Top 10 Virus Movies you can watch now!

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

Social isolation…flattening the curve…COVID-19…Coronavirus. Those are the words we're going to be hearing a lot of in the near future due to what's certainly one of the most frightening things to happen to our generation, a viral pandemic that means many of us will be spending a whole lot of time at home over the next few weeks. 
Whatever the case, it's not all doom and gloom out there, with most of us having access to a huge world of entertainment right at our fingertips, and over the next few weeks, we here at, who'll be working from home just like the rest of you, will be putting out lists of things to watch while sticking around the house. Our first list, natch, is a look at different-virus/pandemic-themed movies that, I suppose, may be too triggering for some although given how many of the movies listed below are trending on Netflix, iTunes, etc, clearly a lot of folks are interested in checking them out. Some of the movies listed below are fun, some are scary, and others are heartbreaking. All of them are entertaining and well worth a look. 


Probably the most-watched of the "virus" genre since the Coronavirus hit (now sitting at no. 2 on WB's catalog list), Steven Soderbergh's 2011 thriller CONTAGION is a darkly realistic portrayal of an epidemic virus that spreads across the globe, killing some 26 million people by the time the credits roll. The all-star cast, including Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, John Hawkes, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston and a host of more familiar faces, play the whole thing in a very real-world, moment-to-moment, almost documentary-like style that is sure to increase your anxiety, even if we weren't facing down a pandemic of our own at the moment.

All that said, this is NOT a documentary and takes license in many areas, even if it's presented in a strikingly realistic way. Still, it makes for a compelling watch and everyone is up to task in making it all seem very real and not just in the virus-fighting way, but also the misinformation fighting way. CONTAGION succeeds in showing the fear and panic that sets in when something like this hits, although I don't recall a scene of people hoarding toilet paper. It's a strong little thriller even outside of the current climate, but for those that are super anxious and worried about Covid-19, I'd actually warn against watching it as it's very much a "worst-case scenario" kind of film that can play on your nerves if you place too much value in a convincing, yet still fictional, account. – Paul Shirey

WHERE TO WATCH: CONTAGION is available on Blu-Ray/DVD and is available for purchase on iTunes ($9.99) and Amazon Prime ($9.99)


dustin Hoffman cuba gooding jr outbreak

Back in the early nineties, Richard Preston’s non-fiction account of the Ebola virus, “The Hot Zone” was a best seller, spawning a bidding war for film rights. For while, in an unprecedented move, two studios had the rights to turn it into a film, but the proposed CRISIS IN THE HOT ZONE fell apart weeks before filming (it would eventually get made as a Nat Geo limited series “The Hot Zone”). OUTBREAK credits Preston’s book, but there’s not much of that fact based account that made it into the big studio thriller, directed by Wolfgang Petersen and starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Cuba Gooding Jr., Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland.

Overall, this is a product of its time, turning the idea of a pandemic into a large scale action flick jam-packed with helicopter chases and cool dialogue (Hoffman may be the most belligerent military officer of all time here), but no one can deny it’s hugely entertaining. Compared to some of the other movies on this list, it’s a fantasy, but it’s a really fun flick nonetheless with some great setpieces. – Chris Bumbray

WHERE TO WATCH: OUTBREAK is currently streaming on Netflix and is also on Blu-Ray/DVD, as well as for purchase on iTunes ($12.99) and Amazon ($12.99).

28 Days Later

Director Danny Boyle's experimental 2002 zombie flick is actually a great peek into a post-apocalyptic outbreak scenario as much as an action-horror romp. That's not to say that it's "accurate" by any means, as it's about zombies and, well, zombie's aren't real, but it's presented in a way that feels very real and is shot in old-school DV, giving it an eerie, documentary feel that can be a bit unsettling to adjust to. As in most zombie flicks, you see how folks are infected via transmission, but 28 DAYS LATER goes a step further, showing how blood droplets from a battle getting in someone's mouth or eyes causes the same infection (something that always bothered me in The Walking Dead).

