Lots of movies try to end with a bang — but only a few end with the entire human race being wiped out, or the world being torn asunder. Hollywood all too often wimps out on showing us total oblivion, but there are a few movies that go all the way.
In honor of a certain recent film we won't mention because it's still a spoiler, here's a complete list of movies where the world gets completely trashed at the end. Global demolition derby time! Warning: This post gives away the endings of a bunch of films. Some people might consider that spoilery.
Note: This list doesn't include any movies where the world is destroyed at the beginning or in the middle — just at the end. Also, we're not just including movies where there's a piffling ice age or zombie holocaust. There has to be nobody left alive on Earth at the end of the movie, for a film to make it onto this elite list.
When Worlds Collide
It's that rare movie that actually lives up to its title! A star named Bellus is on a collision course with Earth — and instead of trying to figure out a way to stop the impact, people concentrate on creating an ark so that a handful of people can get off the planet in time, landing on a habitable world orbiting Bellus. (Don't ponder the physics of this, it'll only make your head hurt.)
On the Beach
We debated whether to add this film — because there are still people alive at the end of it. But it's pretty clear that they're doomed, and there's not going to be any last-minute reprieve for humanity. The commenters, including Dr. Emilio Lizardo, convinced us to add it to the list.
Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
This is pretty much the classic "world gets destroyed in the end" film. The studio behind Strangelove also created a couple other "the world almost gets destroyed in the end" movies around the same time, including Fail-Safe. But this time around, we actually get to see the global armageddon — although to be fair, there are some suggestions that a few survivors may remain below ground, breeding with suitable women and preserving their precious fluids.
Beneath The Planet of the Apes
You might not have seen this one coming, especially when you first saw the first sequel to Planet of the Apes. Instead of just giving us more of what we liked about the first movie, they go completely nuts with telepathic mutants who worship a doomsday bomb — which gets triggered at the end of the movie, wiping out all life on Earth. Because why the hell not? It's not like they're going to want to make ten more sequels. Oh, wait.
The Quiet Earth
An experiment to create a global energy grid has an unfortunate side effect — almost all of humanity is wiped out, and the few survivors realize the effect is going to recur soon, wiping out the last remaining people. Also, the physical laws of the universe are being screwed with, and it seems likely to get worse, And judging from the film's ultra-weird final moments, where Saturn comes up over the horizon and it's huge, it does seem as though the human race fails to survive the last attempt to stop The Effect.
There's a huge nuclear holocaust, and it certainly looks as though the last survivors are toast at the end of the film — although to be fair, we don't see the whole world destroyed.
This film arguably created a whole genre — one where people know the world is going to end, and they spend the whole movie dealing with it, and then in the final scenes, the world does end. It's not clear what's causing this particular cataclysm, it's just happening. This film is also notable for featuring legendary director David Cronenberg as a power company owner who calls all his customers, one by one, to reassure them the gas will stay on until the world ends. Instead of, you know, going and taking part in end-of-the-world orgies or anything.
Mimi Rogers is left behind (so to speak) in a nightmarish wasteland full of monsters, after she rejects God's mercy. But it doesn't look like there's really a world left for her to live in — instead she's shunted into Purgatory, to go live with Jack, Locke and the rest.
Dead or Alive
Legendary weirdo director Takashi Miike makes a gangster crime thriller, full of surprise comeuppances and insanity that skirts the edge of comedy — until the very ending, when he goes off the deep end and destroys the whole shebang. One of the gangsters tears his own arm off and then shoots the other one, who pulls a glowing fireball out of his chest that destroys the entire planet. Because, sure. Turn on closed captioning to read English subtitles on the video.
Save the Green Planet
We rented this movie years ago, and it was so weird and confusing, we blotted it from our minds. But in a nutshell, the psycho who's holding an executive captive in his basement because he thinks the executive is an evil alien is right. And the evil alien gets rescued by his fellow aliens, and destroys the Earth at the end. See for yourself! Thanks to Sievetronix for the suggestion.
Mercano the Martian
This Argentinian animated movie ends with Earth's complete destruction when the protagonist cuts the wrong wire after all the world's computers have been linked together into one enormous bomb.
Actually, we're not sure what the hell happens at the end of this film — there's a levitating ice cream truck, an exploding zeppelin, and a handshake that we're told will tear the universe in half. It's all the sort of story where you inhale, rather than infer, crucial details. But we think that Seann William Scott somehow triggers a cataclysmic doodad thingy by touching himself. Fitting, really.
This is what happens when you trust Nic Cage to save the world. If it had been Tom Cruise we'd have been dancing barefoot on top of a skyscraper in the end. But Nic spends the whole movie piecing together the clues and investigating the weird pebble creeps who are spying on his son, only to miss the boat on the whole "Earth destroyed except for two kids and a bunny" scheme that's been hatching since the 1950s. Fucking Nic Cage.
This is another movie where we're not quite sure what happened at the end. Thomas Dekker is a college kid who's trying to decide whether he's really bisexual by having lots and lots of sex, and there are weird cultists and crazy conspiracies. And Dekker gets kidnapped and then un-kidnapped and his oft-naked surfer roommate turns out not to be a surfer at all. Long story short, it turns out a lot of the weirdness in the film is down to a doomsday cult, which brings about doomsday. Love the red button. Every doomsday device should have a red button.
The Vanishing on 7th Street
Weird shadows swallow up the entire human race, and a few people manage to hold out in a bar for a while listening to shitty music on a jukebox and arguing with Hayden Christensen. And then the shadows win. I guess. Here's the ending, narrated by someone who hated the film even more than we did.
Another movie where you see the end of the world coming a long way off — it's teased at the start of the film — and then you actually get to see Kirsten Dunst and the others get wiped out, along with an unfortunate horse. Takeaway lesson: A makeshift fort made out of twigs really won't protect you from a rogue planetary collision.
4:44: Last Day on Earth
In Abel Ferrara's new movie, everybody knows the world is going to end at 4:44 AM Eastern time, because of Al Gore. And no amount of yoga or watching YouTube videos of the Dalai Lama can forestall the inevitable.