Apocalyptic Movies and the Theme of Survival
- When Worlds Collide (1951):
- On the Beach (1959): The godfather of all post-nuclear-war films, On the Beach takes place in Australia, a setting that allows the survivors to maintain the semblances of normal lives while trade winds slowly bring the fatal radioactivity from the Northern Hemisphere towards them.
- The Omega Man (1971): Contagion either kills people or turns them into vampiric zombies; Charlton Heston is the last normal man left (omega--get it?).
- The Road Warrior (1981): Holocaust, nuclear-style. In a wasteland Australia, Mel Gibson's Mad Max fends for himself until he comes upon a band of survivors holed up in one of the few oil refineries left while grotesque bandits besiege them. Will Max rejoin the community of humanity and lead the people to safety?
- Red Dawn (1984): A Communist invasion decimates America, but a small band of high school football players (how very American!), led by Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, hightail it to the mountains and wage an underground war against the commie bastards.
- The Terminator (1984): A twist on the theme, as the apocalypse hasn't happened yet. The terminator, sent back from the future race of machines that has laid waste to the planet, has as his mission the death of the baby who will be able to rally the survivors decades down the road.
- Terminator 2 (1991): Another attempt from the future by the machines to manipulate their present by changing their past, our present--got it? John Connor, the future leader of the survivors in their underground struggle (those pesky "JC" initials!), is protected from an even more advanced terminator by one who looks eerily like Arnold Schwarzeneggar.
- Waterworld (1995):
- The Postman (1997):
- The Matrix (1999):
- 28 Days Later (2002): A highly contagious virus infects most of the population, turning them into zombies. A plucky band of survivors hear garbled radio transmissions leading them to believe they will find safety if they can only make it to this safe zone. The pathology of some survivors is a dominant theme.
- Dawn of the Dead (2004): Again, a highly contagious virus infects most of the population, turning them into zombies. The small group of survivors in this case form a community by barricading themselves inside a shopping mall and picking off as many of the zombie horde as they can. They make a desperate attempt to escape, but it doesn't end so well...
- The Day After Tomorrow (2004): Nature fights back against our cavalier attitudes toward her by creating an instant ice age. Survivors in New York brave the sub-zero temperatures to make it to the few warmer climes left. An ecological take to the theme.
- Shaun of the Dead (2004): A comedic spin on the struggle to survive zombie hordes, the regulars at a dingy pub become the community of survivors.
- War of the Worlds (2005): Aliens attack the earth, wiping out huge numbers, but small groups try to survive by hiding, literally, underground. The community of survivors isn't always perfect though, as illustrated by Tim Robbins' survivalist. Films such as V and Independence Day also fit this pattern.
With a few variations, both religious and secular eschatological (beliefs about end times) fictions tend to follow the same pattern; an event takes many ("rapturing" them in the case of fundamentalist Christianity; killing them in secular takes on the idea), and the survivors form communities and try to battle for survival against overwhelming odds--our interest lies in the survivors and their experiences. A partial list of interesting films that fit the pattern.
More to be added. Suggestions certainly welcomed.