20 Best Apocalyptic Movies Predicting the Future
The world is falling to pieces. Climate change, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, rising crime rates, and the unbelievable cost of living are just some of the contributing factors to the upcoming apocalypse. Ok, that might be a little far-fetched, but if we don’t start looking after the planet soon the end will be closer than we think. Which got us thinking about the best apocalyptic movies you can watch right now.
These movies give a glimpse at what the world might end up like if it continues to go down the toilet. If these movies are to be believed, the world will be a wasteland where humankind fights for survival against each other, or worse, zombies! This list includes a whole cross-section of movies that ranges from 80s classics such as Mad Mad and The Quiet Earth through to zombie epics like 28 Weeks Later and disaster pics such as 2012.
So cross your fingers and hope the world doesn’t end up like it’s portrayed in the best apocalyptic movies that predict the future.
20 Best Apocalyptic Movies Predicting the Future
1. A Quiet Place (2018)
A surprise hit of 2018, A Quiet Place is an alien invasion movie that hits all the right notes. With a budget of just $17 million, this small independent flick directed by The Office’s John Krasinski (who also stars), collected $341 million at the worldwide box office.
Krasinski stars alongside his real wife Emily Blunt as the parents of two kids, one who is deaf, as they travel across America trying to find safety from alien creatures that hunt on sound. The movie is as thrilling as the premise sounds (pun intended) as the family of four tries and fights off these horrid creatures while discovering their weakness.
The movie helped launch a franchise that includes A Quiet Place Part II (arguably as good as the original), another sequel, and an upcoming spin-off movie entitled Day One.
2. WALL-E (2008)
Pixar and Disney swung for the fences when they decided to make the heartwarming animation WALL-E. Set in the 22nd century, the earth as we know it is no more. Having been destroyed by humans and left to rot, the robot WALL-E is tasked with cleaning up the destruction and making the planet hospitable again.
Dealing with themes of climate change, consumerism, corporate greed, and the apocalypse, the movie is also a love story, with WALL-E falling for fellow robot EVE. The first half an hour of the movie is almost in complete silence with no dialogue, but somehow you never feel compelled to look away or press the fast forward button. The character of WALL-E is also tremendous and a great addition to the animated pantheon of Pixar/Disney.
3. Planet of the Apes (1968)
Imagine a post-apocalyptic world where apes have taken control of the world. That’s the premise of the iconic 60s flick Planet of the Apes. Charlton Heaston is an astronaut who crashlands on a planet similar to earth, except apes can talk, walk, and rule the land. Humans are now the ones placed in cages and seen as the lesser species.
Heaston spends the movie making friends with some of the more accepting apes while trying to find a way to escape. The science fiction classic addresses issues of race and class without being preachy and gave us the often misquoted line, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”
The film’s success resulted in four sequels, two television series, a 2001 remake, and a reboot trilogy.
4. Children of Men (2006)
Children of Men seems to pop up often on best of lists about post apocalyptic movies and science fiction films. One of Clive Owen’s best, the Brit stars as a former activist who is charged with escorting a pregnant woman to the Human Project. That might not seem like a big deal, but this is a dystopian future where there hasn’t been a pregnant woman in over 20 years. Hunted by the government and the people who first wanted his help, Owen must overcome the odds and deliver the young girl to safety.
This is a pretty loose telling of the plot, but all you need to know is Children of Men pairs great action set pieces with themes about life, hope, religion, and humanities existence in a movie that also stars Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Huston, and a comical Micahel Caine as a pot selling philosophizer. Absolutely brilliant.
5. World War Z (2013)
Based on Max Brooks’ fantastic novel, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, this is one of the better zombie movies of recent years. When a virus starts turning everyday folk into flesh-eating zombies, former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is tasked with finding out what’s go and if there is a cure.
Lane finds himself traveling all across the world, from America to Israel to Wales as he chases a cure while trying not to get bit. World War Z is heavy on action and violence, something sure to please fans of zombie movies, while also having an emotional component. Some of the set pieces are outlandish, particularly the wall climb in Israel.
David Fincher was set to direct the sequel, but that got officially canned in 2019 after the Chinese government put a ban on any American productions featuring zombies or ghosts.
6. The Quiet Earth (1985)
Loosley based on Craig Harrison’s novel of the same name, The Quiet Earth is an apocalyptic movie from New Zealand about three people who find themselves the only living souls on earth. A love triangle soon develops but it’s the possibility that one of the three knows more about what is really happening that drives this science fiction flick forward.
Although the cast of Bruno Lawrence, Alison Routledge, and Peter Smith aren’t big names, they are all great, while the deep themes about life and death ask more questions than they give answers. The Quiet Earth is also one of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s favorite sci-fi flicks, so you know it has to be pretty good.
