How to Survive an Apocalypse (in Films)


Written by James Read
01 Friday 01st May 2009

The trailer for The Road is out and 2012 is just round the corner. Seems an appropriate time to look to the movies for advice on dealing with the end of the world. The Road tells the tale of the few survivors of an unspecified worldwide disaster, which has stopped plants from growing and resulted in mass cannibalism. It's based on the book written by Cormac McCarthy which received lavish praise from critics, including George Monbiot, who declared that McCarthy was one of "50 people who could save the planet". By putting a [non-preachy] environmental message in a apocalypse survival movie, maybe audiences who'd never watch An Inconvenient Truth will go green. But what lessons have we learned from post-apocalyptic films of yesteryear?

Mad Max 2 (1981)

Non-fetish menswear has also become scarce

Apocalypse: General decay of society due to oil shortages.

Oil tanker under biker attack, Mel Gibson fights valiantly back, throughout Brian May soundtracks.

Lesson: Convert all motorbikes to run on electricity. Ain't no grizzled Aussies scrapping over wind farms.


Delicatessen (1991) Photo at top

Apocalypse: Food shortage causes landlord to innovate.

A deliciously weird comedy set in an apartment block in 50s rural France. With meat being scarce, the building owner sets up a sideline butchering employees. Sounds dark, but being independent and French, it manages whimsical and charming instead.

Lesson: Go veggie. Unless all the plants run out too, like in The Road.


Tank Girl (1995)

Apocalypse: Comet hits Earth and causes massive drought.

The movie that Spielberg said was "too hip" for him to direct. Not really a patch on Jamie Hewlett's original comics, but steampunk tanks and riotgrrls in the desert are fun all the same. Plus, she was hot and Ice-T plays a mutant kangaroo. Awesome.

Lesson: Only fill the kettle up as much as you need, take showers, share baths and run the washing machine on 'economy'.


Omega Man (1971)

Charlton Heston doing what he did best

Apocalypse: Disease epidemic which leaves survivors really angry and scared of light.

Based on the same book as I Am Legend, but with Charlton Heston instead of Will Smith - surely a massive plus? Heston is the last scientist in a world full of homocidal luddites who taunt him by burning books.

Lesson: You'll up your chances of survival if you stick with a gun nut rather than a wussy scientologist. Esp if you're a dog.


12 Monkeys (1995)

Apocalypse: Virus epidemic forces humanity to live underground.

The serially unprofitable Terry Gilliam did well here and actually made money with this time travel jaunt. Bruce Willis goes back in time to try and stop the virus outbreak, but everything he does encourages the inevitable, as is the way with time travel.

Lesson: Backwards time travel is confusing, and has a high mortality rate. See also, Donnie Darko.

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