The end of the fourth season of “The Walking Dead” left viewers with new questions and foreshadowed new terrors. But it will be months before the show picks up again in October. That doesn’t mean you can’t still get post-apocalyptic thrills in the meantime. From 1970’s “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” to 2013’s “World War Z,” we’ve put together this evolving list of gory and terrifying movies set in crumbling, devastated worlds.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
The sequel to the equally post-apocalyptic “Planet of the Apes” ends with a nuclear detonation that destroys the world. Can you get any more bleak and horrifying than that? Besides the ape-run world, there are mutants living underground and humans have been relegated to slavery. It’s kind of insane.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
The original “Dawn of the Dead” has nauseating slaughter and the kind of claustrophobic setting (a shopping mall) that is a direct forerunner to The Walking Dead. Throw in a social message of consumerism run amok, and you’ve got another splatter classic from zombie master George Romero.
Mad Max (1979)
One critic described “Mad Max” as “pornography of death.” To be sure, the film that introduced the world to Mel Gibson is violent and chaotic. There is a rawness that probably has a lot to do with its low budget and its stark and arid Australian landscape. The unsettling scenario that is at the core of the hero-revenge plot — Gibson’s cop is unhinged when his family is wiped out — gives the movie additional bite.
Escape from New York (1981)
New York has become a maximum-security prison, and the inmates are running the asylum! John Carpenter’s channeling of urban paranoia gets high marks for violence. The movie also had a killer poster of the head of Lady Liberty fallen on the streets of Manhattan.
The Day After (1981)
This made-for-TV movie was insanely graphic for its time, depicting the gruesome aftermath of a nuclear attack on residents of Kansas. One of the most watched shows in television history, it was criticized for scenes of mass graves and people being vaporized. After a private screening, President Ronald Reagan wrote in his diary that the movie was “very effective and left me very depressed.”
Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)
This reboot of “Battlestar Galactica” follows the last survivors of humanity after their colonies were destroyed in a sneak attack by the vengeful cybernetic race that they created. The remnants travel in a fleet led by the eponymous battleship. The often bleak and thrillingly intense series managed to explore themes of terrorism, genocide, ethnic hatred and more.
The Road (2009)
Although not as violent as others on this list, the bleakness of “The Road” (based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy) makes it an emotional cousin to “The Walking Dead.” Like that series, “The Road” also focuses on a father and son traveling through a post-apocalyptic landscape.
World War Z (2013)
Based on the novel by Max Brooks that some credit with revitalizing the zombie genre, the movie with Brad Pitt is what you want from a two-hour dose of destroyed-earth mayhem. Scenes of cities overrun by teeming hordes of zombies along with set pieces in confined places makes for thrills.