(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)

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