I love post apocalyptic movies, and I am not sure why. The entire premise involves the destruction of life as we know it and the decimation of the human race….wait, maybe that’s it. The theme invokes a fantasy of solitude that we can never truly reach and also offers a do-over for the mistakes that the human race has made. Many of us are fascinated by this genre, and it just occurred to me that it could be because of a hidden message. Post apocalyptic movies are not just about the end but also about a new beginning. They can also be classified as futuristic westerns (which is my other favorite genre) since they inherently create a new frontier.
But, enough philosophizing about movies and their hidden themes and attractions. Here is the list of my favorite post apocalyptic movies. Like other lists on this blog, there is no particular order.
1. Damnation Alley (1977) – Nuclear war has disrupted the planet’s atmosphere and caused the skies to become a psychedelic ceiling of a disco. Giant bugs roam the desert around a distant military outpost. The survivors build awesome vehicles to move them across the barren landscape to a radio signal coming from Albany, NY.
This film provides cool 1970s special effects and acting. It has George Peppard transitioning from suave (Banacek) to his later roles as a commando (A-Team). It also has two of the great 3-named stars of the 1970s, Jan-Michael Vincent and Jackie Earle Haley.
2. The Omega Man (1971) – Charlton Heston stars as the “last” man on Earth after a virus has killed almost everyone and turned the rest into zombies that are a cross between Hippies and black robe wearing members of the Church of Satan. There is a lot to like about this movie – Heston driving through an abandoned Los Angeles and going to the movies (why would you sit in the dark when that’s where the zombies live?); Heston’s home with a balcony where he can give speeches to the zombies; the hot woman who Heston has sex with before she turns into a zombie (remember, he is that last man – not last human); the ritual/torture scene in the middle of a football stadium; and Anthony Zerbe as the news anchor turned zombie leader.
Will Smith tried to recreate this in “I Am Legend”, but how can you beat those sunglasses?
3. The Postman (1997) – In 2013 (wow, that’s not far off), the United States has collapsed after another Civil War. Kevin Costner roams the land while trying to avoid the militaristic leaders who have taken control of different regions. Think of feudalism of the Middle Ages coming to America. Anyway, Costner stumbles on some mail and begins to deliver it as a way to access fortified towns. Eventually, this becomes a unifying practice that brings hope of a rebuilding government. Feudal lords do not need a rebuilt government, so fighting commences.
The fighting mailman wins and helps repopulate the globe by impregnating another man’s wife. In the end, the United States is back and regular looking people are dedicating a statue to him. In essence, it’s like the end of civilization never happened. I just hope that Tom Petty got to keep his cool house on the dam.
4. Planet of the Apes (1968) – Charlton Heston strikes again as an astronaut that finds himself on a planet of backwardness. The apes can talk and are in charge while humans can’t talk and run around the wilderness. Unfortunately for him, he has a throat injury that hinders his speech for a while, and his surviving space mate has had a lobotomy. When Heston finally talks, the apes are stunned.
Of course, we do not realize that this is post apocalyptic Earth until the very end and the iconic scene of the destroyed Statue of Liberty. It goes to prove that if you are recruited to go on a time shifting space mission, then you should stay at home.
5. Logan’s Run (1976) – Life inside the dome is perfect. Days are filled with leisure, and everyone is attractive. If you want some private time with one of these attractive people, then all you have to do is dial one up on the computer. However, there are some pesky problems – at the age of 30 everyone must take part in Carousel (DEATH), and the ones who try to run from it are tracked down by Sandmen. Clothes (what little of them there are) are color coordinated according to age. Wearing red means your time is running out. Green means you are alright (as you can see).
Sandman Logan is given the task of investigating the rules of society. In the process, the becomes a runner with the damsel above and is chased by his former best friend. During the run, Logan escapes from the domed city and reaches a destroyed Washington, D.C., where he finds an old man living in the Capitol with a bunch of cats (I am sure they are smarter than the cats we have there now.). Logan kills his former friend and returns to the city with the old man, proof that you don’t have to die at 30. But, you can still dial up sex partners if you want.
6. Soylent Green (1973) – This must be Charlton Heston’s “end of the world” period, but I am not sure this qualifies as post apocalyptic. The world is overcrowded and food is at a premium. Only the wealthy can eat steaks and stuff. Everyone else must eat soylent green, which is supposedly made of plankton. Heston is a New York City police officer who embarks on a mystery.
At the end of his investigation, Heston discovers that “SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!!”. That’s one way to feed an overcrowded population. Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. And, Edward G. Robinson, in his last movie, commits suicide and presumably gets eaten.
7. Priest (2011) – This is definitely post apocalyptic, but it could be another world. Does that mean it doesn’t count? It still counts on my list. The world has been ravaged by a war between humans and vampires. The humans won by employing Priests, a team of church trained commandos, and vampires are confined to reservations. Now, the vampires are tired of reservation life and are on the rampage. They attack a homestead and kidnap the niece of a war veteran. He, along with a sidekick, go on an epic journey to save his niece (which is really his daughter) and put the vampires back in their place.
It is a typical movie, but as I watched it I got the feeling that I had seen it before. First, “savages” attack a homestead and kidnap a young girl. Second, her uncle, a hardened veteran and old “savage” fighter goes after her. Third, a young sidekick who cares for the girl travels by his side. Fourth, the uncle says he will kill her if she has turned “savage”.
This is “The Searchers” with vampires in the place of Native Americans and the Priest in the place of John Wayne. They took my favorite Western and placed it in a post apocalyptic setting.
There you have it – a short list of my favorite post apocalyptic movies. Some of them are considered classics and some of theme are considered a waste of film, but I found something to like about all of them. There are others that could have been included:
Blade Runner (although I fell asleep watching it)
The Book of Eli (a cheap knock-off of “The Road” before “The Road” could be made into a movie)
Escape from New York (call me Snake)
The Running Man (with an awesome Richard Dawson)
V For Vendetta (Remember the Fifth of November and its connection to Halloween)
Rollerball (JONATHAN! JONATHAN!)
12 Monkeys (watch out for familiar looking guys in airports)
The Road (better than Denzel’s version but not as good as the novel)
But honestly, I got tired of typing. There are so many movies in this genre that I find enjoyable that I couldn’t include them all. What is your favorite movie genre? If you like post apocalyptic stuff, then what are your favorites? And don’t forget, “The Hunger Games” are about to begin.