Five Great Apocalypse Movies: Because we all know it’s right around the corner…

Posted on 24 March 2009 by ShepRamsey

Y’know, there’s a wealth of great movies about the end of the world out there. There are some about how it ends, some about what happens after it ends, and some about the monkeys that take over waaaay after it ends. With Knowing in theaters right now, giving us another interpretation of these events, it’s got me thinking: what are some of the best apocalypse movies out there? The way I figure, we’re headed towards oblivion pretty soon anyway, and, like all things in life, I plan on looking at Hollywood to tell me what to expect. Now, I looove me some Mad Max (especially Beyond Thunderdome– it killed me leaving that off this list) as well as some Planet of the Apes and 28 Days Later and all the hits. But seeing as we don’t have much time left on Earth, I thought I’d enlighten you with a few less obvious choices. Enjoy.

5. Prince of Darkness (1987, dir: John Carpenter)prince_of_darkness

Okay, so maybe this one isn’t exactly “great,” but it does have some really great stuff in it. At first glance it doesn’t exactly look, sound, or feel like an apocalypse movie, but given that some of its absolute eeriest moments deal directly with “the end” and it is after all the second film in Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and followed by In the Mouth of Madness–both better films, really) it seemed an appropriate choice to include on this list. The story involves a large vessel inside of a church that holds a mysterious green liquid that’s essentially the chemical makeup of Satan himself. Pretty soon it starts to possess people in its presence in an attempt to merge with its “Father” and bring about the end of the world. As I said, it’s not really a great movie, there’s a lot of dopey dialogue and comic relief and general eighties cheesiness, but the concept is fascinating and there are more than a few moments, most notably an apocalyptic dream sequence towards the end, that are monstrously creepy.

4. Southland Tales (2007, dir: Richard Kelly)southland-tales-cartel

His name…is Jericho Cane. According to Richard Kelly, the writer-director of the cult favorite Donnie Darko, this is the way the world ends. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a Republican actor with amnesia dating a porn star (Sarah Michelle Gellar) with a talk show and a hit song called “Teen Horniness is Not a Crime.” Seann William Scott is two twin brother cops, Cheri Oteri heads a terrorist group, Jon Lovitz is a crooked cop, Wallace Shawn (you’ll know who he is when you hear him) is the inventor of Fluid Karma, and Justin Timberlake is a drug dealer who has fantasy musical sequences in which he sings along with The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done,” while pouring beer on himself. This movie is a complete trip from the word go: a freaky social satire of bizarre comedy and the most perplexing of plot intricacies cloaked in Biblical themes that culminates in the end of the world. The movie was panned universally by critics who claimed that it was a big bloated nonsensical mess, but I swear there’s something here. It may take some extra attention and a few extra viewings, but if you’re up for some truly wild and shockingly ambitious filmmaking, then you’re in for a treat.

3. The Birds (1963, dir: Alfred Hitchcock)birds

Hey, if ominous bird attacks for “no reason” aren’t a sign of worse things to come, then I don’t know what is. One of Hitchcock’s most famous films is this remarkable little thriller in which a small bayside town is victimized by fierce bird attacks. All shapes, all sizes, all over the place. It contains one of the creepiest sequences of Hitchcock’s career where we listen to the children singing (that really annoying damn song) from just outside the school as we continually look over to see more and more crows gathering on the jungle gym, preparing for attack. Personally, I would have voted to not take the children outside to get them away from the birds, but I guess that wouldn’t have been very proactive, now, would it? I have distinct childhood memories of being scared shitless by this movie. And no wonder! One look back at this movie and it seems quite clear that it’s all one gigantic “the end is nigh” kinda film. The birds know it. Maybe they’re trying to kill us all off. Might take ‘em a while. Who knows? Maybe they weren’t evil? Maybe they’re just trying to warn us.

2. The Time Machine (1960, dir: George Pal)time-machine

This is one of my favorite science fiction films of all time and I never considered it to be an apocalyptic film until I sat down to write this article. It really is, though. Maybe it just has something to do with the fact that I grew up watching this movie, but whenever I conjure up an image of what the world might look and act like after mankind has destroyed itself in nuclear holocaust, the peaceful primitivity that I see is none other than that of the damn Eloi, the race of Earthlings millions of years into the future in HG Wells’s original story and in the subsequent film adaptations. I look at books on my own shelves and then I hear a polite young Eloi saying “Books? Yes, we have books.” And then Rod Taylor (also star of The Birds, ironically) makes a grab for my books and they crumble in his hands. And then the sirens go off and the Eloi walk towards their certain doom to be feasted upon by the Morlocks! Nevermind that terrible terrible remake from a few years ago–this one’s creepy, thought-provoking, and its Oscar-winning 1960 photographic effects and the simple but scary Morlock makeup (and glowing eyes!) is ten times more effective than almost anything that we see done with today’s technology. I love every second of this one and I kinda want to watch it right now.

1. Children of Men (2006, dir: Alfonso Cuaron)children_of_men_3

As far as apocalyptic films go, this has one of the most interesting jumping-off points. It’s been over eighteen years since a baby has been born and mankind is on its way to becoming extinct. The film takes an interesting perspective, looking at a world where we all know that our end is right around the corner and we’re powerless to do anything but sit and wait for it to come. And then comes a beacon of hope, the first pregnant woman in eighteen years, who must be protected at all costs for she may very well hold the key to humanity’s salvation. It’s a terrifying dystopian view of the world, but some of it feels disturbingly plausible. It always makes me shudder to see that the most advanced piece of technology on display in this future-set film is a damn video game. This is some of the most genuinely gripping and challenging filmmaking of the decade. The shame of it is that it’s sitting around in a $5 bin at Wal-Mart right now. It’s so much better than that. But this, of course, means that you can afford to go buy it and see just what I’m talking about. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.

So that’s it, folks. Maybe you learned something today. As for me, I’m tired and cranky and I want to go to bed. I’ll see you later.                           

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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Evan Says:

    I’ve always been a fan of A Boy and His Dog, mostly because it ends with one of the greatest puns in all of cinema. I’ll have to check out Prince of Darkness and Southland Tales, though. They look… interesting.

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  3. Jamie Panama Says:

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  4. jomamma Says:

    southland tales is the shit,though most dummies cant follow it,and children of men is great too. but the rest of your list sucked ass!!!! you must not be as cool as me =)

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