Cillian Murphy plays the lead here and has a strikingly similar start as Rick Grimes from the aformentioned The Walking Dead as a patient waking up to the apocalypse and not knowing anything about what's happened. Some truly awesome shots capture spookily empty London and the journey unfolds in a fast-paced race of survival. Naomie Harris shows up in one of her early star-making turns and Brendan Gleeson adds some levity to the proceedings. All in all, a great zombie flick with a unique style that really makes you think about the repurcussions and urgency of a global epidemic (even if it's the fictional undead)

WHERE TO WATCH: 28 DAYS LATER is available on Blu-ray/DVD and is available for purchase on iTunes ($14.99) and Amazon ($14.99)

Children of Men

clive Owen children of men

CHILDREN OF MEN is the movie that made me stop caring about the Academy Awards. When Alfonso Cuaron’s film didn’t land a best picture Oscar or best director nomination, I could never take them seriously again, as to me this is a masterpiece. Clive Owen has the role of a lifetime as a rumpled bureaucrat living in a society where, thanks to a virus, mankind has been infertile for eighteen years. You really get a sense here of how a society without hope would utterly breakdown, and, to me, this is still Cuaron’s best film.

Of course, everyone also remembers the film for its jaw-dropping cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, with famous unbroken takes used during some of the setpieces, including a harrowing car chase. The cast is uniformly excellent, from Owen to Juliane Moore and Chiwetel Ejiofor, to Michael Caine, Charlie Hunnam and, in a small role, Danny Huston. Heck – I’m gonna re-watch this one tonight!

WHERE TO WATCH: CHILDREN OF MEN is available on Blu-ray/DVD and available for purchase on iTunes ($14.99) and Amazon ($14.99)

World War Z

Based on the far superior book by Max Brooks, WORLD WAR Z is no less a thrilling globe-spanning zombie flick that twists the genre a few notches to make it more about controlling the epidemic than straight bloody axes to the brain. Brad Pitt stars as former UN worker who aids in finding an end to the pandemic sweeping the world, traveling from country to country and encountering the (fast-moving) infected as he gets closer and closer to the source. WORLD WAR Z lets the panic spread far and wide and shows humanity dealing with something they could never truly be prepared for and what it takes to band together to stop it.

Much like the other zombie movies on this list, this is far from a reality (right?), but the search for a vaccine and a means of combating the viral threat as such is what puts this clearly in the "virus" movie category and the fact that it ties in the World Health Organization (WHO) and dabbles in some fairly clever theories to help battle the zombies makes it a perfect fit. It's one of Brad Pitt's more "action-y" roles where he's playing a traditional hero type instead of a redneck weirdo and the supporting cast, which includes James Badge Dale, Mireille Enos, Matthew Fox, David Morse and Peter Capaldi, sprinkle some more incentive on this wild zombie ride. The only regret is that we don't have the originally shot ending by director Marc Forster (which leans into the action a bit more) and the fact that David Fincher teased us for years about a sequel that's once again shelved. – Paul Shirey

WHERE TO WATCH: WORLD WAR Z is available on Blu-ray/DVD and for purchase on iTunes ($14.99) and Amazon ($9.99).

And The Band Played On

Matthew Modine and the band played on

There’s no doubt that the spread of AIDS will go down in the history books as one of the most tragic events of our time, with whole communities being decimated throughout the eighties and early nineties through its initial onslaught, before medical science finally provided effective treatment through the “cocktail”, but it took a long time and the story of the disease’s early days is a terrifying, tragic one. This HBO film tackles the spread from a scientific standpoint (while THE NORMAL HEART and the doc HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE take a more humanistic view), being based on the brilliant, non-fiction account by Randy Shilts, who tragically died of AIDS himself not long after the book’s publication.

This star-studded telefilm was groundbreaking in its way, with Matthew Modine leading the cast as epidemiologist Don Francis, while Alan Alda, Richard Gere, Ian McKellen, Lily Tomlin and many more (even Phil Collins) also pop up in important parts. It’s not a perfect film (to get the whole picture you really need to only use it as a jumping off point) but it’s a thoroughly compelling one with taut direction by Roger Spottiswoode (ironically – it was likely the film that put him on the radar with Eon to direct TOMORROW NEVER DIES).

WHERE TO WATCH: AND THE BAND PLAYED ON is available to stream on HBO GO and Amazon Prime. It's also available for purchase on iTunes ($12.99) and Amazon (11.99), as well as on DVD.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

In the original PLANET OF THE APES, we saw the end result of mankind falling to evolved simian overlords. But, the 2011 reboot imagined one scientist's desire to cure human diseases like Ahlzheimers into the tipping point for the fall of mankind. The irony here though is that the Simian Flu was never intended to be a virus but was instead the side effect of a medicine with lofty purpose. Rupert Wyatt's film spends a lot of time showing us the apes evolving before the end credits reveal the pandemic.

