 1968 film.

There are a total of five Planet of the Apes films and the timeline over the course of the five movies is essentially circular due to time travel and the time loops that are triggered. The movies are:

  • Planet of the Apes
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes
  • Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
  • Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Besides the original, my favorites are the third and fourth movies - Escape from the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. In the third movie, the two apes, Cornelius and Zira, travel back in time to the present (1973) and basically set the chain of events that lead to the first film in motion. In the 4th movie, Escape, the ape Caesar, who was born in the 3rd film and protected by a human,emerges as a leader of the apes who are currently used as slave labor by humans and he starts the revolt that will eventually turn Earth into the "Planet of the Apes" (after a nuclear war of course!)

Several years ago, Frontier magazine did an excellent retrospective of the entire series (plus the tv shows) that you can read at Media Circus. It provides a great overview of the entire franchise.

Attack of the Computers!

Yes, your computer really does hate you and has plans to either kill you or use you for its energy supply soon.

The two major franchises that involved apocalypses brought on by articial intelligence are The Terminator franchise and The Matrix franchise. In some ways, they both fit a bit uneasily into the genre. The Terminator franchise can be thought of more as being pre-apocalyptic, since while we get fleeting glances of what life is like after the Rise of the Machines, the bulk of the story across all three films is set before this occurs. Of course, the fourth movie which will star Christian Bale as John Connor, will actually be, finally, post-apocalyptic.

As for The Matrix, is it post-apocalyptic if most humans are unaware that anything has changed? Okay, I guess it truly is. After all, ,most humans are nothing more than battery banks for the machines and the humans who aren't have to live underground because the world above ground is just a wreckage.

I like to think of the Matrix trilogy as a sequel to the Terminator movies. The Matrix is the evolution of the intent of the machines, after they stop fighting with petty annoyances like John Connor. At any rate, both series please me immensely, especially The Terminator, and I can barely stand to wait for the next movie.

Also, check out this fun exploration of the insane number of time loops and coincidences (or lack of them) in the Terminator movies.

The Post-Apocalyptic Vision of Kevin Costner

from The Postman

from The Postman

Waterworld Clip

Okay, so you know how I said at the top of this hub that I tend to be very forgiving of flawed movies in this genre? Well, I might have been talking about Waterworld and The Postman *g*

Honestly, while I think The Postman suffers from some serious flaws, when it comes to Waterworld I don't think Kevin Costner has anything to apologize about it. The movie is somewhat derivative -- call it Mad Max on Water -- but it is still worth watching for its own sake. It is an entertaining movie with a cool premise and Kevin Costner is great in it.

Some of the other performances leave a bit to be desired, but even Dennis Hopper who is frequently way too over the top, is quite watchable in this movie. It's also worth mentioning that this movie looks positively glorious on DVD, just as it did on laserdisc. It's a really good looking movie and it looks amazing in Hi Def, so if you have an HD player, grab it. And if you have Blu Ray, wait for its release :)

Also, if you do end up liking it, I think you'll find it holds up to repeated viewing quite well. I've probably watched it about 20 times over the years.

As for The Postman, guess what? I really enjoy this movie too! It has a couple of major flaws, the main one being that the movie is too long and needed some serious editing to make the pacing a bit tighter. It also could have used some judicious excising of some of the more self-indulgent Costner moments in the movie and I could have done without him casting his own daughter as a teenager that had a crush on him (so icky, Kevin!). But overall, this is a pretty good example of the post-apocalyptic genre and even David Brin, the author of the novel its based upon, was pretty happy with the movie.

The Postman Trailer

Zombies are coming to get you!

from 28 Weeks Later

from 28 Weeks Later

28 Days and Weeks

Okay, there's one major set of films that I'm not going to be talking about simply because I haven't actually sat through them all. To some it may be inexcusable, but somehow I could never get myself even remotely interested in the Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Whatever of the Dead series of films by George Romero. I've seen the first one and it didn't really do it for me.

I have seen the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead and I actually thought that was pretty entertaining, but I think there's a much better movie in this sub-genre of post-apocalyptic films and that movie is 28 DAYS LATER.

28 Days Later is cleary derivative of the book, I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson (and I'll talk about that movie next), but I think it does a great job of being its own thing as well and there's something truly chilling and glorious about watching the main character, Jim, wander around an empty deserted London.

Directed by Danny Boyle, of Trainspotting fame, and starring Cillian Murphy, 28 Days Later is a pretty gripping post-apocalptic treat and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later, is worth a watch as well. I don't think it is quite as good as the first movie, but it is far more downbeat, so if you prefer your post-apocalyptic genre to remain downbeat and disheartening to the very end, you might actually like 28 Weeks Later more. My only real complaint about the sequel is that it feels far less British with the introduction of American cast members (and of course the whole American military angle that goes with it).

