Everyone has wondered what it would be like if the world came to an end. How would it happen? Would it be our fault? Would the rest of the universe even notice? Will it be on YouTube?
It’s a story and an epic struggle that’s been foretold and examined in everything from classic literature to modern movies since, well, the beginning of time. It’s such a universal theme. Some films have used the end of the world as devices to warn audiences about the dangers of nuclear warfare and human ignorance while others have used them as an excuse to put a $60 million explosion at the end of the film to wake the audience up that fell asleep 30 minutes after the credits started rolling.
So stock up on canned goods, make you way to the bomb shelter and remember to “Duck and Cover” for the 10 Greatest Doomsday Scenarios in Film History.
10. When worlds collide in When Worlds Collide
In this classic 1951 sci-fi adventure, the world isn’t just behind the 8-ball. It IS the 8-ball. Another planet, Bellus, has gone off its orbit and lined itself up for a direct hit with Earth. Of course, only one man knows this will happen and the scientific community treats him like he’s Chicken Little. The film becomes a race against time to build a rocket that will take 50 lucky passengers to another planet where they can sustain themselves until they pollute their own drinking water, leave litter all over the place and build nuclear weapons to blow the other side to kingdom come. That’s probably what the sequel would have been like.
9. Zombies walk the earth for no reason in Dawn of the Dead
You can blame zombies on whatever you want: plutonium fallout from a downed satellite, biblical prophecy, public schools. The fact is they are here to stay and it’s either kill or be killed and be their dinner. George Romero started the end of the world in Night of the Living Dead and left them in complete charge by the end of Day of the Dead, but Dawn of the Dead is of significant importance because it shows how the zombies were able to take over the world. Instead of cooperating to survive and prolong the human species, selfishness does all but two people in by the time the film is over forcing the dwindling human race to move underground. The whole film is a lesson in cooperation and consuming. It’s like a feature length episode of “Sesame Street,” but with more cannibalism and people getting stabbed in the neck with screwdrivers.
8. The Earth is demolished in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
So it’s not the best version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ever done. As a matter of fact, it’s the worst. But the opening scene where the Earth is destroyed to make way for road construction with just a single pop was the way Douglas Adams himself would have wanted the world to end. No big explosions, no nuclear mushroom clouds, no giant rings of fire ripping the universe a new black hole. Just a tiny, delicate pop and the Earth is no more. It makes the biggest laugh in the film. The rest of it makes you wish the rest of the film would just pop off.
7. A giant apocalyptic rabbit in Donnie Darko
No film in recent memory mindfucked us more than Donnie Darko. This twisted, elaborate, winding road down the mouth of madness is capped off by the fact that the end of the world is either being foretold by a divine madman or a very clever guy in a bunny costume with way too much time on his hands. If a giant rabbit started predicting the end of the world, we’d be confused too right up until an airplane engine landed on our house.
6. Humans do it to themselves in The Day the Earth Stood Still
This film takes the alien invasion epic to a whole new level using the aliens as a warning that the Earth must change its way or feel the wrath of the universe. We all knew it would happen sooner or later. We litter all the time. We dump toxic chemicals into the rivers. We build nuclear weapons because we’re bored. Mankind is destined to destroy the Earth God created for us. Fortunately, a kind hearted alien stopped in to warn us of our impending doom. So what do we do? We shoot him. USA! USA! USA!
5. A child becomes the Antichrist from The Omen
The Antichrist is always the last person you suspect it to be. Christian scripture says it will be a man with a special mark. Jerry Falwell said it would take the form of a Jew. Everyone else thought Jerry Falwell actually was the Antichrist. No one suspects cute little Damien of being the being that will bring about the end of the Earth and open the portal of Hell for Satan to rule for eternity. Look how cute is when he rides his little tricycle and telepathically orders the Nanny to jump to her death.
4. Nuclear war in Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
There always seemed something remotely chilling and cold about Stanley Kubrick’s classic dark comedy. Maybe it’s because everyone has the bomb now and we’re just one mispronounced syllable away from becoming fried chicken crispers on the sidewalk. The film satirizes the Cold War concept of “mutual assured destruction” meaning the cataclysmic events of nuclear war would be enough to deter either side from using their weapons. It’s basically seems like trying to hold together the Hoover Dam with duct tape. So if the world ends because of one nutwing general who wants to teach the enemy a thing or two, don’t say he didn’t warn you.
3. A video game in Wargames
It’s the ultimate irony. We spend our days simulating Hell on Earth and a computer game creates Hell on Earth. And what’s the only thing that can save us? Why it’s a kid who spends his days in his room with a girl and a computer and paying more attention to the computer than the girl. Yes, it’s not only a sharp satire about how technology and nuclear warfare can destroy us all, it’s also the perfect film to advocate gay rights.
2. Aliens attack in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
There have been a million movies where the aliens land, shoot up major landmarks while we shoot at them and then they die for some dumb reason that’s written in at the last minute to keep the film from going over budget. None of them holds a candle to the way Ray Harryhausen chooses to end the world: giant flying saucers crashing into things. This is the way I want the world to go because sure we might die, but at least we’ll be geeking out to the very end.
1. Aliens turn our dead against us in Plan Nine from Outer Space
It’s the ultimate plan to take over the world: reanimate the dead so they murder the remaining humans making Earth ripe for the picking. It would have worked if they didn’t look so damn funny. Those aliens are stupid, stupid, stupid.
Sound Off: What do you think are the greatest doomsday scenarios in movie history?