Scientific American has a special issue on ‘The End‘, with one article – “Death to Humans!” – devoted to listing “visions of the apocalypse in movies and literature”. There are categories for astronomical catastrophes, biological calamities, geophysical disasters, machine-driven takeovers and war. Oddly enough, given we’re talking ‘apocalypse’, there’s no religious category…I guess Sci-Am doesn’t want wander too far from their home territory (but then, if you’re going to put movies like Armageddon in there, are we really talking science?). Here’s the ‘Biological Calamities’ list:
Earth Abides (novel 1949)
After humanity is wiped out by a deadly airborne illness, a small band of survivors set about rebuilding civilization.
A Sound of Thunder (short story 1952, film 2005)
A time-traveling hunter inadvertently crushes a butterfly during an excursion to the Jurassic period. It causes a succession of “time waves” to batter present-day Earth — and its embattled human occupants — and wrenches reality onto a different evolutionary path. Think baboon-dinosaurs besieging your local gas-mart.
I Am Legend (novel 1954, films 1964 (The Last Man on Earth), 1971 (Omega Man), 2007 (I Am Legend))
One lone man is immune to a pandemic virus that ravages humanity. He struggles to develop a treatment to save the infected.
The Andromeda Strain (novel 1969, film 1971, TV miniseries 2008)
A satellite returns to Earth with a deadly microbe that wipes out an entire town except for a baby and an old man.
The Stand (novel 1978)
A deadly virus is accidentally released from a research lab, wiping out humanity. The story chronicles the confrontations that occur among the survivors.
12 Monkeys (film, 1995)
A terrorist release of a virus has devastated civilization, forcing the remainder of humanity underground. Scientists send a convicted felon back in time as part of an effort to stop the release.
28 Days Later (film 2002)
A chimpanzee harboring a deadly virus escapes from a research lab and infects the entire population, resulting in societal collapse. The film focuses on four uninfected people and their struggle to survive.
Reign of Fire (film 2002)
Dragons suddenly populate Earth and wipe out all people in their path. Small bands of survivors across the planet struggle to evade the dragons and fight for their lives.
Apocalyptic fiction (both in literature and movies) is one of my favourite genres, with Day of the Triffids pretty much top of the list (not sure what that says about me psychologically…). Great to peruse this list, but the question I’ve got for you is – have they missed any of your favourites? For more ideas you might like to check out apocalypticmovies.com and the Wikipedia entry for apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction as well.