Feb 21, 2012 12:00AM

Top 10: Apocalypse Films

You must see these before the world ends.

Given that the world is obviously ending later this year, we thought we should probably collate the ten apocalypse films you simply must see before we all meet our untimely demise. In film, the end of the world is an increasingly persistent narrative premise which transcends genre and speaks about human anxieties on all scales. From Will Smith busting aliens in Independence Day, to pasty Brits fighting zombies with no more than deadpan wit in Shaun of the Dead , the apocalypse film comes in many forms. Case in point: the upcoming Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a dramedic jaunt starring Steve Carrell and Keira Knightly as they prepare for the end of days. Watch the unlikely pair along with and Oyster #96's Gillian Jacobs (returning in new episodes of Community March 15!) in the trailer below, before scrolling just a bit further to enjoy our certified recommendations for your end-of-days viewing.

10. Planet of the Apes (1968)

You may be surprised to learn that this film is not based on the classic Simpsons episode 'A Fish Called Selma' in which Troy McClure is cast in a musical called Planet of the Apes and sings of hating every chimp he sees, "from Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z." Based on a French novel of the same name by Pierre Boulle, the original Planet of the Apes film was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and stars Charlton Heston. The year? 3978. The planet? Unknown. A crew of astronauts have crash-landed, stumbling upon a society of Apes who behave like humans. If you have seen the Simpsons episode you will know how it all turns out. You'll never make a monkey out of me!

9. Children of Men (2006)

The year is 2027 and mankind has not been able to procreate for eighteen years. Facing the likelihood of their own extinction, humans must live out the rest of their hopeless, rain-soaked, concrete-wasteland existence knowing that they will go out not with a bang but with a wimper. Unlike other apocalypse films, the force responsible for bringing about the end of the world here isn't a meteor or an alien invasion or a wailing pack of flesh eating zombies, it's a deficiency in human biology which, in turn, brings about an even greater deficiency in the human condition - people start acting like total assholes to one another (save for one pot-smoking Michael Caine living in the woods). Since its release, the realism-based science fiction film has been celebrated by fans for its cinematography and masterful tracking shots. Clive Owen gives a compelling performance as a grieving alcoholic who becomes caught up in protecting the only known pregnant woman on earth.

8. Battlefield Earth (2000)

John Travolta's adaptation of the novel by author and founder of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard; widely accepted as one of the worst films ever made. What more do you need to know?

7. Independence Day (1996)

In a world where Bill Pullman is President and aliens are coming to invade earth and destroy humankind, our only hope is Will Smith (duh). Quintessential hyper-patriotism in the form of a ginormously expensive cheese-fest. Also includes Jeff Goldblum, your absolute favourite person to have around in a crisis (see also: Jurassic Park).

6. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

Mel Gibson roams the Australian dessert in a supercharged V-8, his leather police uniform in tatters. Petrol and food are scarce following a nuclear strike and Max (Gibson) feels responsible for the protection of a small group of oil refinery workers against a biker gang led by a masked man known as 'The Humungus'. Requisite viewing if you like cars, eighties hair, Mel Gibson before his racist alcoholic side came to light, comic-book style western pastiche, near-indecipherable Australian accents and so forth.

5. Zombieland (2009)

Jesse Eisenberg narrates and stars alongside Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin in America's top-grossing zombie movie ever, though many might prefer Simon Pegg's Shaun of the Dead. Either way, the idea of humankind losing the fight against a brain-eating zombie race is much easier to digest in the form of witty comedy, as opposed to something without a thousand layers of irony, say, 28 Days Later or Dawn of the Dead.

4. 12 Monkeys (1995)

A time-twisting, headache-inducing romp by Terry Gilliam, featuring an especially deranged Brad Pitt and a typically heroic/disturbed Bruce Willis, loosely adapted from university film class favourite La jetee. You may need to consult Wikipedia after viewing to disambiguate likely questions on the narrative timeline.

3. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Better than the first (and better than most films in general), Terminator 2 has so much built into it: Linda Hamilton being a total hero; Edward Furlong being really nineties; Arny being the robot-dad you wish you had/the robot boyfriend you wish you could purchase online; some of the most iconic music cues in film history; and one of the best chase scenes you'll ever see on the screen or in real life.

2. Bellflower (2011)

A love story wrapped in a car-crash, wrapped in a hangover, wrapped in a firey explosion, wrapped in an emotional apocalypse like the one that occurs inside you upon realising that your significant other is a total axe-wound of a stinking succubus sent from hell to destroy you. Bellflower is an ode to Mad Max as imagined by a beer-for-breakfast Californian boy with little but girls and flamethrowers on his mind.

1. Melancholia (2011)

Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg play two sisters at odds with one another as the Earth is about to collide with a rogue planet. Both actresses give heartbreaking performances in what is possibly Lars von Trier's most thoroughly satisfying film, which at once deals with the idea of apocalypse quite literally but presents the events in a very real and engaging way. The film won Dunst a Best Actress award at Cannes last year and some say the film might have won the Palm d'Or had von Trier not mentioned Hitler during a press conference (the director did, however, win himself a life ban from the festival). Accolades and controversy aside, the film itself is visually stunning, all-encompassing revelation that renders the end of the world unlike much else before it.

Emily Royal

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