/Answers: The Best Cinematic End Of The World

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. This week's edition, tying in with the release of It Comes At Night, asks "What is your favorite cinematic end of the world?" As always, we have submissions from the /Film writing crew and podcast team. This week, we are also joined by It Comes at Night writer/director Trey Edward Shults.

If you'd like to share your pick for your favorite cinematic end of the world, please send your thoughts to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com for a chance to be featured on the site. Find our choices below!

Trey Edward Shults: Children of Men, Take Shelter, and Melancholia

[Excerpted from a larger interview]

Children of Men. Take Shelter, depending on how you want to look at it. Melancholia, [also] depending on how you want to look at that. I also love the video game The Last of Us. I think that video game is incredible. Those would be the four, especially if I'm thinking of any kind of end of the world thing. With Children of Men and The Last of Us, I just love the world they create. I think they're really smart and unique worlds, but I also care about the characters. But then with Take Shelter and Melancholia, it's like taking an emotion and applying that to a narrative. With Melancholia, it's depression. With Take Shelter, it's [director Jeff Nichols'] paranoia about where the world is going. They distill that emotion and let a narrative come out of that emotion. It's fascinating to me.

Jack Giroux: 28 Days Later

Waking up from a coma to find your old world gone, overrun by "zombies," and devoid of your loved ones is as horrifying as it sounds in Danny Boyle's movie. The virus hasn't touched the rest of the world, but what happens in England may be the beginning of the end. Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland show how chaotic and painful it would be, too. There's a captivating sense of madness to the movie, which looks at the world falling from an intimate perspective. 28 Days Later wouldn't feel so chaotic or emotional as it does if we didn't care so deeply for the four leads trying to survive. Because they feel real, Boyle's haunting vision of England becomes more believable and visceral as a result. The end is intensely personal through Boyle's eyes. His warmth as a storyteller pops up now and then, but the end of the world is mostly pure, unrestrained terror.

Christopher Stipp: The Cabin in the Woods

I had no idea what I was stepping into when I bought a ticket for The Cabin in the Woods. There should be hosannas sung on a daily basis for the fact that this movie even exists at all and it's a genuine head scratcher for me when I try to figure out out why director Drew Goddard has not directed anything since this movie with the exception of the pilot for The Good Place.  What you have in The Cabin in the Woods is a modern day deconstruction of the horror genre in a way that's simultaneously complex and intensely satisfying on a superficial level. As far as movies go where the end of the world is all but assured, there is no other ending more satisfying than watching heroes who could have chosen to save the world and simply decided to let it die on principle.

Of all the quality kills in this movie, there are none more satisfying than seeing Bradley "I was in Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise" Whitford getting shuffled off this mortal coil by having his body eaten by a villainous merman. Even leading up the penultimate moment, we don't know if there's some bluffing happening or if we're looking at a real end of the world scenario. Of course, it ends badly for everyone. However, even though the movie concludes with the destruction of mankind, the message could not have been more pure or sharply written.

Jacob Hall: Melancholia

When you have depression, it doesn't feel like the world is ending as much as you just can't wait for the world to end – to go on living would be too much of an ordeal. While many movies have the bad habit of depicting this form of mental illness as just another iteration of sadness, director Lars Von Trier understands that the only way to properly convey they enormous psychological weight of depression is to transform it into a metaphor...or rather, a literal apocalypse. In Melancholia, overwhelming, all-consuming despair takes on the form of a rogue planet on a collision course with Earth. No one will survive. And for Kirstin Dunst's Justine, the end cannot come soon enough.

Through Von Trier's typically perverse (and hilarious and sinister and ultimately moving) lens, the end of the world is equally beautiful and terrifying, simultaneously welcome and unwelcome. It's impossible to take Melancholia literally, and the movie never asks you to do so, but it's the rare film that takes the actual destruction of every trace of human civilization and boils it down to such a personal level. Our private apocalypses feel an awful lot like the real deal.

Ben Pearson: Planet of the Apes

My favorite cinematic end of the world comes from a movie in which you technically don't even know that the world has ended until the final moments. The original 1968 Planet of the Apes is one of the most famous examples of a film with a true gut-punch of an ending, and while the new iterations in this franchise are undoubtedly great, they'll be hard-pressed to deliver a moment as purely powerful as the scene in which Charlton Heston discovers that the planet he thought was an alien world was in fact just Earth, more than two thousand years after he and his fellow astronauts left it. It's a haunting, powerful ending that still leaves me unsettled when I watch it, and it clearly had a tremendous impact on audiences who didn't know it was coming when they saw it in theaters at the time.

