/Response: Your Favorite Cinematic End Of The World

(Welcome to /Response, the companion piece to our /Answers series and a space where /Film readers can chime in and offer their two cents on a particular question.)

Earlier this week, the /Film team wrote about our favorite ends of the world in the movies. We then opened the floor to our readers: what is your favorite cinematic apocalypse or post-apocalypse? And you let us know!

We have collected our favorite answers (edited for length and clarity) below. Next week's question, tying in with Cars 3what is your favorite movie vehicle? Send your (at least one paragraph, please) answer to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com!

As It is in Heaven

There's a small indie that came out in 2014 called As It Is in Heaven that follows the journey of a young apocalyptic cult member who finds himself thrust into the leadership position with the charge of making his sect holy enough to hasten the return of Christ. Though the film has its slow moments, the ending is devastating. After David (Chris Nelson), the leader, has devolved into insanity – killing two members and demanding an absolute fast – he and what's left of the group wait in a giant field for the promised return of Christ. As the night becomes morning, his certainty erodes. The final moment is a stare down between him and God, as he experiences the weight of his actions and anger towards a God whom he feels deceived him. The cinematography is stunning and Nelson's performance, in the final moment, is wrenching. (Josh Overbay)

Dead Man's Letters

My favorite film about the end of the world is a little-seen Soviet film from 1986 called Dead Man's Letters (also known as Letters From a Dead Man). It follows an aged professor as he navigates a post-nuclear wasteland. He writes letters to an unseen, likely-dead son while taking care of his dying wife in an underground cavern populated by destitute and hopeless human beings awaiting the inevitable end. I love it because unlike the more fanciful, adventuresome visions of the apocalypse we see in western films, Dead Man's Letters goes toward a more realistic depiction of what a post-nuclear world would look like and commits fully to a vision of absolute devastation and decay. The film is shot with a brownish sepia tint and the nightmarish production design fills every inch of the screen with dirt, debris, damaged flesh and piles of twisted and charred metal. It's a chilling document and one that could've only come from a deteriorating Russia at the tail end of the Cold War.

Unfortunately, the film is not easily available. DVD copies are rare, but it's worth hunting down. (Daniel Kharlak)

Escape From New York

My favorite dystopian films accomplish two things: 1) Showcase imaginative worldbuilding that feels lived-in and 2) are elevated by an undercurrent of potent subtext that underscore contemporary anxieties toward global and national politics, institutions, social pathologies, etc. John Carpenter's sci-fi cult classic, Escape from New York, is a visually strong exhibition of that criteria: a pulpy, satirical slice of science fiction that magnifies the fears and issues of the time. The film takes place in a "futuristic" 1997 when street crime has devastated the United States by rising over 400%. In response to the epidemic, the U.S. government has nationalized all police forces and New York City has transformed into a maximum-security prison, with prisoners detained in a walled off Manhattan Island. Kurt Russell – in an iconic performance as antihero, Snake Plissen—is conscripted into rescuing the President of the United States after he is marooned in New York, and the film follows him through a harrowing journey of survival, colorful warlords (the flamboyance of Isaac Hayes' "Duke of NYC" is splendid), and iconic shots of a ruined city, brought to life by production designer Joe Alves' acute sense of atmosphere and detail.

It's pulpy delight, but more importantly, it draws attention to paranoias entrenched in the public consciousness at the time. New York City in the 1970s was a crumbling hellscape, permeated by crime, corruption, and poverty. Escape from New York amplifies those fears by turning America's greatest city and cultural melting pot into a bombed-out ruin. In fact, 1981 — the year of the film's release — was the most crime-ridden year in NYC's history (2,166 homicides and over 120,000 robberies reported). But Escape from New York was prescient in that it challenges the limits of that popular anxiety. For example, the film's promotional material always focused on one image: the Statue of Liberty's decapitated head lying in the middle of the street amid gunfire and violence. This image signals that liberty has been violently killed in this world. But the perpetrators aren't the criminals running wild in NYC's streets; rather, the nationalized police force have evolved into fascist oppressors and even occupy Liberty Island, an obvious metaphor for the "security over liberty" paradigm. It's telling that the gestating "tough on crime" sentiment satirized by Carpenter would galvanize the national culture in the late 1980s, and set the stage for the dramatic escalation in the "War on Drugs" and police militarization.

