Hollywood has long been fascinated with annihilating the human species. Perusing the list of highest grossing movies, it’s obvious people take no issue paying to watch themselves be wiped from the planet. For whatever reason, we seem to possess a morbid curiosity about how sentient life on Earth will end.
Since entertainment reflects society’s wants and desires, it probably explains why catastrophic event movies remain as popular as ever. It can’t be easy for producers, writers and directors to invent new and creative methods to eliminate humanity, but that hasn’t prevented them from concocting elaborate scenarios.
Throughout the 100-plus years of fiction filmmaking, there have been numerous plots formulated to destroy man and woman. Here’s a breakdown of the most tried and true vessels of destruction.
Since Fat Man and Little Boy were dropped on Japan, we’ve all been bracing for someone to push the button that will initiate full-scale nuclear war. In turn, Tinseltown has done their very best to prepare us for being relegated to shadows and ash. Although not as prevalent as it was during the Cold War, the threat of nuclear obliteration still lingers, as does its terrifying implications.
Notable nuclear holocaust movies: Terminator franchise, Dr. Strangelove, The Day After, A Boy and His Dog, Damnation Alley, On the Beach, Fail Safe, Miracle Mile, Testament, Threads, The Book of Eli (Note: films like The Road Warrior and Planet of the Apes never specified nuclear war as the ultimate destructive force.)
For purposes of this exercise, I’m going to separate the viruses that merely kill, as opposed to those that transform humans into cannibalistic zombies. Airborne viruses like smallpox and Ebola are legitimate threats to one day put a capper on civilization, despite our medical hubris. In film, fictional diseases like the Motaba virus are presented as being a most unpleasant way to die, what with all the puss-filled blisters and bleeding from the eyes.
Notable pandemic movies: Outbreak, The Andromeda Strain, 12 Monkeys, Children of Men, The Stand, Blindness, Mission: Impossible II, Aeon Flux, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Is this what caused the dinosaurs to become extinct? Some scientists seem to think so. The fact that we keep hearing about meteors that could potentially collide with Earth has provided excellent fodder for Hollywood. Needless to say, if a massive space boulder smashes into the planet, we’re all pretty much screwed.
Notable meteor movies: Armageddon, Deep Impact, When Worlds Collide, Tank Girl, Meteor, The Time Machine
Cataclysmic Climate Change
Now that global warming is a hotbed issue, we’re beginning to see weather become an enemy to humanity. Although, I guess we should shoulder some of the blame since we love polluting the environment and burning fossil fuels. Whatever the case, epic tidal waves, floods, blizzards, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes could very well lead to our undoing. Maybe that’s why we hate weather guys and gals so much.
Notable climate change movies: The Day After Tomorrow, Waterworld, 2012, WALL-E, Logan’s Run, The Happening, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Without a doubt, the most popular and profitable way to extinguish humanity on the big screen is by turning us into zombies and having us either infect or consume one another. Technically, we wouldn’t really be extinct, but we might as well be if our decaying corpse is running around chewing on arms and feet. That’s not really much of a life. Whether the cause is an exploding space probe or a man-made virus, cannibalistic zombies roaming the countryside sounds like it would be bad. Fun, but very bad.
Notable zombie apocalypse movies: The Night of the Living Dead franchise, 28 Days and Weeks Later, The Resident Evil franchise, The Omega Man, Shaun of the Dead, I Am Legend, The Signal, Zombieland
Artificial Intelligence Run Amok
Since technology continues to rapidly advance, the fear of an impending takeover by computers becomes more and more realistic. As we brazenly bask in our own genius, we are ignoring the idea that we could potentially be creating the harbingers of our own doom. Robots or software entities reaching a state of self-awareness used to be science fiction. Not so much anymore. When the machines do finally deem us expendable, don’t go blaming Hollywood. They exercised due diligence in warning us of the outcome.
Notable A.I. run amok movies: The Terminator franchise, The Matrix franchise, I, Robot, Screamers, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, 9
Everyone loves a good alien invasion. I’m always amazed how the aliens are so much smarter and more kick ass than us lowly humans. Just once I’d like to see an army of little green men that behave like a bunch of disorganized retards. Nevertheless, there’s been no shortage of galactic gangs waging war on Earth’s inhabitants over the last fifty years in film.
Notable alien invasion movies: The War of the Worlds, Independence Day, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Mars Attacks!, Maximum Overdrive, The Day of the Triffids, They Live, Transformers