You would think a global pandemic and a general feeling that humanity's best days are over would make people less inclined to watch movies and TV shows about the end of the world as we know it, but quite the opposite is true. Streaming audiences can't get enough of the dystopian. Maybe it's because the post-apocalyptic future makes our pre-apocalyptic present look not so bad. Or maybe people want the apocalypse to happen, because at least that dystopia won't be boring. Or maybe we're watching them for pointers for our own inevitable existence on the cusp of extinction. Whatever your reason for watching dystopian movies and TV may be, our list will give you something to watch in your survival bunker.
Whether it's a nuclear bomb, a zombie outbreak, a deadly virus, 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!
This unexpectedly life-affirming limited series is about the things that make life worth living – love, art, community – and the way people find comfort in them in times of crisis and pain. It's based on a novel by Emily St. John Mandel and follows an actress named Kirsten over two timelines: as a child (played by Matilda Lawler) in the early days of a pandemic that wipes out most of humanity, and as an adult (played by Mackenzie Davis) as she travels around the remnants of the Midwest with a Shakespeare troupe. It's created by Maniac's Patrick Somerville and the first episode is directed by Atlanta's Hiro Murai, and it shows that there are still fresh takes on post-apocalyptic stories out there if the right people are telling them. [Trailer] -Liam Mathews
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 include the most popular post-apocalyptic show of the past decade. 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]