I Am Legend concept art

I Am Legend concept art

I Am Legend on Film

I Am Legend

I already mentioned I Am Legend on my hub about post-apocalyptic fiction. The book by Richard Matheson has now been adapted for screen three times. The first movie, The Last Man on Earth, stars Vincent Price as Robert Morgan, who spends his days hunting and killing his neighbors who are now vampires, fortifying his home against their nightly attempts to enter and trying to figure out if he can cure the "disease". Shot in b&w, the movie is quite downbeat and moody and rather affecting.

The second movie based upon I Am Legend is The Omega Man, starring Charleton Heston. While all three film adaptions of Matheson's work depart significantly from the text, The Omega Man definitely features the most differences and is very much a 60s film. Worth watching if you are really a completist, but if not, stick to the Vincent Price and Will Smith versions of the movie. I find The Omega Man just a bit to campy and corny to take seriously.

Of the three movies, I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, is my favorite and while it does make one incredibly significant departure from the book (I will not spoil) which annoys virtually everyone who is a fan, I still think it is a great movie. And it is definitely a great looking movie! New York in its empty barren beauty is a wonder and Will Smith can easily carry a movie like this on his back, which is important because for much of the movie, he's the only person on screen.


The Day After Tomorrow

Okay, when it comes to cheesy post-apocalyptic flicks, The Day After Tomorrow is waaaay cheesier and sillier than either Waterworld or The Postman. It has a few great things going for it though and so its defects are easily forgiveable.

Firstly, it has Jake Gyllenhaal. For many of us, that is probably enough right there. But it also has Dennis Quaid, massive ecological destruction, wolves, and a bunch of people trapped up in the New York Public Library (main branch) trying their best to survive! Did I mention it has wolves? What could be more awesome?!

Also, it has a cargo ship in the middle of a Manhattan street and Dennis Quaid is on a trek across the miles to save his son, Jake Gyllenhaal. Yes, despite the obvious problems, i.e. a stupid script, a ridiculous scientific premise (and zombies are more realistic?) and some really cheesy special effects featuring wolves, The Day After Tomorrow is just about the perfect post-apocalyptic movie. Directed by Roland Emmerich, it features what every Emmerich movie features, truly outstanding special effects (except for those wolves!) delivered with extreme gusto.

So that about wrap's it up

There are hundreds of other movies out there, but I just haven't seen them all. Feel free to name and defend your favorites in the comments.


Stijn on March 15, 2018:

Paul Blart, mall cop is an amazing movie too!

JOC from Syracuse, NY on May 16, 2014:

Day after tomorrow not so much Post-Apocalyptic as the actual event.

Gleddy13 from Salt Lake City, Utah on May 31, 2012:

Couple of good ones not on the list are The Road and Children of Men. Great shows.

joe on November 09, 2011:

the end of the movie A.I is cool too!!!!

Chaarles on October 08, 2011:

The Omega Man is my fave. Awesome movie. Fan site here -


Jess on March 30, 2011:

Children of Men definitely!

Lorelei on March 11, 2011:

Steven King's "The Stand". This, to me, is the most awesome PA movie (mini-series) ever. I am a huge PA fan and this one tops them all.

sara on February 06, 2011:

i was just going to add Threads and Raymond Briggs "When the wind blows." I studied these in uni several years ago and they kicked off my post apocalyptic fascination.

tahon on December 30, 2010:

Was surprised to see one of my off beat favorites mentioned (Salute of the Jugger/Blood fo Heroes).

Two other off the beaten path Apocalyptic reccomendations..

Threads (1985) BBC produced

Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle) (1983) Jean Reno!!! There is not any dialogue, but an excellent film...Luc Besson - Director

It's a very impressive film!

peak18 on December 28, 2010:

try watching 9 its not bad for Animation movie thanks

DAVIE on December 16, 2010:

I'm sorry to say this but The Dawn Of The Dead remake would never have happened without the original and The Dead series...have you at least given it a try? George A Romero pretty much created zombies. Try at least Land Of The Dead, which is a "newish" film, if you perfer watching modern films with "up-to-date" plots, then I URGE you to at least try that film.

Buivolas on December 05, 2010:

BBC Mini series "Survivors 2008-2010". Life after virus who killed 80% humans population. I saw 2 seasons that's 12 series for now and I got to say that's worth watching. One of a best post apocalyptic theme series. Now I waiting third season.

jackavc from Australia on December 02, 2010:

This is a great list of movies. I have just about seen every post apocalyptic film that has every been made. My absolute favourite is SALUTE OF THE JUGGER. It is a fantastic film that stars Rutger Hauer and was made in Australia in 1989. I think it was called Blood of Heroes in the U.S.

