The End of the World - on the Screen

2012 - and to those that believed the Mayan prophecy, this was our last year. Here is a visual celebration of the end of the world... in the movies.

2012 movie poster
2012 movie poster
When Worlds Collide
When Worlds Collide


A rogue star is on a collision course with Earth in the George Pal classic When Worlds Collide (1951). Before it hits, earthquakes and tidal waves engulf the earth. A huge rocket is built which blasts off and takes a select few to an Earth-like planet which has followed the rogue star into our Solar System.

Dr. Strangelove
Dr. Strangelove

Slim Pickens riding the bomb to armageddon in the ultimate in black comedies - Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) directed by Stanley Kubrick. A mad general (Sterling Hayden) sends his bomber squadron to nuke Russia and only he holds the recall codes. Starring Peter Sellers and George C. Scott.

Fail Safe - poster
Fail Safe - poster



A technical malfunction has sent a squadron of American bombers to nuke Moscow. They have crossed the point where they cannot be recalled and prepare to drop their bombs. The US President is on the hotline to the Russian premier telling him it was an accident and to destroy the bombers before they reach their destination. All but one is destroyed. The President has a terrible decision to make to avoid a nuclear holocaust. Fail-Safe (1964) was directed by Sidney Lumet and stars Henry Fonda, Dan O'Herlihy and Walter Matthau and based on the novel by Eugine Burdick and Harvey Wheeler.

On the Beach
On the Beach
On the Beach - poster
On the Beach - poster



An atomic war has obliterated most of mankind and only a few have survived in the southern hemisphere. Death is slowly approaching as winds blow nuclear fallout towards Australia in Stanley Kramer's On the Beach (1959), starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire, based on the novel by Nevil Shute.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Post-apocalyptic Mutants worship the Doomsday Bomb in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). At the climax apes battle mutants, Charlton "it's a madhouse!" Heston, fed up with it all (and hoping they don't make any more sequels), sets off the doomsday bomb, incinerating the planet.

The Last Man on Earth
The Last Man on Earth




Vincent Price stars as The Last Man on Earth (1964) in the first movie adaptation of Richard Matheson's hugely influential novel I Am Legend. Price is the survivor of a global pandemic which has turned the infected into zombie-like vampires.

A Boy and his Dog
A Boy and his Dog

Based on a novella by Harlan Ellison, A Boy and his Dog (1975) and starring Don 'Miami Vice' Johnson as Vic, a survivor of a nuclear war who scavenges for food with his telepathic dog Blood. The boy isn't above a dose of necrophilia if the need arises and cannibalism too. The ending is a shocker.

The Omega Man
The Omega Man




Charlton "Damn you all to hell!" Heston takes over as Last Man on Earth in The Omega Man (1971) the 2nd adaptation of Richard Matheson's I am Legend. Here it's germ warfare which wipes out most of mankind leaving Dr. Robert Neville as the only one immune and the possible saviour of mankind. Meanwhile he has to deal with scarred albino mutant crazies who don't seem to like him very much.

Zardoz
Zardoz
Zardoz
Zardoz


Post-Apocalyptic Earth in the year 2293 and the Eternals rule mankind, their warrior class the Exterminators worship the giant flying stone head Zardoz (see above). Zardoz preaches: "The gun is good. The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was, but the gun shoots death, and purifies the Earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth ... and kill!"

Sean Connery, wearing what looks like a red nappy (see right), stars as Zed in John Boorman's Zardoz (1974).

The Road Warrior
The Road Warrior

A man and his dog. Mel Gibson stars as Max Rockatansky in Mad Max 2 aka The Road Warrior (1981). Max scavenges for food and petrol in post-apocalyptic Australia. The best of the three Mad Max films directed by George Miller and one of the best sci-fi action movies of modern cinema.

Tank Girl
Tank Girl


Also trying to survive in Post-Apocalyptic Australia is Tank Girl (1995) based on a comic book and starring Lori Petty as Rebecca Buck also known as Tank Girl, her friend Jet Girl is played by Naomi Watts (see picture right, girl standing).

This time it's a collision with a comet which turns Earth into a barren wasteland. Tank Girl teams up with mutated kangaroo people to defeat the baddies headed by Malcolm McDowell.

