The lines between survival movies, post-apocalyptic movies, and zombie movies all blur. There is no clear line to draw between them – but I have attempted to make some distinctions.
I made complete lists for these difference categories (Post-Apocalyptic Movies / Zombie Movies), and in doing so I had to make some judgment calls. What makes a movie a zombie movie versus a post-apocalyptic movies? Aren’t all zombie movies post-apocalyptic? And in the case of this article, aren’t they all survival movies? Are they also prepper movies?
So, if I wanted to make different lists, you can see how I had to start categorizing. Otherwise I would end up with some gigantic list containing all movies that would be overwhelming and near impossible to navigate.
It can get confusing – what lands where, and I’ll get reader comments suggesting new additions to these lists for movies that I already have on another list. So, I know I’m not the only one that sees blurred lines between these categories.
Regardless, here is the next installment of a “complete” list of movies. I put “complete” in quotes, because this list will never actually be “complete.” They make movies all the time, and I’m always learning of older movies that I’ve never heard of before.
So, to that end, please help keep this list as “complete” as possible. If you can think of a movie that should belong here (and not in another category I’ve already made), please post a comment and I’ll add it to the list. Many thanks!
Complete List of Survival Movies
20 Years After (2008) 1hr 35min – Twenty years after nuclear war followed by plagues, no children have been born in 15 years. A woman becomes pregnant, and people fight for control of her.
A Thief in the Night 1hr 8min (film series of four movies) – This is an evangelical Christian film series about the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ. If you missed out on the Rapture, can you survive the Tribulation?
Aftermath (2014) 1hr 32min – Mushroom clouds go up and nine desperate survivors have to decide between dying in their shelter or venturing into the terrors of the outside world.
Air (2015) 1hr 34min – Air is no longer breathable, and after a malfunction at an underground bunker, they are forced to leave.
Arctic Blast (2010) 1hr 32min – A Canadian film following an environmental disaster, the chain of events that follows, and the struggle to stay alive.
America 3000 (1986) 1hr 32min – Nine hundred years in the future, after nuclear war has reduced mankind to the stone age, women rule the world, but one man seeks to change that.
Blue World Order (2017) 1hr 55 min – An EMP kills all children on the planet but one – and now her father must protect her.
Bird Box (2018) 2hr 4min – A post-apocalyptic thriller following a woman and her children who must stay blindfolded to prevent seeing supernatural entities that will force them to commit suicide.
Bokeh (2017) 1hr 31min – A couple is vacationing in Iceland when a flash of light happens and they wake up to find everyone else is missing. Now they must fight for survival while trying to make sense of what happened.
City of Ember (2008) 1hr 35min – A disaster was poised to destroy the world, so a “city of ember” was built underground to house survivors for 200 years. The movie takes place as the generators powering the city begin to fail.
Def-Con 4 (1985) 1hr 27min – A Canadian post-apocalyptic film. Three astronauts survive WWIII only to fight a paramilitary faction.
Doomsday (2008) 1hr 49min – Twenty-five years after a devastating virus, a team goes into post-apocalyptic Scotland to fight feral survivors for a cure.
The Day After (1983) 2hr 7min –
Escape from New York (1981) 1hr 39min – A convict (Kurt Russell) is sent into NYC, now a giant prison, to save the U.S. president whose plane just crashed there.
Escape from L.A. (1996) 1hr 40min – The sequel to Escape from New York. Snake is back, and called upon once again to recover a doomsday device from L.A., an autonomous place where criminals are sent.
Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983) 1hr 30min – An Italian/Spanish post-apocalyptic action film spurred by the success of Mad Max, and not-so-strangely follows a similar storyline.
Follow the River (1985) – 1hr 31min – This made-for-TV film is based on a book of the same name, telling the story of a woman who was abducted by Shawnee Indians. Starring Sheryl Lee, it is billed as a story of inspiration.
Geostorm (2017) 1hr 49min – Natural disasters threaten the planet and something is wrong with the system governments have built to protect it. It’s a race against the clock to figure out what’s wrong.
Goodbye World (2013) 1hr 40min – The power grid fails as a mix of friends and strangers merge at a remote cabin. They attempt to navigate the mass panic that ensues. I’ve seen this movie. I don’t particularly recommend it.
Greenland (2020) 1hr 59min – This disaster film tells the story of a family who fights for survival as a comet races toward Earth promising certain destruction. Will there be safety in Greenland?
The Grey (2011) 1hr 57min – Their plane crashes in Alaska and a huntsman leads them to survival, but they’re followed by a pack of merciless wolves.
The Handmaid’s Tale (2017) 1hr – The series based on the dystopian book of the same name by Margaret Atwood. Set in a grim future, a fertile woman is forced to live as a baby maker in the house of a member of the theocratic dictatorship.
The Happening (2008) 1hr 30min – An airborne neurotoxin causes people to commit suicide on a massive scale. As it spreads, they figure out trees are spreading it as a defense mechanism.
Hell (2011) 1hr 24min – In the post-apocalyptic future, where rising temperatures have turned the world into a barren wasteland, survivors fight their greatest enemy – the sun. (English subtitles.)
Hostile (2018) 1hr 23min – A worldwide epidemic leaves a survivor fighting for her life when she encounters a strange creature.
Interzone (1987) 1hr 32min – An Italian/American film where a monk is sent on a mission to protect the last fertile region left on earth.
Into the Forest (2015) 1hr 41min – A Canadian film that tells the story of two teenage sisters living in the Pacific Northwest after an apocalyptic blackout leaves people struggling for survival.
