Why do we watch movies about the end of the world? Is it to feel comfort in the fact that our world is, in fact, not ending? Or do we simply enjoy the excitement and rush of the drama surrounding a potential apocalypse? Whatever the reason, there's no denying that the apocalypse provides some excellent material for movies—knowing that, we've compiled a list of what we think are the 26 best movies about the end of the world.
The 26 Best Movies About the End of the World
1. Children of Men
- Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
- Written by: Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Otsby
- Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam
Not just one of the best movies about the end of the world, but one of the greatest films of the 21st century, Children of Men stars Clive Owen as a man tasked with guarding the last pregnant woman in the world. He is a reluctant savior in a world plagued by war and infertility, Children of Men can be a heavy watch but the acting, direction, and cinematography make it one of the genre's very best.
2. The Road
- Directed by: John Hillcoat
- Written by: Joe Penhall
- Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron
Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, The Road stars Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as an unnamed Father and Son trying to survive after an unspecified apocalyptic event. It's a brutal, harrowing tale that isn't for the faint of heart, but if you can stomach it, it's a must watch.
3. Shaun of the Dead
- Directed by: Edgar Wright
- Written by: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
- Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis
Alright, let's take a break from the super serious stuff and lighten things up.
When it comes to humorous end-of-the-world movies, Shaun of the Dead is among the very best. Set in London at the onset of a zombie invasion, we follow a reluctant hero, Shaun, played by Simon Pegg as he attempts to save his family and friends from death.
4. The World's End
- Directed by: Edgar Wright
- Written by: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
- Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan
The third entry in the "Cornetto Trilogy" series of movies by Edgar Wright, The World's End deals with a group of former friends as they reunite for a pub crawl in their hometown.
They soon discover something is amiss and that the town has been taken over by aliens, leaving them as unexpected saviors of mankind.
5. This Is the End
- Directed by: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
- Written by: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
- Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride
As various celebrities celebrate a party at James Franco's house, the apocalypse unexpectedly begins happening, trapping Franco and his friends at his house. It's one of the funniest movies about the end-of-the-world you'll ever watch, and Rogen confirmed that about 50% of This Is the End was ad-libbed, allowing this crew to showcase their natural talent for comedy.
6. Don’t Look Up
- Directed by: Adam McKay
- Written by: Adam McKay
- Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Rob Morgan
Nominated for Best Picture at the 2022 Oscars, Don't Look Up is Adam McKay's less-than-subtle satire of modern society's reaction to its impending doom. An allegory for climate change, we follow two scientists played by DiCaprio and Lawrence, as they attempt to prepare for the world for a comet that is rapidly approaching Earth.
7. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
- Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
- Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, Peter George
- Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden
A black comedy film that's perhaps most well-known for Slim Pickens riding a nuclear bomb to his doom, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb sees the Cold War suddenly turn hot.
When an unhinged American general orders a nuclear attack on Russia, the President and a variety of government officials attempt to deal with the fallout.
8. 28 Days Later
- Directed by: Danny Boyle
- Written by: Alex Garland
- Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, Brendan Gleeson
A "zombie" apocalypse film that features infected humans that aren't, technically, zombies, 28 Days Later follows Jim, a man who wakes up from a coma in the middle of society's collapse in London.
As Jim and his fellow survivors attempt to get to safety, they are forced to deal with infected and a sadistic general and his soldiers.
9. 28 Weeks Later
- Directed by: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
- Written by: Rowan Joffé, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Enrique López Lavigne, Jesus Olmo
- Starring: Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Idris Elba, Robert Carlyle, Imogen Poots
The sequel to 28 Days Later, the film sees a new group of survivors attempting to deal with life after the Rage virus pandemic has seemingly subsided.
As Britain is quarantined by NATO, those infected with the virus begin dying due to starvation. Unfortunately a new outbreak starts, and chaos ensues as the army, civilians, and others attempt to try to deal with the aftermath.
10. The Day After
- Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
- Written by: Edward Hume
- Starring: Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams, Steve Guttenberg, John Lithgow
A made-for-TV movie might sound like an unexpected entry on this list, but make no mistake, The Day After is one of the best movies about what a nuclear exchange between nations might look like.
Set in and around Kansas City, we see different groups of people attempt to navigate a new world after nuclear weapons impact the area.
- Directed by: Mick Jackson
- Written by: Barry Hines
- Starring: Karen Meagher, Reece Dinsdale
A film that exists in the same vein as The Day After, Threads depicts what happens in a British city following a nuclear attack. Rather than focus on the immediate aftermath of the explosions, Threads looks years into the future, showing just how damaged and dangerous the world has become for the survivors.
12. A Quiet Place
- Directed by: John Krasinski
- Written by: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski
- Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
As the film's tagline says, "If they hear you, they hunt you." Directed by John Krasinski, A Quiet Place follows a family attempting to survive in a world that has been conquered by a species of aliens that has incredibly powerful hearing.
13. 12 Monkeys
- Directed by: Terry Gilliam
- Written by: David and Janet Peoples
- Starring: Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Madeleine Stowe, Christopher Plummer
A time-traveling, mind-numbing sci-fi film, 12 Monkeys, takes place years after a virus has wiped out most of humanity. Scientists task a criminal named James Cole to go back in time and help prevent the release of the virus in exchange for a lessened sentence.
Since it's a time travel movie, things go awry almost immediately, forcing Cole to adapt to his new situation to prevent more chaos.
14. Mad Max: Fury Road
- Directed by: George Miller
- Written by: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
- Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
The fourth entry of the Mad Max franchise sees Tom Hardy take on the role of Max Rockatansky from Mel Gibson and is possibly the best film of the entire series.
