The one thing most zombie apocalypses have in common is their pessimism. Very few zombie apocalypse films have happy endings. That's largely because victims tend to immediately turn into perpetrators of the problem. There are too many zombie apocalypse movies out there to count, but George A. Romero's original trilogy, 'Night of the Living Dead,' 'Dawn of the Dead' and 'Day of the Dead' are the most classic standard bearers.
We often catch up to this apocalypse after most of the damage has already been done. Films like 'I Am Legend' and 'Doomsday' concern themselves more with survivors than the virus itself. Other films, however, such as 'Outbreak,' 'Contagion' and the television adaptation of Stephen King's 'The Stand,' illustrate the severity of a world disrupted by awful sickness. It involves lots of phlegm.
Sometimes you need an apocalypse and don't want to dwell on it. For those occasions, the nuclear apocalypse always provides a nice and easy answer. Whether we lead up to one, as with 'Dr. Strangelove,' show up waaaaaaay after the fact, like we do with 'Planet of the Apes,' or see one happen when it's least expected, as with the already post-apocalyptic 'Beneath the Planet of the Apes,' no one questions the severity of this apocalypse.
The Environmental Apocalypse
Don't mess with Mother Nature. Her wrath leads to apocalypses that are no laughing matter, though their execution on film could lead to a snicker or two. Such is the case with M. Night Shyamalan's silly 'The Happening,' in which plants murder us by making us murder ourselves. One could also make a case for the unintentional comedy of Roland Emmerich's '2012,' which illustrates an Earth that basically gets swallowed by the ocean after some major solar flares.
There aren't many vampire apocalypses out there. The 'Blade' series continuously uses it as a threat, but 'Blade' always manages to save the day before we get there. The recent film 'Stakeland' gives it a good shot, though the vampires are more like zombies. Probably the best example is the Michael and Peter Spierig film 'Daybreakers,' which has all the stuff a good vampire apocalypse should have: ystematic farming of people for their blood, degrees of vampirism, renegade humans, and the possibility of a cure. But even with that bright spot, this is not one of the more popular ways for filmmakers to end the world.
We could also use a lot more dragon apocalypses. Perhaps people are too afraid that killing the whole world with dragons might look a little silly. They only have to look at 'Reign of Fire' to confirm that belief, but such a viewing would also confirm how awesome such a silly apocalypse can be, particularly if it brings out more super insane Matthew McConaughey types to battle the giant fire-breathing lizards.
The 'Terminator' series has the most popular and brutal robot apocalypse to date. Not only do the robots in this apocalypse have a whole army of various hard-to-kill units, but they opened the whole thing up with nuclear warfare. Usually, one apocalypse is enough. These guys even travel through time to ensure their apocalypse goes off without a hitch. By lacking the souls it would require to be evil, they manage to be more evil than humanly possible.
'Oblivion' gave us our most recent alien apocalypse, though it could be argued that in 'After Earth' we are the aliens which cause another species' apocalypse. Alien apocalypses are easy to pull off because for one to even be possible, it requires the aliens in question to have technology well beyond our current comprehension. This is why some alien apocalypses, 'Oblivion' for one, but 'Dark City' as well, are also unfolding mysteries. Aliens mess us up so thoroughly, we have to spend a whole movie just figuring it all out.
Our films have way too few biblical apocalypses, perhaps for fear of offending religious (or non-religious) viewers. But when it comes to end of the world scenarios, The Bible has some of the best ideas ever. Not only is the stuff from Revelations fun and gory, but there's also the Rapture to watch out for, an apocalypse that has only been mined by the 'Left Behind' series and, well, 'The Rapture.' There should be biblical apocalypse films coming out every other week. Hopefully, someday we'll get them.
The Asteroid / Comet / Meteor Apocalypse
Often when a big asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, we're able to save the day somehow. Movies like 'Deep Impact' and 'Armageddon' show us taking some damage, but we still get to walk away. Sometimes, however, the asteroid has its way with us, and we get films like 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World' and 'Melancholia' (okay, so this time the meteor is a whole planet).
What's best is when a comet or meteor creates a different kind of apocalypse, like the plant apocalypse of seen in Stephen King's 'Creepshow' or the vehicular apocalypse seen in Stephen King's 'Maximum Overdrive.' Actually, Stephen King may have contributed an example of every apocalypse on this list.
What's your favorite way to end the world? Is there something we missed in this list? Let us know below!