Emma (author) from Boston on November 26, 2010:

Yep, Book of Eli totally belongs on the list. Eventually I will add it and some other titles as well.

Both Fallouts are on my post-apocalyptic games hub :)

Brian on November 24, 2010:

I think you should add The Book Of Eli to the list. Its by far my favorite movies. Im looking for more movies like this because i was so thrilled by it. The video game Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas also has a great portrail of post-apocalyptic times.

Eli on November 15, 2010:

-Children of Men

Sure the world hasn't yet ended, but social order has totally decayed in most countries. Not to mention the movie is epic.


Wicked concept, graphics, storyline and... Vampires of course.

-Pandorum (sorta)

It's really a science fiction movie and only falls under the post apocalyptic genre by the most lenient of definitions- but hey, I loved it.

-Sunshine (not really)

I just love this movie... and an apocalypse is also mentioned xD


Decent B movie, I'd recommend for a rainy Tuesday night.


It's a Pixar movie, nuff' said.

Those are the only ones I didn't notice mentioned.

TJ Mooney on September 22, 2010:

Sorry but Omega Man with Charlton Heston is far the best of the movies based on the novel, good sound track as well. I like Vincent Price but Vampires have very little cred & the Italian street scapes that we are supposed to believe is NYC are lame. ahare , as for Will Smith & the multi million $ dodgy cgi pleeese!

Emma (author) from Boston on September 17, 2010:

Thanks for the Recs, folks! At the time I made this list I hadn't seen the Resident Evil movies so wasn't aware they fit the genre --- but yes, they are a definite add! :)

OrlandoC from Glen Ridge on September 16, 2010:

Nice list. I'd offer Zombieland and Tank Girl for some 'lite' end of the world flicks.

Nadav on September 14, 2010:

What about Resident Evil 1,2,3 not the cartoon one and not the new 3D one

Jim on September 05, 2010:

If you have not seen the BBC miniseries, Day of the Triffids, I highly recommend it. (This is not the same as the Hollywood version made in the 60s with Howard Keel and the hokie ending.) The BBC version is much more faithful to the book and VERY engaging.

Emma (author) from Boston on June 14, 2010:

I completely agree, Adrian. In fact, I need to update this list to add Book of Eli. One of my favorite movies in this category.

Adrian on June 14, 2010:

Book of Eli definitely one of my top 5 favorites right now!!

Emma (author) from Boston on May 31, 2010:

MCHl, thanks for the tip! I'll look out for Right at Your Door. I'm always looking for good movies to watch.

MchlMrqz1 on May 31, 2010:

Would be nice for others to talk about the "B" side of the films. There are some real good ones out there and would be nice to hear about all that are worth the time to see.

I really enjoyed "Right at your Door" 2007, worth the time to watch... I usually get the ends of the movies before they come, didn't see this one coming.

dylan on April 05, 2010:

yes this is a very good list but you have missed out some spectacular movies like "a boy and his dog" the "mad max movies 1,2,3"

WhirlpoolOne on February 09, 2010:


You might want to talk about The Road and The Book of Eli since they are recent releases and on the minds of those that like this sort of thing. Though I admit The Road was a hard one to see with its limited release (I haven't seen it myself either).

The Eli movie was good entertainment. It had its flaws as all these sorts of films do, but if you got beyond that it was a fun film to watch...

I also think there are a lot of post-apocalyptic-nuclear war films you could do a sub blog on. The third Terminator movie is an obvious example. Others would be By Dawn's Early Light, starring Powers Booth, Rebecca DeMornay etc. (old but very well done) and The Day After...

I was in Australia last fall and the India Pacific train (transcontinental railway) stops off at Broken Hill. Its a small town where, outside of town two of the Mad Max films were made as well as several other famous Australian movies such as Rabbit Proof Fence and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Broken Hill's local paper had a big front page story on the upcoming Mad Max 4. They are going to again film part of it in the Broken Hill region, starting in August 2010, and it should bring about 10 million dollars into the town and employ about a hundred locals. The entire film is projected to have a budget of around 100 million. Rumors concerning Mel Gibson were commented on by the director. He said they may get him or not, and it hasn't been decided yet...

Machine on December 07, 2009:

I've seen all these movies except Omega man which I am told is based on the Same book as "I am legend". Great movies. Any one read the original "I am legend" book by Richard Matheson ?

The movie is nicer, at least it Ended well

Snake Eyes from Canada on December 01, 2009:

Mad Max is still the best of the genre I think. I also can't wait to see the Book of Eli coming to theaters in early 2010, great hub by the way.

