Top 10 Best Themes in Post-Apocalyptic Movies

One movie genre that filmmakers can always rely on to be popular with people is post-apocalyptic. People have always enjoyed movies like Mad Max: Fury Road, Planet of the Apes, or WALL-E because it provides an exciting view into what our future could be like. But not all post-apocalyptic movies are successful. Many are huge flops, because quite a few of the possible themes for these movies don't excite viewers. As a result, most directors will stick to some of the more popular and best themes for post-apocalyptic movies. But what are these themes? Keep reading the list to find out the top 10 best themes in post-apocalyptic movies!
The Top Ten
1 Climate Change

Think of WALL-E, of Interstellar, of Snowpiercer. The way that many directors try to do their part in raising awareness for climate change is by making a movie that reflects what the Earth may be like in the future if humanity doesn't cut back on pollution, whether the movie is set 30 years in the future or 1000. People like films like these because they seem realistic for a movie set in the future, or at least more realistic than movies about the zombie apocalypse or alien invasions. Post-apocalyptic movies using climate change as a main theme will often have planets with waning resources, polluted air, and frequent natural disasters as a result of climate change, and they are often some of the most exciting and best post-apocalyptic movies out there.

Honestly the most likely way that the world could end (or at least be ruined for a long time).

2 Zombie Apocalypse

People have always had a fascination with zombies and what it would be like if our world were to experience a zombie apocalypse, and therefore there are quite a few movies on the topic. Some movies detail the start of the zombie apocalypse, and then the collapse of society that follows, but quite a few take place years after the apocalypse has begun, where it's a lot easier to focus on a few survivors, and where a post-apocalyptic setting can help make the movie even more exciting. Some great post-apocalyptic movies about the zombie apocalypse include Train to Busan, Zombieland, and Dawn of the Dead.

3 Epidemic

A theme that was extremely popular way before Covid-19 raged throughout the real world, an epidemic or some kind of highly contagious sickness spreading throughout the world and causing the collapse of society was a common theme in post-apocalyptic movies. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, for example, it's not the apes that cause the death of almost all humans and what's pretty much the end of the world, it's in fact what the humans call "simian flu", a deadly and contagious disease that was accidentally made in a lab by humans. Another example is 12 Monkeys, where Bruce Willis has to travel back in time to gather information on a plague that killed almost everyone and caused an apocalypse.

4 Alien Invasion

One of the most impressive and best themes used in post-apocalyptic movies is an alien invasion. In movies like Edge of Tomorrow or Pacific Rim: Uprising, the whole conflict surrounds the arrival of a new, unfriendly alien race that has destroyed much of human life in the area. As the possibility of aliens arriving has always been intriguing to people, there continue to be movies made every year on the subject, and while some involve friendly aliens, many involve aliens that do not want to make friends with the human race, often resulting in a chain of disasters that creates a great post-apocalyptic world.

5 Resource Depletion

In lots of movies, resource depletion, where one or more vital resources are consumed faster than they can be replaced, is the cause and ongoing problem in the post-apocalyptic world. Often, you will see movies like Mad Max: Fury Road, where part of the main theme is the need for water or gas or other resources are very scarce, causing conflict between different people for control of these materials that are so necessary to survive. Even if resource depletion isn't the main theme in a post-apocalyptic movie, it is almost always there, because things like climate change, ecological collapse, and nuclear holocaust will obviously cause scarcity for certain resources, making resource depletion a less important but still vital theme to the movie.

6 AI Takeover

One of the most famous post-apocalyptic movies of all time, though it does focus on other genres, is The Matrix, a movie where AI has taken over the world and keeps the humans under control by putting them under a shared simulated reality based on what the world was like in 1999. As an AI takeover is one of the biggest worries that people have for our future, it's a very popular theme in post-apocalyptic movies, seen in not only The Matrix but in other great movies like The Mitchells Vs. The Machines, I, Robot, and the Tron movies.

7 Natural Disaster

There are quite a few post-apocalyptic movies involving one or more huge natural disasters, whether it's a meteor or a swell of hurricanes or some gigantic volcanic eruption, that cause a staggeringly high death toll and make life extremely hard for the few survivors. In movies like The Day After Tomorrow, you get to watch people as they try to survive whatever dangers a huge natural disaster has caused for them, while other movies, such as Don't Look Up, focus on the collapse of society caused by a huge disaster that could mean the end of the human race.

8 Nuclear Holocaust

Sadly, as mankind continues to evolve, the chances of this particular cause for the apocalypse grows higher and higher, and the amount of movies made about it grows higher and higher, too, with some interesting results. You can find countless interesting and action-packed movies taking place in a world undergoing a nuclear war, often having just a handful of survivors in what is practically an inhabitable place to live. Even the critically renowned Terminator franchise, although the premise is much more complicated than just a nuke fight, revolves around nuclear holocaust and the travel back in time to prevent it.

9 Cannibalism Outbreak
10 Economical Collapse

While it isn't talked about a lot in the movies, the the cause of the apocalypse in the Mad Max franchise, which is perhaps the most famous post-apocalyptic movie franchise, is the collapse of the economy which set a bunch of other disasters into motion ending with the terrible world that Max navigates throughout the four movies. The cause for the collapse of the economy in movies featuring economical collapse varies, but throughout all of them, the initial effects of the economical collapse are the same, and honestly one of the more realistic ideas as to what would create a post-apocalyptic world. All it takes is one small event to set off a chain of events that will bring down our fragile economy.

The Contenders
11 Endless War

Many movies taking place in a post-apocalyptic world highlight the possibility of two or more groups continuously battling until they've basically annihilated everyone on Earth and destroyed most cities. In some of these movies, whatever's left of the opposing sides will continue to fight even after how badly it went before, and in others survivors try to navigate the wasteland caused by continued fighting. This particular scenario isn't as common in modern times as technology is so advanced now that a war would end when one country out-nuked the other, but in earlier times, it was a popular and good theme for post-apocalyptic movies.

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