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10 Best Slices of Apocalyptic Horror (That Don’t Involve Zombies)

With the apocalypse right around the corner, these ten movies will both entertain and educate you.
Apocalypse Horror Movies
By  · Published on October 3rd, 2020

5. Pulse (2001)


Horror movies have touched on the supernatural, the internet, and the end of the world before, but it took the quiet genius of Kiyoshi Kurosawa‘s Pulse (a.k.a. Kairo) to bring the ideas together in gloriously effective collaboration. Ghosts are returning to the world of the living, and they’re doing so via the World Wide Web. Their targets are the lonely and sad among us, those who often while away their days online or in dark rooms, and the visions the ghosts bring these people only adds to the dead. Pulse is an intimate, methodical tale of terror and loss that grows and spreads to threaten neighborhoods, cities, and eventually the world in the form of a bleak apocalypse.

George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead stated that when there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth — but Kurosawa’s film suggests that they’ll seep into our psyches instead, reminding us of just how brutally alone we actually are, and then welcome us as dread and depression lead us to slip our mortal coils. This is bleak horror managed without torture or violation. After all, who needs a zombie to eat our flesh when we’re so goddamn good at digesting our own internal misery? (Rob Hunter)

4. Take Shelter (2011)

Take Shelter apocalypse horror movies

When we think of the apocalypse, we tend to think big, but sometimes the most devastating apocalypses are the personal ones. If the world were ending, but you were the only one who noticed, how would you feel? Jeff Nichols’ slow-burn psychological thriller asks and answers that question in a beautiful, devastating fashion. Michael Shannon plays an Ohio man who tries to protect his wife (played by Jessica Chastain) and disabled daughter while hiding his visions of doom — swarms of dark birds, oil rain, dangerous people — from them. An enigmatic watch with an eerie thunderbolt of an ending, Take Shelter is both a fantastic apocalypse movie and one of the most authentic portraits of anxiety and mental illness ever put on screen. (Valerie Ettenhofer)

3. Children of Men (2006)

Children Of Men apocalypse horror movies

The Mayan calendar wasn’t right, the antichrist doesn’t come to earth, and zombies don’t rise up, but there is still an apocalypse event at the core of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. It’s been twenty years since the last newborn child, and that has caused upheaval to the quality of life across the globe. Clive Owen’s Julian is kidnapped and forced by a political activist to help transport Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), the first pregnant woman in decades, out of a war-ravaged United Kingdom. The story, very loosely based on a novel of the same name, is thrilling, but it becomes a work of art through Cuarón’s incredible long takes that lets the audience really sit with his large action set pieces. You’d think since overpopulation is a major factor in global climate change that fewer people on Earth would ultimately help life go on, but as we all know, society – and its deep love for xenophobia and violence – doesn’t work that way. In that regard, over a decade after its release, how different is our modern world from the events of Children of Men? Unfortunately after 2020, not very different at all. (Jacob Trussell)

2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers apocalypse horror movies

The apocalypse starts small. It’s the little things, the stuff you’d barely notice, the minor changes in habit and personality that first only raise an eyebrow. But before long, they raise the alarm and inform us that a character has been overtaken by another being quicker than you can say “Donald Sutherland’s mustache”. Philip Kaufman’s groundbreaking vision of the end of days is one of the most genuinely frightening films ever made, with paranoia baked into every frame and suspense that holds until the very last shot. This is a movie about how terror and destruction worm their way in; first too slowly to be detected and then faster than ever could have been anticipated. (Anna Swanson)

1. The Thing (1982)

The Thing
Universal Pictures

A research station in Antarctica is invaded by a parasitic shapeshifting alien. Already struggling with the cold isolation, the researchers stationed at this facility are forced to deal with panic and paranoia as it becomes increasingly difficult to know if the person you’re talking to is who they appear to be. John Carpenter‘s masterpiece is a testosterone-filled thrill ride that features some incredible performances, but man, it’s depressing as hell. That’s assuming the idea of the world slowly being overtaken by this parasite that will either kill everyone or cause everyone to kill each other is something that bums you out. Perhaps you’re someone just waiting for the day to offer up your body as a host for an alien creature. In that case, this is the apocalypse for you. (Chris Coffel)

Live through the apocalypse and looking for something else to watch? Read more 31 Days of Horror Lists!

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Chris Coffel is a contributor at Film School Rejects. He’s a connoisseur of Christmas horror, a Nic Cage fanatic, and bad at Rocket League. He can be found on Twitter here: @Chris_Coffel. (He/Him)