The 10 Best Post-Apocalyptic Movies Based on Books, Ranked

Images via Lionsgate / Warner Bros. Pictures

Humans have always been obsessed with contemplating their various ideas of what an apocalypse will look like in real time. An apocalyptic event is one that essentially causes the end, or ending of the world as we know it. Whether it is through a zombie outbreak, nuclear war, climate crises, or from man-made or supernatural causes, there is no shortage of ideas for what could cause the end of the world.

Just like many other genres, many of the best post-apocalyptic movies ever made have been based on books. The movies give the fans of the books a chance to visualize the worlds portrayed in their favorite stories and bring to life the devastating events depicted in a more immersive fashion. Here are 10 of the best post-apocalyptic movies based on books if you’re looking for a thrill.

10. The Maze Runner series (2014 – 2018)

Before the Maze Runner movie series was released starring Dylan O’Brien, the source material had already developed a large, dedicated young adult following. Based on the books by James Dashner, The Maze Runner is set in a mysterious glade at the center of a huge, monster-filled maze, where a group of boys is taken every month with no memories of their lives before. At the end of the first movie of the trilogy, it is revealed that the world outside the maze was destroyed due to several solar flares and the boys are part of an experiment to find a cure for the resulting virus.

9. The Hunger Games series (2012 – 2015)

Another popular young adult, post-apocalyptic novel turned successful movie franchise is the The Hunger Games series, written by Suzanne Collins. The series is set in the nation of Panem, a post-apocalyptic dystopia ruled by a totalitarian dictator. Every year, each of the 12 districts of Panem must volunteer a teenager to participate in a barbaric competition known as the Hunger Games where only one person can survive. The nation of Panem is the last surviving human colony after the rest of the world was destroyed by ecological disasters.

8. Z for Zachariah (2015)

Robert C. O’Brien mixed his post-apocalyptic storyline with elements of sci-fi and romance in his popular novel, Z for Zachariah, which was then adapted as a movie in 2015. Starring Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, the movie follows the last three survivors of a nuclear war that wiped out the rest of the world. As they try to survive together, a love triangle forms between the three that may end up reducing the number of humans left on earth.

7. The Girl with all the Gifts (2016)

In The Girl with All the Gifts by MR Carey, the world is destroyed by a fungal infection that kills most of humanity. The infection turns people into zombies and world governments have been searching for a cure. When a generation of children who crave human flesh but are still capable of rational thought is born, the world believes that they are the key to the cure. A young girl is singled out from among them and the hope of the world is put on her shoulders.

6. I Am Legend (2007)

Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend has been adapted multiple times, but the 2007 adaptation starring Will Smith is undoubtedly one of the best and the most popular. Smith plays a virologist who accidentally creates a virus plague while attempting to create a cure for cancer. When the virus wipes out most of the human race and turns the other half into mutants, Smith’s character finds out that he is immune to the virus, making him the only person equipped to find a cure.

5. World War Z (2013)

Brad Pitt stars in this adaptation of the novel by Max Brooks. Zombies are a common choice for apocalyptic events, but World War Z stands out among the pack, and is hailed as a return to form for zombie films. Pitt stars as a former UN investigator who is tasked with finding the cure to a sudden zombie outbreak while trying to protect his wife and daughters.

4. Ready Player One (2018)

In the world of Ernest Cline Ready Player One, humanity is suffering from mass starvation, no energy or resources, and overcrowding. To find some relief from these conditions, most people spend the majority of their days in a virtual reality simulation called OASIS where they can create whole new lives. The story follows a young orphan boy who discovers a competition in the simulation where the prize is the rights to the entirety of OASIS.

3. Children of Men (2006)

Children of Men was adapted from PD James’ novel of the same name. The story follows a unique type of apocalypse in a world where all women have become infertile. The reduced birth rate has caused most of society to collapse. The United Kingdom is one of the few places on earth that still has a functioning government, leading many people to seek sanctuary there. The movie follows a government worker who discovers the first pregnant woman in two decades and has to protect her.

2. Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer was directed by the highly celebrated director Bong Joon-ho and is based on a French graphic novel by Jacques Lob. The entire movie takes place aboard the Snowpiercer, carrying the last of humanity on an endless track around the globe. Outside the train, the world has been destroyed after world governments attempted a project to end global warming that resulted in an apocalypse. The movie follows the complex class struggles on the train as the lower class attempts to overthrow the elites.

1. The Road (2009)

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, The Road is set in a post-apocalypse after the world is destroyed and plunged into a nuclear winter. The events leading to the apocalypse are never explicitly explained in the movie as the focus of the movie is the relationship between a father and son trying to survive in the remains of the world. They fight against both nature and other people as they struggle to make it to a safe place. The Road received critical acclaim for its superb storytelling, as well as the performances by Viggo Mortensen and Kido Smit-McPhee.

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