With the release of Last Night, one of the most original takes on the Armageddon in the history of cinema, FilmJuice take a look at ten of the best apocalypses in the movies…
I Am Legend (Francis Lawrence, 2007)
Based on the classic sci-fi novel, Will Smith stars as the last man on Earth, wandering a deserted New York, dodging hideously disfigured mutants. Smith is fantastic as a once great scientist struggling to hold on to his sanity with only his faithful German Shepherd for company. The third act of the film loses it a bit, as the dodgy CGI monsters start popping out of the woodwork, but it does nothing to diminish the power of the early scenes.
The Road (John Hillcoat, 2008)
Many claimed that Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of a nameless father and son struggling to survive years after an unspecified ecological cataclysm was unfilmable, due to certain infamous scenes of human depravity and the fact that it most consists of the two protagonists aimlessly meandering around in the snow. Yet director John Hillcoat pulled it off, expanding the flashbacks to happier pre-disaster times, adding an atmospheric score by Nick Cave, and most importantly retaining the sense of hope from the original book.
Dawn of the Dead (George A Romero, 1978)
“When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth.” George Romero’s zombie films (starting with Night of the Living Dead), are about a lot of things: race, class, consumerism, people getting torn out and their guts ripped out. But for the four people trapped in a shopping mall, looking out upon the zombie-infested landscape, the scariest thing is the sense that civilisation really is over, and the world is not going to return to normal. Which makes the film a lot more affecting than Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly 2001)
There is much debate about the nature of the signs of the apocalypse written about in the Book of Revelations; but I think we can be sure a 6 foot talking rabbit called Frank is not one of them. The time-twisting sci-fi 80s teen comedy satire, in which the titular Donnie foretells Armageddon, launched the careers of siblings Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal and definitely takes multiple viewing to truly understand. For an even more bonkers take on the end of the world, see Richard Kelly’s little seen follow up Southland Tales.
End of Days (Peter Hymans 1999)
The end is nigh, Satan is rising; who else would want to save the world but Arnold Schwarzenegger? One of the surprisingly few films to cash in on the-then relevant turn of the millennium, the film reveals that 666 is not the number of the beast. It’s actually 999, and somewhere along the line someone got it upside down, and 1999 is the year of the apocalypse. A suitable silly piece of late-period Schwarzenegger, but who can argue with the high concept of Arnie versus the Armageddon itself?
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Garth Jennings 2005)
Most films which feature the end of the world understandably treat it as a solemn event, a time for soul searching, making amends and facing up to responsibilities. Here, however, the Earth is destroyed before lunchtime to make way for an intergalactic expressway. And that’s just the beginning of last human alive Arthur Dent’s problems in this adaption of Douglas Adams’s idiosyncratic sci-fi saga.
Deep Impact (Mimmi Leder, 1998)
Released the same year as similarly themed asteroid flick Armageddon, Deep Impact is a surprisingly sombre, brooding summer blockbuster. It takes a global view of the preceding, from Elijah Wood as the teenage astronomer who first discovers the comet, through Tea Leoni’s journalist blowing open the US government’s concealment of impending doom, to the NASA crew desperately trying to avert catastrophe.
When The Wind Blows (Jimmy Murikami 1986)
Nuclear war has been dealt with in all manor of way in cinema, but animated tale is arguably the saddest. Based on Raymond Briggs’ graphic novel, it centres on a naïve elderly couple who, when the bomb drops, follow the government’s survival advice to a tee. Of course, ‘duck and cover’ and make-shift shelters are no help in a nuclear winter and their unfaltering faith in The Powers That Be is absolutely heart-breaking.
2012 (Roland Emmerich 2009)
Roland Emmerich previously caused mass on-screen destruction via giant lizards (in Godzilla), aliens (in Independence Day) and even the weather (The Day After Tomorrow). But in his latest disaster epic, he doesn’t even try to come up with a convincing reason for the carnage. It’s something to do with a Mayan prophecy, or something. It doesn’t matter. We are here for the spectacle, and it is spectacular. The sort of film 50-inch HD televisions were made for.
Last Night (Don McKellar 1998)
What if there was no tomorrow? What if you knew the world was coming to an end? How – and with whom – would you spend your last night? In this superb Canadian drama there is no race against the clock, no last minute saviour. Instead the citizens of Toronto, including Grey’s Anatomy’s Sandra Oh and cult director David Cronenberg, accept their fate and try to find an acceptable, meaninful ending to their lives. A sombre, powerful, bleakly funny and overall incredibly human film.
Last Night is out now.