Post-apocalyptic movies are a special sub-genre of sci-fi genre usually mixed with action elements, horror, romance or even comedy genre. They represent the deep-rooted fear that has boggled the human species since the beginning of time — how the world will end. What will happen to us all one day? Are aliens coming? Will we survive?
Many sci-fi movies explore these questions and present various survival theories. The majority of them have one or only a few main characters. The atmosphere is usually grim, bleak, and completely different from life on Earth as we know it. There are paranoia and menace in the air. The survivors of the apocalypse are rarely OK with their new living circumstances and are looking for a cure or a way to win an unwinnable fight against aliens, robots, other survivors, or nature itself.
Although these movies are meant to be mostly entertaining and exciting, as a past-time activity for the whole family, make sure you keep very young children away from TV. They can be educational, sure, but also extremely realistic and frightening. Stay away if you are depressed, too. For others, if you need any help imagining what the world will look like after the end of civilization, or survival tips, you should definitely check these out.
Here is my top 14 choice of post-apocalyptic movies that can teach you a thing or two about the end of the world and prepping for survival, all while keeping you on the edge of your seat.
The Road (2009)
Director: John Hillcoat; Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Kodi Smit-McPhee; IMDb: 7.2
Post-apocalyptic scenario — an unnamed cataclysmic event has in turn caused frequent quakes and other hazards. The Earth is left devastated, bleak, grim, and cold, with no wildlife, only a few survivors. The movie follows a father and his son while they travel to the sea to find safety.
1. Bug out. Don’t stay locked in your home and wait for a miracle? Try to find safety elsewhere. In this movie it is the coast.
2. Avoid other people. Trust no one. Always be on guard and watch out for bad people. Many people resorted to cannibalism. You don’t want to end up as a source of meat. In the movie the father and son could only trust each other.
3. Stock up on food. Food is mostly gone. Plants don’t grow anymore. There will be no animals to hunt. Scavenge empty houses to find whatever useful is left. In the movie, no one was prepared for the apocalypse or the life after that.
4. Have a gun. Use it for defense, but remember to leave a bullet for yourself, as a last resort.
5. Find alternative modes of transportation. Gas will be hard to find or useless since it has a shelf life of only six months. Walking a long way is extremely exhausting, next to impossible if you get sick, like the father in the movie. It is impractical if you want to carry supplies. The father uses a cart to move all their possessions.
6. Stay strong physically — stay healthy. The Man survived the apocalypse, managed to escape the cannibalisms, hunger, cold, desperation, but couldn’t enjoy the freedom long in the end.
7. Stay strong mentally — don’t lose hope. At the beginning of the movie we see that the wife decided to take her own life. She couldn’t continue living in such a different world and couldn’t watch her son growing up in it. Only through extreme perseverance, the father led his son to safety.
I Am Legend (2007)
Director: Francis Lawrence
Stars: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan
Post-apocalyptic scenario — a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into vampire monsters. The movie presents the daily life of a sole survivor, a scientist, while he tries to find a cure for the virus. The plot is set in chillingly empty New York City, which has become an urban jungle. Plants are growing up through cracks in the sidewalk, and there is waist-high grass in Times Square. Brooklyn Bridge is shown as being blown up to quarantine the city.
1. Turn to science to save everybody. Luckily, the movie’s main character is a virologist.
2. Send out daily radio messages to find other survivors.
3. Protect yourself. In the movie, Will Smith carries weapons, has a fierce dog, and a well-prepared defense in front of his home and inside.
4. Bug in. If you are safe and have enough resources. Plan to be home by dark.
5. Buy generators. With modern society all gone, so is electricity. To power everything in your house, you will need gas to run generators.
