There are many ways the world could end in real life. We could get whacked by an asteroid or nuke ourselves to hell. But there's no way the end of the world could be as bizarre as some of the scenarios that Hollywood has already filmed — or put in the pipeline recently.
Here are some of the weirdest, silliest and just dumbest apocalypses that Hollywood has cooked up. Not including monster movies, zombie movies or alien invasions, because those are sort of different.
The Day After Tomorrow
Climate change causes four superhurricanes, wrapping around the Earth. Which causes crazy flooding — way more than the polar ice caps melting would account for — and then the eye of the superhurricane causes rapid temperature drops so that New York is suddenly frozen and people are chased around by cold. Paleoclimatologist William Hyde has been quoted as saying, "This movie is to climate science as Frankenstein is to heart transplant surgery."
The Earth's core stops spinning, because the military is evil. And this phenomenon causes huge disasters all over the world, like pigeons crashing in France and stuff. And soon, when the core is no longer spinning at all, our magnetic field will be gone and we'll all be microwaved to death. But luckily, a team of scientists takes an experimental ship, using lasers and shit, to drill through the Earth to set off nukes at the center of the planet. If only they can get past the giant diamonds. Yay!
This was The Core before The Core. Basically, there's a billionaire industrialist who has developed the ultimate laser for use in mining operations. Because it can cut through anything. The creator of the machine warns that it could cause Earthshaking consequences, because it's too good at lasering, and won't stop until it lasers to the center of the Earth. So he destroys his machine. But years later, someone recreates the ultimate laser, and indeed there are a string of disasters including earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. So a team of scientists have to go to the center of the Earth and set off some nukes. But a bad guy decides to sabotage their mission for the Chinese military. Guest-starring Star Trek's Terry Farrell and Wil Wheaton!
Basically, Amanda Tapping discovers that the same irresponsible industrialist whose crazy experiment killed her father years ago is now planning a bigger experiment — which threatens to unleash a black hole on Earth. Oh, and the irresponsible industrialist is Malcolm McDowell. Of course. Why does Soran want to unleash a black hole on Earth? It's some kind of magical cheap clean energy scheme — basically, in the movies, any time someone has a way to get cheap clean energy, or cure cancer, it's the end of everything.
This is another movie that's such a huge punching bag, we almost feel guilty about dumping on it one more time. But... yeah. This is the one where the trees turn evil. And they give off some kind of chemical that causes everybody to commit suicide, by accessing the suicide centers of your brain. Which is a part of your brain that you have. Mark Wahlberg looks slack-jawed and dazed as people off themselves all around him.
The Apocalypse (1997)
Sandra Bernhard from Hudson Hawk stars in this low-budget film about a spaceship that's abandoned when its pilot goes crazy. And then the ship's computer starts quoting Shakespeare uncontrollably. Years later, some criminals get hold of the spaceship, pack it with nuclear weapons, and set it to crash into the Earth — potentially destroying the whole planet. The only one who can save us is a crew of salvage experts, led by Bernhard. Check out the way Bernhard helpfully explains that the ship's collision will cause "a little tiny nova." Thanks, Sandra!
Actually, the means by which the world is destroyed in this movie are not terrible — there are solar flares, which seems like a thing that could happen, although probably not on the timescale that we see here. What's less plausible is the set-up. Aliens foresee the deadly solar flares 50 years ahead of time. Do they come and warn the human race, so we've got 50 years to figure out an evacuation plan? No. They figure out a way to get one little kid to write down the dates, locations and death tolls of every disaster for the next 50 years, up to and including the solar-flare apocalypse, and then get her to bury that list of incomprehensible numbers in a time capsule — on the off chance that it'll be dug up just before the end of the world. Or something. Also, the aliens only want to rescue a few kids and one rabbit, even though they have huge spaceships and they're taking the survivors to a huge empty planet.
