On June 22, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, will be released. The film features people struggling to find meaning and comfort in the face of an impending asteroid collision that will destroy the planet. And it’s a comedy! Cinematic apocalypses are nothing new; here are ten other movies that ended all life as we know it. For the purposes of this list, only films that truly destroy the world and/or kill off all of humanity count. No post-apocalyptic wastelands or zombie stories here. (Beware of spoilers)

On the Beach (1959)

Made during the height of the Cold War, when nuclear tensions were at their greatest, this film, based on a 1957 novel by Nevil Shute, follows the few survivors of World War III. The northern hemisphere is engulfed in an atomic winter that’s slowly but surely approaching the characters (who include Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins), who have holed up in Australia. The people must come to grips with their impending doom, which makes this something of a more serious version of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

The jocular counterpart to movies like On the Beach, this film went against the grain at the time by exploiting the inherent absurdity of nuclear war for laughs, rather than dwell on the tragedy. After all, what isn’t funny about the idea that a few silly men arguing about nothing could end history over a misunderstanding? In this film, the activation of a doomsday weapon is the punch line to a dark joke.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

The Planet of the Apes series already took place in a world where humans have been all but wiped out, their status as the dominant species on the planet displaced by evolved simians. But this sequel took things a step further at its climax, which involves a fight between the apes and a society of telepathic mutants living underground. When Charlton Heston’s character is mortally wounded, he activates a doomsday bomb for no other reason than to spite the apes. The only thing more surprising than this incredibly grim ending is the fact that the series went on for three more films after it!

The Rapture (1991)

Rather than science or war-based Armageddon, this film goes Biblical, following a woman (played by Mimi Rogers) who repents her former life of debauchery to become a good Christian. Utterly convinced that the Rapture approaches, she goes to some rather extreme lengths to follow what she believes to be God’s will. There’s a constant “will it happen or not?” thread running through the film, and the answer, and Rogers’ reaction to it, is indelible.

Last Night (1998)

This independent Canadian drama is quite similar in premise to Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The whole world is aware that they will all die at midnight (by means kept vague by the film, although the sun is out at night, and grows brighter as the end approaches), and everyone must figure out what to do with the few hours they have left. Some panic, some pray, some party, and all of them are grasping desperately for some last comfort.

AI (2001)

In the midst of a robot’s journey to find love, the extinction of humanity is almost an afterthought. The protagonist David (Haley Joel Osment) spends thousands of years trapped at the bottom of the sea, wishing to become a real boy. By the time advanced robots revive him, the world is in an ice age, all people long gone. The evolved mecha grant David’s wish, in a way, by briefly reviving his human mother so that they can spend one last day together. It’s a bittersweet capper on a bittersweet story about what is and isn’t human.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Like the classic novel by Douglas Adams on which it is based, this movie starts with the end of the world, and just like in Dr. Strangelove, it’s a total joke. Earth is in the way of a hyperspace bypass, and is destroyed by an alien race to make room for it. Only two humans are left, now caught haplessly in an exceedingly silly quest to seek out the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. In a departure from the book, the movie ends on a reset, with Earth being restored exactly the way it was, which is something of a contradiction of Adams’ themes, which dealt with exploring one’s own life in the midst of an unimaginably vast, uncaring universe.

Knowing (2009)

A time capsule buried fifty years ago contains a series of numbers that foretell every single major disaster that has occurred… and they’re set to soon run out. A scientist played by Nicholas Cage searches for answers, although this soon becomes a struggle for survival when he realizes that a solar flare will soon toast the planet and everyone on it. Although the Earth is destroyed, humanity endures, as aliens (the ones who granted the vision expressed in the time capsule) take many children to safety, and a new Earth.

Melancholia (2011)

Danish auteur Lars von Trier is obsessed with making his protagonists suffer in excruciating ways, and what better avenue for that than a larger planet colliding with ours, obliterating it? Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg are two sisters with radically divergent reactions to the imminent end, Dunst being calm and collected while Gainsbourg is frantic and terrorized. The larger planet, the eponymous Melancholia, can be seen to represent depression (shown more literally in the first half of the film, as the disorder wrecks Dunst’s character’s wedding), or death itself. The characters’ differing responses to the calamity represent the ways people in real life deal with philosophical intangibles.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

In this film, the clichéd tropes of horror movies are in fact components of an ancient ritual designed to keep the Old Gods from rising up and devouring humanity. In the titular cabin in the woods, a group of college students fight for their lives, while a team of puppet masters in a high-tech facility beneath them manipulate events to encourage their deaths. But two of the young people manage to stay alive until sunrise, causing the ritual to fail. In this metaphor, we the audience are the Old Gods, and the people pulling the strings are the ones making horror movies. The whole film is a rich meta-commentary on why people can’t get enough of horror, as well as a love letter to the genre. The ultimate message seems to be a call for more sincere, less ironic horror movie writing, as well as for audiences to embrace more original storytelling.

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