1. Entertainment
Send to a Friend via Email

Top 10 End of the World Movies

10 Films on the Destruction of Our World

By

Hollywood loves a happy ending but every now and then it also enjoys seeing the complete and utter destruction of the planet and life as we know it. Here are 10 scenarios for how the world might end. The films are listed chronologically so you can see how the fears of each decade influenced how filmmakers saw the end of days. Spoiler alert: Everyone dies.

1. 'When Worlds Collide' (1951)

When Worlds Collide
© Paramount Pictures
Tagline: Planets destroy earth!
Method of destruction: Asteroid

One reason Hollywood loves an apocalypse is that it can show off its state of the art effects. When Worlds Collide (based on the 1933 novel by Philip Gordon Wylie and Edwin Balmer) was shot in Technicolor and won the 1951 Academy Award for special effects. In the 1950s science fiction blossomed, and science was often the cause of both fear and the means of solving a problem. Here Earth is about to be destroyed by an approaching asteroid. Science has identified the threat but can only save a small number of people in an "ark" that can shuttle them to another planet to start life anew.
Compare Prices

2. 'On the Beach' (1959)

On the Beach
© MGM
Tagline: [none]
Method of destruction: Nuclear war

Big name stars (Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins) and a socially conscious director (Stanley Kramer) signaled Hollywood's seriousness in tackling the nuclear question. That's why no snappy tagline adorns the somber posters. The film is set in the future after World War III. Nuclear fallout is moving south and bringing radiation poisoning. Down in Australia, the government has issued suicide pills so that people can end their lives quickly. Kramer plays out the story to its stark, logical conclusion, and delivers a stern warning about the dangers of nuclear war.
Compare Prices

3. 'Fail Safe' (1964)

Fail Safe
© Sony Pictures
Tagline: It will have you sitting on the brink of eternity!
Method of destruction: Nuclear war

Similar in tone to On the Beach, Fail Safe took its cue from public fears about the dangers of a nuclear war. Set during the height of the Cold War, a U.S. bomber is accidentally given orders to drop a thermonuclear bomb on Moscow. The U.S. is unable to recall the bomber and the Soviet Union is suspicious of U.S. warnings of what is about to happen. The film ends on a startling note with freeze frames of normal life just before a bomb hits. Fail Safe is not as absolute in its annihilation of the planet as On the Beach, but it's relentlessly bleak.
Compare Prices

4. 'Dr. Strangelove' (1964)

Dr Strangelove
© Sony Pictures
Tagline: A hotline suspense comedy
Method of destruction: Nuclear war

Stanley Kubrick's satiric gem essentially tells the same story as Fail Safe, but spins it as an absurdist comedy. Peter Sellers takes on three roles including that of the American president and an insane former Nazi scientist. George C. Scott is outstanding as General Turgidson, who can casually discuss how many millions of casualties is an acceptable number. But it's Slim Pickens yahoo'ing cowboy that literally rides the bomb to his and the world's destruction. Although it is only one bomb, it will trigger the Soviet's doomsday device that's set to go off if they are ever attacked. The world dies to the lovely strains of "We'll Meet Again" sung by Vera Lynn.
Compare Prices

5. 'The Last Man on Earth' (1964)

The Last Man on Earth
© Legend Films
Tagline: Do you dare to imagine what it would be like to be...the last man on earth...or the last woman?
Method of destruction: Virus

This is the best and bleakest of the film adaptations of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. (The others being Omega Man and the Will Smith I Am Legend.) Vincent Price plays the last human on earth and the film shows how he gets by each day dealing with the "infected" creatures, but he cannot live forever.
Compare Prices

6. 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' (1978)

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers
© MGM
Tagline: "Watch out! They get you while you're sleeping!"
Method of destruction: Alien invasion

Another multiple version film. The first Invasion of the Body Snatchers was in 1956. The premise was that aliens were using pods that would grow into human clones in order to replace the human population with emotionless alien duplicates. But the 1956 film and the 1993 Abel Ferrara version left us with some sense of hope that humanity would survive. Only Philip Kaufman's version from the paranoid '70s ended with the feeling that humans were doomed.
Compare Prices

7. 'The Quiet Earth' (1985)

The Quiet Earth
© Anchor Bay
Tagline: "The creations of our minds should be a blessing not a curse to mankind." Albert Einstein
Method of destruction: Dying or exploding sun

This contemplative New Zealand sci-fi film is loosely based on the 1981 novel by Craig Harrison. It begins with a man who wakes up to find he's the last man on earth...well, almost. But time is short for the few survivors and the cause of the world's destruction is only alluded to as something having to do with the sun. This low-key, well-crafted film suggests the planet may go out with a whimper rather than a bang.
Compare Prices

8. 'Miracle Mile' (1988)

Miracle Mile
© MGM
Tagline: You just found out that you have 24 hours to live. What are YOU going to do?
Method of destruction: Nuclear war

Nuclear war raises its ugly head again in the '80s with this indie film starring Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham. Edwards plays a man who accidentally receives a call informing him that nuclear war is about to break out. He doesn't know if it's real or a joke, and if it's real what to do so as not to cause panic. But panic and chaos are inevitable. The film plays off of the "For want of a nail..." notion that something small and seemingly inconsequential might lead to something much bigger.
Compare Prices

9. 'The Rapture' (1991)

The Rapture
© New Line Home Video
Tagline: Rapture (rap'chur) 1. ecstatic joy or delight. 2. a state of extreme sexual ecstasy. 3. the feeling of being transported to another sphere of existence. 4. the experience of being spirited away to Heaven just before the Apocalypse.
Method of destruction: Religious apocalypse

A swinging single (Mimi Rogers) becomes convinced the Rapture is coming and becomes a born-again Christian. But she grows disillusioned and angry with God after a violent and senseless incident in her life. When the Rapture does indeed come, Rogers' character decides she'd rather remain in purgatory than accept God.
Compare Prices

10. 'Last Night' (1998)

Last Night
© Lionsgate
Tagline: Party like there is no tomorrow...because there isn't!
Method of destruction: Dying or exploding sun

This quietly effective Canadian film is vague about the exact cause of annihilation and is free of any special effects. It looks to how a few individuals cope with their final six hours on Earth. An intimate and very human-scaled exploration into something unimaginable.

And One Bonus Pick: 'Pulse' 2001
Tagline: Do you want to meet a ghost?
Method of destruction: Ghostly invasion

This odd Japanese thriller offers perhaps the strangest annihilation of the planet: ghosts. Supernatural spirits from another dimension are wiping out humanity. Avoid the American remake but check out this effectively creepy, deliberately vague and ominous film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
Compare Prices

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.