Hoai-Tran Bui: Snowpiercer

For a movie that has incredibly grand ideas of a post-apocalyptic future, the world Snowpiercer portrays is deceptively simple. With the rest of the world supposedly killed in a human-induced ice age, the last survivors of mankind live on a perpetually-moving train. My favorite kind of sci-fi and post-apocalyptic worlds are those in which they become social commentary for real issues today — in this case, those of class inequality. The train becomes a microcosm of the world, with each of the train cars divided by class — the front cars housing the wealthy elites who had managed to book passage before the world ended, and the last cars containing the poor survivors who had managed to hitch a ride on the train before the outside world became uninhabitable. They live in squalid conditions and at the mercy of the terrifying authorities who threaten their lives and take their children.

Through the revolution that the last-car inhabitants wage against the rest of the train, we're presented with this (literally) narrow worldview — one that has limited levels and types of people that live within them. The wonderful thing about Snowpiercer is that this isn't the only post-apocalyptic hellscape we're given. Once Curtis (Chris Evans) makes his way to the engine room of the train and discovers that his revolution was orchestrated as a form of population control, he and Yona (Go Ah-sung) blow up the car and derail the train. It is then that Yona and the rescued boy, Timmy, venture outside to where the ice is finally thawing, to survive in the still-inhabitable icy wilderness. It's a two-part apocalyptic movie that is simultaneously hopeless and hopeful about humanity. Though the open ending could imply the end of humanity, it also allows them release from the confines of terrible post-apocalyptic world of their own making.

Ethan Anderton: This Is The End

The idea of something as insane as The Rapture actually happening is a great premise to begin a ridiculous comedy, but that's just the tip of the crazy iceberg that is the end of the world in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's This Is The End.

From the demons that roam the Earth to the giant caverns that open and lead straight to hell and the arrival of the devil with a huge, molten, swinging penis, the end of the world in this movie is absolutely nuts. Making it even more wild is seeing how these fictional versions of all of Seth Rogen's Hollywood pals would deal with something like this. Whether it's James Franco trying to hoard a Milky Way candy bar or arguing with Danny McBride about jerking off in his bathroom.

Speaking of which, let's not forget that the end of the world in this movie includes Danny McBride turning into an insane cannibal that carts Channing Tatum around as his little gimp on a leash.

Ultimately, this version of the end of the world turns out to be cool as hell once Seth Rogen and some of his friends repent for their sins and head up to heaven, where it's totally okay to smoke weed before singing and dancing with the Backstreet Boys.

Peter Sciretta: Waterworld

Universal Pictures' blockbuster Waterworld is widely considered a box office failure and was met with mixed reviews when it was released in 1995, but I absolutely love the world it sets up. It may not be a great movie, but the cinematic apocalypse that it presents is fascinating not only conceptually but visually (the sea scavenger production design of this world is very cool).

The setting of the film is in the distant future, after the polar ice caps have completely melted, and the sea level has risen over 25,000 feet, covering all known dry land.  The story centers on a mutated Mariner, played by Kevin Costner, a drifter who reluctantly helps a woman and a young girl try to find dry land. I love the idea of a drifter fighting off starvation, sailing the seas and getting by selling the rare commodity of dirt.

The concept of Waterworld is much more relevant today (just look at the news last week) than when it was released two decades ago, and I'm honestly surprised Universal has not tried to reboot the idea. It's the kind of worldbuilding that could even work for a cinematic universe if done right.

Water world was, rather notoriously, the most expensive film ever made at the time and didn't do too well at the box office. Despite that fact, the film has a legacy, living on through a video game and three themed attractions at Universal Studios in Hollywood, Singapore, and Japan. If you've never seen Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular, I highly recommend it.

it comes at night trailer

What do you think of our picks? What is your favorite cinematic end of the world? Talk about it in the comments below or email your personal answer (a paragraph or more) to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com with the subject title "Favorite Cinematic End of the World." Our favorite responses will be featured on the site in a future post!