Land of Doom (1986) 1hr 27min – Post-nuclear holocaust, survivors live in caves and roam the wasteland in gangs. A few want a better life – and go in search of a safe city.
Le Dernier Combat (1983) 1hr 32min – A French post-apocalyptic film. Shot in black and white and containing only two words of dialogue, it’s a world where people have been rendered mute and fight one another for survival.
Miracle Mile (1988) 1hr 27min – The entire film takes place over one night in Los Angeles after a man receives a call telling him there will be a nuclear war in 70 minutes.
Neon City (1991) 1hr 39min – A Canadian Mad Max clone movie that follows people trying to escape to Neon City after a solar disaster destroys much of earth.
Omega Man (1971) 1hr 38min – One of three adaptations of Richard Matheson’s book I Am Legend. Dr. Neville is the only survivor of an apocalyptic war beyond a few hundred nocturnal people that blame science and technology for their maniacal condition. Neville, a symbol of that science, is hunted by them.
On the Beach (1959) 2hr 14min – Based on the classic 1957 Novel, in the aftermath of nuclear war, a deadly radioactive cloud slowly moves toward Australia.
On the Beach (2000) 3hr 15min – Based on the classic 1957 Novel, and a made-for-TV remake film of the 1959 version above, in the aftermath of nuclear war, a deadly radioactive cloud slowly moves toward Australia.
Panic in the Year Zero! (1962) 1hr 32min – Los Angeles is destroyed by a nuclear attack – looting, burning, mayhem! A family finds shelter in an isolated cabins only to face off against a pile of teenage punks.
The Purge (2013) 1hr 25min – and its sequels – Not a movie about surviving the wilderness or an EMP, but one that has captured the interest of preppers. The Purge, and all of its sequels, tells the story of a family who are threatened by criminals and murderers during an annual “purge,” a night when all laws are suspended and there are no repercussions for crime of any type. Who will survive The Purge?
Radioactive Dreams (1985) 1hr 34 min – Fifteen years after a nuclear war that expended the entire world’s nuclear arsenal but one missile, two nineteen-year-olds emerge from a bunker into a world of mutants and cannibals in a struggle to find the two keys that could launch the last missile.
Ravagers (1979) 1hr 30min – Based on the 1966 novel Path to Savagery. After a nuclear holocaust, creatures roam the earth looking to kill all survivors.
Red Dawn (1984) 1hr 53min – I don’t know how many times I’ve watched this film? Do you? Patrick Swayze at his best – the movie that people still watch over and over again – Wolverines!
Red Dawn (2012) 1hr 33min – Why did they ever try to remake the original? This is a sad 2012 version of the original (above) film that captured a nation. I don’t know how it has as many stars on Amazon as it does. North Korean soldiers invading? C’mon.
Right at Your Door (2006) 1hr 35min – Multiple dirty bombs go off in L.A. A couple tries to navigate the chaos that ensues.
The Seventh Sign (1988) 1hr 37min – The Book of Revelation gets played out. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ unfolds.
Testament (1983) 1hr 29min – Nuclear warheads drop along the Easter Seaboard and California. A family tries to survive the fallout.
These Final Hours (2014) 1hr 26min – The world is coming to an end, and a man heading to a final party, ends up saving the life of a girl in search of her father. The story unfolds from there.
This is Not A Test (1962) 1hr 13min – A deputy is ordered to block a road off just as nuclear warheads start hitting. The deputy and the characters he’s stopped attempt to survive.
The Ultimate Warrior (1975) 1hr33min – Post-plague NYC. A fighter helps defend a community with food, before they need to leave for shelter elsewhere.
Vanishing on 7th Street (2010) 1hr 31min – If you’re not holding a light, the darkness takes you. Some band together to fight whatever is making people vanish.
Zodiac: Signs of the Apocalypse (2014) 1hr 29min – Global catastrophes lead a scientist to try deciphering ancient symbols to avoid the destruction of the planet.
Thanks to IMDb for being such an extensive resource for movie descriptions. Again, if there’s something that I missed – please comment!
A few suggestions:
Book of Eli with Denzel Washington
Night of the Comet
Left Behind (2 versions and sequels)
Day After Tomorrow
Sum of All Fears
Thanks. I’m adding Greenland here. Some of the others are on the post-apocalyptic movie list and even the zombie list (Night of the Comet).
That’s on our post-apocalyptic movies list.
I’d like to recommend “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” – I don’t know if it belongs on this list, though. Your “survival” movies seem to be mostly people surviving after disasters, and this movie is about a man teaching a boy to survive in the wilderness of New Zealand.
The plot is that a married couple, Hec and Bella, take in a juvenile delinquent named Ricky as a foster child. When Bella suddenly dies, Ricky is reassigned to a juvenile detention center. Rather than go there, he runs away, so Hec heads out to find him. Unfortunately, a misunderstanding makes the social workers think Hec is molesting Ricky, so now the two need to hide in the wilderness until the matter is straightened out. The movie is directed by Taika Waititi and is primarily a comedy.
No, probably doesn’t quite fit, but based on the preview, looks pretty funny.
Yeah, thinking about it, it’s more of a “buddy” movie than a “survival” movie. After I wrote that message I thought about it, and the main things working against the main characters are the New Zealand police force, and a rival group of hunters. It doesn’t really count as “survival” unless the main antagonist is mother nature itself.
But, I definitely recommend it as a good “buddy” movie (future list?), or just if you’re in the mood for a comedy.
I have an idea for a future list: “The world is ending and Netflix is down: 100 DVDs to take with you into the bunker”