This is a direct-to-video film that probably appeared on Syfy at some point, but we still have to include it because of the sheer loveliness of its premise. Basically, the apocalypse in this film is caused by Global Tilting. The Earth tilts on its side, and this causes the poles to swap around or something. That, in turn, causes the Earth's temperature to lower to... absolute zero. Yep, that's right. Not just extremely cold, but the theoretical state of having zero heat energy. Luckily, you can still outrun this cold. And a big metal door will keep the cold out. Check out a clip from this masterpiece here.
Not sure if this is actually a Hollywood movie, but it's too demented to leave out. The film about an epidemic that makes people lose their sense of smell, and then the other four senses one by one, starts with a voiceover that says, "There is darkness. And there is light. There are men and there are women. There is fruit. There are restaurants. Disease. There is work. Traffic." Ewan McGregor and Eva Green celebrate the sensory apocalypse by having lots of sex and eating soap.
And here's another usual punching-bag movie. Poor Roland Emmerich, he just wants to live in a world of cartoon physics and "because I said so" premises. In 2012, it turns out that the Maya predicted that neutrinos from the sun would melt the Earth's core, because the solar cycle has reached its maximum. The solar neutrinos travel through everything on Earth and then destabilize the planet's core, causing huge and extremely sexy natural disasters. Intensely sexy. In any case, enjoy this alternate trailer for 2012, created by our own Garrison Dean.
And here's the other movie that people love to take potshots at. Really, you should just read Phil Plait's review. We can't compete with Phil's amazing analysis.
The ultimate silly virus-pocalpyse movie. The super-deadly Motaba virus travels from Zaire to a small town in California, where it threatens to overwhelm the entire world. This movie frequently appears on lists of movies with the worst science, because a virus that killed its host as fast as this one would burn itself out before it could spread. And it only takes a few moments for Dustin Hoffman to come up with an antiserum from the one African monkey that's immune — and it works on humans.
The Vanishing on 7th Street
This is one of those "inexplicable weird apocalypse" movies — in this case, the shadows start swallowing everything up, and when the shadows get you, you're just gone. Most of the human race has already vanished — but a small group of humans, led by Hayden Christensen, hides out in a bar where they're able to keep the lights on and keep the evil shadows at bay. If you think that being trapped in a tiny bar with Anakin Skywalker would be almost as bad as being devoured by monstrous shadows, then you've basically already seen this film.
4:44 Last Day on Earth
This is a small indy movie, so it seems mean to include it — but basically, Abel Ferrara's recent disaster movie involves the world ending because "Al Gore was right." That's pretty much the only explanation we get, too, as far as I remember. People hang their heads and watch old Al Gore videos and lament that they didn't listen to the former Veep.
Changing gears slightly, this is a movie that's in the pipeline right now. Marc Guggenheim (Arrow, FlashForward, Green Lantern) is writing this Disney movie about a catastrophe that causes the world to fracture into different time zones. So in France, it's 1750. In New York, it's the mid-21st century and in China it's 300 B.C. A guy has to race against time, while also racing through time, to save his already dead wife — because "time travel is now a matter of geography."
Untitled L.A. Dinosaur Project
Another movie that's currently in development. What's more insane than dinosaurs attacking in the modern world? "Rapidly evolving" dinosaurs wreaking havoc in L.A. Why are the dinosaurs evolving rapidly, and what are they evolving into? We don't know yet. But John Clisham, a longtime employee of James Cameron, is directing.
The God Particle
Formerly called Collider, this is J.J. Abrams' next mind-frak. Basically, the Large Hadron Collider goes wrong, and causes the WHOLE PLANET EARTH TO DISAPPEAR. Poof. The only people left are the crew aboard the International Space Station. (So, sort of like the pilot for Odyssey 5.) It's being written by Oren Uziel (Mortal Kombat: Rebirth) and directed by newbie Julius Onah.
This was a movie that was in the pipeline a while back, and is probably not happening now. But we still have to mention it because the premise is so amazing, and it's a great example of Hollywood disaster movie science. As it was described back in 2010, "It's about a father who has to search for his lost child as the world stops spinning and Earth begins to lose its gravity." Yeahhhhh. Louis Leterrier (Incredible Hulk) was signed up to direct.
Additional reporting by Robert H. Dawson.