Best Post-Apocalyptic Movies: Planet of the Apes, A Quiet Place & more

Last Updated on April 6, 2022

Day of the Dead Hardware Planet of the Apes Post-Apocalyptic Movies

A Quiet Place Part II is now in theatres and Awake was just released through the Netflix streaming service, and since both of those films deal with apocalyptic scenarios, we here at Arrow in the Head have decided to put together a list of the Best Post-Apocalyptic Movies. If you want to see a vision of what the world might be like after society has crumbled, these are some of the best choices you can make:


John Krasinski may always be best known as Jim from The Office, but he proved to be a hell of a filmmaker with this post-apocalyptic horror story, which manages to be captivating even though it’s only about a family of four trying to live in a farmhouse in complete silence. They have to stay quiet because the world has been overrun by monstrous alien invaders that hunt by sound. Despite their best efforts, something happens to put this family (played by Krasinski, his real life wife Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe) in imminent danger of being consumed by the alien creatures again and again throughout the movie. The set-up sounds like it could result in a dull viewing experience, but A Quiet Place is actually gripping and thrilling, and is a great way to kick off this list of the best post-apocalyptic movies.


George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead showed us the early hours of a zombie apocalypse, and in Dawn of the Dead society was falling apart. By the time of Day of the Dead, zombies outnumber humans somewhere in the range of 400,000 to 1, and the group of survivors this film focuses on live in a dark, dirty subterranean storage facility that has been turned into a military-run lab where the scientists aren’t having much success in figuring out how to deal with the living dead. Hope for getting the world back to the way things were is almost completely lost, but maybe the survivors can find a way to live the rest of their days in peace. A true classic, and easily one of the best post-apocalyptic movies.


Director Franklin J. Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes has one of the most famous twist endings of all time; one that was inspired by the ending of Pierre Boulle’s source material novel, but not a direct adaptation of it. The genius of this film is that we don’t know that it’s a post-apocalyptic movie until the final moments, when our astronaut hero Taylor (Charlton Heston) discovers that this world of intelligent, horse-riding apes that he arrived on in a spacecraft is actually Earth, 2000 years after he departed the planet on his mission. The nukes were detonated, the apes took control, and humans are to be hunted or kept in captivity. The sight that tips Taylor off to the fact that this is Earth: a destroyed Statue of Liberty. It’s a mind-blowing moment, a downer ending that is also awesome.


Society was sputtering out in George Miller’s Mad Max, and its classic sequel goes full post-apocalyptic. People now live in a vast wasteland where the most highly coveted commodity is gasoline. Nomadic hero Max (Mel Gibson) gets caught up in a situation where a group of people have taken control of a refinery, and a small army of maniacal scavengers led by the hockey-masked Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) want to take it from them. The Road Warrior is cool and fast paced, and builds up to one of the greatest chase sequences of all time. Miller continued to follow Max through the wasteland in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which wasn’t as good, and Mad Max: Fury Road, which was incredible.

The Road Viggo Mortensen John Hillcoat Post-Apocalyptic Movies

THE ROAD (2009)

The darkest film on this list, director John Hillcoat’s The Road is based on a book by No Country for Old Men author Cormac McCarthy, and its 111 minutes could be quite the depressing slog if you’re not in the right mindset for it. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee star as a man and his young son, who struggle to survive in a world that has been devastated by an event that killed off all of the animals, the crops, and a large portion of the population. Most of the other survivors they cross paths with are violent, likely cannibals. As if their journey wasn’t troubling enough, there are also some disturbing flashbacks to the days when the man’s wife / the boy’s mother (Charlize Theron) was still in their lives.

The Last Man on Earth Vincent Price Ubaldo Ragona Sidney Salkow Post-Apocalyptic Movies


Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend has been brought to the screen multiple times, and while 1971’s The Omega Man and 2007’s I Am Legend both have their merits, directors Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow’s 1964 film The Last Man on Earth remains the most faithful adaptation. The film gets a boost from the fact that it stars genre legend Vincent Price as Dr. Robert Morgan, who appears to be the only survivor after a plague has turned everyone else into vampiric creatures. Morgan spends his days killing as many of these things as he can, then spends his nights locked in his home while the creatures beat on his door. Then something happens that makes Morgan realize that the situation in this post-apocalyptic world isn’t quite what he thought it was.


Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer finds that humans are still holding on to the idea of class systems even after the world has ended. Seventeen years after an attempt to end global warming caused the planet to freeze over, the remaining humans are living on a train that circles the global constantly. The further away from engine, the lower the class of the residents – and the people of the tail compartments, led by Chris Evans as Curtis, have decided that it’s time to revolt. The concept of the lower class fighting their way along the length of the train sustains 2 hours better than you might imagine, and the story goes in some unexpected directions.


Richard Stanley’s Hardware (which Stanley was reluctant to admit was inspired by a story called Shok! that was published in the 2000 A.D. comic book) is set in a time when the planet has been ravaged by overpopulation, war, and high levels of radiation. Society is still hanging on by a thread, but the U.S. government is creating androids to unleash on its own citizens to whittle down the population, so things aren’t looking too good. Most of this movie is set within the apartment that belongs to artist Jill (Stacey Travis), whose boyfriend Mo (Dylan McDermott) gives her an android head as a gift, not knowing this thing is capable of repairing itself and is programmed to kill.


Directed by Rob Bowman, Reign of Fire takes us to the futuristic year of 2020, deep into an apocalypse that was started when a construction job in the London Underground accidentally woke up a hibernating dragon. The dragons have ruled the world for a couple decades, but now they’re on their way out – and the surviving humans plot to hasten their extinction. Here we have a movie about a pre-Batman Christian Bale, Gerard Butler, and a scenery-chewing, shaved-headed Matthew McConaughey battling fire-breathing dragons… and while it doesn’t reach the full potential of that mixture of ingredients, it does have all of those things in place, so it’s worth a watch.


When scientists discovered that an asteroid was on a collision course with Earth, humanity came together and blasted that thing out of the sky. Unfortunately, the chemicals from the rockets used to blow up the asteroid then rained back down on the planet, causing cold-blooded creatures to grow to massive sizes and devour 95% of the human race. Years after the giant creature apocalypse, a young man named Joel (Dylan O’Brien) discovers that his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) is just 85 miles away. So he sets out across a wasteland populated with huge frogs, worms, crabs, etc. for a long-awaited reunion. Director Michael Matthews’ Love and Monsters has a light-hearted view of the end of the world and is populated with fun, likeable characters – standouts being survival expert Clyde (Michael Rooker) and his 8-year-old sidekick Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt).

Did we get all of the best post-apocalyptic movies? If there’s any you love that we didn’t list? Be sure to sound off below!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.