12 Monkeys
12 Monkeys
12 Monkeys
12 Monkeys



Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt star in 12 Monkeys (1995) directed by Terry Giliam. The year is 2035 and a lethal virus has destroyed most of mankind, only 1% of the population has survived and lives underground. Bruce Willis is sent back in time to locate a pure source of the virus before it mutates so that scientists can study it. The virus is thought to have been released by a terrorist group calling themselves "The Army of the 12 Monkeys".

Waterworld
Waterworld
Waterworld
Waterworld




Kevin Costner as the Mariner in what was and still is one of the most expensive films ever made, Waterworld (1995) directed by Kevin Reynolds. Hundreds of years in the future and the polar ice caps have melted, the continents are submerged under water. Dennis Hopper and Jeanne Tripplehorn co-star.

The Postman
The Postman




Kevin Costner again, this time directing as well as starring in The Postman (1997) based on a novel by David Brin. Nuclear war has devastated the planet and Costner wanders the wasteland delivering letters to surviving communities. Will Patton and Olivia Williams co-star. The film is three hours long and cost $80m, few people went to see it.

The Matrix
The Matrix
The Matrix
The Matrix

Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson aka Neo in The Matrix (1999) directed by Andy and Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski. The future and mankind has lost the battle with sentient robot machines. The Earth has been devasted by war and machines use people as batteries to power their cities, their minds imprisoned in an alternate reality known as the Matrix. Neo is awakened into the real world by taking the red pill offered to him by Morpheus played by Laurence Fishburne. Also starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving.

Terminator Salvation
Terminator Salvation

The year is 2018 and John Connor (Christian Bale) leads a resistance attack on Skynet in Terminator Salvation (2009), directed by McG and the 4th Terminator film. A nuclear holocaust has destroyed most of mankind in it's war with the machine in the event known as Judgment Day. The first two Terminator movies were written and directed by James Cameron.

I Am Legend - poster
I Am Legend - poster




A man and his dog (again). Will Smith as Dr. Robert Neville in the third adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel, I Am Legend. A genetically designed virus meant as a cure for cancer mutates into a lethal strain of bacteria which wipes out 90% of the Earth's population. There are a few immune to the disease, Neville is one of them, he works on a cure for the surviving infected who have mutated into cannibalistic creatures known as Darkseekers.

Reign of Fire
Reign of Fire

2020 and the Earth is devastated by dragons which had been hibernating for millenia deep underground. Here Christian Bale is up against what might be the last male dragon on Earth in Reign of Fire (2002) directed by Rob Bowman and also starring Matthew McConaughey.

Knowing
Knowing
Knowing
Knowing




In the surprise climax to this strange Nicolas Cage film about predicted disasters, extraterrestrials abduct children from around the world just as the Earth is incinerated by a massive solar flare. The children are taken away to repopulate a distant Earthlike planet. Well the title didn't help much, Knowing was directed by Alex 'Dark City' Proyas and also stars Rose Byrne.

The Book of Eli
The Book of Eli

Denzel Washington wanders a barren wasteland 30 years after a nuclear war. He carries a very special book with him, a book that bad guy Carnegie (Gary Oldman) wants very badly. Anyone guess what book it is? There is a surprise ending you won't see coming (and thats a clue). The Book of Eli was directed by the Hughes Brothers and also stars Mila Kunis.

The Road
The Road




A man and his boy. The Road (2009) is based on the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy and was directed by John Hillcoat. It stars Viggo Mortensen as a man struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world with his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). What destroyed the world isn't specified, there are only remnants of mankind left and some have turned to cannibalism. Also starring Charlize Theron and Robert Duvall.

2012
2012
2012 - poster
2012 - poster

The Earth's core is heating up causing worldwide devastation from earthquakes and enormous tsunami's in Roland Emmerich's disaster epic 2012. It seems that giant futuristic arks have been secretly built at the top of mountains in case such an event should happen. The film stars John Cusack, Amanda Peet and Woody Harrelson.

My favourite scene? An aircraft carrier surfing a giant wave drops onto the White House... only in the movies.

