The dictionary defines apocalypse as “the complete final destruction of the world” or “an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale.” Movies that depict this type of event are numerous. They appeal to people for two main reasons: first, because “the end is near” and second, because the end never actually comes. While there are a few exceptions, most apocalyptic movies fit these two statements. The plot lines usually involve one group of people and how they help others – or choose to not help. They give people a chance to consider for themselves how they might handle such a situation.
Apocalypse movies have been made since the 1950s, ranging from science fiction to fantasy, from possible and realistic to completely imaginary. Zombies and aliens feature in many of them, but there are some that focus on potentials that might actually exist in the world, such as war, weather, accidents, and related situations.
A solar flare triggers a destabilization of the Earth’s crust and causes a variety of natural disasters that destroy a large portion of the world.
A series of nuclear bombs destroy major cities and disable some electronics due to the nuclear EMP that follows. The struggle to survive faces the group of people who have been thrown together through the disastrous events.
Arctic Blast (2010)
A solar eclipse, coupled with pollution effects, causes a ozone layer hole that freezes the world.
An asteroid headed for Earth is spotted by a group of drillers who then attempt to stop the coming cataclysm. They plan to detonate a bomb to destroy it and when the remote detonator is damaged, someone is forced to stay to push the button.
By Dawn’s Early Light (1990)
World War III is begun by a stolen nuclear missile that is launched toward the Soviet Union from Turkey. The Soviet Union’s automated response results in a series of missiles launched toward the U.S.
Crack in the World (1965)
Scientists fire a rocket into the core of the Earth in an effort to gain information about geothermal energy, but instead cause a cataclysm that results in destruction and a possibility of the earth splitting.
The Day After (1983)
A fictional war between the Warsaw Pact countries and NATO becomes nuclear. The characters depicted are located in Kansas and Missouri.
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Extreme weather is brought in by a climate shift resulting in massive storms that flash-freeze areas of the world. Survivors fight to stay alive in the sub-freezing temperatures in a transformed world.
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
Simultaneous tests of nuclear bombs in separate parts of the world result in odd meteorological effects that end up changing the world’s temperature and changing zones of climate, as well as the Earth’s orbit. A solution to the problem is suggested and carried out.
Deep Impact (1998)
A huge incoming comet is discovered by a teen astronomer and is expected to cause mass extinction. An accident delays the information from reaching the authorities and limits the possible solutions or actions available. However, solutions are attempted, with less than stellar results.
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
In this doomsday comedy, a general in the U.S. Air Force orders an attack against the Soviet Union using nuclear bombs. The government attempts to stop the bombers before they can carry out the attack.
A deadly virus has led to quarantine; scientists are struggling to find a cure. One side effect of the virus is a regression to primal attitudes and actions.
Fail Safe (1964)
Based on the Cold War, this fictional account shows what might have happened if a thermonuclear strike happened because of an error.
A satellite designer finds that some satellites made to control weather are malfunctioning and causing an epic storm. Attempts to stop the storm commence.
Left Behind (2000)
Based on the Biblical model of the end times, this movie and its sequels follow a man, his family, and the people he contacts after the Biblical rapture has happened, resulting in large portions of the population disappearing suddenly.
Light of My Life (2019)
A plague has resulted in the death of a huge portion of human women. A man and his daughter seek to survive, which requires the daughter to present as a son.
The Lost Missile (1958)
An item that looks like a missile shows up in space, and a country decides to fire a rocket in an attempt to intercept it. The successful interception results in the object orbiting the Earth, causing devastation below its path.
Miracle Mile (1988)
Based on an area in Los Angeles that is known by the name “Miracle Mile,” this movie follows a couple who had just met as a nuclear blast becomes imminent. The main character becomes aware of the impending doom due to a misdialed phone number.
Somewhat loosely based on the Biblical account of Noah and the ark, this movie stars Russell Crowe as Noah and depicts the great flood that destroyed the world.
No Blade of Grass (1970)
A plague decimates the world and, a year later, a group are attempting to reach a relative’s farm and their travels are documented along with the troubles they encounter.
Right at Your Door (2006)
Dirty bombs destroy parts of Los Angeles and contaminate the rest. A couple who were apart work to help the wife decontaminate and help others who were caught outside, and find that things are definitely not what they seem.
Solar Attack (2006)
A solar probe is destroyed by a coronal mass ejection (CME) and it is followed by more that wreak havoc on satellites and cause fires on Earth.
Solar Crisis (1990)
A solar flare is endangering the earth; a bomb is loaded on a spaceship to target the sun and hopefully stop the flare. Believing the potential is exaggerated, one man attempts to keep the mission from happening.
A small town in California face a new way of life after nuclear devastation affects much of the United States. The survivors face radiation poisoning, dementia, and more.
This Is Not a Test (1962)
An impending missile attack causes police to stop incoming traffic and attempts to make shelter before the missile hits. Complications in the form of a murder suspect and other people with specific issues make the situation even more tense than it might otherwise have been.
The effects of nuclear war on North England’s Sheffield looks at two families and how they are affected by the nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It is based on the idea of a nuclear winter.
Without Warning (1994)
A mockumentary, a movie is interrupted by breaking news of meteor fragments impacting Earth in a variety of locations.
An astrology carving appears to predict a series of cataclysms that cause global destruction. The only possible remedy seems to be to replace the object where it was originally found.