While we don't think the world is really ending on December 21, there's no harm in exploring how Hollywood believes we would cope with a coming destruction of the Earth.
The end of the world as we know it – Hollywood style
Take Shelter (2011)
Michael Shannon – best known as the conflicted government agent in Boardwalk Empire – is superb in this drama as a father plagued by apocalyptic dreams. He is determined to build a storm shelter in his garden, but his obsessive actions threaten his sanity, his marriage and his family. The winner of the Critics’ Week Grand Prix at Cannes, this is a fascinating thriller that also boasts a terrific performance from Jessica Chastain as Shannon’s concerned wife.
Seeking A Friend For the End of the World (2012)
An asteroid is heading for Earth and everyone has just three weeks before the impact in this comedy drama starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. They play neighbours who pair up and go on a road trip (he wants to see his high school sweetheart; she wants to get to a plane that will take her to her family in England) in the final days of the planet. Quirky and somewhat uneven, it’s worth watching for some short but sweet supporting performances from Derek Luke, Patton Oswalt and William Petersen.
The Rapture (1991)
Mimi Rogers is superb as an ex-swinger turned born-again Christian who questions her faith when her husband (The X-Files’ David Duchovny) is murdered. Believing the Rapture to be imminent, she heads into the desert with her daughter, waiting to ascend to heaven when the end of the world comes. While the special effects towards the end leave something to be desired, this is a fascinating drama that is dark and uncompromising, one you’ll either love or love to hate.
Along with The Rock, this is the least annoying of the blockbuster director Michael Bay’s movies and the one in which Bruce Willis and his ragtag bunch of deep-core drillers are sent up into space by a rather trusting Nasa to break apart the mega-asteroid on a crash course with Earth. Ignore the sappy subplot between Liv Tyler and Ben -Affleck (and the Aerosmith power ballad I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing) and enjoy the tongue-in-cheek performances from Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi and the late Michael Clarke Duncan.
The Seventh Sign (1988)
The pregnant Abby (Demi Moore, who was really pregnant during filming) has more to worry about than your average mum-to-be – Biblical signs of a forthcoming apocalypse are coming to pass and she thinks they are linked to the birth of her child. As the desert freezes and birds drop from the sky, she notices the man who has rented the apartment over her garage (Jurgen Prochnow) is acting suspiciously and comes to the conclusion that he’s bringing about the end of the world unless she can stop it. Ignore the silly ending and the rest is a decent drama with a strong central performance from Moore.
Miracle Mile (1988)
What would you do if you knew there were only 70 minutes until the end of the world? That’s Harry’s (Anthony Edwards) dilemma, after he overhears that nuclear war is about to break out. No one else knows about the attack, so is he creating a panic about something that will never happen? There’s a real sense of terror to the film as he tries to find the woman he met the day before so they can escape Los Angeles together, even though it could all be a big misunderstanding. And while the plot unravels towards the end, you’ll still be left wondering what you would do if you had just an hour left on Earth.
Lars Von Trier’s slow, elegant drama begins at Justine’s (Kristin Dunst) wedding, an extravagant affair paid for by her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland), but becomes rather more downbeat as the story picks up a while later with a depression-suffering Justine separated from her husband and a planet named Melancholia heading towards earth. A study of how people cope with impending disaster, the movie’s idea came to Von Trier after a therapist treating him for depression told him that depressive people often react better under awful pressure as they already expect bad things to happen.
Last Night (1998)
Not to be confused with the 2010 Keira Knightley film, this absorbing Canadian indie is a total gem worth the hunt it would take to find it. It also features a standout cast playing intersecting characters that have done pretty well for themselves: the Grey’s Anatomy star Sandra Oh, the actress-turned-filmmaker Sarah Polley (her documentary Stories We Tell won the Special Jury Award at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in October) and the film director David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises, The Fly). In a rare role, he plays the owner of a power company who spends his final hours making calls to customers.
Roland Emmerich likes his end-of-the-world disasters – seems we’ll either die from a deep freeze (The Day After Tomorrow), an alien invasion (Independence Day), being squished by a mega-lizard (Godzilla) or, as in 2012, the world breaking apart due to the earth’s core heating up. John Cusack is the average Joe who realises it really is the end of the world as we know it, as Los Angeles starts to crumble and world leaders sneakily head off to the specially built arks that will hold them and selected wildlife to repopulate the earth after it’s all gone to hell.