In film, a studio generally doesn’t want to make a film that ends entirely on a down note. It is because of this that only a small number of films are made where the antagonist wins, and an even smaller number of films are made where human life as we know it is almost entirely eradicated. Even most post-apocalyptic films generally have a protagonist finding some new hope to restore the human race.
The following films are in that small category where nobody seems to make it. There may be humans alive at the end of some of these films, but it’s pretty well understood by the viewer that it won’t be for long!
SPOILER ALERT! Be warned: The entire list is nothing but spoilers!
10. The Road (2009)
The Road is a post-apocalyptic film based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy. After an unknown cataclysmic event, all plant and animal life on the planet dies out with the exception of humanity. The world falls into a state of turmoil and people are reduced to scavenging for canned food and in some cases have resorted to cannibalism.
In the film, Viggo Mortensen plays a father walking his son down a road going south in hopes of warmer weather. Along the way, they face deadly scavengers looking to rob them for their food and clothing, or even to eat them. Though not all the characters die in the film, there is no ray of hope that the circumstances are going to change for planet Earth. One truly gets the idea that they’re watching humanity’s last days.
9. Melancholia (2011)
Melancholia is a film from the prolific filmmaker Lars von Trier. It centers on two sisters, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), when Justine moves in with her sister after Justine’s husband abandons her on the night of their wedding. Justine goes into a deep depression, but as a result claims to have a special insight that a planet called Melancholia, that until now was blocked by the sun, won’t just be making a pass by planet Earth, but will instead be crashing into it.
Needless to say, Justine is correct. The two sisters, along with Claire’s son, sit in a crude teepee and watch the sky as Melancholia heads toward the Earth.
8. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
A whacked out military General by the name of Jack D. Ripper sets a plane on course with a nuclear bomb towards Russia with the instructions to drop it on the country. Meanwhile, it’s discovered that a Doomsday Device has been in place as a nuclear deterrent. If a nuclear bomb is dropped on any of the countries that are part of the pact, it will set off a chain reaction of nuclear explosions across the globe that will assure the destruction of the entire planet. Russia just so happens to be a part of this pact.
Jack D. Ripper’s plans to ‘purify’ the world are a success.
7. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
The film opens with a radio announcement that an asteroid will be destroying the Earth in three weeks following a failed space mission to set the asteroid off course with the planet. Dodge, played by Steve Carell, and Penny, played by Keira Knightley, have been left by or left their significant others respectively, shortly after the announcement. Dodge makes a deal with Penny that if she accompanies him to Delaware to find his high school sweetheart, then he can set her up with a friend that can fly her to England to see her family before the end of the world.
6. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
There’s an interesting story surrounding the sequel to the original Planet of the Apes film. In an attempt to avoid making a third installment, the writers and director, unbeknownst to the studio, decided to have Charlton Heston’s character of Taylor blow the entire planet up using a nuclear bomb worshiped by humans that live beneath the Earth’s surface.
The plan ultimately backfired as the resulting explosion was used to jettison a spacecraft of apes through time and space to land on ‘present day’ earth for a third feature. A fourth and fifth film would be made in the series, followed by a television series, an animated series, two remakes, and an upcoming sequel to the latest remake.
Talk about a failed plan.
5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Saying everybody dies in this film is a bit of a misnomer. At the end of Rise, it is revealed that a virus that is specifically deadly to humans is released at an airport. Before trailers for the upcoming sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, viewers were left with the impression that mankind was doomed and Caesar and his band of intelligent apes would inherit the Earth. This does seem to be the case for the most part, as trailers reveal that the disease did spread and only a few packs of humans still exist in the film’s universe.
4. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
Despite the fact that the first film in the series, 28 Days Later, established that the ‘infected’ had eventually died of starvation, the second installment has the Rage virus still spreading and the infected are still alive. In the first film and through most of the second, it seems that the Rage virus is quarantined to the UK. Despite the fact a number of the main characters make it to ‘safety’, it is revealed at the end of the film that the virus has now spread to France, a place the film’s main characters expected to be a safe zone. It would appear that the Rage virus is going global.
3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
This film based on the Hitchhiker’s series of novels by Douglas Adams, opens with the destruction of the entire planet to make way for a bypass on an interstellar highway. The Vogons, an alien race overseeing the construction of the highway, succeed in their endeavor with zero retaliation.
Two earthlings did manage to survive the blast: Arthur Dent was whisked away at the zero hour by his friend who just so happened to be a hitchhiking alien masquerading as an earthling. The other survivor was a woman named Trillian that was picked up by an intergalactic Casanova some years before the Earth’s destruction.
2. This Is the End (2013)
This comedy features every actor involved playing a version of themselves. During a big Hollywood party at James Franco’s house, the rapture just so happens to take place. Many people are suddenly whisked away to Heaven, forcing those that weren’t taken to live in a Hell on Earth. For the rest of the film, the surviving actors are forced to ration food, survive the aftermath of the catastrophe, and avoid getting killed by the evil hellspawn that lurk outside. It eventually becomes clear that anyone that doesn’t change their ways towards a greater good is going to remain on earth to be killed by demons.
1. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
What starts out as a typical teen slasher flick is quickly revealed to not be exactly what it seems to be. It turns out the ancient gods that early man believed to require human sacrifice are very real and have a love for horror films. An agency has been operating in the shadows trapping teenagers in typical horror film settings, and eventually set the film’s protagonists against a clan of redneck zombies.
Two of the group members unravel the mystery of what’s happening to them and eventually make their way into the secret organization’s headquarters. Unwilling to accept their fate as sacrifices to the gods, the surviving characters refuse to give themselves up. The clock runs out and the old gods come back to destroy the world.