In Mad Max: Fury Road, Max allies himself with a rogue general in a mission to save a group of women from a diabolical, malicious warlord.
- Directed by: Michael Bay
- Written by: Jonathan Hensleigh, J.J. Abrams
- Starring: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Billy Bob Thornton
We already know what you're going to say: "The world doesn't end in Armageddon!" Sure, that's true, but the threat of impending doom is there. The plot of Armageddon is fairly straightforward: an asteroid is heading for Earth and will kill everyone on the planet in three weeks.
It's a movie with a great cast and is full of Michael Bay-isms, but if you're in the mood for a great popcorn flick then Armageddon fits the bill.
16. Deep Impact
- Directed by: Mimi Leder
- Written by: Bruce Joel Rubin, Richard D. Zanuck
- Starring: Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Morgan Freeman, Elijah Wood
As an asteroid heads for Earth, a space shuttle crew is sent into orbit to try and destroy it with nuclear bombs. While this may sound exactly like the plot of Armageddon, we assure you that this is a different movie.
Released just two months apart, Deep Impact and Armageddon share similar plots and are also exciting end-of-the-world movies. We suggest not doing a marathon of the two since it might feel as is you're suffering from deja-vu.
17. Take Shelter
- Directed by: Jeff Nichols
- Written by: Jeff Nichols
- Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham
Plagued by nightmares of a coming apocalypse, a farmer begins to slowly lose his grip on reality as he questions whether the danger is real or it's in his head.
The movie is a fantastic psychological thriller led by a powerhouse performance from Michael Shannon. Whether you're a fan of the genre or not, it's worth watching for Shannon's acting alone.
18. Dawn of the Dead
- Directed by: George A. Romero
- Written by: George A. Romero
- Starring: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, Gaylen Ross
While the 2004 Zack Snyder version is a solid zombie film in its own right, nothing beats the original Dawn of the Dead by George A. Romero.
A devastating plague has ravaged the United States that reanimates the recently deceased, turning them into bloodthirsty zombies. A group of people attempt to deal with their new reality and do one thing: Survive.
- Directed by: Christopher Nolan
- Written by: Jonathan and Christopher Nolan
- Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain
One of Christopher Nolan's best, Interstellar, depicts an Earth that is overpopulated and is facing extinction due to famine and climate change. Humanity is forced to look to the stars in order to survive, and NASA sends a team through a wormhole in space that they hope will lead to a new home for our species.
20. I Am Legend
- Directed by: Francis Lawrence
- Written by: Mark Protosevich, Akiva Goldsman
- Starring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok
While the book it adapts is much different than the film, I Am Legend is a solid end-of-the-world thriller that is far from the atrocity many book purists would lead you to believe.
Set in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, Will Smith plays Dr. Robert Neville, who is possibly the last human being alive. As he searches for a cure to the disease that has ravaged humanity, he grapples with the isolation, loneliness, and despair of his daily life.
- Directed by: Lars Von Trier
- Written by: Lars Von Trier
- Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander Skarsgård
As a newly discovered planet hurtles towards Earth on a collision course, a soon-to-be bride, played by Kirsten Dunst, pushes forward with her wedding amidst the chaos.
Directed by Lars Von Trier, who is well-known for the bizarre, Melancholia is a resoundingly dark movie. If you're in the mood to get a little weird with your end-of-the-world movie, Melancholia is right up your alley.
22. The Terminator
- Directed by: James Cameron
- Written by: James Cameron, Gale Ann Hurd
- Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield
By now, we're sure you know the story of The Terminator, but if you don't, here's the breakdown. In the near future, an artificial intelligence called Skynet has declared war on humanity and has driven us to near extinction.
A man named John Connor leads the resistance, so in an effort to prevent his rise, Skynet sends a "Terminator" back in time to kill his mother to prevent John's birth. Played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator has become a pop culture phenomenon and this movie can't be missed.
23. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
- Directed by: James Cameron
- Written by: James Cameron, William Wisher
- Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong
It's not often that a sequel proves to be better than the original, but in the case of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, this proves true. One of the greatest action movies ever made, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as The Terminator, but is the hero in this iteration. Skynet has sent a superior Terminator back in time to kill John Connor, and the Resistance has sent their own to protect him.
- Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
- Written by: Scott Z. Burns
- Starring: Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Jude Law
A movie that felt all too real a few years ago at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Contagion portrayed a world that is suddenly forced to fight a deadly and seemingly unstoppable virus.
Starring an ensemble cast, Contagion is a terrifying look at how quickly society can devolve when leaving your house is deadly, paranoia grows, and there are more questions than answers.
25. The Book of Eli
- Directed by: The Hughes Brothers
- Written by: Gary Whitta
- Starring: Denzel Washington, Mila Kunis, Gary Oldman
Following a nuclear holocaust, a man named Eli wanders the wastelands in a daily struggle to survive. His one mission is to protect a copy of the Bible and get it to a group of people that will keep it safe and help it be reprinted.
The Book of Eli is another great Denzel Washington action movie, and when you put him against the great Gary Oldman, it makes this one a must-see.
26. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
- Directed by: Lorene Scafaria
- Written by: Lorene Scafaria
- Starring: Steve Carrell, Keira Knightley
What would you do if you, and the rest of the world, only had weeks to live? That's the question at the heart of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.
Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley play next-door neighbors who have come to the realization that they may have waster their entire lives. They begin to develop a friendship and as the asteroid that dooms the planet gets closer, that friendship turns into something more.
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