Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Post-Apocalypse Movies

The end of the world is near! Well, maybe not near (we hope), but it’s coming eventually. Hollywood sure seems to think so, anyway. Over the years, directors have made countless sci-fi movies about survivors who scrounge the post-apocalyptic landscape of our planet for survival. This week’s ‘After Earth’ is just the latest example. For today’s Roundtable, we take a look at some of our favorite movies in this genre.

Before we begin, I think a distinction needs to be made between post-apocalyptic movies and standard dystopian future sci-fi movies. In films like ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘Escape from New York’, the world hasn’t ended; it’s just a miserable place to live. In a genuine post-apocalypse movie, some catastrophic event (be it nuclear war, disease, zombies, what have you) has wiped out the majority of human civilization.

Also, the ‘Mad Max’ trilogy is such an obvious standard bearer for this genre that we’ll just acknowledge it as an honorable mention and try to find other examples.

Shannon Nutt

I had to think long and hard about this week’s topic, as I realized that there haven’t been that many great post-apocalyptic movies… at least not many that I’ve found really appealing. It seems like a huge chunk of these just want to copy the ‘Mad Max’ trilogy, which I enjoy for the action, but have never considered to fall in the realm of “great” movies. So, with that said, my choice is a film where we don’t realize (45-year-old spoiler alert!) that we’re on an apocalyptic Earth until the very end. “You maniacs! You blew it up!” That, of course, is the conclusion to 1968’s ‘Planet of the Apes‘, by far the best post-apocalypse movie ever made, not to mention one of the best twist endings in film history.

Bryan Kluger

Now, I know this isn’t the type of post-apocalyptic film that most people will think of, but ‘WALL-E‘ is at the top of my list for this category. The movie takes place on an Earth with no human life – only a small robot and a single plant. The survivors of the planet all live in outer space on giant spaceships, completely unaware of the world that existed many generations ago. Rather than a zombie outbreak or nuclear war, the apocalypse was our own doing, as we trashed our environment to the point of no-return. It’s an amazing film.

Luke Hickman

The best part about post-apocalyptic movies is that the ideas are limitless. They can have monsters, psychos, disasters, zealots, etc. The strange thing about my favorite post-apocalypse film is that I can’t tell you what the root of the cataclysmic disaster was. Even though the Cormac McCarthy novel earned a Pulitzer Prize, John Hillcoat’s film adaptation of the ‘The Road‘ scored mixed reviews. Nonetheless, both are favorites of mine. Like ’28 Days Later’, ‘The Road’ focuses on the human aspect, not the sensational one. As a father/son story, it completely works. It’s an intense thriller filled with survival, starvation and cannibal hillbillies. It’s emotionally charged, well-written and superbly directed.

Brian Hoss

I’m actually torn on ‘The Road‘, as I feels it falls well short of being an effective adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel. Nevertheless, the despair and fatalism present in the movie’s post-apocalyptic world make it likely the most valid counterpoint to the entertaining Wild West-style action of ‘The Road Warrior’, or any number of movies that portray an apocalyptic event as preceding an action extravaganza. The desperate struggle undertaken by the man and his son is not simply touching, but is so discomforting that ‘The Road’ is highly unlikely to be on anyone’s frequently-watched list. Of course, a destroyed and dying Earth should be discomforting, shouldn’t it?

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Let’s be honest: when everything went sour with Hostess last year, that twinge of loss you felt about the death of the Twinkie was completely because of ‘Zombieland‘. Thanks to a rotten fast food cheeseburger, the population of the U.S. post-zombie-apocalypse looks to be somewhere in the single digits. Long live the undead! Just because 99.999999999% of the country are ghoulish, decomposing flesh-eaters doesn’t mean you can’t kick up your feet and have a good time, though. What better way to fritter away what will probably be your last couple days on the planet than by goofing around in a zombie-infested amusement park? If you stumble upon some Twinkies along the way, even better!

What’s not to like? ‘Zombieland’ is sopping with splatter. It’s smarter, more perfectly paced and more deliriously fun than just about every other horror/comedy hybrid ever, and it’s one of the most effective character-driven zombie flicks this side of the original ‘Dawn of the Dead’. Just because everyone and everything you hold dear has had its innards ripped out doesn’t mean you have to be all angsty about it.

