Terminator and John Connor
(Tri-State Pictures)

The 7 Best Apocalyptic Movies of All Time, Ranked

So The Last of Us put you in a mood now did it?

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I mean, Pedro Pascal is in it, so I’m sure it put you in the mood for a lot of things if ya know what I mean hehewinkwinknudgenudge.

But take some bleach and Windex to your dirty mind because I’m not talking about THAT kind of mood. I’m talking about an existential mood. The feeling that we’re all doomed. The seas are rising. The planet is choked in garbage. And we might randomly get wiped out from a Gamma Ray Burst from a star going supernova! It could happen!

And apocalypse movies were made to help us mentally prepare for the inevitable. Death. Destruction. The decay of all things. The great sucking mouth of cosmos that devours all and shall someday leave the universe a cold and barren place. Entropy. Void. Naught.

On that chipper note, let’s dive right in!

7. The Day After Tomorrow

frozen NYC the day after tomorrow
(20th Century Fox)

The Day after Tomorrow is all about climate change. What’s that? It’s kinda like if the Earth went through puberty, but instead of getting all hot and bothered like most teenagers, it started pretending to be cool, also like most teenagers. And in the process of the Earth “playing it cool” it actually triggers a global ice age! And we all die! Listen, this movie is dope just for the groundbreaking visual effects alone. It’s a four-course visual feast. Wanna see New York City smothered in a blizzard? Look no further.

6. The Road

Viggo in the Road
(Dimension Films)

The road is inspired by a traumatize-and-make-you-cry novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy. It’s about a father (played by Viggo Mortensen, the daddy of the ’00s) and his son who trek across a slowly dying planet. They never explain why the Earth is dying, it just is. And people aren’t taking it well. Killers and cannibals roam the countryside, as nearly all plants and animals on the planet have died as well. It’s a bleak watch, but astonishingly beautiful for its themes of love and perseverance in the face of annihilation. It also contains one of the best ending shots in a film I have ever seen. It’s a rare and beautiful moment of hope and joy in a film that is dark as the ass-crack of space.

5. 28 Days Later

cillian murphy in 28 days later
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

The ultimate British zombie horror film. This film took the zombie genre to new heights by creating the ultra-speedy “runner zombies” that cause me far more nightmares than the shambling hordes of the dead from movies past. They are far more deadly, and you can become infected by coming in contact with a single drop of their tainted blood. This movie follows hottie mcthottie Cillian Murphy through a devastated England as he tries to escape the infected hordes. The film is important due to its unflinching portrayal of total social breakdown in times of crisis. I won’t give anything away, but the people that are tasked with saving humanity might not actually be the good guys!

4. Children of Men

children of men mother and child
(universal pictures)

This movie is set in the near future, when humanity is on the brink of extinction. The reason? No one is able to have babies. Because of this, society has fallen to pieces as humanity contemplates its slow decline. However, there’s hope! One man is tasked with escorting the last pregnant woman on Earth to safety. The film is known for its staggering cinematography (including one of the greatest one-take shots ever filmed) and its mature themes and use of complex visual symbolism. In short, it’s an auteur piece in the apocalypse genre. It’s also exceedingly violent. Be warned.

3. Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead zombies
(universal pictures)

The OG. The classic. The beginning of it all. Dawn of the Dead is the spiritual successor to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. He was the first man to put zombie films on the map. If Night of the Living Dead is his invention of the genre, this film is his perfecting of it. It follows a group of shoppers who are trapped in a mall during the zombie apocalypse. It’s got plenty of horror and humor for your average viewer, but its commentary on consumerism and social decay makes it an unforgettable watch for the nerdy film intellectuals.

2. Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Terminator and John Connor
(Tri-State Pictures)

Talk about perfecting a genre, this film was truly ahead of its time. While the original Terminator is a classic, this film solidified itself as a pop-culture masterpiece through its groundbreaking special effects. Set in the future where an evil AI called Skynet has launched a nuclear war against society, the film follows John Connor and a reprogrammed Terminator from the first film. The relationship between the two gives the film its full emotional weight. Who doesn’t get a little misty-eyed at the end?

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Chaos and cars from Mad Max
(Warner Bros.)

This movie is the greatest apocalypse thriller of all time. No notes. Set in a desert wasteland, this film follows a group of survivors in their attempt to escape the grasp of a tyrannical warlord. It has some of the greatest action sequences of all time. I’m talking car chases on crack. People are jumping from vehicle to vehicle throwing explosive spears at each other while a man strapped to a truck plays a wicked heavy metal guitar solo. You can’t make this shit up. And best of all, there is hardly any CGI in the film. Most of the stunts you see are REAL. The film is also a standout for its overarching theme of female empowerment. After all, it’s the women of the film who are primarily responsible for the warlord’s defeat and the liberation of the world.

So there you have it. If you watch one of these a week on Sunday nights you can pretend like you’re watching The Last of Us again! Maybe it’ll even tide you over before season two comes along. Maybe, but I doubt it. After all, the only thing that gives us meaning in this bleak world these days is the shining face of one Pedro Pascal.

(Featured image Tri-State Pictures)

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Image of Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.