Greatest Post-Apocalyptic Film of All Time

Greatest Post-Apocalyptic Film of All Time


What is the greatest post-apocalyptic film of all time?


Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Jan 20, 2015 - - 75
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
Long before Mel Gibson became involved with historical and biblical epics, he was known for his tattered leather jacket, double-barrel shotgun, and souped-up Interceptor. The first Mad Max film established its eponymous road enforcement agent as a man who had lost everything, and its sequel raised the stakes higher, placing Max in the center of a war for petrol. Feral children, barely-functioning helicopters, and a thick coating of dust helped to sell Australia’s ruins as a new world entirely. The design of the wandering barbarian horde was practical but intimidating, and the driving combat sequences were filmed so proficiently that they still hold up to modern scrutiny. By living so deeply in its own concept, Mad Max 2 expected the audience to embrace the universe and live within it, rather than simply analyzing it. And unlike its end-of-the-world setting, Mad Max 2 never runs out of fuel.
Year of Release: 1981 | Production Studio: Kennedy Miller Productions | Runtime: 95 minutes | Director: George Miller | Lead Actors: Mel Gibson, Michael Preston, Vernon Wells, Bruce Spence
Budget: $4.5 million (AUD) | Box Office Earnings: $23.6 million | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% | IMDB Rating: 7.6

Children of Men

Jan 20, 2015 - - 87
Children of Men
In a world where humans are no longer capable of procreation, a pregnant woman is an inherent miracle. But with the approaching birth comes a barrage of bullets, hunters, and destroyed landscapes, and the only protector for the mother-to-be is Clive Owen. Children of Men is widely recognized as one of Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece films, making heavy use of long tracking shots and practical effects to bring muddy warzones to life. Its vision of a destroyed world does not rely on nuclear fallout or a worldwide blackout, but rather an intrinsic failing in human reproduction and life cycles. Children of Men is a surprisingly human depiction of a world on the brink of annihilation, and manages to satisfy the genre’s expectations of gritty survival without ignoring the broader philosophy of its story.

Year of Release: 2006 | Production Studio: Strike Entertainment, Hit and Run Productions | Runtime: 109 minutes | Director: Alfonso Cuarón | Lead Actors: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam

Budget: $76 million | Box Office Earnings: $69.9 million | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93% | IMDB Rating: 7.9


Jan 20, 2015 - - 80
What do world-looping locomotives, axes coated in fish blood, and Ed Harris all have in common? The answer is Snowpiercer, a South Korean film released in 2013. The film received little attention in the United States, but it was one of the most inventive and immersive post-apocalyptic depictions in years. Set on an Earth which has frozen over due to climate alterations, Snowpiercer focuses on a generation-sustaining train which runs an eternal course around the globe, organizing itself to allow the privileged at the train’s front end, and the poorer masses at its tail. Snowpiercer features slick and brutal action scenes, filmed with all the flourish a cinema buff would expect from a South Korean veteran director, and a cast of memorable and determined characters. If you’ve ever wanted to see a revolt on a moving train, this is the film for you.

Year of Release: 2013 | Production Studio: Moho Films, Opus Pictures | Runtime: 126 minutes | Director: Bong Joon-ho | Lead Actors: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Ed Harris

Budget: $39.2 million | Box Office Earnings: $86.7 million | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95% | IMDB Rating: 7.0

Planet of the Apes

Jan 20, 2015 - - 82
Planet of the Apes
Many films desiring a post-apocalyptic society are quick to embrace visions of rubble and gas masks. Some of the best and most iconic examples of a fallen world, however, are born from a subversion of how we perceive Earth. Warlike apes, humans being hunted like prey, and societies build among mud cliffs may have existed in pulp fiction of previous decades, but their placement on a ruined Earth was far less anticipated. When Planet of the Apes was initially released, the “big reveal” of the mystery planet’s identity was shocking and profound. The audience felt as disoriented as the astronaut, forced to reconcile their own vision of Earth with the foreign and primitive surroundings of the ape world. Planet of the Apes is a vision of a “post” post-apocalyptic society, demonstrating that rebuilding is always possible, but never quite the same.
Year of Release: 1968 | Production Studio: APJAC Productions | Runtime: 112 minutes | Director: Franklin J. Schaffner | Lead Actors: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans, Kim Hunter, James Whitmore
Budget: $5.8 million | Box Office Earnings: $32.6 million | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89% | IMDB Rating: 8.0

