Last Updated on February 6, 2024
Fire, asteroids and aliens. Earthlings have faced and survived them all. Well, in the movies anyway. If you love the thrilling genre of “end of the world” movies, then get ready for our top 20 list that will shred your nerves, throw you down a volcano and flip that adrenaline switch like no other!
1. Armageddon (1998)
When NASA discovers that a Texas-sized asteroid will hit Earth in eighteen days, they hatch a desperate plan to stop the extinction of humanity. If the asteroid can be blown in half by a nuclear bomb before it reaches a certain distance from Earth, the planet can be saved.
But to insert the device, the world’s best deep core oil drilling team has to go into space. As the countdown begins, the drillers clash with astronauts, deadly accidents and tragedy that threatens their success.
2. This Is the End (2013)
A group of friends gather in Los Angeles when overnight, the city is almost entirely destroyed by an evil force. The men struggle to survive as old tensions flare, demonic creatures attack, and strange blue lights suck people up into the sky.
3. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
When New Yorker Dodge Peterson hears the shocking news that the world is about to end, his attitude towards the coming asteroid is laconic. He meets his neighbor Penny and realizes that they can help each other. Dodge knows someone who can fly Penny to London to see her family while Penny can help him find Olivia, his high school sweetheart.
But as they travel across the country and witness the crazy ways that people deal with the approaching apocalypse, they grow closer. Dodge and Penny realize that their journey is wasteful and that they would rather be with each other when the end comes.
4. I Am Legend (2007)
A deadly outbreak sweeps through Earth’s population after scientists botch an attempt to genetically adapt the measles virus to become a cure for cancer. U.S. Army virologist LTC Robert Neville loses his entire family during the chaotic evacuation of Manhattan and as the years pass by, Neville lives in the seemingly empty city unsure if there are any other survivors.
The only other inhabitants are Darkseekers, infected humans who look like albinos and behave like vampires. Neville spends his time catching the deadly creatures and doing experiments on them to find a cure. His mission changes profoundly when he meets two immune survivors and the pack of Darkseekers who hunt them.
5. Zombieland (2009)
In this comedy-horror, mad cow disease mutates into mad person disease and unleashes a plague of zombies that destroys civilization. After hiding for two months in his apartment, awkward college student Columbus decides to go on a road trip to find out if his parents have survived.
Along the way, he meets other survivors with their own hangups and strategies to cope with the reality of being zombie prey. When Columbus learns that his hometown has been destroyed and his parents are gone, he and his ragtag group of friends decide to head out to California. Throughout their journey, with hilarious moments, the group realize that they are not alone and that they can form their own family.
6. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Shaun is a nobody and his life is going nowhere. He’s disrespected by his colleagues in a dead-end job and Liz, his girlfriend, dumps him. One morning, zombies overtake London and although Shaun and flatmate Ed are slow on the uptake, they successfully escape the undead in their garden and head off to save Liz and Shaun’s mother.
Their darkly funny journey turns Shaun into a zombie fighter extraordinaire and he manages to save the ladies in his life. However, tragedy also strikes the group and Shaun needs to find a way to survive while also keeping his best buddy Ed by his side (even though he is now a zombie).
7. The Rover (2011)
After the world experiences a disastrous economic collapse, it takes just ten years to turn the Australian outback into a wasteland where crime and poverty rule. Brothers Reynolds and Henry, along with two friends, botch a robbery and they leave Reynolds behind. The others flee in a truck but after an accident, they violently hijack a man called Eric and take his car.
Eric finds the wounded Reynolds and since both feel betrayed, the men hunt down the three others who had fled the scene that day. But there is something in the back of Eric’s stolen car and his determination to get it back has devastating consequences for the brothers.
8. The Road (2009)
After an apocalyptic event wrecks civilization, a man and his young son are the only survivors of their family. They follow a road that will take them to the coast where they hope the weather will be warmer and the food more plentiful.
But the way is fraught with gangs that have turned to cannibalism to survive, endangering them at every turn. This epic movie follows their progress, a difficult journey fueled by love but also marred by the dark side of human nature.
9. A Quiet Place (2018)
When Earth is invaded by blind aliens, they swiftly devastate humanity. One family manages to survive by doing everything they can not to make any sounds.
The Abbotts live in the middle of the forest and after a tragic loss, they try to piece their lives back together best they can. But when a new baby arrives, its cries set off a terrifying chain of events that either threaten to destroy the Abbots or reunite the broken family.
10. Melancholia (2011)
Justine suffers from deep melancholy and cannot hide it, not even during her wedding reception. The next day, there is big news. A rogue planet, ironically called Melancholia, has entered the solar system.
Some reports state that the planet is a “fly-by” while others claim the massive world is on a collision course with Earth. As Justine and her terrified family soon discover, Melancholia is about to do both.
