Zombies, aliens, damned-dirty apes; ahead of the cinematic release of The World’s End, our special guest editors present their favourite apocalypse films
Nuclear winters, mass zombie attacks and fast-spreading deadly viruses; it’s fair to say that Hollywood execs don’t seem to be too optimistic about the future of planet Earth. But, while their obsession with an eventual descent into dystopian hell is undeniably worrying, it also makes for some epic films. And, of course, it makes for some great heroes, too – because great heroes are always ‘the lone wolf’ who find the future of the world as they know it on their troubled shoulders. With that in mind, and our guest editors poised to top off their own post-apocalyptic trilogy in triumphant style, we asked alpha-geeks Nick Frost and Simon Pegg to curate a list of what they consider to be the top 10 apocalypse films. Deep Impact? Armageddon? No? Could you pass that coat?
(Images: All Star)
10. The Omega Man (1971)
Frost: “I love The Omega Man, because I’ve always had a yearning to be the last living man on Earth.”
Based on the 1954 novel I Am Legend by US writer Richard Matheson, the classic Seventies sci-fi flick sees Charlton Heston sporting a pair of lapels that arrive in shot before he does – and a game of chess with a tailor’s dummy. When it turns out he’s not alone, you can stop wondering why ‘the last man on earth’ feels the need to carry a large gun.
9. Children of Men (2006)
Pegg: “A couple of those [single-shot action sequences] are amazing.”
The year is 2027. Widespread infertility has decimated the population of the world, and society is teetering on the edge of collapse. Neighbours is the most popular show on television. Sounds like some kind of hell, right? Enter Clive Owen, a liberal scholar with a dislike of savagery and the urge to champion a family of victimised immigrants. Loosely based on the PD James novel of the same name, this bleak masterpiece makes gripping use of hyper-real documentary-style cinematography – an essential in any modern apocalyptic tale.
8. War of the Worlds (2005)
Pegg: “Better than Independence Day and Armageddon”
It’s HG Wells. What more do you want? How about Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, a score by John Williams and a $132million budget? Works for us. Cruise plays a crane operator fighting off some aggressive tripods armed with death rays, while Spielberg keeps the action true to the spirit of Wells’ enthralling novel. It’s subversive, taut and jammed with moments as nerve-jangling as the Jurassic Park scene where a ripple bursts across a glass of water.
7. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
Pegg: “It’s one of those rare occasions where a sequel outstrips the original, by adding more carnage and bumflaps”
This cyber-punk post-apocalyptic blockbuster sees Mel Gibson fight for what’s right. Actually, he’s more after petrol – but you get the picture. For all the fingerless leather gloves and mohicans, it’s the film’s crackerjack car chases and flame-ridden apocalyptic scenery that catapult it into the top 10. “This is a land that prays for a hero,” proclaimed the trailer. Boy did we get one. In leather.
6. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Pegg: “The apocalypse with a glorious Terry Gilliam spin. One of Bruce Willis’s best films”
Revered by critics; loved by audiences. This sci-fi epic sees a typically gruff Willis cast as a criminal seeking a pardon by investigating a deadly virus. Things get weird – but not as weird as French short film La Jetée, upon which Twelve Monkeys is based. That was made from still pictures…
5. Planet of The Apes (1968)
Frost: “A masterpiece.”
“Stinking paws” and foam snouts aside, this Kafka-esque tale of astronauts who crash-land on a planet populated by intelligent apes is possibly the greatest riff on civil rights ever committed to celluloid. Whether Roddy McDowell felt that those tortuous three-hour stints in make-up were worth it is another matter. But what we do know is that even Jim Carrey’s spot-on Charlton Heston spoof can’t ruin the film’s best line: “They blew it up! God damn you! Damn you all to hell!”
4. WALL-E (2008)
Pegg: “I’d put Wall-E right up there because it’s just the most exquisite opening 20 minutes of a film ever.”
Ah, the animation that spawned a zillion kids’ lunchboxes. Pixar’s heart-rending masterpiece about a trash-compacting ‘bot (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth class) has almost no dialogue in the first 40 minutes and is voiced by just seven actors, including John Ratzenburger AKA Cliff the mailman from Cheers. So that would have saved some money, right? Um, no. It cost an eye-watering $180million to arrange those pixels into an Oscar-winning pattern.
3. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
Frost: “What, it’s not the Keanu Reeves version? Well that changes everything.”
No, not the 2008 reboot, which failed to replicate even a sliver of the hysteria triggered by the original. If you haven’t seen it, lock the doors and enjoy Michael Rennie as Klaatu, an interplanetary being who lands in Washington DC with a message: “Be peaceful or be destroyed.”
2. Invasion of The Body Snatchers (1978)
Pegg: “This was a huge influence on us. We were really inspired for The World’s End by socially conscious sci-fi [by the likes of] John Wyndham and Aldous Huxley.”
The Philip Kaufman-helmed psychological horror is probably best remembered for Donald Sutherland’s squirly scream – ending with the camera zooming into his mouth. Shot in 23 days with a $15,000 special effects budget (the film, not the scream), its plot remains an inspiration. It goes like this: Mysterious spores rain down on Earth. Spores grow into flowers. Flowers suck life out of humans. Cue brains turning to mush…
1. Night of The Living Dead (1968)
Pegg: “This has to be No.1 given our background and the birth of our friendship. Ten years before Shaun Of The Dead, I dressed Nick up as a zombie from this film for the Chiquito Halloween party. He had a bullet hole and a baseball cap.”
Frost: “I was a white trash zombie on a turkey hunt.”
There’s little doubt that George Romero would have been impressed by Nick Frost’s carefully curated zombie costume. But it does sound like the look could have benefitted from a liberal coating of Bosco chocolate sauce (used by the film’s special effects department as a delicious substitute for fresh blood). That said, this is no mere schlock-fest. The blood-curdling must-see is so convincing that its makers took out a $50,000 insurance policy against any audience member who might suffer a heart attack while watching the film in the cinema…