Disaster. Catastrophe. Devastation. Words that both frighten and fascinate; a fact that the film industry has not failed to notice. It is virtually impossible not to be intrigued by this genre; one of the few that deals with an inescapably universal subject.
CultBox has picked out our five favourite end-of-the-world movies…
From the opening dream sequence – a silent series of intense and unearthly slow-motion montages depicting moments to come – through a domestic wedding scene where signs of impending personal tragedy begin to appear, to the final almighty crescendo Melancholia delivers drama that is aesthetically drenching.
Combining the grotesque and the beautiful in spectacular cinematography depicting authentically vivid characters, von Trier absorbs the audience on both as individuals and en mass. Such is the power of the still and intimate camera work that by the end we were shrinking under the pressure of Melancholia beating down as if we too were sitting on that lawn.
The Road (2009)
Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road had a stark bleakness which captivated its readers. John Hillcoat’s screen adaptation only serves to make this more real and therefore more tragic.
We follow the journey of a father (Viggo Mortensen) and son attempting reach the hallowed coast – the only fleck of hope left on a stricken earth. A flash of eerie red sky at the opening is the only hint of the unexplained catastrophe that has caused the desolation.
It is the focus on the aftermath rather than its origin that sets this narrative apart; sidestepping the risk of distracting audiences with dramatic cataclysmic action. A subtle and affective film which brings haunting loneliness to life.
28 Days Later (2002)
Made memorable by Danny Boyle’s spectacular direction, 28 Days Later is a cinematographic triumph with stunning panoramas of a deserted London.
Awakening from a coma, Jim (Cillian Murphy) finds his city has collapsed after wide spread infection of the deadly Rage virus which turns people into psychotic killers. One bite transfers the virus and only few survivors remain.
Attracted by a radio message claiming to have the answer, Jim, and others he encounters (including new Bond girl Naomie Harris), make the journey only to discover a group with brutal ideas of how to counter the infection.
The second half details how the survivors free themselves from this apparent refuge and leaves open the question of earth’s redemption. However, after a terrific start, the narrative becomes bogged in political and social exchanges that distract from purity of the film’s initial horror.
Set in 2805, Pixar’s hit animation follows a ridiculously sweet sentient droid who miraculously survives deactivation to find himself alone on a festering planet. Proceeding to clean up the rubbish that the over-consuming human race has left littering the earth, WALL-E discovers a precious sign of life.
Encountering robot EVE, also on the hunt for life, WALL-E shows off his hoard of trinkets alerting EVE to the presence of life on Earth – a message she must relay back.
Inevitably a happy ending is in store, but the two bots must tackle some tricky humans to secure the revival of Earth. Most remarkably the dialogue free script succeeds in making a lonely robot more sympathetic than the majority of human characters.
12 Monkeys (1995)
In typical Terry Gilliam style, 12 Monkeys is a labyrinth of twists and surreal turns.
In a dystopian future, a disease carried by monkeys has ravaged the earth. Convict James Cole (Bruce Willis) is sent back to the past to establish how the man-made virus spread and work out how to prevent it.
A technical blip means Cole arrives in 1990 – six years prior to the outbreak, and resulting in his rapid sectioning. Cole must therefore battle his own sanity to ascertain the truth. An unusually unsightly Brad Pitt is mesmeric as Jeffrey Goines, the prime suspect; deranged leader of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. A dark and entertaining tale of lunacy and reality.
What’s your favourite end-of-the-world movie? Let us know below…