The end of the world is a hot topic, especially since the internet came into existence and allowed for all of us to voice our many concerns and theories surrounding Earth’s fate. And for decades, such a topic has been explored on the big screen. In 2020, the extremely entertaining Logorama short film won an Oscar. For those who haven’t seen it, the not-so-happy ending is epic, to say the least. More recently, Adam McKay’s Netflix film Don’t Look Up concludes on a similar note. We’ve compiled a list of other acclaimed films that have similar worldly endings, ranked below from worst to best. You’ll see that several acclaimed directors make our list.
6 Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
It’s the end of the world, as we know it… And guess what? Steve Carell feels fine. At least, that was the case in his 2012 rom-com Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, which explored the ins and outs of Armageddon alongside co-star Keira Knightley, who will next star in Hulu’s upcoming Boston Stranger film that has Ridley Scott’s backing. Patton Oswalt, Rob Corddry, T.J. Miller, and Gillian Jacobs also co-starred in this fun little indie effort that follows, with (some) grace, a search by one man for a meaningful connection amid the end of times.
5 This Is the End (2013)
Written, directed, and produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, 2013’s apocalyptic comedy film This is the End stars some of Hollywood’s funniest stars — including Rogen himself. James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride also co-star, stealing every scene they’re each in. The movie focuses on fictionalized versions of the cast in the wake of a global biblical apocalypse, and follows the group as they seek refuge in Franco’s mansion while waiting out the catastrophe.
“We’ve made a few kind of action-y comedy movies, and one thing that we learned very early on was that the threat needs to be real and that you really need to feel like there’s an actual thing happening, or else the whole comedy doesn’t play as well,” Rogen once told EW about the film. “When we approached the apocalypse, we found that the more seriously we treated it, the funnier the movie was. In a weird way, there was an equation that the less comedically you treat some things, the more comedically the whole movie will resonate, you know?”
4 Don’t Look Up (2021)
Despite the criticism Adam McKay received, Don’t Look Up was a fun ride thanks to the countless celebs who pop up. Hey, even Matthew Perry almost appeared, according to his recent memoir. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, McKay’s darkly comedic tale sets its sights on the destruction of the Earth in line with the prophecies of many climate change activists, but told its story by way of a planet-destroying asteroid and how the world’s most influential people would use it to their advantage. Of course, that included taking a very big sideswipe at the media among others.
“Much like Jen and Leo’s characters in the movie, their emotional state once they discover a comet is headed directly at Earth, sort of mirrors how I’ve been feeling the past, you know, five, 10, to some degrees 15 years about the climate crisis as I see it keep getting worse and worse and speeding up,” McKay once told NPR about the film. “And it used to be it was one hundred years from now, then it was 80, then it was 50, and now we’re hearing we may only have 10 years. And it’s been quite the experience to live in a society that still bombs along like everything is A-OK while the greatest threat to life and human history is before us.”
3 Take Shelter (2011)
When Oscar-nominee Michael Shannon stars in a film from writer-director Jeff Nichols, it’s usually a good sign. They also worked together on Midnight Special and Loving, for example. But Take Shelter follows Curtis LaForche (Shannon), who lives in a small Ohio town with his wife (Jessica Chastain) and hearing-impaired daughter (Tova Stewart). Though money is tight, he and his family are very happy. But then, Curtis begins having terrifying dreams about an apocalypse that threatens them all. Rather than confiding in Samantha, he begins building a storm shelter in the backyard, and his strange behavior causes tension in their marriage and the surrounding community. Shea Whigham is also dynamite here, in a film whose ending implies that global disaster is approaching.
2 Melancholia (2011)
Arguably the best film about depression, Melancholia is an apocalyptic drama art film about a rogue planet colliding with Earth. It follows the story of two sisters (Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg) anticipating the world’s end. The film features a stellar supporting cast including Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgård, Brady Corbet, and more. Melancholia premiered in 2011 as the second film in Lars von Trier’s Depression Trilogy, which was preceded by Antichrist in 2009 and followed by Nymphomaniac in 2013. As a planet hurtles toward a collision course with Earth in Melancholia, the sisters cope with the approaching doomsday in strikingly different ways. Don’t miss it!
1 Dr. Strangelove (1964)
And then there’s Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy classic, which is actually titled Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The monochrome masterpiece follows an “accidental” nuclear attack and the chaos leading up to it. Convinced that communists want to pollute America’s “precious bodily fluids,” a crazed general (Sterling Hayden) orders an air strike on the U.S.S.R. As his aide, Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers), scrambles to unlock a recall code to prevent the bombing, the U.S. president (Sellers again) calls a drunken Soviet Premier on the hotline claiming the proposed attack is all a silly mistake, while the president’s advisor, Dr. Strangelove (also Sellers), verifies the existence of a dreaded retaliatory device designed by the Soviets to end the human race once and for all. Dr. Strangelove ranks up there with Kubrick’s finest achievements, especially due to its uniquely comedic tone.