As a disclaimer up front, there are several films that involve aliens and zombies – which I will admit are probably not very likely scenarios leading to the end of the world. However, it is not the cause of the apocalypse that is important; but how people act and react to what is happening to them in the situations they encounter. This is what provides the “food for thought” and lets you think about what or how you might do it differently.
Each film or show contains the title, year of release, run time, audience rating code, lead actors, a synopsis of the plot, and some key highlights to look for when watching. They are not ranked in any particular order. And yes, a good many have zombies! So smile and enjoy.
1. The Road (2009) 111 min, R
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron and Robert Duvall
Plot: A global trigger event leaves the world burned, cold, covered in ash and lacking of any edible plants or animal life. A man and his young son travel carefully on back roads from a northern state, through the Appalachian mountains, in an attempt to flee the coming winter and head to the southern coast. They work to survive by any means possible. The film portrays a darker side of man-kind, which resorts to cannibalism to survive.
* Take care when traveling roads and contact with other people.
* How to haul your survival supplies over long distances.
* Starvation is a long, slow process.
* “Keeping the fire,” and are you one of the “good guys?”
2. The Book of Eli (2010) 118 min, R
Plot: A post-apocalyptic tale of a “lone wolf” on a personal quest to get a rare book to the west coast. Washington walks across an America depleted of resources, but still full of groups of dangerous and desperate people.
* Benefits of carrying both firearms and low-tech weapons.
* How to barter for what you need.
* You have to be prepared to kill bad people or they will kill you.
* Your faith can sustain you and help guide your actions.
3. The Day After Tomorrow (2004) 124 min, PG-13
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal and Emmy Rossum
Plot: The world experiences climatic change resulting in a new ice-age and a paleo-climatologist (Quaid) must travel from Washington, D.C., across a frozen east coast, to rescue his son and friends holding out in a New York City library against sub- freezing temperatures.
* Survival against the cold takes planning and good gear.
* Big urban cities make escape very difficult.
* You have to consider and plan for bad weather conditions.
* Listen to Dad, sometimes he knows what he’s talking about!
4. The War of the Worlds (2005) 116 min, PG-13
Stars: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins
Plot: The Earth is invaded by returning aliens looking to harvest humans. The invasion starts with electro-magnetic (EMP) attacks to disrupt all electronic devices and knock out electrical power and communications. Cruise, a dock worker, with his two kids bug out of urban Newark, New Jersey, and try to reach their in-law’s home in urban Boston. With no plan or supplies, Cruise has to improvise along the way.
* Importance of having basic bug-out gear and supplies on hand.
* Crowds are dangerous and can get you killed.
* Stock up on food and water at first opportunity; get a backpack.
* Don’t lose your weapon – you may need it for the crazy guy.
5. Zombieland (2009) 88 min, R
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Woody Harrelson
Plot: After a zombie apocalypse occurs, a surviving college student (Eisenberg) tries to get home to his family in Ohio. To increase his survival chances, he creates a set of rules. During his travels he be-friends a tough guy on a hunt to find some Twinkies, and a pair of con-artist sisters heading to a California amusement park for one last good time.
* It’s good to have a set of basic survival rules – you’ll live longer.
* People will trick you, take your stuff, and leave you stranded.
* Don’t scare people if you don’t want to get shot.
* It is good to remember “Rule 32” when you can.
6. Dawn of the Dead (2004) 101 min, R
Stars: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames and Mekhi Phifer
Plot: A group of survivors takes refuge in a shopping mall during a zombie apocalypse. More survivors arrive and they learn that if they want to stay alive, they need to stick together against the undead. For being unprepared and without a plan, they learn to make do with what they find in the mall and food court.
* Malls can be a good refuge if you can secure the doors.
* You need to determine who you can and cannot trust.
* Have a break-out plan and a destination.
* Every group will have a**holes you’ll have to deal with.
7. I Am Legend (2007) 101 min, PG-13
Stars: Will Smith, Alice Braga and Charlie Tahan
Plot: It is several years after a new anti-cancer vaccine mutates into a killer plague which transforms the infected into monsters and kills most of humanity. Smith is a lone military research doctor struggling to survive in New York City while working valiantly to find a cure for humanity.
* A dog can be a good survival companion.
* If your defenses are good, you don’t need to sleep in a hard tub.
* Plan to be home or off the road before dark.
* Be careful when scavenging and entering buildings.
8. 28 Days Later (2002) 113 min, R
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston and Alex Palmer
Plot: A bicycle messenger injured in an accident awakens from a coma in a London hospital four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout England. Wearing only a gown, he first struggles to find help and learn what happened. He links up with a handful of survivors, who then flee the city to find sanctuary in country side.
* Light and noise discipline is a must at night.
* Buckets on the roof help to collect rain water.
* Short cuts may be worst than taking the long way around.
* Be wary of government troops.
Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal and Laurie Holden
Plot: Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes (Lincoln) awakens from a coma in an abandoned hospital in rural Georgia to discover a real TEOTWAWKI nightmare situation (a very similar start to the movie “28 Days Later”). He embarks to find his wife and son; then ends up helping to lead a group of survivors in a world overrun by the walking dead. While zombies are a minor problem, it’s the problem of dealing with the living that presents challenges.
* People will fight over resources.
* Be prepared to defend your campsite.
* There is strength in numbers and provides for a division of labor.
* You can supplement your food stores with local fish and game.
Stars: Kevin Costner, Will Patton and Olivia Williams
Plot: In the year 2013, America is all but destroyed after a war that decimates most of the population and the government. People struggle to survive against starvation and rogue groups of armed men. Costner, a drifter, is forced to join a rogue militia, but escapes at his first chance. He finds an old postal jeep with a postal uniform and mailbag, and starts conning people with old letters that the government has reorganized and order is being reestablished.
* People who band together have a better chance at survival.
* Teach basic survival skills early, others may need them.
* It is hard to argue with the people who have the guns.
* Americans know “freedom is never free” – it’s earned the hard way.