6. Take good care of your car. It will help you get around the big city and get away from the monsters.
7. Find company. A mannequin will do.
8. Bug out. Go to Vermont. Join the other survivors. Preferably at the beginning of the movie.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Stars: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
Post-apocalyptic scenario — an apocalyptic event (possibly alien invasion) made breathing the outside air a risk. The story follows a young woman who, after a car crash, wakes up chained and locked in an underground bunker with two men. She has no recollection of what happened, so she is suspicious when they claim that they saved her life and that she can’t go outside because of dangerous radiation. This is a textbook survival movie. From a 2020 perspective, it is a textbook lockdown movie. In an interview, the movie’s director, Dan Trachtenberg, explained how he researched real doomsday bunkers extensively and accidentally made the perfect quarantine movie.
1. Be a prepper, even before the apocalypse. Howard is a hard-core prepper. He compares himself to Noah— “Crazy is building the Ark after the flood has already come”. He has the preppers’ mindset, knowledge and skills to survive.
2. Medical skills are useful. Michelle hurt her leg in the car accident, and Howard’s help saved her. Have a few medical books on stand-by, even for little stitching if needed.
3. Choose who you save. People you save may end up being your bunker bodies. You will have to share your resources with them. Think again how it will affect you before you save someone’s life.
4. Have a well-stocked underground bunker. Howard’s bunker is to be admired with separate rooms, a cooking area, a shower, a recreation area, an air filtration system, food to last for years, and more. He even decorated it to feel homier.
5. Prepare your own entertainment like a jukebox, a TV set, a big VHS collection, books, board games and puzzles. When you are stuck and you can’t do anything, what would you do for fun down there? Enjoy the best of bunker life.
6. Wear protective gear. Put on a mask. Michelle wears a protection suit and a face mask outside the bunker.
7. Bug out. Doomsday bunker isn’t necessarily a good solution — depending on your roommates according to this movie. Don’t let the fear of unknown stop you from searching for better solutions.
8. Always Beware. Although Michelle successfully escaped from the bunker, the outside world had more dangers lurking. In a post-apocalyptic scenario, there are a lot of unknown factors, and you can never truly relax.
A Quiet Place (2018)
Director: John Krasinski
Stars: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds
Post-apocalyptic scenario — a deadly alien species has invaded Earth. A family is trying to survive blind alien monsters by staying silent. If they can hear you, they hunt you.
1. Protect the family. Director and starring actor John Krasinski said this movie is all about parenthood. As a new parent, he was terrified whether or not he was a good father. “Who are we if we can’t protect our children?” asks Mom from the movie. As a proof of parental love, the father in the movie sacrifices his own life so that his children can live. In a post-apocalyptic scenario, you are forced out of your home, living on the road, in constant danger, but a family makes it all worthwhile and gives life a meaning.
2. Home is where the family is. The movie shows that you don’t need much to be happy. The family settles on an abandoned farm and makes the most of it.
3. Adapt to survive. If the only way to survive is staying silent, well then… In the movie, all family members use sign language to communicate, walk barefoot to reduce noise, they adapt their home to be noise-free and safe, etc.
4. Life will go on. The family’s newborn baby gives hope for the survival of mankind.
5. Have weapons. The mother successfully shoots an alien with a shotgun.
6. Research. Find a way to fight back. In the end, it turned out that sound was their biggest weakness and the secret weapon against aliens.
Director: Joseph Kosinsk
Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough
Post-apocalyptic scenario — an alien invasion and a nuclear war made Earth uninhabitable. Moon was destroyed, which lead to earthquakes and tsunamis, and eventually to all the people evacuated to Saturn’s moon — Titan.
Year is 2077. Tom Cruise’s character, Jack, is a technician in charge of drone repair meant to protect the automated defense system. A ton of plot twists follow with no shortage of special effects.
1. Use technology for survival. Humans survived only because they relocated to Titan and found a way to sustain life there. We see how resources can be harvested and defense systems improved.
2. Humans can survive anywhere. After the loss of Earth, humans relocated successfully to Titan.
3. Make the most out of a bad situation. Jack lives in a penthouse apartment with his communication officer, eating candlelit dinners and swimming in a glass-bottomed pool.