12 Monkeys

Jan 20, 2015 - - 73
12 Monkeys
The post-apocalyptic world doesn’t necessarily have to be full of grime and rust. In fact, it can be a breeding ground for time travel, as evidenced by the Terry Gilliam film 12 Monkeys. Bruce Willis plays a convicted prisoner sent back in time to trace the origins of a virus, which just so happens to have eradicated above-ground life on Earth. In many ways, the film exists on the border of time-altering fiction and mega-virus fiction like The Andromeda Strain, but it embraces its setting of a destroyed world and runs with the idea. The film’s opening aesthetic presentation places emphasis on the decay of the subterranean prison, and juxtaposes this collapsed society with steampunk-esque industrial science and reconstructed judicial councils. 12 Monkeys is a fascinating trek through ruins, warzones, and the inexorable flow of causality.
Year of Release: 1995 | Production Studio: Atlas Entertainment, Classico | Runtime: 127 minutes | Director: Terry Gilliam | Lead Actors: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer
Budget: $29.5 million | Box Office Earnings: $168.8 million | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88% | IMDB Rating: 8.1

The Road

Jan 20, 2015 - - 74
The Road
When The Road was released in its original form as a Cormac McCarthy novel, it featured lean prose and a sense of crushing weight that bore down on the reader as much as the father-son team making their way toward the ocean. Viggo Mortensen’s role as the father in this adaptation was perfectly cast, and all of the doom, gloom, and horror of McCarthy’s novel came to life through the use of muted color selection and minimalist storytelling. Much like the novel, there are few moments of joy to be found along the coast-seeking journey, but the glimmers of hope are bright and redeeming. Turning a child’s first taste of canned soda into a genuine and heartfelt moment, and epitomizes the film’s ability to make the viewer think (and feel) like another wanderer among the wastes.
Year of Release: 2009 | Production Studio: 2929 Productions | Runtime: 111 minutes | Director: John Hillcoat | Lead Actors: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce
Budget: $25 million | Box Office Earnings: $27.6 million | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75% | IMDB Rating: 7.3

I Am Legend

Jan 20, 2015 - - 71
I Am Legend
A man, a dog, and a mannequin are standing in a department store. It may sound like the start of a campy joke, but this is actually one of the most poignant and striking scenes and films in Will Smith’s decorated film career. I Am Legend is an adaptation of the Richard Matheson novella, and despite altering the original work’s creatures from vampires to zombies, the film manages to faithfully preserve Matheson’s themes of detachment and desperation. Plenty of other films set in a fallen society have featured dogs as a sidekick, but few have come close to the companionship between Dr. Neville and Sam. Fewer, still, have captured the loneliness and heartbreak of surviving in a world without other humans. With harrowing action sequences, profound shifts between despair and triumph, and a lead role that essentially carried the entire film, I Am Legend brought emotion back to the apocalypse.

Year of Release: 2007 | Production Studio: Village Roadshow Pictures, Weed Road Pictures, Overbrook Entertainment, Heyday Films, Original Films | Runtime: 100 minutes | Director: Francis Lawrence | Lead Actors: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok

Budget: $150 million | Box Office Earnings: $585.3 million | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70% | IMDB Rating: 7.2

A Boy and His Dog

Jan 20, 2015 - - 89
A Boy and His Dog
If the lone dog and wanderer is a post-apocalyptic trope, then A Boy and His Dog is the most unexpected mutation possible. Centering around the titular “boy” and his dog, Blood, this adaptation of a Harlan Ellison creation revolves more around finding women and food than exploring the moral implications of life in a hellish Earth. Blood possesses an uncanny amount of intelligence and snarky comments, and often communicates with his owner through telepathic means. The world itself was consistent with the popular burnt wasteland setting, but the presence of gallows humor broke away from convention and turned A Boy and His Dog into a unique (and bizarre) take on the apocalypse. Even today, fresh interpretations of a black-humor apocalypse, such as the Fallout series, continue to honor and expand upon this film’s absurdity.

Year of Release: 1975 | Production Studio: LQ/JAF | Runtime: 91 minutes | Director: L.Q. Jones | Lead Actors: Don Johnson, Susanne Benton, Alvy Moore, Jason Robards

Budget: Unknown, but presumably very limited | Box Office Earnings: Unknown | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75% | IMDB Rating: 6.6


Jan 20, 2015 - - 77
Zombies are a natural pairing for the apocalypse. Shambling, mindless hordes with an eye and stomach for every human in sight are often the filler content in a ravaged world, but some works take a fresh look at the conventional zombie, and make them into something far more intriguing. Zombieland injected a dose of humor into the genre’s zombie tropes, fixating on the “little things” that accompany survival: relationships, grocery shopping, and the hunt for Twinkies. The film had unexpectedly earnest content in places, such as dealing with the loss of loved ones, and made a genuine effort to portray the survivors’ everyday lives in the post-apocalyptic world. One of the most necessary components of long-term survival – and something which Zombieland wholeheartedly embraces – is some good laughter.