7. Reign of Fire (2002)
Long before Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughy won Academy Awards, the duo started in this tale about fire-breathing dragons taking over the world. Set in England in 2020, dragons have been awakened from their slumber beneath the earth and now rule the skies. In an attempt to destroy them, nuclear weapons were used, effectively wiping most humans from the planet. Those that survived live in fear, hiding in castles and trying to stay safe until the dragons go back into hibernation.
Bale is the head of one community whose crops are destroyed by a dragon. Running into McConaughy’s American dragon slaying team, Bale’s assortment of followers teams with McConaughy and his men to take down the local dragon before heading to the dragon stronghold in London to end the species once and for all.
This is stupid fun with two fantastic actors giving it their all in a movie about dragons. What more could you ask for? How about Gerard Butler for some eye candy, great direction from Rob Bowman, and special effects that still look great some two decades later. Dragon movies don’t get much better.
8. War of the Worlds (2005)
Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise team up to tackle the famous radio play, War of the Worlds. And they do an admirable job. Cruise is the bad dad who learns what it really means to take care of your kids when he must escort them across an alien-infested America to their mother’s doorstep.
There really isn’t anything Spielberg can’t do, with War of the Worlds another impressive feather in his directing cap. Cruise and Dakota Fanning are wonderful and the special effects are really good for a movie that’s almost 20 years old. While it might not make Spielberg’s top ten movie list, it’s still a great post-apocalyptic movie worth your time.
9. The Andromeda Strain (1971)
A satellite returns to earth but seems to have brought with it an alien organism, wiping out a small town bar an alcoholic, and a baby. A research team is sent in to discover what’s happening, and as you can imagine, things don’t go well for the scientists.
The Andromeda Strain is a fantastic adaptation of Michael Crichton’s book of the same name that’s part procedural, part action with a little conspiracy theory craziness thrown in for good measure. The cast is great too, while the ending will leave you on edge.
10. Mad Max Quadrilogy
Any of the Mad Max films could end up on a list of the best apocalyptic movies ever released, so we thought we’d include them all in one spot. The 1979 original directed by upstart George Miller stars a young and controversy-free Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky. He’s a member of the Main Force Patrol, one of the last remaining law enforcement agencies in a dystopian Australia where petrol is the highest form of currency. Max finds himself the target of an evil motorbike gang that ends up killing his wife and child, sending him on a mission of revenge.
The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2) finds Max and his V8 Interceptor returning, this time to help out a colony of civilians who are being targeted by a collection of bondage-wearing baddies who want their gas. A bigger success than the first film, a third was inevitable, with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome released in 1985. While it pales in comparison to the previous two flicks, it’s still a worthy addition to the series, with a scene-stealing Tina Turner great as the big bad. It also gave us her mega-hit “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome),” an 80s power ballad classic.
Then you have Mad Max: Fury Road. Coming 30 years after Thunderdome, the action movie replaces Gibson with a grunting Tom Hardy and pitches Charlize Theron’s Furiosa as the star of the show. Another mega-hit, the movie proved there was still gas in the tank of the franchise, with two more Mad Max films currently in production.
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11. The Road (2009)
Another book adaptation, this time by the famed Cormac McCarthy, is the post-apocalyptic thriller The Road. Directed by John Hillcoat, the movie stars Viggo Mortensen as Man who is traveling across what’s left of America with Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), his son. Along the way they encounter cannibals and other undesirables as the story of what happened to Woman (Charlize Theron), Man’s wife and Boy’s mom, is told through flashbacks.
Don’t expect to feel good watching this movie, as the dark side of humanity is revealed. It paints a much more realistic picture of what could happen if the world went to shit, with all the leads putting in great work.
12. The Thing (1982)
Although not set in a post-apocalyptic world, The Thing gives a small glimpse at what could happen if an alien life form is allowed to reach the mainland. John Carpenter’s sci-fi/horror classic stars Kurt Russell as the iconic R. J. MacReady, a helicopter pilot stationed at the American Antarctica scientific research station Outpost 31. When they stumble across an alien life form that has the ability to assimilate anyone it comes in contact with, fear and paranoia grip the team of scientists as they begin to distrust and turn on each other.
A bomb when first released, The Thing is something of a cult classic these days. No film captures paranoia like it, with the special effects by Rob Bottin horrific yet incredible. They are so good they still hold up today and without a lick of CGI. The colorful cast of characters also includes acting great A. Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat, and Keith David in his debut film role.
A word of warning, stay well clear of the 2011 sequel/reboot The Thing. It’s not very good. You’re better off playing the 2002 video game that picks up straight after the movie ends.
13. Take Shelter (2011)
When it comes to underrated actors, Michael Shannon is right up there. In Take Shelter he demonstrates just why he is so good, portraying a man who may or may not be suffering from mental illness. Shannon is a husband and father who begins having a series of apocalyptic visions. Seeking medical help, Shannon still believes the end is near and starts building a shelter to house his family. He does so by taking out a loan without telling his wife, which causes much tension.