While ALZ113 made Caesar hyper-intelligent, it infected humanity with a flu-like virus and set the table for the titular RISE of the apes. The actual fall of humanity happens between this film and the sequel but enough can be inferred that we know it was not good. So while the coronavirus may be scary as it is, keep an eye out for any orangutans looking at you funny. – Alex Maidy
WHERE TO WATCH: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is currently streaming on HBO NOW and is available on Blu-Ray/DVD and for purchase on iTunes ($14.99) Amazon ($14.99).

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Director Zack Snyder's 2004 remake of George A. Romero's original DAWN OF THE DEAD takes the concept and runs with it (quite literally), bringing the zombie-infested outbreak to life in a new way that really capitalizes on the viral aspect, as well as the setting. For those who are "self-quarantining" the survivors being trapped in a shopping mall makes for some fun, playful and compelling cabin fever moments, which is almost metaphoric in a way as the zombies (I.E. the virus) attempts to invade their "safe zone". It's a great character study as the group is comprised of people from all walks of life and we see their true colors emerge very quickly (and sometimes much later), which is something many of you will soon be able to relate to, I'm sure.

Snyder keeps the action moving and provides some genuinely chilling moments throughout (you'll never forget the "zombie baby") and injects some new life in the undead, making this one of the finer examples of a remake of an old classic. Jake Weber, Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Michael Kelly, Ty Burrell and Mekhi Phifer round out the cast and certainly make you believe they're in the fight of their lives. Think of DAWN OF THE DEAD as a perfect serving of The Walking Dead without having to sit through seven seasons to get the gist. Also, no one hoards toilet paper in this, once again begging the question; what the hell are you all doing buying it all up??? – Paul Shirey

WHERE TO WATCH: DAWN OF THE DEAD is available in R-Rated and Unrated Director's Cut editions on Blu-Ray/DVD and for purchase on iTunes ($14.99) and Amazon ($14.99).

12 Monkeys

Terry Gilliam's time travel thriller is one of the finest examples of the sci-fi subgenre but it is how the desire to cure an apocalyptic plague that feels so timely. Set in the ruins of Philadelphia overrun by zoo animals, Bruce Willis's Cole travels back to stop it before it happens. The paranoia runs rampant and makes you wonder whether Cole is crazy or a Messiah from the future, but you will want to decontaminate every time he comes close to failing his mission. Brad Pitt's Oscar nominated role gives the film some comedic moments to lighten the four mood but it is how everything fits together in the end and teases a different outcome that Cole's future that will have you washing your hands more than usual.
While there was a spin-off TV series on SyFy, Gilliam's film remains a pulse pounding thriller that keeps you guessing. The dystopian wasteland seen in the future sequences is realistic enough that it should scare every viewer silly since 2035 is not as far away as you would think. While the effects of the virus are not seen on screen, we know the path it travelled which is eerily similar to the current coronavirus. – Alex Maidy
WHERE TO WATCH: 12 MONKEYS is streaming through Hulu/Showtime and is available on Blu-Ray/DVD as well as for purchase on iTunes ($14.99) and Amazon ($14.99).

The Satan Bug

the satan bug George Maharis Anne Francis

Now here’s one I guarantee most of you reading this have never seen – a legit “best movie you never saw” – John Sturges’s THE SATAN BUG. This is an older one, having come out in the mid-sixties and, in some ways, this is a mash-up of Sean Connery-era James Bond and something like CONTAGION. Sturges directed a few legit classics, including BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and THE GREAT ESCAPE and this was his attempt at a spy thriller, with the idea being that a madman has stolen a virus from a government lab, with the idea being that an organization that wants world peace has stolen the virus and intends to unleash it if their demands aren’t met, although the baddie with a messiah complex intends to unleash it no matter what.

It may sound like spy movie hokum, but it’s surprisingly thrilling thanks to it being done in a documentary-esque style, with a great score by Jerry Goldsmith backing it up. It has a pretty chilling, action-packed ending and I think had someone like Steve McQueen starred in it rather than the more obscure George Maharis (a TV star of the time) it would be considered a classic.

WHERE TO WATCH: THE SATAN BUG is available on DVD and can be purchased on Amazon ($14.99).

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.