The idea of the world ending used to be a nightmare for people of the far future to fret over, but all you have to do is read a thermometer or watch the news to realize the end is much closer than we thought. Maybe that's why TV shows and movies about the apocalypse are so popular and en vogue right now. We're not watching them for entertainment, we're watching them for pointers for our own inevitable existence on the cusp of extinction. And if you're looking for the best TV shows and movies set in a post-apocalyptic world, we rounded them up.
Whether it's a nuclear bomb, a zombie outbreak, a deadly virus (uhh...), environmental disaster, or our own carelessness, our favorite shows and movies about life after civilization give us a morbid look at what the world will look like after we've destroyed it. And, if you're an optimist, how we can persevere!
Set in the aftermath of a catastrophic global virus, the comic book adaptation Sweet Tooth is a show for our times. The series follows a "very special boy" named Gus (Christian Convery), a human-deer hybrid on a journey across the American West, accompanied by an unexpected group of friends. It's just the right blend of strange, dark, and hopeful, with a resonance no one involved in the show originally could have planned. [Trailer] -Kelly Connolly
Obviously we have to kick this list off with the most popular post-apocalypse show currently on TV. In case you've been living under a rock the past 10 years, The Walking Dead follows Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) after he wakes up from a coma to find the hospital abandoned and zombies, aka walkers, roaming the earth. Rick sets off to find his missing wife and son and to establish a safe place for them and other survivors to settle and withstand the bloodthirsty walkers (and bloodthirsty humans) that now threaten everyone's lives. If you're looking for a long binge, this bad boy has several seasons (and counting) to power through! [Trailer]
Set in post-apocalyptic Glendale, Calif., Daybreak follows the story of 17-year-old Josh Wheeler (Colin Ford) as he tries to navigate a brutal (and yet highly comedic) world in which all adults have been turned into mindless, bloodthirsty zombies thanks to a nuclear explosion. He joins forces with a small band of misfits on a quest to find his missing girlfriend, avoiding roving gangs of other teenagers to survive this totally bizarre apocalypse. Though this series was canceled by Netflix after only one season, it's still a solid investment of your time and a lighter take on the apocalypse than other options. [Trailer]
Zombies aren't the only thing that can cause an apocalypse, you know? The enemy in The Last Ship is actually a global pandemic that strikes while the crew of the USS Nathan James was isolated on a mission in the Arctic. When they return to civilization, they find the world in ruins after the virus wiped out 80 percent of the human population. The only hope for a cure rests with two civilian virologists aboard the ship, and the ship's own captain, Tom Chandler (Eric Dane). This series manages to mix the existential crises that come with the breakdown of human society with the jump scares of an apocalyptic thriller, making it an excellent choice for your next binge. [Trailer]
If you're more of a sci-fi person, we strongly suggest you check out The 100 for all of your post-apocalyptic needs. Set 97 years after a nuclear apocalypse, the only human survivors live on an orbiting space station called The Ark. When overpopulation becomes a problem, however, 100 juvenile delinquents are jettisoned from the ship and sent to a radioactive Earth to test whether the atmosphere is habitable. Those teens soon find that they aren't the only human survivors after all, and they'll have to fight for survival in a strange new world. [Trailer]
In a blend of the sci-fi and pandemic genres, 12 Monkeys follows James Cole's (Aaron Stanford) mission through time to stop the release of a deadly virus. Traveling back from the year 2043 to 2015, Cole teams up with a virologist, Dr. Cassie Railly (Amanda Schull), to prevent the plague that is set to kill seven billion people in the year 2017. This Syfy drama is part action-adventure series, part post-apocalyptic series, and part epic love story. [Trailer]
Ever wonder what would happen if mother nature finally got pissed off enough to start fighting back against humans? Then Zoo is absolutely the show for you! The series follows zoologist Jackson Oz (James Wolk) and his rag-tag team as they try to make sense of a series of violent animal attacks occurring all over the world. A mysterious pandemic affecting animals around the globe incites them to launch coordinated attacks on the human world, threatening to end the human race unless Jackson and his team can find a cure. The premise and the CGI of this series may be a little silly, but the dialogue is self-aware enough to make you feel like you're laughing with these characters rather than at them. [Trailer]
You'll need your subtitles for this one, but trust us, it's worth it. The Rain is a Danish series set in a world besieged by a virus that is carried by rainfall. While most humans have been wiped out in Scandanavia where the series is set, two siblings survived the epidemic by sheltering in a bunker for six years. They emerge to search for their father and end up joining forces with another group of survivors in the hopes of finding a quarantine zone. [Trailer]
While many apocalypse narratives are caused by human corruption and greed, some like Salvation are just built on bad luck. This series, which lasted two seasons, is set in the present day as scientists discover an asteroid heading straight for earth. With just six months to think of a way to save humanity, an MIT grad student, a tech billionaire, and a sci-fi writer team up to find a creative solution that will save as many people as possible. [Trailer]
When a mysterious epidemic hits Atlanta, an unprecedented quarantine is enforced on the city's Zone 6, leaving those inside desperate and fighting for survival. A diverse cast of characters must band together -- but not too close together!! -- to avoid infection and survive the cordon that could end up being part of a vast conspiracy. Though this series only ran for one season on The CW, it will definitely suck you in and remind you why social distancing is so important during an outbreak. [Trailer]
The Strain is a mix of monster movies and viral outbreak movies if you're looking for a slightly more supernatural apocalypse. The series follows a CDC doctor, Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), as he investigates a viral outbreak that, essentially, turns humans into bloodthirsty vampires. As New York City slowly but surely gets overrun, humans are faced with the possibility of extinction if they don't learn to fight off this new species of predator. The violence in this show is no joke, but if you're up for the nightmares, it's got four seasons worth of blood and guts. [Trailer]
It's the end of the world and the only one who can save you is... John Cusack? Yep, we'll roll with that. This blockbuster hit that totally cashed in on the Mayan Calendar hysteria postulates that the world will end in a simultaneous set of earthquakes, volcanos, tsunamis, and every other climate catastrophe you can possibly imagine. Through it all, one family attempts to escape California and make it to China, where the governments of the world have banded together to create state-of-the-art arks to preserve the human race. [Trailer]
Snowpiercer is set aboard an ever-moving, 1001-car train that carries the only survivors of the human race after scientists accidentally set off an apocalyptic winter that freezes the Earth. All survivors are not created equal though, and there's a sharp class distinction between the uber-rich passengers who live in luxury and the poor stowaways who live in squalor at the back of the train. After seven years of starvation and destitution, the citizens of the caboose start a revolution and launch their mission to make it to the front car, where the train's creator and ruler, Mr. Wilford (Ed Harris) lives. This one's got some serious "eat the rich" energy, plus... Chris Evans! TNT also made a TV Snowpiercer TV series, which is streaming on Hulu. [Trailer]
If you're looking for a change of pace, how about an alien invasion? Though there are a million alien invasion apocalypse movies, one of the newest additions to this field is also one of the best. Set in a post-invasion world, A Quiet Place follows one family's struggle to survive bloodthirsty aliens who hunt by sound by relying on sign language and clever means of soundless travel. With a baby on the way though, their quiet way of life is at risk as the aliens circle closer. [Trailer]