15 Best Apocalypse Movies That Should Frighten Us


Brian Stamper

Brian Stamper

·16 min read

The end of the world appears inevitable. At least that’s what we’ve been told nearly a thousand times by the movies. With climate change looming, nuclear weapons being produced, and living through a pandemic, the end of the world seems more realistic every day.

Every depiction of humanity’s ultimate downfall serves a different purpose, whether it’s scaring us about aliens’ attempt to wipe out the human population (Independence Day) or warning us to not test on animals (Planet of the Apes). These films depict a cautionary tale to its viewers, often scaring us into scenarios that seem viable in our everyday lives.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best apocalypse movies that are so real that they scare the hell out of us, all while taking a shot to analyze what the point is.

Don’t worry, these films all have high entertainment value, whether it’s fiery explosions, natural disasters, rampant zombie attacks, or aliens blowing up cities.

I am Mother (2019)

How the World Ends: That would be a huge spoiler, so let’s say humans are nearly extinct and robots are in charge.

What’s the point? The relationship and tensions between human life and artificial intelligence, and what human life really means. Also, the importance in a child’s upbringing and psychological development.

Shaun of the Dead (2008)

How the World Ends: While Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his roommate (Nick Frost) are bumming around, the rest of London is hit with the zombie apocalypse. The typically unmotivated Shaun sees this as a chance to prove his value to his girlfriend and family.

What’s the point? Aside from reviving the zombie movie genre with lively humor, our best guess is that with a solid pack of family and friends, the zombies can be defeated as long as you take shelter in your favorite bar.

World War Z (2013)

How the world ends: A massive, highly contagious zombie plague forces the world to reinvent and changes global politics as we know it.

What’s the point? Think of our current global pandemic. The world should be all in together to fight the common enemy, right? Same with the zombie apocalypse: The world (United Nations in this case) must come together.

**Cloud Atlas (2012) **

How the world ends: We don’t know the specifics on how the apocalypse started, but we do know that it is the year 2321, and humans now speak a pidgin form of English.

What’s the point? Adapted from David Mitchell’s epic novel, the same person is reincarnated six times over six different lives. It presents how the actions of one’s life carries over into the next life. It stars Tom Hanks as a kind hunter-gatherer and Hugh Grant as a cannibal, creating a fun and action-packed epic.

Planet of the Apes (1968)

How the world ends: You may have seen the reboot prequel trilogy (2011-2017) which identifies how the Planet of the Apes universe got to where it is in the original 1968 classic. Perhaps the best part of the original is the final twist (SPOILER AHEAD). For the entire movie, all we know is that astronauts landed on a strange planet ruled by apes. In the final scene, Taylor (Charles Huston) discovers the ruins of the Statue of Liberty, revealing that they have been on Planet Earth the entire time - and that humanity wiped itself out with nuclear warfare, giving the apes a go at world dominance.

What’s the point? At the time of the film’s release, it hit a point that seemed reasonable during the Cold War era: the nuclear apocalypse. This lesson is still relevant today. We could destroy our planet if we don’t get along and another intelligent species, such as apes, would gladly take our place.

I am Legend (2007)

How the world ends: Scientists genetically engineer a measles virus hoping to find the cure for cancer. Instead, they get a highly deadly and contagious virus that wipes out most of Earth’s population. This creates a mutant type of nocturnal humans called “Nightseekers”.

What’s the point? While pursuing a cure to save humanity, we need to be incredibly cautious towards how we approach experimental treatments. Nature is unpredictable and messing with it can often lead to dire consequences.

Terminator Franchise (1984, 1991, 2003, 2009, 2015)

How the world ends: Humans develop an artificially intelligent defense system (Skynet) and it doesn’t go too well. It becomes so advanced and self-aware and decides to obliterate mankind -- by dropping nuclear bombs on Russia to provoke a counterattack.

What’s the point? In short, to make us terrified of robots. Also, to show how much one individual and her son can create a formidable mother-son duo to impact the future of the world.

**Snowpiercer (2013) **

How the world ends: A chemical is released into the atmosphere to combat global warming. When it backfires, it freezes the planet and eventually leads to a world of humanity living on a train that annually circles the globe.

What’s the point? This is a harsh allegory on the class system and the large gap between the poor and the wealthy, where bureaucrats and scientists ignore the problems of the poor and dying.

Interstellar (2014)

How the world ends: Microorganisms have slowly been killing off the world’s crops, starving the Earth’s population and making the planet soon to be uninhabitable.

What’s the point? The end of the world leads to all the fun SciFi stuff: wormholes, time travel, and colonizing other planets. All the while, we get to learn the importance of love.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

How the world ends: An alien life form plants pods on Earth that absorb each person’s attributes while they sleep. As each pod reaches full development, it assimilates the physical characteristics, memories, and personalities and creates duplicates that are devoid of all human emotion.

What’s the point? Don’t let an outside force come in and turn you into a conforming “pod person” (Stick it to The Man!) -- fight with all your might to stay true to yourself.

**This is the End (2013) **

How the world ends: Earthquakes, fires, explosions, devilish beasts from Hell; all the warnings we ignored in the Bible. Meanwhile, the good guys get beamed up to Heaven to live in harmony.

What’s the point? This all goes down during a celebrity rager at James Franco’s house. So, for starters, we can say don’t go to one of Franco’s Hollywood parties. It also offers a humorous glimpse at how celebrities, comedians in this case, would handle such a scenario -- turning on each other, arguing over who can eat Franco’s Milky Way, and finishing all the drugs from the party.

Zombieland (2009)

How the world ends: Mad cow disease mutates into a human zombie virus and wipes out the majority of the population rather quickly.

What’s the point? To show that by laying low, calculating strategy, and not being a hero can get you pretty far during the zombie apocalypse. But, when our main character Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) decides to rise to the occasion, it has a little more appeal and satisfaction.

12 Monkeys (1995)

How the world ends: A deadly virus that has wiped out most of mankind has forced humanity to live underground. The origins of the outbreak are unknown, but with the recent discovery of time travel, the survivors of the future have linked an animal rights group as the ones who may or may not be responsible for releasing it.

What’s the point? Travelling back in time to stop a cataclysm can be much harder than you think, especially when your facts about the order of events are unsure.

**28 Days Later (2003) **

How the world ends: Animals rights activists (starting to become a trend, no?) raid a lab to free a bunch of chimpanzees, unaware that they are infected by a virus called “rage” which then infects the activists and most of Great Britain. The infected become rampant zombies that soon terrorize everyone.

What’s the point? To reveal that zombies aren’t the only creatures filled with evil plans and ideas, such as the military’s “solution”, which involves using women as sex slaves. Seems that when the zombies hit and chaos strikes, morality and ethics are put on hold.

The Matrix Trilogy (1999, 2003)

How the world ends: The conflict between humans and machines becomes so extreme that humans first decide to block out the sun, cutting off solar power for the machines, then deploy nuclear missiles. In retaliation, the machines strike back with a flesh-eating plague and more bombs. To solve their lack of solar power, they enslave the surviving humans into a virtual reality, and use them as their new power source.

What’s the point? Let’s say to creep us out over the inevitable future; our reliance on technology, the dangers of virtual reality, and our perception of what’s real.