4. Follow your instincts. Jack refused to ride out his last few weeks on the job without making waves. He disobeyed rules, protocols and orders to find answers.
5. Work on your skill-set. Be fit. Jack is a successful survivor because he can fly an airplane, ride a motorcycle, climb a rope, and is handy, attractive and intelligent. Or, wait! Am I talking about Tom Cruise now?
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Stars: Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Dennis Hopper
Post-apocalyptic scenario — global warming — the polar ice caps melted and flooded Earth. A lone mutant mariner helps a woman and a girl find dry land.
1. Adapt. When Earth became WaterWorld, everybody started living on boats or bigger rafts and floating cities. They had to change their diet to fish-based. With little land (dirt), potted plants have become luxurious.
2. Adapt. Humans adapted to living on water by mutating — bodies changed to adapt to swimming and fishing.
3. Avoid people. To survive, most people became aggressive, ruthless, immoral liars, thieves and killers.
4. Learn how to swim. In the new world filled with water, everybody lives on some sort of boat. But, in case you fall overboard, just saying…
The Book of Eli (2010)
Directors: The Hughes Brothers
Stars: Denzel Washington, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson
Post-apocalyptic scenario — a nuclear aftermath. A lone wolf walks across America to deliver a rare book to the West coast.
1. Carry both firearms and low-tech weapons. Eli had a machete and a handgun for self-defense.
2. Stick to back roads. Eli stayed hidden, avoiding the open road.
3. Barter for what you need.
4. Kill bad people, or they will kill you.
5. Your faith can sustain you and help guide your actions.
6. Do for others more than you do for yourself. Help others, don’t be isolated or selfish.
The Postman (1997)
Director: Kevin Costner
Stars: Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Larenz Tate
Post-apocalyptic scenario — in 2013 a nuclear war has devastated the Earth. Technology has been erased. The world is now a desert. A drifter poses as a postman, bringing mail and hope to survivors. Thanks to his presence, people begin to believe that the U.S. government has been restored.
1. Form groups. People who live together and form societies have better odds of survival and become more optimistic about their future.
2. Establish previous services. Government-in-exile (post-in-exile) brings people hope about the future. Restoring services helps connect scattered communities and fight against cruel militia domination.
3. Establish a reputation. The Postman lied about his identity, so the survivors would take him in.
4. Have weapons. It is hard to deal with people who have guns.
5. Teach survival skills. Other people may need them too.
6. Avoid travel. Avoid survivors who have become outlaws terrorizing everything in sight, extorting tribute and recruiting new soldiers by force.
7. Go back to basics. If there is no more civilization, live like a Prepper, off-the-grid.
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson
Post-apocalyptic scenario — the zombie apocalypse happened after mad cow disease mutation. The remaining survivors could die any minute.
1. Be prepared. It is good to have a set of basic survival rules — or 33 of them — you will live longer.
2. Be fit. In a post-apocalypse world, you will have to run away from all kinds of danger constantly, so better do it successfully. The first is, after all, Cardio.
3. Be careful who you trust. Stay away from people. People will trick you, take your stuff, and leave you stranded.
4. Don’t scare people if you don’t want to get shot.
5. It is good to remember “Rule 32” when you can.
6. Bug out. There is always a danger-free zone where you can be headed.
The Matrix (1999)
Directors: The Wachowskis
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
Post-apocalyptic scenario — a dystopian future — machines have taken over the world, humans are trapped inside a simulated reality and used as energy source.
1. Free your mind. Our abilities are not set in stone. Limiting beliefs keep you from evolving.
2. Take the red pill. Learn the truth about reality. Don’t be constrained by your past life.
3. Know Kung Fu. Learning a new survival skill can take only a few seconds.
4. Learn how to code. Neo is a computer hacker leading a rebellion against the machines.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins
Post-apocalyptic scenario — alien invasion. Earth is invaded by aliens who want to harvest humans.