11. Independence Day (1996)
A few days before Independence Day, pilot Steven Hiller wakes up to the news that large alien crafts are hovering over major cities across the globe. He’s called back to base in case something happens but David Levinson, a satellite technician, knows exactly what’s going on.
He’s decoded a countdown signal giving the exact hour when the alien fleet will attack.
When the moment comes, the invaders are brutally efficient and immune to human weapons. Humanity’s last hope rests on a daring plan to have Hiller fly an alien ship back to the mothership where he and Levinson can plant a bomb.
12. The Day After Tomorrow(2004)
As a paleoclimatologist, Jack Hall can see the signs of an impending ice age brought on by climate change. Despite his repeated warnings, those in power ignore his pleas to begin a mass evacuation of the Northern states.
As he feared, a massive storm envelopes the northern hemisphere and flash-freezes everything in its path. While natural disasters raze all the affected countries, Jack is one of the few people heading back into the storm as he desperately searches for his son who is trapped in Manhattan.
13. 28 Days Later (2002)
When animal activists free an infected Chimpanzee, they unintentionally unleash a virus that triggers intense aggression in humans. Aptly called “Rage,” the highly contagious virus sweeps through Britain and 28 days after the start of the pandemic, society has collapsed and coma patient Jim wakes up in hospital. Totally confused, he’s almost killed by infected people but a woman called Selena rescues him.
They later meet Hannah and her father who join them when they hear a military broadcast giving directions to a safe base. However, once they arrive the group discovers that the promise of safety is a trap and that the uninfected can sometimes be a worse danger.
14. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
When a war over the last resources leads to the collapse of civilization, the survivors of humanity had to fend for themselves in a desert world. Max Rockatansky is a prisoner of the feared Immortan Joe’s army and inadvertently gets the chance to escape when his captors pursue a new target. Furiosa, one of Joe’s lieutenants, has run away to free her leader’s unwilling wives and to find a beautiful green place she remembers from her childhood.
Max and Furiosa team up to weather epic and violent encounters with their pursuers, treacherous allies, and a risky journey that may or may not lead them to a better world.
15. Contagion (2011)
When Beth Emhoff returns from Hong Kong to her home in Minneapolis, she unwittingly infects several people with the novel virus MEV-1. As the death toll rises, violence spreads throughout cities and scientists struggle to find a vaccine. When an antidote is finally discovered, it is already too late for millions and some survivors will resort to extreme measures to get the vaccine for their loved ones.
16. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
While driving in rural Louisiana at night and listening to news reports of strange blackouts in cities, Michelle is knocked unconscious when something hits her car. She wakes up in an underground bunker with two men who explain that the world is under attack and the air outside is too toxic to breathe.
Unsure of whether to believe them and not trusting Howard, whom she remembers forcing her car off the road, Michelle tries to adapt to life inside the bunker. But after she finds signs of a previously kidnapped girl and Howard murders their companion, Michelle knows that she has to escape – only to find that the outside world is now an even bigger nightmare than the bunker.
17. War of the Worlds (2005)
Ray Farrier gets his two estranged kids for the day but family time is interrupted by the arrival of a strange storm. As Ray and other bystanders look on in horror, ancient alien war machines start to rise from the earth.
Ray is caught in a terrifying race against time to save his children as the invaders begin to slaughter people en masse.
18. Take Shelter (2011)
Curtis LaForche has frightening dreams. His nightmares keep warning him of an apocalyptic storm with rain that looks like black oil and in every dream, his closest friends harm him. Although he fears that he might be developing paranoid schizophrenia like his mother, Curtis starts building a shelter.
He withdraws from social life and gets fired from his construction job after borrowing equipment to finish the shelter. But nobody believes him about the coming catastrophe, not even his wife, until it is too late.
19. Arrival (2016)
When twelve alien spaceships appear and hover over different locations around the world, linguist Louise Banks is selected to join a team that will board a craft in Montana. Once inside, Louise makes contact with a pair of beings and realizes that they have a complex written language.
But when communication with the visitors becomes confusing at one point, nations panic and prepare to attack the ships. But Louise is convinced that the aliens are not issuing a threat but a gift, one that shows the linguist her own tragic future.
20. Children of Men (2006)
By 2027, the world is in chaos. War and depression have devastated all but a few governments and 18 years of infertility is pushing humans towards extinction.
Theo Farren is a bureaucrat in the UK which is now a police state trying to keep refugees out. When an immigrant-rights group kidnaps Farren and forces him to sign papers for a refugee woman called Kee, he realizes that she is pregnant. But when her benefactors turn out to be vicious rebels set on using the baby as a pawn to overthrow the government, Farren desperately tries to keep Kee safe.