Carpenter succeeds in creating an anarchic NYC populated by eccentric and nihilistic characters for viewers to consume. Escape from New York's dystopia is buttressed with themes of reflection and rebellion. It uses the "end-of the-world" plot setting as vehicle for articulating its message. The world may be in shambles, but the film challenges the audience to confront hard truths, even if it is through a grimy lens. (Mike Silangil)

On the Beach

Stanley Kramer's 1959 feature On the Beach is one of the most haunting films I have ever seen.  After Nuclear War has extinguishes all human life in the rest of the world, the people in Australia await their fate as the radioactive cloud makes its way to the continent. The power of this movie is in its focus on the individual people, with great performances from Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire (in a non-musical role!), and particularly Ava Gardner. How does one carry on in the face of their own, and immediate, mortality? Do you still have goals and strive for those goals? What does it mean to find love and be loved? Ultimately, the movie may be about the end of the world, but it challenges you – a mortal viewer – to reflect on what you do with your limited time on this planet. What will give your life value? There is often a kind of romanticizing that goes with many End of the World movies, but there is nothing romantic about an individual's end. And this movie conveys that with a raw, wide-eyed study of what can matter in life before life is over. (Matthew Walsh)

Shaun of the Dead

While it may not be as definitive an "end-of-the-world" scenario as in his later effort, The World's End, the end of Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead is my favorite world-ending event in a movie. After being continually hammered with apocalyptic situations in other films featuring man's hubris/a plague/the environment causing the destruction of all society and the environment around us, it's nice to see a film take on a optimistic outlook on the "end of the world." As one would expect from Wright, he subverts our expectations by showing instead how humanity could adapt to a zombie outbreak and, barring some kind of disaster, learn to co-exist with their corporeal, flesh-eating counterparts. On top of the montage of channel-surfing across news-flashes and zombie game-shows (hilarious!), audiences are even treated to seeing Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) continue their wonderful friendship, despite Ed having to be reminded, like a pet ,to not eat man-flesh. If that doesn't sound like a happy ending, I don't know what is. (Joseph McLaughlin)


In Wall-E, Earth is no longer habitable. Trash has filled up seemingly the entire world, with one robot left to pick it all up. The plants are dead, except for one, and the humans are long gone. It can be presumed that most animal species are also extinct along with most crops. This is a dark reality Pixar has created and, frankly, it is actually a future that feels entirely possible in today's climate. Typically an outside force or nuclear weapons are what causes the end of the world in the movies, but in Wall-E, we were the bad guys. We left Earth because of how badly we treated it. It's a great reminder of why we need to treat this planet well and it's a great premise for a great movie. (Alex Johansson)

It's not as sexy/violent/intriguing as many of the others on this list, but given the way we are heading, I think it's time to say hello to the end of Wall-E's world. The way I see it, you can have your guns, gods, and gore. Give me the gluttony. I want the sedentary. It's all about the waste. I've thought about what I would do in a zombie apocalypse and there are ways to survive. When it comes to death by consumption and complacency, we're down that tube a bit already and we're not doing anything to stop it. Have you read the news lately?

I love the world of Wall-E precisely because of how much it terrifies me. Global corporation being evil + human reliance on technology + laziness? That's the precise cocktail I can see dooming us. The film's bright, disarming main characters can mask some of the downright diabolical things that led to the downfall of our planet and the human race. And we're all to blame. There are some good jokes to be made at our follies, but I still occasionally see the people movers in my dreams/nightmares. (Seth Finck)