Daniel Hirshleifer

While it may not have the cachet of most (or, heck, any) of the other titles on this list, my vote undeniably has to go to ‘Hell Comes to Frogtown‘. In a post-apocalyptic world where most humans are infertile, one man (former pro wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper) has the magic sperm that can impregnate women. He must go deep into the bowels of Frogtown, a haven for misshapen mutants, to rescue a group of fertile girls that the frogs had abducted as sex slaves. ‘Hell Comes to Frogtown’ is every bit as ridiculous as the synopsis suggests, and often more so. Roddy Piper hams it up just right for his role as Sam Hell, and the creature effects are suitably nasty. Released a year before Piper’s starring turn in the cult classic ‘They Live’, ‘Hell Comes To Frogtown’ is every bit as fun.

Josh Zyber

Children of Men‘ straddles the line between the dystopic future and post-apocalypse genres. I could argue that the mysterious ailment that has rendered the entire world’s populace infertile was an apocalyptic, extinction-level event. However, I generally think of its setting as more of a dystopian future.

As such, I’ll go animated with this one. Hayao Miyazaki’s anime classic ‘Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind‘ is set in a far-flung future after an apocalyptic war has wiped out most of mankind. The Earth is overrun by poisonous mutant plants and giant insects. The title character, a princess of one of humanity’s few pockets of civilization, has found a way to live in harmony with the new natural order. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for a warmongering kingdom that hasn’t learned any lessons from the past. The film, which is considered the first Studio Ghibli production, is a little preachy with its environmental message, but is filled with Miyazaki’s fantastical visuals, ideas and themes, and set the template for many of the director’s subsequent works.

What’s your favorite post-apocalypse movie? Tell us in the Comments.


  1. NJScorpio

    First thought that comes to mind might not even be considered a post-apocalyptic movie…’Reign of Fire’. I find it underrated, with a solid cast, great effects, and that just-right post-apocalyptic bleakness.

    Other than that, of course, ‘Road Warrior’ a huge favorite.

  2. Barsoom Bob

    Since Road Warrior is off the table, I’m going to say Book of Eli. It has dark forboding skies, deserted wastelands, despot random societies, some great sword katana and the old couple that has the “shakes” from eating other humans. Definitely post apocalyptic but kind of fun too. Denzel doing the american wasteland version of Zatoichi.

    There also was a lesser movie directed Neil Marshal, not sure, Doomsday that was pretty fun, until an inappropriate third act.

    • NJScorpio

      Doomsday had soooo much potential. I have it on Blu-Ray, and will watch it now and then. It feels clunky, but I love so many little bits of it. The Bently, Sol, Bob Hoskins, the whole castle action scene…fun stuff!

  3. Timcharger

    The Road was so good, that I had to pause the disc to go upstairs and see how my boys were. They were sleeping safe and sound in their beds, of course. It was rental, and of course I had to go buy it. But now that I’ve purchased it, I don’t want to watch it. It’s too good. My Grave of the Fireflies disc has the same effect on me.

    Children of Men is such a well crafted film. It’s a marvel to watch. The long cuts in the action sequences. The visuals of the collected works of art, the empty schools, how the camera pans in the shootouts. What a great film.

  4. While it’s technically a Global post Apocalypse movie if I had to pick one it would be “Escape from New York”. The apocalypse is limited to New York but that movie really did a good job of making me (at least the 14 year old me” believe that New York could get bad enough to be turned into the Countries only Prison.

    With the exception of the gratuitous cannibal scene in Doomsday, that movie is also high on my list for being a pretty clever play on EFNY and also for the hot as hell Rhona Mitra.

  5. Apocalyptic

    Good call on Reign of Fire. I also find it great and watch it again from time to time. Doomsday is a lot of silly fun.

  6. Matt Logan

    I see the humourous A Boy and His Dog hasn’t been mentioned yet and it’s ready for a Blu-ray release in August. However, far from being a fun movie, On The Beach is a most entertaining and depressing film as civilization slowly fades away. Great cast too.

  7. Josh

    In no order Some that haven’t been mentioned

    Dawn of the Dead(original)
    Omega Man
    Last man on Earth
    Logan’s Run
    District 9
    12 Monkeys
    First Half of I am Legend
    Silent Running
    Soylent Green
    On the Beach

    • Metropolis, if you’re referring to the Fritz Lang film, is a dystopian film.

