HomeMoviesPop-Ed: Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Films

Pop-Ed: Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Films

daniel cohen is in a wasteland …


Post-Apocalyptic. Dystopian Futures. Wastelands. Whatever you want to call them, Hollywood has produced it’s fair share of movies about futures, that for lack of a better word … suck. But what makes the post-apocalyptic film so fascinating is that we often see both sides of the spectrum — an Earth with no technology, or an Earth with too much technology. And with the release of last week’s #1 movie Oblivion, where our planet is once again left barren with only a Tom Cruise to save it, I thought we’d take a look back at some of the best this genre has had to offer. And whether we’re looking at an Earth that’s been ravaged by war, fatal disease, or even pesky robots, no stone will be left unturned in My Top 10 Best Post-Apocalyptic Movies!

10. Logan’s Run (1976):

We’re kicking it off with a classic. And people are going to think I’m totally off my rocker and just an absolute crazy person, but to this day, I still prefer the effects and settings in this movie as opposed to something like Avatar. That’s how much I love practical effects over CG. With Avatar, I know it was all shat out of a computer. But with Logan’s Run, these are all organic and real. Yeah, you can blatantly tell it’s models most of the time, but they’re still real, dammit! But I ‘m getting sidetracked, because Logan’s Run really is an extraordinary film. This was sort of the precursor to WALL-E, where all the humans live in their safe little bubble, never exploring the outside world. But the sick twist in this film is that when everyone turns 30, they are levitated into this weird room leading to their death, fooled into thinking they will be reborn. Michael York (Yeah, Basil from Austin Powers) is great as the title character, and the joy of this film is simply watching Logan and Jessica (Jenny Agutter) progress through all these different environments until finally finding the true remains of the human race. While a bit long, Logan’s Run is trademark sci-fi entertainment. It’s only a matter of time before there’s a re-make.


9. Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome (1985):

The Mad Max series doesn’t get talked about too often anymore, but it’s a trilogy where all three films are unique in their own way. I think I even prefer Mel Gibson’s ‘Mad Max Rockatansky’ as opposed to Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon series. What propels Mad Max 3 to awesomeness though is the first act in which Max enters Bartertown, a twisted society where people live on pig shit for fuel, and are subjected to ‘Price is Right’ style games, if ‘the Price is Right’ were being played in Hell. To be honest, once Max leaves Bartertown, and the story shifts to these lost kids who act like Ewoks, the movie really loses me. But when Max enters the Thunderdome and fights Blaster (Paul Larsson), it’s one of the most epic fights in the history of cinema. I just wish the whole movie took place in Bartertown, even though that means more of Tina Turner’s acting.


8. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981):

Going right back to the Mad Max well, the Road Warrior is more consistent then it’s sequel. This is quite simply a bad ass piece of filmmaking. Screw those obnoxious douchebag-esque Fast and Furious car chases … this is a man’s car chase. Death cars barreling down the dirt road, giant dudes with mohawks punching through windshields, motorcycles with spikes all over the place … and once again, it’s the 80′s, so we know there’s no CG. It’s all practical, baby. And also unlike Crapformers and Battle Los Angeles, the action is filmed in a way where you can actually tell what’s going on…imagine that?


7. I Am Legend (2007):

I’m not much of a zombie guy, so for me, this is a movie that is truly carried on the shoulders of Will Smith. I think it’s his best acting job. It’s his Cast Away. And just like Tom Hanks, Smith has the gravitas to own the screen all by himself. There are many drop dead powerful moments in this film, but when Smith’s character, Robert Neville, has to give his dog a certain fate, everyone in the theater I saw it in lost it. Smith’s acting is incredible here. He should have been nominated for an Oscar, but it’s a movie with zombies, so the Academy shrugged their shoulders. What else is new? I am Legend … otherwise known as The Fresh Prince of Zombieland. Now that’s a sitcom waiting to happen.


6. Dredd (2012):

I don’t care if I’m the only one who’s seen Dredd, that’s not my problem. Dredd is a gritty, brutal, and relentless crime film, with a fantastic performance from Karl Urban. And you don’t even see the guy’s face! The look of horror in Cassandra Anderson’s (Olivia Thirlby) eyes as she watches how depraved and sick Metro-City One is says it all, and this is only her first day of training with Dredd. But the scene that puts it over the top for me is when Dredd takes control of the PA system in Ma-Ma’s (Lena Headey) building, and Urban delivers a masterful speech that is absolutely chilling. ‘I am the law.’ If this movie slipped by you, and judging by the box office it probably did, give it a chance.


