Filmmakers have attempted to portray the end of the world through film since early cinema. Throughout the years, these attempts have proven to be futile for many. The list of forgettable apocalypse movies could fill a novel. But a few filmmakers have portrayed the end of the world in wildly entertaining and unique ways. So which movie do you put on for movie night when you’re in a rather apocalyptic mood? Here is our complete list of the best end of the world movies.
Best End of the World Movies List
15. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
If you’re looking for a movie that centers around a climate crisis apocalypse, The Day After Tomorrow is for you. The film follows a group of New Yorkers as they take shelter from an international superstorm that launches them into a new ice age.The writing unfortunately falls short of a coherent story. However, the VFX and constant threat of Mother Nature make it a solid watch. The New York setting brings a unique cast of characters together in unique locations that would not occur outside of a natural disaster scenario.
Best end times movies
14. The Road (2009)
On the other end of the spectrum of enjoyable nonsense, is realistic bleakness. The Road is based on the novel of the same name. The film takes apocalyptic realism to rather grim measures. Yet it captures a post-apocalyptic reality that few films do. What decisions would human beings truly have to face during an apocalypse? How would humanity behave?
The Road explores these questions as it follows a father and son’s journey through a post-apocalyptic America. And although the cause of the apocalypse is never clarified, the drama emerges from how the characters choose to navigate its effects.
Although it is unembellished by zombies or VFX natural disasters, The Road lacks no drama or post-apocalyptic grittiness. Be aware that this is one of the more grim films about end of the world, but also one of the most unique.
Best apocalyptic movies
13. I Am Legend (2007)
What would it be like to possibly be the last person on Earth? I Am Legend explores this as it follows Robert Neville (Will Smith), a scientist unable to stop a virus that wiped out the human population. However, as Neville pursues a cure, he must navigate around the creatures that the virus created.
Will Smith delivers a solid performance in the film, especially given the fact that most of his scenes are performed by himself, with his dog, or the creepy zombies that are out to kill him. The film does more than enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. And be sure to watch the alternate ending after a viewing of the film.
Best end of the world movies
12. Melancholia (2011)
Among all movie genres, apocalyptic films are full of external conflict. Zombies, floods, and viruses tend to move these films along. Although Melancholia follows a planet's collision course with Earth, the true conflict is between two sisters anticipating the impending doom. The film revolves more around theme, than it does action.
This is what makes Melancholia such a unique end of the world movie. It explores rather relatable themes and emotions through a rather unrelatable scenario. Not to mention, Melancholia has become quite a calling card for Kirsten Dunst as she delivers a stellar performance as the film’s lead.
Realistic apocalypse movies
11. Contagion (2011)
While many other global crisis movies are long forgotten, Contagion is more relevant than ever given the Coronavirus pandemic. While many looked at the film as clairvoyant due to its eerie accuracy, its prediction is a result of thorough research and great filmmaking.
Contagion follows the story of a global pandemic and its effects on various characters as well as the world. Sound familiar?
While it's undoubtedly an end of the world movie that hits a bit too close to home, Steven Soderbergh is able to focus on the film’s characters to make it a unique story. He walks the fine line of balancing scientific and personal conflicts that make the film so engaging.
Funny apocalyptic movies
10. This is the End (2013)
Breaking up the heaviness of this end of the world list is our first apocalyptic comedy. This is the End follows six celebrities as an apocalyptic event forces them to take shelter in James Franco’s house. With limited resources, supplies, and constant conflict between them, inevitable comedy ensues.
Amidst the end of the world, the film satirizes the self-absorption of Hollywood as the actors play themselves hilariously. Not to mention the plethora of cameo performances are punchlines in and of themselves. If you’re looking for some end of the world laughs, This is the End will fulfill that need.
Latest end of the world movies
9. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
As the second installment of the Cloverfield franchise, 10 Cloverfield Lane had to overcome the mixed impressions left by its predecessor. Upon release, it quickly became the best film of the franchise.
The movie follows a young woman who wakes up from a car accident in the shelter of a doomsday prepper who claims that the outside world is affected by a chemical attack. The conflict rises as both the woman and the audience do not know what to believe.
The film’s increasingly suspenseful premise is brilliantly executed by the film’s antagonist, played by John Goodman. Goodman’s performance is among his best, walking a fine line between logical doomsday prepper and insane kidnapper. This one will have you guessing until the end.