      District 9 also doesn’t fit the bill for post-Apocalyptic either. Alternative history and dystopian, yes, but no apocalypse.

      Soylent Green is dystopian or apocalyptic, but not post-apocalyptic. The food crisis is ongoing in that film, but it hasn’t wiped out humanity.

  8. John Burton

    I’ve always liked “Night of the Comet”. Came out in 1984, and was about a Southern California teen and her sister surviving after Earth passes through a comet’s tail, wiping out the Earth’s population. Fun, because the girl worked in a movie theater like me, so I could relate… sort of. There are zombies, video games and a government cover up!

  9. BPD7

    Book of Eli I love
    I’m with Bryan, Wall-E was a perfect post apocalyptic tale.
    Other suggestions are great as well.

  10. Mike

    Night of the Comet (1984)
    Fist of the north star (animated film- 1986)
    Doomsday (2008)

    These unconventional one’s that come to mind i like.

  11. William Henley

    I am going to play the geek card, and go with Star Trek: First Contact, and, for that matter, Enterprise. Mankind is recovering from the aftermath of World War 3, Cochren invents the first warp vessel which attracts the Vulcans, who then come in and help the Earth recover, while at the same time, holding back their warp program because they feel that they are not ready.

  12. Twonunpackmule

    A Boy and His Dog.

    It pretty much begins with this. My favorite in the whole genre, with only 12 Monkeys and Road Warrior coming close.

  13. Mario

    I’ll jump right in and suggest the heavily censored 80s made for TV “the day after”, although told from the eyes of Kansas, it changed public opinion on nuclear warfare. The other would be When the Wind Blows – great animation and sound track.

  14. Mario

    Oh. Not sure how inl forgot Handsmaid Tale. One of the best scifi films on Christian Fadcism after global catasphtophe post war. Also Children Of Men.

  15. Lord Bowler

    I absolutely love Hell Comes to Frogtown! Great to see it get a mention.

    Other’s that I enjoyed growing up were:
    Damnation Alley
    Night of the Comet.

    As for more current films:
    I enjoyed The Postman

    The Book of Eli was very good, almost an update of The Road Warrior.

  16. EM

    I’ll go with the funky ’70s mindtrip Zardoz. Although it’s mostly set in a small-scale dystopia (which then descends into its own apocalypse), that dystopia is surrounded by a postapocalyptic world which the main character hails from, and the interaction between dystopia and postapocalypse is key to the storyline.

    Postapocalyptic is one of those genres which I find attractive yet have trouble finding especial favorites in. I very much like Bryan’s suggestion of WALL•E, but that world seems less of a postapocalypse than a postexodus. I seem to have better luck with films that depict an apocalypse in progress…perhaps I’m just a tad too optimistic for postapocalypse outright?!?

  17. Beerstalker

    Even though they tend to get a lot of hate, I personally really enjoy both The Postman, and Waterworld, and would probably rank them up there as two of my favorites. I always end up watching them if I end up running across them on the movie channels.

    Not sure if TV shows count, but I also loved Jeremiah, and was upset it didn’t last longer than it did.

    • Josh Zyber

      I read your comment and thought you must have meant Jericho, the show with Skeet Ulrich about a small Kansas town that survives after most of the country is nuked. But now I look it up and see there was indeed a Canadian post-apocalyptic show called Jeremiah with Luke Perry. Huh. Never even heard of that one. Did it air in the U.S.?

      • Beerstalker

        Yes, it aired on Showtime. I have both seasons on DVD, the second season is a pretty crappy 4:3 pan and scan one that was burned to DVD-Rs on demand. It never got a proper release from MGM. However, I just looked and it appears that season two is now available in HD from Amazon Prime and on itunes (not sure if it’s HD there).

        I also remember the show Woops that William is talking about, I really liked it as a kid and usually can’t find anyone else who remembers it. Wasn’t there an episode where a giant tarantula attacks the farm, or was it just the giant turkey?

    • William Henley

      There was a TV show in the early 90s called Woops. 13 episodes were made, only 10 were ever aired. When the show aired in 1992, I loved it – thought it was hilarious. I guess I was in the minority. It was pretty much about six survivors of a nuclear holocaust who all found a single farm house that had survived, and try to come together and recreate the world.


  18. timmy t

    Brian Langenwalter actually hits on a LOT of my faves. A couple more that haven’t been mentioned that I thoroughly I enjoy: The Divide and The Day.