My Favorite Movies: The End of the World Edition
Its December, the end of the year and if you’ve had to visit a chain retail store, it may also seem like the end of the world. The holidays bring out the best in humanity: hoarding, fierce competition for resources, binge drinking, and seasonal affective disorder. So since this time of year always makes me feel like this tawdry old world must surely be slouching towards some cataclysmic doom, why not go out on a high note and catch up on some of the best movies about the world going to hell in a hand basket?
Award: Best Way to Go.
Nominees: Zombie Apocalypse, Biblical Armageddon, Natural Disaster, World War Three, Robot Uprising, Alien Invasion.
This was a tough choice. You can usually count on Satan to have a stylish spin on finishing off mankind, you can count on robots to do the job thoroughly (unless you involve time travel, because apparently they just can’t handle that shit,) Aliens and Natural Disasters tend to be rather spectacular in their final light show, and World War 3 just seems so fitting and inevitable. That being said, which doom is the most satisfying? Zombies have become pretty ubiquitous lately, but its hard to knock the virtues of a complete, world-destroying cluster-fuck where you’re allowed to shoot your neighbors, go on raids for cigarettes and beer, and generally live out every bad ass power fantasy you’ve ever had until the shambling idiots bring you down by sheer numbers.
Award: Best Actor in an Apocalypse.
Nominees: Tom Cruise (War of the Worlds, Edge of Tomorrow, Oblivion.) Will Smith (I, Robot, I am Legend, After Earth, Independence Day.) Charlton Heston (Omega Man, Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green.) Simon Pegg (The World’s End, Shaun of the Dead.) Arnold Schwarzenegger (End of Days, Terminator series.)
Winner: Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston wins this one running away…on a horse…with a sexy monkey…and lots of guns. Not only has he made some of the most iconic films about humanity losing its grip, he has also done so with a style that begs for imitation. You can reboot his entire catalog, but you can’t match his swagger.
Award: Best Actress in an Apocalypse.
Julianne Moore (Evolution, The Forgotten, Children of Men, Blindness.) Mila Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil Series.) Linda Hamilton (Terminator 1 and 2.) Carrie Anne Moss (The Matrix trilogy.) Tina Turner (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.)
Winner: Linda Hamilton
Tina Turner almost walked away with this based on her soundtrack work for Mad Max and her ungodly gams. Julianne Moore was an intriguing dark horse with a slew of excellent films on the subject which may have slipped through the net of most movie lovers. Mila Jovovich…showed us more of her anatomy in the RE series than a high school sex ed video. But Linda Hamilton wins by sheer force of will. She is the ultimate survivor. Her role as humanity’s alpha mother made you respect and fear your own mom when she got angry. She manages to out fight and out wit Arnold and an army of machines, and is the undisputed push up and pull up queen of the universe.
Award: Best Comedy (about, you know, all of us dying in a horrible way.)
Nominees: Doctor Strangelove. The World’s End. Evolution. The Fifth Element. Shaun of the Dead. Idiocracy.
Winner: Doctor Strangelove
Another category that freezes out poor Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. As amazing as those two are when the stakes are high, the good doctor is perhaps the funniest movie ever made about how fast it can all go to shit. Peter Sellers is a miracle, funny in each of the many roles he plays in this film. Stanley Kubrick manages to channel all of his weird and warped talent to make a film that is nihilistic and bleak… but also charming, silly, and a ton of fun. And Slim Pickens, the real life rodeo clown, nearly steals the show from all of the A List talent, and rides his world-ending nuke into humanity’s sunset like a total pro.
Award: Artistic Merit
Winner: The Road
Never has a movie been so gorgeous and so utterly depressing. The Road, adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s excellent novel, stars Viggo Mortensen and Viggo’s beard as the last two men alive. OK, its actually about Viggo trying to keep his son alive by any means possible after the world has lost all semblance of civilization, but I have to say that a large part of his survival kit (aside from his murder skills and his complete moral flexibility about using said murder skills) is his sweet, sweet, end of day’s beard. Come for the intense story, devastating visuals, and poignant drama…stay for the beard.
Award: Best Film
Nominees: Night of the Living Dead. 28 Days Later. The Terminator. The Day the Earth Stood Still. Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The Omen. The Prophecy. War Games.
Winner: Night of the Living Dead
What a list of amazing movies! The Terminator has so completely dominated the Robot Uprising genre that you could hardly name any other film of that type to replace it. The original Day the Earth Stood Still was so rife with symbolism and societal angst, you could almost forget that it was also a completely amazing Alien Invasion film. The Omen legitimized the Biblical Prophecy genre, allowing such series as Left Behind and The Prophecy to be made. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the 1978 remake with Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum) still stands as one of the greatest thrillers about Aliens ever made. War Games manages to be irreverent, topical, and full of Matthew Broderick, and yet still capture all of the dread and anxiety of the World War 3 genre. 28 Days Later saved the Zombie genre from itself, updating the formula to speak to modern audiences with modern fears…but it still wouldn’t exist without George Romero’s daring first film, the independently filmed Night of the Living Dead.
Before Romero, Zombies were low class, voodoo trash. They were the poor man’s vampire, simple stand in’s for occultism and sexual fetishism. Romero elevated zombies to a force of nature, an omnipresent symbol of fear (almost any fear: they’ve been used as totems of science gone berserk, satanism, old world shamanism, alien vanguards, viral pathogens, and even creatures spawned by global conflict.) Zombies today are everywhere, and it is because in Romero’s hands, these cadavers could become the sum of all fears. Shot on a shoe string budget, embracing every low-budget trick and trope, Night of the Living Dead is a masterpiece. If you haven’t gone back to watch the original, be prepared to understand why these wights are such a dominating force at the box office.