We love films where people survive against impossible odds, but some of those odds are more impossible than others. You might have a zombie apocalypse survival plan, but that’s nothing compared to the plans you’d need to survive the nightmare scenarios of these seven films. Spoilers ahoy as we look at these terrifying and inspiring stories of survival.
I am Legend
I am Legend is based on the novel that practically gave birth to the entire zombie apocalypse genre (even if in the books they were actually vampires). Of course, while most zombie movies feature a band of plucky survivors either banding together or arguing with each other until the infected break in and eat them, in I am Legend there’s just one human left, the unlikely named ‘Robert Neville’ (Will Smith).
To survive he is forced to come up with an ingenious system of fortifications and defences while he searches for a cure to the disease that’s caused this apocalypse. To stay sane long enough to do that, he also populates the abandoned New York shops with mannequins who he has daily chats with as he scavenges through the ruins of civilisations.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Compared to the world of Mad Max: Fury Road, I am Legend is a refreshing holiday. Oh there are plenty of more people around, but they’re not the sort of people you’d like to go for a drink with – not just because there’s barely any water left either. In the world of Fury Road everyone is either starving and desperate or powerful and corrupt, and people are treated as property to own or fuel to burn.
Max and the dauntingly tough Imperator Furiosa are only able to survive with some break-neck driving and a lot of guns.
However, no amount of guns or improvised fortifications is enough to keep out the giant Kaiju that are reducing the Earth to a pile of well-trodden rubble in Pacific Rim. Naturally the best solution to this threat is to build gigantic fighting robots armed with swords the size of sky scrapers that can only be piloted by two people whose brains are exactly in sync with one another. Well, maybe not the “best” solution, but definitely the most fun.
At first glance the setting of The Island (hint: it’s an island) may seem like the most pleasant place to go out of all these films. It’s scenic abode that looks not unlike a high end shopping mall, populated by mostly happy people who have all their needs met, and occasionally one of them wins the lottery and gets to go and live on a nice beach somewhere.
That is until you find out that “a nice beach somewhere” actually means “having your organs harvested, because you are a clone who exists specifically to have your organs harvested”.
The only way to survive this film is go on the run and eventually bring down the entire society you were brought up in, which sounds like a lot of hard work.
Everyone wants to be an astronaut when they’re a kid. However, at some point you need to grow up, go and see Gravity, and realise “Oh, no thank you. That looks scary.”
While in other space films the dangers of outer space are aliens and black holes and other spaceships that want to shoot lasers at you, in Gravity the threat is simply that you’re in space. There’s no up, no down, no air, and anything that starts moving quickly is probably going to turn into a bullet given enough time. Sandra Bullock shows us that trying to get around in space is like trying to run across really slippery ice, except the ice isn’t there and you’re constantly falling.
Now, pat the Earth beneath your feet and say “Thank you”.
Then again, in Interstellar the Earth itself starts dying on us. Crops die out and the air begins to thin beyond the point where people will be able to breathe, forcing us to search for a new home among the stars. But this time the dimension the characters have to survive isn’t space, but time. Every round of long-term hibernation, combined with the time dilation effects of the black hole they visit (time slows right down near a black hole) means the crew of the spaceship Endurance are further out of synch with the planet Earth. As well as to their loved ones who live there, as they grow old and the planet Earth’s time runs out.
In the Heart of the Sea
All the stories in this article have one important thing in common: they’re fictional. This isn’t the case with In the Heart of the Sea. In fact, the true events that this film is based on were also the inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The whaling ship Essex was a real ship that set sail in 1820. A large and extremely angry sperm whale really did ram the ship splitting it in two, leaving its crew shipwrecked thousands of miles from the nearest land. And in order to survive the crew were forced to resort to cannibalism.
Which just goes to show, whatever nightmare survival scenario film makers can dream up, reality is always going to go one better.
What’s your favourite survival movie? And do you have a survival strategy for it? Let us know in the comments.