2012 and The Road are only the newest entries into a longstanding film tradition: total annihilation of the Earth and its inhabitants. WATCH VIDEO of the 10 most creative ways Hollywood has destroyed the world, from On the Beach to Wall-E.
Alien Invasion: Independence Day
No one destroys the world quite like Roland Emmerich. Before he helmed 2012, Emmerich cut his CGI teeth on the 1996 Will Smith vehicle Independence Day, an alien-invasion yarn garnished with a plethora of destructiontastic set pieces, including blowing up the White House.
Climate Catastrophe: The Day After Tomorrow
In 2004, Emmerich again took on the entire world with The Day After Tomorrow. Emmerich and Jeffery Nachmanoff are credited with penning the script, but you might wonder whether Al Gore had a hand in the story, which revolves around myriad weather catastrophes caused by the melting of the polar ice caps. This inconvenient truth was a box-office blockbuster, raking in more than $542 million internationally.
Nuclear Fallout: On the Beach
Unlike the pulse-pounding action-adventure apocalypse flicks that have dominated the box office for the past few decades, 1959’s On the Beach, based on Nevil Shute's novel of the same name, is a slower, more thoughtful look at the end of the world. When a nuclear war wipes out most of the planet, only Australia is spared, thanks to its relative remoteness. But the encroaching fallout cloud forces the survivors to ask: Is it better to wait for the radiation poisoning to slowly kill you, or take the suicide pills being handed out by the government?
Pandemic (of the “Everybody’s Dead!” Variety): The Stand
If you’ve recently caught a nasty case of swine-flu paranoia, you might want to give this 1994 television miniseries, based on Stephen King’s 1978 novel, a pass. In it, a superflu—the result of a human-engineered bioweapon—wipes out most of America, leaving the streets littered with broken bodies. Those who are immune end up squaring off into the Good camp and the Evil camp and having a balance-of-humanity throwdown in (where else?) Las Vegas.
Pandemic (of the “Everybody’s a Zombie!” Variety): Dawn of the Dead
In spite of its dead antagonists, the zombie movie genre is alive and kicking. The undisputed zombie master is George A. Romero, whose 1968 film Night of the Living Dead spawned seven sequels and remakes. Dawn of the Dead, a 2004 remake of the 1978 film of the same name, is the perfect blend of horror and satire, as a band of survivors hole up in a mall and try to fend off the waves of walking dead.
Pandemic (of the “Everybody’s a Vampire!” Variety): I Am Legend
For a slim novella, Hollywood sure has gotten a lot of mileage out of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. The 1954 book was first adapted to film as The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price in 1964, then as The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston in 1971—and most recently as I Am Legend starring Will Smith in 2007. In each version, a plague turns everyone into a vampire with one exception, a man who takes it upon himself to hunt down the creatures, until he becomes the fairytale monster of their legends. The latest adaptation went further than previous versions in surveying the damage wreaked upon the Earth, including this haunting scene of Neville (Will Smith) hunting for food in the barren wasteland of Times Square.
Ape Servants Overthrow Man: Planet of the Apes
If Al Gore secretly scripted The Day After Tomorrow, then PETA definitely had a hand in Planet of the Apes. The popular film franchise, which kicked off in 1968 with the titular film starring Charlton Heston, imagines a world where apes have evolved and overthrown their human masters, who in turn have devolved into unintelligent vermin. Think about that the next time you visit a zoo.
Robot Servants Overthrow Man: Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Another thing to think about—try to resist the urge to smack your computer the next time it crashes, lest it suddenly develop super-intelligence and try to take over the Earth. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, picks up where the first movie left off, with one big difference—this time, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a robot reprogrammed to protect, rather than kill, Sarah Connor. The Terminator teams up with Sarah and her son, John, as they try to prevent the robot-engineered nuclear holocaust. In this clip, Sarah dreams of what will happen if they don’t succeed.
Mounds of Refuse Overtake Earth: Wall-E
Trust Disney to give us the cutest apocalypse ever. 2008’s Wall-E imagines a future where Earth has become so clogged with garbage, thanks to rampant consumerism, that all humans have fled to luxury outerspace cruises, leaving behind robots to clean up the mess. Of course, all the cuteness may be counteractive to the message of caring for the Earth and recycling—after all, who wouldn’t want to litter if the end result is a world populated by adorable robots who love musical theater?
Societal Breakdown: Mad Max
The apocalypse headed back to Australia in 1979 with Mad Max. Following a global fuel shortage, society breaks down and motorcycle gangs take over the countryside, and only a leather-clad Mel Gibson can stop their two-wheeled reign of terror. Takeaway lesson? Go hybrid, or you may find yourself at the mercy of Mel Gibson on a motorcycle.
The Daily Beast Video curates the most essential and entertaining video, and brings you original and exclusive productions from our talented contributors.