Year of Release: 2009 | Production Studio: Relativity Media | Runtime: 87 minutes | Director: Ruben Fleischer | Lead Actors: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin

Budget: $23.6 million | Box Office Earnings: $102.3 million | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90% | IMDB Rating: 7.7


Jan 20, 2015 - - 67
This may be a controversial contender, but Waterworld is not on this list for its (less than) exceptional filmmaking, (lack of a) coherent plot, or (underwhelming) acting. Waterworld’s universe was, however, truly worth experiencing and analyzing. The entirety of the film’s setting is, as the title implies, a place where water has claimed all available land. Floating cities dot the vast oceans, and the search for solid land is tantamount to the quest for the Holy Grail. The ragtag aesthetics of the raft-supported settlements, and the general design of the ships throughout the world, appear consistent and convincing for the role that they serve. Waterworld, as a finished product, may not be the masterpiece that it could have been, but it’s a memorable and unique spin on the genre’s idea of world building.

Year of Release: 1995 | Production Studio: Gordon Company, Davis Entertainment, Licht/Mueller Film Corporation | Runtime: 135 minutes | Director: Kevin Reynolds | Lead Actors: Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tina Majorino, Michael Jeter

Budget: $172 million | Box Office Earnings: $264 million | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 42% | IMDB Rating: 6.0

Escape from New York

Jan 20, 2015 - - 82
Escape from New York
Kurt Russell may have strayed from his apocalyptic and dystopian roots, but one of his earliest films was a memorable entry in these genres. Escape from New York centered around Snake Plissken, who would later become an inspiration for Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid protagonist. With an eye patch, submachine gun, and a black tank top, Plissken tore his way through the city-turned-prison of Manhattan. The film’s bleak outlook and setting were, according to series lore, a result of an extreme natural disaster that only worsened a growing crime rate. The collapsed society of New York City provided a new but recognizable gauntlet, and the collection of outlandish thugs and paramilitary forces within the urban jungle only increased the thrills. Escape From New York can be called many things (campy among them), but boring is not one of them.

Year of Release: 1981 | Production Studio: Goldcrest Films | Runtime: 99 minutes | Director: John Carpenter | Lead Actors: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Tom Atkins

Budget: $6 million | Box Office Earnings: $25.2 million | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83% | IMDB Rating: 7.2

GOAT Staff Score - Post-Apocalyptic Film

The candidates have been assigned a raw score across a range of criteria. The raw scores have been weighted to reflect the impact that each individual criterion has on the 'Final GOAT Score'. Only weighted scores are displayed in this table. -->TURN DEVICE SIDEWAYS TO VIEW ON MOBILE-->
 Post-Apocalyptic Theme (30%)Genre Innovation (20%)Acting (20%)Reception (15%)Icon Status (15%)Raw ScoreFinal GOAT Score
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior1147111043865
Children of Men86119842835
Planet of the Apes310581137675
12 Monkeys71146432660
The Road10185630645
I Am Legend2294926475
A Boy and His Dog6523723470
Escape from New York4332517345

GOAT Verdict:

The Road Warrior is the Greatest Post-Apocalyptic Film of All Time
Mad Max 2 had the visual approach, feel, and character archetypes that ultimately influenced the post-apocalyptic genre, specifically regarding the subgenre of “wasteland wanderers.” Gibson’s role leading was well acted and provided a cool, quiet demeanor to the enforcer. The vehicles were designed to operate and excel in their environment, and it showed in the furiously paced (and filmed) chase sequences. Everything from spiked bandit hair to the sand-scraped leather of Max’s jacket fleshed out the world and its character designs, making both the villains and outpost survivors feel believable in their own way. This was also a film before computer animation, and the practical effects in this film – as well as their perfect coordination with the action – highlights the value and beauty of physical stunt production. In many ways, the film also demonstrates the originality of its time. Long before the arrival of commonplace zombies, nuclear fallout, and mutant creatures, there was only a man and his dog on his roadway. Mad Max 2 is gritty, stylish, and the greatest post-apocalyptic film of all time.