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Best Post-Apocalyptic Movies

Updated on December 20, 2010

Distinctions to be Made

Before I get into this list, I want to clarify on what I mean by post-apocalyptic.  Many people think this term refers to a genre that takes place in a futuristic and dismal society.  This isn't necessarily the case.  Post-apocalyptic means exactly what its name implies: it is a story that takes place succeeding a large cataclysm.  For this reason, a world that has naturally progressed (regressed) to be under tyrannical rule would be considered dystopian, not post-apocalyptic.  While there is a lot of overlap between the genres, they are different enough to warrant two lists.  If you're looking for dystopian films, where society is still intact but different, then check out my best dystopian films list.

The Omega Man (1971)

The Omega Man is a movie by Boris Sagal that is based on the book "I am Legend."  The movie takes some liberties with the book by changing the vampires to mutants.  It also changes the cause of the outbreak to biological warfare, whereas it was unexplained in the book.  In The Omega Man, the protagonist Robert Neville, is the last real person left on Earth.  There are a few mutated people who haven't fully changed and are on his side, but for the most part he's alone.  If you like this film, then you should also check out I Am Legend, with Will Smith.  They tell a very similar story, although I Am Legend makes the vampires into more mindless beasts.

The Stand

The Stand

This movie is based on Stephen King's novel of the same name.  It's worth noting that this is actually a miniseries and not a theatrical film.  Its entire run length is just over 6 hours.  Due to its immense length, I suggest breaking the movie up into several viewing sessions.  Two will suffice, although three is recommended.  While the movie is very good, it hasn't aged as well as some of the others on this list; however, it is still enjoyable.

The Matrix

The Matrix

The Matrix was one of the biggest films of 1999.  Its influence is wide-spread in cinema today, especially its use of bullet time.  While most of The Matrix takes place in the virtual world of the same name, the real world is a desolate post-apocalyptic wasteland dominated by machines.  If you're looking to watch The Matrix, I don't suggest doing so for it's post-apocalyptic content, since it's short on that.  It's just a very good movie that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world.  If you somehow haven't seen this one, then it's one of the first you should watch on this list.

Road Warrior

Mad Max 2: Road Warrior is the sequel to the successful film Mad Max.  This one follows Max to an oil refinery that is under siege by a gang of marauders.  While it wasn't as financially successful as its predecessor, Mad Max 2 is considered by most to be the superior movie.  It was shot on a much larger budget, of which it takes full advantage.  This and Mad Max really set the stage for a lot of post-apocalyptic movies to come.  They have both aged fairly well and are enjoyable even now.  I suggest watching both, or at least Road Warrior, if only to see how large of an influence they had.

The Road

Some people didn't like this film because of how dark it was.  It's a post-apocalyptic movie!  What do you expect?  Overall, this is a very disturbing and thought-provoking movie.  It starts Viggo Mortensen, who played Aragon in Lord of the Rings.  The movie has many disturbing scenes, moreso than any of the others on this list.  If you're turned off by gritty, realistic violence then I suggest shying away from this one.  It paints a somber and pessimistic picture of the future; unfortunately, I can see events unfolding just as they did in the film.

28 Days Later

28 Days Later

28 Days Later features crazy rage-infected "zombies" that have completely overrun England.  The movie is primarily set in London, although it moves from there during the third act.  If you like watching Cillian Murphy be a total badass and thumb people in the eyes, then this film is for you.  This movie is full of high-intensity action scenes that'll excite almost everyone.  To those of you that are afraid of scary movies, I can assure you that this one isn't really scary at all.

The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli takes place in a Fallout-esque wasteland in which a man is attempting to protect the Bible.  Early on in the film, he runs into some idiots that want to take his stuff.  They are well-armed and are willing to kill him for it.  Unfortunately for them, he destroys every single one of them without even really trying.  That early scene sets the tone for the entire movie.  As I mentioned above, this is basically Fallout the movie, so video game fans should enjoy it.

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    • profile image

      pat 

      6 years ago

      Ok then, I'll have to shamelessly plug my post-apo sci-fi comedy entitled "Hellacious Acres : The Case of John Glass". Trailers and info at www.hellaciousacres.com

    • profile image

      Pat 

      6 years ago

      Ok, I'm going to shamelessly plug this sci-fi comedy feature of mine: Hellacious Acres : The Case of John Glass. 2011 coming on DVD in 2012

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      Doug Turner Jr. 

      7 years ago

      Right on man. I just finished Stephen King's "Under the Dome" -- hopefully that will be a miniseries too. Good list here. I recommend Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" too; it takes place in the past, but fits the criteria. Cheers.

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