5. The Matrix (1999):

What is there to say about The Matrix at this point? When this movie came out, it knocked us all on our collective asses. And for better or worse, we have to credit it with giving us bullet-time style action. But as much as I love this movie, it hasn’t aged well. With the Star Wars prequels, I’m still able to separate them from the original trilogy. But for some reason, The Matrix sequels are harder to break away from that mold. I can’t help but think of the atrocities that are The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions while watching the original. Personally, I don’t think The Matrix really shouldn’t have gotten any sequels to begin with; the story was complete for me. Neo (Keanu Reeves) flies away, it signals to us he’s the God they’ve been waiting for, and eventually he’ll save everyone. I didn’t need to see this play out. It’s like in Heroes when Peter Petrelli becomes all powerful, but the creators realized, ‘Oops, this is a TV show, let’s think of lame ways to downgrade his power set.’ But at the end of the day, The Matrix is still a classic.


4. WALL-E (2008):

Aside from Toy Story 3, this is Pixar’s crowning achievement. I admit I have a personal bias towards the plot of this film, as I feel too much technology can deteriorate the human race, and WALL-E is basically a giant middle finger to technology. The brilliance of WALL-E is that on the surface it can be a fun little kid’s film, as all the fat people slide around in their chairs staring at their computer screens, but in reality, this is some dark, dark, dark, shit. But aside from the film’s main point, the first act where it’s just WALL-E roaming around the desolate Earth is also fantastic … quiet, subtle, and funny. 2008 will always be the Academy’s darkest hour for many reasons, and WALL-E not getting a Best Picture nomination is one of them.


3. Equilibrium (2002):

This movie was completely buried and tossed aside in the wake of The Matrix. And I admit the similarities are a little much, especially in how the protagonist dresses, so I can’t fault someone for saying, ‘This is just a Matrix rip off.’ But now that it’s been years since both movies were released, I can safely say that Equilibrium is actually a better Matrix. Why? While it deals with similar themes of humans being tricked and manipulated into a specific society, Equilibrium expresses itself with actions, not words. For all the praise the Matrix gets, and deservedly so, it’s too over bearing and talky. I can’t stand a lot of Morpheus’ speeches. Stop preaching and explaining every little detail! With Equilibrium, a movie about human emotion essentially being outlawed, it tells you everything you need to know through it’s actions. When John Preston (Christian Bale), a Cleric (high ranking police officers), breaks down and cries when listening to a piece of music that is deemed illegal, this tells you everything you need to know on both the character, and how oppressive their society has become. This is better then someone talking about going ‘down the rabbit hole’ 95 different times. While Equilibrium doesn’t have bullet-time, it introduces it’s own little gem: Gun Kata. It’s basically learning how to use guns as swords. You have to see it to believe it. The score is TV level, and the ending is a bit abrupt, but in going back to the Matrix comparisons, one movie has Keanu Reeves, while the other Christian Bale … any more questions?


2. Akira (1988):

It’s hard to elaborate on the greatness of this movie, but every time it ends, I just sit there in awe. It’s a storyline that reaches, and reaches far into the depths of some pretty serious themes. And while it’s not perfect, and certainly clunky in many areas, it succeeds more times then not. And Akira has certainly influenced plenty of other properties, including last year’s fantastic Chronicle and certain elements of Lost. However, Akira achieved what it wanted to say a hell of a lot better then Lost did. While very rough around the edges, the animation is stellar, albeit some disturbing images to be sure. Akira is an emotional experience that is unquestionably draining, as well as fulfilling. This film isn’t for everyone, but everyone should see it at least once.


1. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001):

You could argue it’s one of the most polarizing films ever made. People either love A.I., or loathe it. There’s not a lot of in between. Personally, I think it’s outstanding, but I get people’s criticisms. For those who don’t remember, this was supposed to be Stanley Kubrick’s film up until his death in 1999. You can see his influence on it, but it’s very much a Steven Spielberg movie. It’s funny how I’ve been ranting and raving about CG, but I have to admit, this is an absolutely gorgeous looking film with fantastic special effects. But at the heart of this movie is a character who ironically doesn’t have one – David, played incredibly well by Haley Joel Osment. David is just one of those characters like Rocky, Truman Burbank, or Forrest Gump – a protagonist who you want to succeed so damn badly, it makes his journey that much more substantial. And much like Logan’s Run, I love watching how many different environments David and Gigolo Joe (Jude Law) encounter, from the sleazy Las Vegas-esque town of Rouge City, to the desolate near underwater Manhattan. But the biggest knock on this film is the ending. I agree that the movie reaches an appropriate conclusion, albeit a depressing one, but still should have ended right there. But as everyone who’s seen this movie knows, it just keeps going. While I agree it’s not the greatest ending in the world, I think it’s a solid one. I think a big reason why people lash out at this climax is simply the design of the aliens…they look too Spielberg, and I can see how that could really irritate a lot of people. Also, many just assume he changed Kubrick’s ending to make it more Spielberg schmaltzy, but according to Spielberg, this was the ending all along. What’s the real story…who knows? All I know is that this is an incredible film, but I totally understand why certain people don’t dig it. It’s an acquired taste.

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Daniel Cohen
Daniel Cohen
Daniel Cohen likes movies and bagels, and that’s pretty much it. Aside from writing Box Office predictions, Daniel hosts the monthly Batman by the Numbers Podcast on the Breakcast feed. Speaking of Batman, If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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