So recently I was cruisin’ the net like a cool guy when I came across the term “pre-apocalyptic.” It caught my attention for a few reasons:
1. I don’t have much going on in my life right now, so it doesn’t take much to distract me from my normal routine.
2. Three years ago I named my production company Prepocalypse Productions (don’t bother looking us up, we haven’t done very much).
3. I wanted to know what people considered to be pre-apocalyptic movies.
Reason number three resulted in this article, so there ya go, pointless web browsing can something lead to mild inspiration.
Thankfully, I soon found out there are no solid definitions for this term, so let’s go ahead and make up our own.
For the purposed of this article, pre-apocalyptic movies take place in a time immediately before a world-changing event. Once we get to the list itself you’ll see what I mean.
Post-apocalyptic movies have been such a staple for sci-fi and fantasy work for decades, so the idea of identifying specific stories as pre-apocalyptic was kind of exciting, especially because they’re allowed to avoid all the usual trappings of big-budget disaster and post-apocalyptic movies.
If we can even call this a genre at all, it’s still in its infancy, and it hasn’t yet become a Hollywood mainstay that will be endlessly milked for some scratch.
Now then, here are some of the best pre-apocalyptic movies that you should at least think about watching before clicking away to rewatch an old episode of Best of the Worst.
Mad Max (the first one)
So the very first Mad Max movie was released in 1979 and it didn’t have much of a presence here in the US, and it still doesn’t, really.
The Road Warrior and Fury Road are the best Mad max movies, hands down, but if you like the world of these movies, then it’s absolutely worth your time to check out the very first installment.
It’s also one of the best examples of pre-apocalyptic movies that I can think of. The world hasn’t completely collapsed, but it’s clear that things are not going so well.
Without explaining the plot of the movie, I will say that this essentially serves as a prequel to the Mad Max stereotypes that we all know and love from the better movies.
It’s how he becomes a wanderer of the wasteland. It’s not especially groundbreaking in its story, but it captures a wonderful little moment before this fictional world gets much worse.
Threads is a movie that straddles many different lines. It’s a kind of PSA while also being a disaster movie while also being a pre-apocalyptic movie.
For those who haven’t already heard of this notorious slog of misery and woe, Threads was a TV movie produced in Great Britain, with the intention of warning the public of the dangers of nuclear warfare.
The whole point is to show an extremely realistic depiction of what would happen if the Cold War had gotten very hot.
You can go ahead and look for some reviews of the movie online, but I can summarize them all here: you’ll never want to watch this movie more than once, but it’s still extremely effective, and it will probably scare the bajeebles out of you more than any horror movie you’ve seen in all your days on this fragile, miserable planet.
There’s even an indie song about what a mistake it is to watch this movie, but for the life of me I can’t track it down now. I wanna say it was a Nana Grizol song but the caffeine wants me to keep chugging along for now.
And just to anticipate some snarky comments, yes, Threads also covers the apocalypse itself, as well as a decent amount of the aftermath, but I think we can easily call it a pre-apocalyptic movie thanks to the emphasis it places on what life is like before the big one hits.
We could very easily say that Alex Garland has a talent for pre-apocalyptic movies. Both Ex Machina and Annihilation seem to take place in a time just before things fall apart.
Is that spoiler-y? I’m not completely sure so I’ll just leave it there and try not to talk about how the movies end.
Annihilation is a movie that I forget about and then remember pretty often. And every time I remember that it exists, I smile a little bit, even if it’s just inside my brain.
The movie is better than the book series, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. In fact, I even had a few friends who saw the movie then eagerly moved onto the books, hoping to find some stories that were reminiscent of Tarkovsky’s Stalker, but sorry fellas, the writing just isn’t that great.
Anyway, Annihilation was treated horribly by distributors and was dumped on Netflix outside of the US. In the US, it had an underwhelming theatrical release. Ten years from now, it will find its cult audience and most of that audience will be film majors.
But everyone who had a hand in the story deserves a lot of credit, from the original author to Garland to whoever else threw in good ideas during pre-production.
It’s an original horror/sci-fi click, and good lord it’s been so long since we’ve had that, Villeneuve aside.
World of Tomorrow (the first one)
All of a sudden this list has a somewhat obscure animated short film. I’m pretty good at throwing curveballs once ever 10 articles, can you tell?
Don Hertzfeldt is a favorite of mine, based on just about everything he’s made. I’ve talked about him before, as well as about his masterpiece, It’s Such a Beautiful Day, the anthology version, not just the original short.
World of Tomorrow itself got a second short film and it was maybe more fun, but the first World of Tomorrow short is a little treasure.
A small girl is visited by one of her future clones (voiced by Julia Pott, creator of Summer Camp Island and a regular dinner guest in my wildest dreams), and the two visit different corners of the future world, where society has become … something very different.
Rather than taking one good idea and making a mediocre sci-fi feature, Hertzfeldt instead took a hundred good ideas and threw them all into the same project, which itself almost feels like a collection of high-minded sci-fi short stories, a la vintage Ray Bradbury.
Now we’re getting to some fun picks. Go ahead and disagree with me on these being pre-apocalyptic movies. I don’t mind. I just think they fit into the category in a tenuous way and this gives me the chance to talk about them without doing full analyses/reviews.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
(Before I talk about the sequel, I want to tell a quick story about seeing the first Jurassic World movie. It was one of those nights where you and some friends just decide to see a movie, despite having no specific movies that you’ve been wanting to see.
So we wound up at some shiny, brand new AMC near a new condo development and we drank heavily beforehand. I was bored the whole way through the movie, but right at the end, as the credits started to roll, my friend who had fallen asleep for the entire runtime woke up and immediately vomited in the aisle, which itself is the best possible review of the movie. So it was ultimately a pretty enjoyable moviegoing experience.
But Fallen Kingdom is enjoyable in a completely different way.)
I completely understand why my fellow film geeks have found this movie to be so fascinating. It’s an example of a huge studio taking a huge property and making complete schlock, most likely by accident.
Fallen Kingdom is a very dumb movie, and it eventually becomes the fun kind of dumb movie that you want to show to friends as soon as they can make it to your place.
I won’t even bother giving you a breakdown of the plot. Dinosaurs do wacky things and there’s a new, even spookier dinosaur than the new, spooky dinosaur from the last one. That’s enough.
But the tastiest cherry of all is that, based on everything I’ve seen and heard from him, it appears that Colin Trevorrow takes himself, and his writing, incredibly seriously.
You couldn’t possibly ask for anything better. It’s a fun pre-apocalyptic movie to watch because they thought they were making something important.
The ending is what pushes it into the category of pre-apocalyptic, but you’ll have to watch it through to the end to get exactly what I mean.
Who hasn’t already heard of Rubber? Ok, you can put your hands down now, but you’re welcome for the slight exercise.
Rubber is a self-aware surreal comedy/horror … thing, written and directed by a French DJ.
Killer tire, it’s a movie about a killer tire. That should be more than enough to get you to watch the movie.
It also tries to say something about the relationship between art and audience but all that content is pretty sloppy and obvious.
This is another one where the ending justifies its inclusion in this list. Hint, hint.
And that’s all. I think the most exciting part of this article’s premise is that the idea of pre-apocalyptic movies is still largely unexplored, at least on the internet media criticism side of things.
I’m actually really excited to see what movies other people think should be included in this subgenre, if we can even call it that.
So whaddya think? I’m encouraging engagement by asking you, yes you, to comment below and tell me why my picks are completely wrong and to provide your own picks for the best pre-apocalyptic movies. I’ll be waiting anxiously by my email inbox.