More by this Author


12 comments

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

Wow it is not looking good for mankind does it? Glad to see you include A Boy and His Dog on the list, that is a great film that not many people seem to remember....I really love the ending. Thanks for including not one but two Christian Bale movies. I know I like Bale, but also know you are not a huge Bale fan.

I see all three versions of Richard Matheson's novel made your hub. I have not watched Omega Man in awhile but I remember how much it scared me when I was a kid...Anthony Zerbe still scares me even when he played the wise old man in the Matrix movies...lol.

The one movie I was hoping to see on the list was Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys....in that one a virus wipes out most of the human race....and the survivors live underground.

Lots of great photo finds and lots of great information in your hub....that was very fun to read. Voted up and interesting....job well done.


Nickalooch profile image

Nickalooch 4 years ago from Columbia, MD

Great hub, i love any story involving the end of the world. I always feel weird when i say that to lol. I've always loved the stories though, and it has inspired me to write a novel involving the end of the world in more of a religious sort of apocalypse. I'll be sure to check out some of these films now.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Since Cogerson mentions a film he wish were on this list, one of my favourites is Fail-Safe. It was released shortly after Dr. Strangelove and is a serious take, so it didn't do well at the box office, yet it is a great film. In a way it is more powerful than Dr. Strangelove because the over the top humour of strangelove suggests that this could never happen. But fail-Safe is a suspense film and it says says yes indeed, malfunctions can happen and when the action is taken it may be impossible to avert disaster. The Government cannot solve every disaster, as we know.

Of the films you list, I've seen many of them, none of them recently made. My favourites are On The Beach (what a surprise) and Dr. Strangelove.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

The frightening thing is that I've seen most of these movies. I guess we all find the end of the world fascinating, especially if it involves great special effects and the destruction of popular cities. Voting this Up and Interesting.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Cogerson, Nickalooch, Flora, alocsin, thanks for commenting on my first of the year - end of the world hub, it is very much appreciated.

Cogerson, two of my favourite films on this page are Dr. Strangelove and The Omega Man and I have written hubs on both. Thanks for reminding me on 12 Monkeys, it's been a while since I've watched it and forgot all about it. An excellent movie and I have added it to the hub!

Nickalooch, the end of the world is a fascinating subject whch interests everyone, lets just hope it doesn't happen for real. Thanks for posting!

Flora, I left out Fail-Safe because they managed to avoid armageddon though I still think the solution was horrible but what else can you do? I have now added the film to the hub because it is a serious take on Dr. Strangelove, they have many similarities but with different endings.

The movie Watchmen (2009), based on a critically acclaimed comic book, has a similar sort of solution for avoiding WWIII.

alocsin, thanks for the comment and vote!


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 4 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

As a delighted and enlightened survivor of this apocalyptic masterpiece hub...I have just one question Steve,Do you have any Solar Batteries so that I can heat up my leftover hot dogs,lol.;-))


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

Thanks for including 12 Monkeys, I love the scenes in empty Philadelphia at the beginning of the movie, and the future of Bruce Willis seems pretty close to the future that they used in the Matrix movies.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Acer, Cogerson, thanks for posting. I'm wondering if Logan's Run should have been included too. It does show people living happily (until they reach 30 and 'renewal') in their sterile domed cities but what happened to the rest of the world? Hmmm


Nickalooch profile image

Nickalooch 4 years ago from Columbia, MD

Logan's Run and 12 Monkeys were both very good. Logan's Run is getting a reboot I believe to


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Yep it looks like Ryan Gosling will be playing Logan 5 in the reboot, remake whatever it is. Michael Bay's The Island was a twist on Logan's Run, except the young people weren't renewed (exterminated) they were spare body parts for their wealthy sponsors, the ones being renewed.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Thanks for adding Fail-Safe. I saw the live television version a few years ago with Richard Dryfess and George Clooney - oops! just looked it up and a few years ago was 2000!. They performed it live for three time zones rather than just live for EST. It was very well done.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Hi Flora, I haven't seen the live television version. I should give it a go if it ever pops up on TV again on this side of the pond.

I should mention that Larry 'JR' Hagman has an important role in the 1964 Fail-Safe as the president's translator.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working