Oxidiz3r from Racine, WI on October 30, 2009:

I read The Road, and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. I highly recommend reading the book because I don't know how much the movie will portray the thoughts and feelings the characters have. I just wish there were more movies that envision a world post-nuclear war.

MikeD on September 20, 2009:

If anyone is interested there is a sweet post-apocalyptic film coming out November 2009 called THE ROAD I watched the trailer it gave me gooebumps, and yes these are my fav types of films as well

jardois from Over the Rainbow on July 21, 2009:

I love I am the legend and 28 days later. Postman was also amazing, much better than Waterworld.

Emma (author) from Boston on June 25, 2009:

Hey Jamie, I am dying to play Fallout 3 (have like 6 games in front of it at the moment LOL). And I would love it if they made that game into a movie

jamie b on June 25, 2009:

Thank's i will have to check some of these films when i get the chance. Ive been completely addicted to Fallout 3 on my xbox 360 and have been looking for a post apocalyptic style film to enjoy :]

scramblingman on June 17, 2009:

My personal favourite is the remake of Dawn of the Dead, before the remake, my favourite was the original. I think I am Legend has some nice set pieces in it and I'm really looking forward to seeing The Road and World War Z when they are released. Nice page.

dunstun from UK on June 08, 2009:

The day after tomorrow has the typical predictable hollywood ending but the actors/actresses and special effects realy save the day.

Cry Havok from Spokane, Washington on June 01, 2009:

Thanks :)

Emma (author) from Boston on May 29, 2009:

Hey Cry, thanks for the rec. I didn't realize there was a remake of Andromeda Strain.I will have to rent it! Also, welcome to Hubpages :)

Cry Havok from Spokane, Washington on May 29, 2009:

I've not seen the original, but the modern miniseries remake of The Andromeda Strain is pretty amazing. I'm not sure it's technically a post-apocalyptic story, but it's on the fringe in more ways then one. It's got a deadly (we'll call it a virus), a bit of quantum mechanics, and a pretty decent plot. It's even got an eco-friendly message. I'd give it three thumbs up if I had an extra arm.

Chris Friend on May 03, 2009:

Don't know if this counts, but what about the excellent monster movie "Cloverfield". This one is truly a post 9/11 disaster movie that I found quite scary. It's alot more then just a monster stomping the city movie

Falagar17 on March 24, 2009:

Nice list!!! I have some other ones for you to consider watching if you haven't already.

Fido, Ultraviolet, Day of the Dead, The Day After(not Day After Tomorrow), A Boy and His Dog, Undead, Wall-E, Equilibrium, She, City of Ember, Hell Comes to Frogtown, A Wind Named Amnesia(anime), Nausicaa(anime), Akira(anime), Deep Impact(more like a partial PA), Knowing(starring Nic Cage), A.I., 12 Monkeys, Resident Evil: Extinction, Fallout 3(its a PA game), Steel Dawn, Pulse trilogy(although I think the first was the best), The Lathe of Heaven, Six-String Samurai, Fahrenheit 451, Soylent Green, Southland Tales, The Stand, Death Race, Death Race 2000, The Quiet Earth, Day of the Triffids, Dark Angel(tv series), Simpsons Treehouse episode "The Homega Man."

These are just some other PA films that I've enjoyed. I haven't seen Day of the Triffids yet though but I hear that it's a PA film.

sean on March 12, 2009:

A Boy and His Dog (1975) if you've played or know about the Fallout game series it's somewhat adapted from this movie. It's pretty vicious at times.

Adam B on July 25, 2008:

I just watched "Tooth & Nail" last night which is a post-appocyliptic movie about a group of people fighting off canibals. I recommend you never watch this piece of garbage. Please don't fall victim to the atrocity that is this movie. I am going to try to block this movie out of my memory like a childhood rape! After I took the DVD out of my DVD player I set it on my table next to my drink. I heard voices and stopped to listen. What I heard was my coaster moching the DVD to it's lack of purpose.

Emma (author) from Boston on May 15, 2008:

Marc, I have nothing against zombies. I love the newer Dawn of the Dead and the Danny Boyle movies. I just never really got overly enthused about the original George Romero movies.

MarcNorris from Canada on April 30, 2008:

I am sorry to hear that Zombie movies don't do it for you - but I love them very much. I can remember after watching the new Dawn of the Dead that I dreamed that I was fighting zombies every night for three months. Needless to say I didn't get much sleep!

Jason Stanley on April 23, 2008:

I have enjoyed many of the movies you mention without really thinking of them as a genre - so now I understand what it is I enjoy. On my list from reading this? Cheesy but fun, the Apes movies you mention as I haven't seen them in years and the postman which I've never seen.

solarshingles from london on April 23, 2008:

My favorite is Mad Max, you've already mentioned. Thanks!