1. Importance of prepping — having basic gear and supplies on hand. Everybody in the movie is completely unprepared for the crisis, mentally and physically.
2. Prepare for an EMP.
3. Get a BOB. Stock up on food and water.
4. Bug out. Escape the city. Crowds are dangerous and can get you killed.
5. Don’t lose your weapon – you may need it for the crazy guy.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Director: Edgar Wright
Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield
Post-apocalyptic scenario — a zombie apocalypse. A zombie apocalypse is one ordinary man’s opportunity to save everybody, prove them he is not a loser and win back his ex-girlfriend.
1. Make the most out of a bad day/situation. Don’t let the zombie apocalypse stop you! Embrace it, become everyone’s hero and win the girl of your dreams.
2. Don’t put yourself first. Rescue your loved ones. In the movie, Shaun and his friend decide to fight the zombies against all odds.
3. Bug out. Shaun plans to hide in a local pub until the outbreak is over.
4. Choose your allies wisely. Find someone to rely on. Shaun has his friend watching his back.
5. Use any weapons. Shaun successfully kills zombies with a rifle, a shovel, a cricket bat, a golf club and, of course, a vinyl LP.
6. Survive. When chaos happens, focus on just staying alive. In the end, the Army will come and save everybody. Civilization returns to normal.
Director: Andrew Stanton
Stars: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin
Post-apocalyptic scenario — it is the 29th century. Mankind abandoned Earth because it became covered with trash and uninhabitable. Interestingly, Pixar studied Chernobyl to create the ruined world. People live on giant star ships now. In this heart-warming animated movie, Wall-E is a garbage-collecting robot left on Earth to clean up the mess. We follow his daily routine, to the point when he falls in love, and more.
1. Stop consumerism. All of our stuff will be the end of us – literally. Recycle, reuse, and donate.
2. Care about the environment. There is only one Earth.
3. Don’t over-use technology. Humans on the space ship Axiom are ridiculed for overly relying on robots’ help for everything. Human evolution was stopped, even set back.
4. Humans and robots can co-exist. Build a society where you rely on robots’ help to grow food, fish, build and prosper.
5. You can find love anywhere. Don’t let a bad (smelly) situation stop you.
Warm Bodies (2013)
Director: Jonathan Levine
Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich
Post-apocalyptic scenario — a zombie apocalypse. An unusually alive zombie saves a human girl from a zombie attack, falls in love, and changes ensue…
1. Don’t go outside the city walls without protection. If you do not have basic defensive skills, you should not be allowed to scavenge for supplies alone, without protection.
2. Love is all around. It can happen in the strangest circumstances between the most unlikely characters.
3. Falling in love makes you more human. If a zombie can start feeling things and fall in love, so can you.
4. Zombies and humans can co-exist. After all, zombies were once humans.
Honorable mentions include:
Planet of the Apes
28 Days Later
Invasion of the Triffids
Conclusion — Before 2020
For many people movies are an escapism method for dealing with everyday troubles. If your day was a disaster, turn on the TV and watch The Road, for example. Somehow, your life doesn’t look so bad. You have a roof over your head, dinner on the table and nice neighbors who aren’t trying to kill you. Sun is shining, birds are singing, nature is full of colors. Everything is great again. My ordinary life has never looked better. Thank you very much, post-apocalyptic movies, for making us appreciate what we’ve got — the simple things.
Conclusion — After 2020
Watch as many sci-fi movies as you can! The darker and gloomier, the better!
You never know what’s coming! Who knows what 2021 will look like?
Everybody should seriously start prepping for post-apocalyptic survival right away!
Am I panicking now? You can bet your life on it!
What a difference a year makes…
Related posts about Prepping are: Six SHTF That You Should Be Aware Of And Prepare For, A Brief Guide To Prepping, Seven Best Places In The U.S. To Live Off The Grid For Free