Best end of the world movies of all time
8. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
What do you get when you combine brilliantly dry British humor, Edgar Wright, and the undead? Well, Shaun of the Dead of course. Not only is the film one of the funniest zombie movies, but one of the best zombie movies of all time. The film follows Shaun, a slacker living a rather mundane life who is caught off guard by a zombie apocalypse.
It archives what many of the genre does not by balancing humor with horror without compromising either. It will without a doubt be a crowd favorite at your next movie night. Since its release it has also earned a cult following and become a comedic classic.
Best end of the world movies list
7. Take Shelter (2011)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Michael Shannon is a criminally underrated actor. Take Shelter only proves this point. The film follows Curtis, played by Shannon, as he is plagued by visions of an impending apocalyptic storm. As the film progresses, Curtis’ family and community must decide whether they need to protect themself from the storm or from Curtis.Take Shelter finds its own niche among end of the world movies by focusing on the suspense and anticipation of impending doom rather than surviving it. The result is an engaging film carried all the way to the finish line by a powerful Michael Shannon performance.
Spielberg’s best end of the world movies
6. War of the Worlds (2005)
There are few stories in the science fiction genre that are more influential than H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The film was first adapted in 1953 to critical acclaim. So when a remake was announced in 2005, the only man to execute the job well was Steven Spielberg.
The film follows a family surviving through the terror of an alien force on Earth. Spielberg’s directing style adapted well to a darker tone to create a gripping apocalyptic film. Spielberg pays due to the classic sci-fi story while also bringing something new to the table.
Although it may not be the most widely discussed Spielberg film, it still ranks on the higher end of Spielberg’s best films.
Best end of the world movies
5. Independence Day (1996)
Independence Day is one of those films that’s great for the whole family. Kids will watch with awe while the adults watch and feel like a kid again. The movie follows the human will to survive against a technologically advanced alien threat to Earth.
Few films establish the epic-ness of an alien force better than Independence Day. The drama is met equally with the charming and often hilarious performances of both Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. Not only was Independence Day quite the hit when it came out, but its relevance years later has solidified just how fun the film is.
Kubrick’s best end of the world movies
4. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
In 1963, the collective tension in the world was at an all time high. Aside from the escalation of the Vietnam conflict, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the building of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War had risen to a nuclear climax during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If the content of that sentence raises your eyebrows a hair, just imagine living through it.
One man did. That man is named Stanley Kubrick. He took these experiences and molded them through his own perspective and imagination. Out the other end came one of Kubrick’s best films of all time — Dr. Strangelove. The film uses satire to brilliantly portray the worsening worldly politics of the 1960s.
Latest end of the world movies
3. Arrival (2016)
In a genre of forgettable films, Arrival subverts all expectations to produce something completely unique and instantly memorable. The film is based on Ted Chiang’s short story Story of Your Life. It follows a linguist as she attempts to assist the military in communicating with an alien presence.
Denis Villeneuve’s masterful directing completely engages you from start to finish. When you do finish, however, you will be tempted to give it another watch. As a master of his craft, Villeneuve balances external and internal conflicts as well as emotion and logic for an insanely thought provoking and moving film.
Best end of the world movies
2. Children of Men (2006)
Alfonso Cuarón’s ability to capture visually intense moments is on full display in Children of Men. The film takes place in a turbulent society, in which all women have become infertile. When a former activist encounters a miraculously pregnant woman, he agrees to guide her to a sanctuary by the sea.
The film’s premise enables it to work on multiple levels. It is both a thrilling chase film as well as a cautionary tale of humanity. Cuarón’s keeps you hooked. Cuarón combines stellar cinematography, amazing performances, and incredible production design that is difficult to look away from.
List of the best end of the world movies
1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Hollywood is infamous for cashing in on remakes, revamps, and sequels of big name films. The result is typically a soulless film. Mad Max: Fury Road proved to be anything but. It is simultaneously unique, important, and wildly entertaining from start to finish. And George Miller is a master at creating some of the best end of the world movies in cinema.
The film is filled with practical effects that make nearly every scene a spectacle. George Miller’s attention to detail and masterful storytelling are matched with powerhouse performances from Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult and Tom Hardy. If there is one movie from this list to watch, Mad Max: Fury Road takes the cake in a landslide victory.
The Best Thriller Movies of All Time
Still looking for that movie that will put you at the edge of your seat? Look no further. We’ve created a list of the best thriller movies of all time that will have you gripping with suspense form start to finish.