As the movie progresses it’s hard to tell whether Shannon is going insane or actually seeing visions of the future, with the ambiguous ending leaving you with more questions than answers. This is another of the best post-apocalyptic movies that will have you thinking about building your own shelter in preparation for the end.
14. This Is the End (2013)
The apocalypse doesn’t have to be a downer. This Is the End is a hilarious look at a group of Hollywood stars trapped in a house after armageddon kicks off. The movie stars James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson as fictionalized versions of themselves trying to survive the end of the world.
This underrated comedy gem will have you laughing non-stop at the ludicrous situations the celebs find themselves in, with Jonah Hill exceptional good. The movie seems like a reason for these Hollywood buddies to hangout together, but it works really well, with the chemistry between the leads great. If you want to laugh about the coming end of days, This Is the End is the movie for you.
15. 12 Monkeys (1995)
Director Terry Gilliam gets weird with this fantastic science fiction thriller starring Bruce Willis as a prisoner sent back in time to learn more about the origins of a flu-like virus that has wiped out most of humanity. At first, he is wrongly sent back to 1990 instead of 1996, where he ends up in a mental institute and meets Brad Pitt, who may be connected to the virus. He eventually makes it to 1996, falls in love with Madeleine Stowe, and must find out who is behind the virus.
At times hard to follow, 12 Monkeys is a wild ride with Willis in top form. Pitt is as equally good as the deranged Jeffrey Goines. Chock full of symbolism and themes about time and technology, 12 Monkeys is one of the better sci-fi movies of the 90s. It also spawned a TV series that ran for four seasons and was well received.
16. Dr Strangelove (1964)
Stanley Kubrick demonstrates his greatness with this black comedy about the Cold War. Dr Strangelove focuses on the growing tensions between America and Russia, with an unhinged United Airforce General launching a nuclear attack against the Soviets. The President and his cronies then have to figure out how to stop the plane crew from carrying out the bombing.
Dr Strangelove has lots so great themes and a tight, witty script that demonstrates the ludicrousness of war. Peter Sellers is at the top of his game, playing three of the leads, while Kubrick, still in his early career as a director, shows why he is considered one of the greats. A must-watch.
17. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The first installment of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (that also includes Hot Fuzz and The World’s End), Shaun of the Dead is a zombie horror comedy from director Edgar Wright. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star as best buddies who find themselves in a zombie apocalypse when the undead take over London. While you might think escaping the city is their best bet, the duo decides to rescue Pegg’s ex-girlfriend and his mother and take refuge in their local pub.
Shaun of the Dead is a hilarious take on the zombie genre with a witty script and a cast of great actors. Inspired by George A. Romero’s classic zombie movies, the movie references many other films and pop culture moments and was a critical and commercial success when released in 2004.
18. 28 Days Later (2002)
Modern zombie movies don’t get much better than this. Riding high from the success of The Beach, Danny Boyle reteamed with writer Alex Garland for this heart-stopping thrill ride. Cillian Murphy wakes up in hospital to discover London deserted, leading to some extraordinary shots of the empty streets of the England capital.
Out of his depth and without a clue of what is happening, Murphy is saved from a zombie attack by Naomie Harris. The two then team with father and daughter duo Brendan Gleeson and Megan Burns and attempt to make it to a military blockade in Manchester. That’s when things really go south and you find out that humans are sometimes just as bad as the zombies.
28 Days Later is a great piece of filmmaking with a so-so sequel, although 28 Weeks Later is still worth checking out.
19. 2012 (2009)
Roland Emmerich loves a disaster flick. The man responsible for blowing up the White House in Independence Day, sending the earth into an eternal winter in The Day After Tomorrow, and destroying much of New York in Godzilla, takes on the end of days in 2012.
The plot revolves around the Mayan prophecy of the world ending in 2012 (obviously that didn’t happen). As earthquakes, volcanoes, and rising sea levels turn the earth into a giant ocean, John Cusack must attempt to save his family and get them onto one of the Arks, manmade ships created especially for this event.
Yeah, it’s far-fetched and the characters paper thin, but you don’t watch an Emmerich film for plot or character development. This movie is all about watching the world being destroyed. As tidal waves flood Los Angeles and volcanos erupt in Yellowstone National Park, it’s an assault on the senses. The special effects are tremendous and will leave you with your mouth agape. Emmerich even manages to destroy the White House one more time.
If you want something with a plot, try Greenland or Twister, but if you’re after big-budget special effects and watching the world get destroyed, this is the movie for you.
The last post apocalyptic movie on this list is another zombie comedy, this time from director Ruben Fleischer. Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson are Columbus and Tallahassee, strangers who team up together in a world overrun by zombies. They live by brute force (Tallahassee) and rules (Columbus) that see them successfully navigate a fallen America.
On their journey to find a zombie-free state, the unlikely duo encounters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin ) and the four decide it’s much better to work together as they strive for a safe haven. There are plenty of laughs to be had with this entertaining movie, although the sequel doesn’t live up to expectations.
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