The final instalment of The Hunger Games is released today, and in honour of the genre that it portrays so well, let’s have a look back at the top 10 best post apocalyptic movies of all time.
10. Delicatessen (1991)
The French have got a real knack for really, really dark comedies, and there are few better than Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s 1991 thriller: ‘Delicatessen‘.
Set in a dilapidated apartment building in a dystopian France, the film follows the story of the butcher, who owns a shop on the bottom floor and is the landlord of the entire building, who brutally murders the men he employs to repair the building for meat to sell to the locals.
It’s a genuinely disturbing watch, but it’s also a thrilling and pretty original presentation of a smaller environment in a post-apocalyptic world, rather than looking at the worldwide ramifications of the dystopian society, which is both interesting and, in the case of this film, hilariously weird.
9. Zombieland (2009)
The zombie movie genre is undoubtedly oversaturated at the moment, and most of the stuff is really pretty average, however the 2009 zom-com ‘Zombieland‘ managed to brilliantly buck that trend.
Apart from being a hugely funny comedy with excellent performances from its leads in Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Woody Harrelson, it’s a pretty exciting film to watch, and it manages to do the zombie genre in an interesting and entertaining enough way to make it stand out from the crowd.
It’s a simple premise, about a quartet of survivors from a zombie apocalypse attempting to make it to safety, but there is a consistently uneasy and tense atmosphere to it all, which is impressive given that some of the dramatic zombie movies don’t even manage that, so it’s definitely worth a watch.
8. Mad Max 2 (1981)
Mad Max is the series that invented the modern post-apocalyptic movie genre, and although the original left a little bit to be desired, when Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior came along in 1981, it was a gamechanger.
Years after Max’s adventures soon after the apocalypse in the first movie, Australia has become a desolate wasteland, where outlaws have organised themselves into tribes as they fight over the last remaining resources of gasoline to fuel their encampments and insane cars.
The film features a much more interesting premise to the first film, taking on a much deeper approach to what’s happening in this post-apocalyptic world, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun too, thanks to its stunning action and car chases throughout, and brilliantly convincing creation of atmosphere in this isolated desert world.
7. Dredd (2012)
Whilst the 1990s Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stallone, didn’t last, this modern update of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi, Dredd, is one of the most unexpectedly brilliant films you’ll ever see.
Directed by Alex Garland, who also made Ex Machina, this movie doesn’t go in the direction of most modern action blockbusters. Yes, it’s full of brilliant action, but it’s actually one of the most artistically beautiful films of the 21st Century, and it’s that that really stands out here.
The cinematography mirrors the story, about taking down a brutal drug gang in a huge dilapidated skyscraper, excellently, because it gives off this incredibly bizarre psychedelic atmosphere through its use of super-duper slow-mo, over-saturated bright colours and a very eerie score, and it makes for a massively compelling watch, that’s something different from the blockbusters you’re used to seeing most of the time.
6. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Of all the young adult franchises of the last few years, The Hunger Games is undoubtedly the most impressive, and of all of the films within the series, the second, ‘Catching Fire‘, is easily the best.
Whilst the first movie may have been a more simple action movie that was a rip-off of Battle Royale, Catching Fire really electrified the series into a dark political thriller that was both entertaining, as well as an engrossing presentation of the dystopian society it’s set in.
Still featuring the big action of the first film, but not going as far as some people thought Mockingjay – Part 1 went into the politics of it all, it’s the movie that shows off how brutal this post-apocalyptic world is, and begins to give a really convincing detailing of the ins and outs of the world, regarding why the Hunger Games are held, the relationship between the government and the people, and the outbreak of revolution that puts the series in full swing.
5. Snowpiercer (2013)
Snowpiercer, directed by South Korean Bong Joon-ho, is one of the most underrated movies of all time.
Set on a future Earth which has fallen into an apocalyptic ice age, the story follows the train that travels around the planet, carrying with it the last surviving humans in existence. On board, there is a strict class divide, and the lower classes live in awful conditions, whilst being treated brutally by the train’s guards, before they eventually decide to rise up and make their way to the front of the train to defeat the illusive leader ‘Wilford’.
It’s a wonderfully bizarre movie, full of great fun and thrilling action, but alongside that, it is still a very dark portrayal of class divides in society, and there are some scenes throughout that will make you want to look away. It also manages to keep the stakes small enough, because although this train is the only inhabitable place left on Earth, you still feel like it’s not the be all and and end all if it all goes wrong, giving you a degree of hope rather than despair when you’re supporting the revolutionaries.
4. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
So, Stanley Kubrick’s famous black comedy ‘Dr. Strangelove‘ isn’t actually a ‘post’-apocalyptic movie, seeing as it basically tells the story of a nuclear apocalypse in the present, but it still fits the bill well.
The plot follows a rogue US general who instigates the beginnings of an all-out nuclear war between the US and USSR at the height of the Cold War. What follows is a deeply depressing telling of how much chaos the whole situation could have been, as the two countries’ governments do everything they can to stop the war from breaking out.
The movie is a black comedy, and in that it does provide a lot of laughs, but they’re these brilliantly unnerving laughs that make you feel really uncomfortable as you watch the planet move closer and closer towards death. Throughout, a melancholic military score plays in the background, and matches the overall atmosphere of the film, one of extreme despair in the face of the impending apocalypse that is absolutely thrilling to experience.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The iconic post-apocalyptic series resurfaced with a real bang in Mad Max: Fury Road, taking the story to incredible new levels that thrilled audiences across the globe.
Despite having one of the simplest plots ever written (it’s basically a two-hour long car chase in the desert), Fury Road is an amazingly thrilling film, thanks to stunning performances by Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, a really gritty feel to it all, and most of all, mind-blowing action sequences.
The car chases are full of explosions, fire, crashes, explosions etc., and it ends up being one of the most intense movie experiences you’ve ever had, because it doesn’t let up for one second. The brilliantly directed action is constant throughout, and it makes for a truly thrilling watch like no other.
2. Planet Of The Apes (1968)
An earlier example of a different type of post-apocalypse, the original Planet Of The Apes movie still holds up today as an absolute classic.
It’s the story of an astronaut who crash lands on a distant planet after hundreds of years in cryosleep, only to find it’s a world where humans run scared of their superior beings, apes. The apes have advanced civilisations, whereas the humans are all mute and devolved in comparison, but the astronaut’s arrival on the planet causes complications once he is captured by a group of ‘damn dirty apes’.
The film may not be brilliantly action-packed or consistently exciting, but it has a fantastic air of mystery about it right the way through, as you seek to understand what kind of a world this really is, and what happened that made these apes evolve to a standard where they dominated humans on this planet, something that will easily keep you hooked from start to finish.
1. Children Of Men (2006)
And so, we come to the best post-apocalyptic movie of all time, Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Children Of Men‘.
In 2027, Britain remains the last working country on Earth, following a two decades where all of humanity has become infertile. It follows the story of one man, played by Clive Owen, attempting to survive in this rapidly decaying society, and trying to find a way to bring peace and hope back to the people who are becoming more and more violent and anarchic as the years pass by.
It’s a pretty gritty film, with an overwhelming sense of desperation, particularly come the brutal final act, but it does still tell a hugely compelling story that hopes to bring redemption to the country as Clive Owen attempts to survive and help others. What’s more is that it’s a beautifully shot film, and really convincingly portrays its world as this gritty, dark world where there is barely a flicker of hope, and that imagery makes it even more exciting to experience.