Shortly after being tasked to put together a list of the 10 best apocalypse movies, I realized that it wasn’t going to be as easy as I first thought. This being Guns & Ammo, firearms had to be if not an important part of the plot, at least appear in the movie. Upon review, it was interesting to me how many of the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies I tracked down hardly featured guns in them—I guess ammo doesn’t grow on trees.
The task soon became eliminating those great movies which didn’t qualify, either being pre-apocalyptic—the Terminator series, Soylent Green—those without any guns at all—On The Beach, The Hunger Games, The Blood of Heroes—simply dystopian movies—Minority Report, Blade Runner—or TV series—The Walking Dead, Jericho, Battlestar Galactica, and Falling Skies.
What’s left is a number of new and classic movies—some hugely successful, and some you might not have ever heard of.
10. Night of the Comet (1984)
I’m not alone in liking this fun, quirky movie from the '80s—Roger Ebert did too. When a comet passes by Earth, anybody not under a metal roof dies and collapses into a pile of orange dust. Two teenage girls—whose father is an absentee and presumed dead Green Beret—find themselves being hunted by a group of survivalists who were partly exposed to the comet, and hoping to develop a cure using the girls’ blood. Realistic? Heck no. Fun? Yep. How often do you see a teenage girl working a MAC-10? It also features one of my favorite lines ever spoken by a high school girl: “Daddy would’ve gotten us Uzis.”
9. Logan's Run (1976)
The catastrophe which resulted in everybody having to live in a city inside a dome is never detailed in this movie, but the city founders developed an efficient way to prevent overcrowding—nobody is allowed to live past the age of 30. Starring all sorts of young and very pretty people (Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Farrah Fawcett), the story follows York’s character, Logan 5, as he tries to locate "Sanctuary." Logan 5 is employed as a Sandman, a police officer who quite often has to track down people who don’t wish to die and "put them to sleep." Logan's Run won an Academy Award for its special effects, and part of those involved the cool handguns the Sandmen carried. Spitting out green flame from a four-slot comp, it even sounded cool. While very dated in appearance, this is another fun movie from the end of the world.
8. 28 Days Later (2002)
While some people may think of this as a zombie movie, the attacking hordes in this action thriller have in fact been infected with the "Rage" virus, released by well-meaning animal rights activists—I love that the end of the world was caused by liberal whack-jobs. Think of them as angry zombies who can run really fast. As it takes place in Britain, guns are pretty scarce in the movie until the military shows up with their Enfield bullpups, and they don’t make the situation much better. I’ve noticed director Danny Boyle’s movies—The Beach, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire—all seem to have a common theme: There’s a happy ending, but the characters have to go through absolute hell to get there.
7. The Road (2009)
The Road is a horrible movie. I don’t mean that it is badly done; rather, it very realistically depicts a world on the verge of extinction, filled with people willing to do anything to survive. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), this is just the first movie in my list that will make you want to take a shower and/or hug your kids after viewing. It makes Schindler’s List seem upbeat. I honestly don’t recommend it because it is so rough—per IMDB, two of the characters in the movie are Cannibal and Baby Eater. Viggo Mortensen plays a father armed with a revolver trying to keep his son alive. As the movie takes place about 10 years after the world-ending event—not specifically mentioned in book or movie, but McCarthy said he always envisioned a huge asteroid like the kind that killed the dinosaurs—there’s no gas left for cars, and nobody believes Mortensen even has any ammo for the revolver he carries.
6. Children of Men (2006)
This is the second movie on this list that while I really liked it, it is so dark that I don’t know if I’ll ever watch it again. Children of Men is set in 2027, 20 years after the last human baby has been born. Scientists have been unable to find a cure for humanity’s worldwide infertility, and as a result people have lost all hope—Britain is wallowing in suicides, gang warfare, you name it. The scene in the abandoned grade school is just heartbreaking. Clive Owen's character is tasked with escorting a miraculously pregnant woman to safety outside of the country. His quest results in some very nice action sequences; at least one of which was filmed all in one take. Featuring British Army troops with Enfield bullpups, and gang members with full-auto weapons and pistols, the movie has some gunplay, but the most dangerous things in it are the people.
5. Zombieland (2009)
As a whole, this movie isn’t great, but it has so much great stuff in it—Rule No. 1: Cardio, Twinkies, the dueling banjo theme, Bill Murray—that it belongs on this list. In addition to having more than its share of zombie killing, it is also very funny, which is hard to find when it comes to end-of-the-world type movies. Shaun of the Dead was marketed as a comedy with zombies, but in fact it was a zombie movie with a little comedy, and Zombieland is a lot more entertaining, although I recommend both. You name the weapon, you can probably find it used in this movie. But it’s not about the guns; it’s about having a good time when you can. Most importantly, Rule No. 2: Double Tap.
4. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
There are probably people that are apoplectic that Night of the Living Dead doesn’t make my list, or that I’ve chosen the modern remake of this movie over George Romero’s original from 1978. Suck it up; this is my list, not yours. Night of the Living Dead hardly has any guns in it, and the original Dawn of the Dead had a budget of about $12. Plus, not only was the acting barely tolerable, they had junky pistols and fake AR-15s chambered in .22 LR. This new version of Dawn starring Ving Rhames again mostly takes place in a mall, but the zombies are fast, the scares are aplenty and the interplay with Andy, the clerk atop a nearby gun store, is great. I’m surprised there wasn’t a run on his inventory, but then again, he uses an M40 sniper rifle to pop celebrity look-alike zombies; in the short movie in the DVD Special Features, he also has an HK MP5, a SIG Sauer SSG 3000 and a Safari Arms .45.
3. The Omega Man (1971)
This is only the middle of three movies based on Richard Matheson’s novella I Am Legend, starting with The Last Man on Earth (1964, Vincent Price) and ending with 2007’s I Am Legend starring Will Smith. While I like everything about Will Smith’s I Am Legend—except the fake-looking CG zombies—The Omega Man is the more classic film. While the villains in Matheson’s original story were technically vampires, the story is considered the first modern zombie story, and was the inspiration for George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Charlton Heston wanders around Los Angeles in this version, dispatching zombies with a plethora of guns, including a S&W M76 submachine gun, an M3 carbine—M1 carbine with infrared scope—and even a BAR, any one of which is way cooler than Will Smith’s Surefire-equipped M4.
2. The Matrix (1999)
Some people may be scratching their heads, wondering why The Matrix is on a list of apocalyptic movies, but think about it folks: Most of humanity exists as unconscious slaves being used as nothing more than living batteries for the robots who rule the real world, such as it is. This movie stands so far apart from most action movies, in both plot and cinematic style—the directors invented a new way to film to capture certain scenes—that it will probably be forever considered a classic. The only argument will be over which genre it belongs to. As far as weaponry goes, you’ll see everything from helicopter-mounted mini-guns on down, with a focus on full-auto weapons and Desert Eagles. Technically accurate gun handling? Ha! But we’ve all watched it again and again, wishing we were the ones who could open our eyes and say, "I know kung fu.”
1. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
I don’t think it’s possible to name a movie which better embraces the label “apocalyptic” than Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. If you’ve never seen the movie, or haven’t seen it in a long time, I highly recommend it. The film which made Mel Gibson a star is most well-known for a huge combat-filled car chase where the post-apocalyptic denizens of Australia fight over a school bus filled with gasoline drums. The only thing in shorter supply than gas is apparently ammo—and food is not far behind, given Max’s tendency to eat dog food. Better than the original Max Max and far better than Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, this is one of those iconic movies that spawned a hundred imitations and still stands the test of time.
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