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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.