Either by choice or not, we all will be spending a lot of time indoors. Even after lying in bed contemplating our mortality, raiding the fridge and fighting over toilet paper, our schedules will still be open enough for us to take a look at our infinitely expanding watchlist. Art imitates life and a lot of people will want to distract themselves from one viral outbreak with another. Here is a list of films, TV shows and novels that will make you feel uneasy the next time you sneeze. Just remember, the sun will come out tomorrow, the quarantine will end and wash your hands.
The Planet of The Apes Trilogy (2011, 2014, 2017)
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt, Matt Reeves
Staring: Andy Serkis, James Franco, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Woody Harrelson
Genre: Action, Sci-fi, Drama, Dystopian
Runtime: 1 hour & 45 minutes, 2 hours & 10 minutes, 2 hours & 20 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, 91%, 94%
IMDB: 7.6/10, 7.6/10, 7.4/10
The modern reboot of the classic science fiction franchise has a reputation as one of the best film trilogies in recent memory. This is thanks to its brilliant effects, fantastic story with complex themes regarding the morality of animal experimentation, the dehumanization of war and its well-developed and memorable cast of characters (which is very impressive considering most of them are apes). Without delving too deep into spoilers, the virus that is foreshadowed by the pilot character in the first film seamlessly sets the stage for the post-apocalyptic setting of its two sequels. These films may also be the reason for my fear of monkeys…. And airports.
28 Days Later (2002)
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Staring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns
Genre: Horror, Dystopian, Thriller
Runtime: 1 hour & 53 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
This acclaimed horror flick is partially credited for bringing the zombie subgenre of horror to its peak in popularity. The direct cause of this universe’s outbreak is a virus that amplifies aggressive tendencies of the afflicted. Its complex themes along with some excellent cinematography, acting and atmosphere makes this a film that won’t just breed paranoia, but terror. If this film keeps you asking for more, than its sequel, 28 Weeks Later and its accompanying comic book series should also satisfy your taste for all things undead and unsettling.
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Staring: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt
Genre: Sci-fi, thriller
Runtime: 2 hours & 9 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Adapting the story of the 1962 experimental French short film La Jetee, this post-apocalyptic story stars a post Die Hard Bruce Willis traveling back in time to find the cause of the virus that leads to humanity’s downfall. Along with this, he has his own personal motives, in making discoveries about his own past life experiences. Add in a pre Fight Club performance from Brad Pitt along with a fascinating story and well-composed scenes, and what more could someone want out of a sci-fi film? Maybe a 47-episode television reimagining on the Syfy network?
Directed by: Wolfgang Peterson
Staring: Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Patrick Dempsey, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Genre: Thriller, Drama, Action
Runtime: 2 hours & 8 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Based on the Richard Preston novel The Hot Zone, and taking a more accurate approach to a viral outbreak, in seeing a disease bearing ebola-like similarities being spread in scenes that make your skin crawl in how realistic the situations are. From a small town sickness outbreak to a possibly global pandemic, the stakes feel especially real right now. If Planet of the Apes made you scared of monkeys, then this one will make you a germaphobe … who’s also scared of monkeys.
George A. Romero’s (Original) Living Dead Franchise (1968, 1978, 1985)
Directed by: George A. Romero
Staring: Duane Jones, Judith O`Dea, Scott Reiniger, Ken Foree, David Emge, Gaylen Ross, Richard Liberty, Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato
Rating: NR, R, R
Genre: Horror, Dystopian, Action
Runtime: 1 hour & 37 minutes, 2 hours & 36 minutes, 1 hour & 43 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, 93%, 83%
IMDB: 7.9/10, 7.9/10, 7.2/10
The godfather of the modern zombie, horror master George A. Romero revolutionized horror with a small independent black and white film. From quotable dialogue to an ambiguous cause of the undead rising up to a memorable iconic ending, the film had it all. Needless to say, many were shocked when 10 years later, a sequel was released to a film that’s story didn’t even need one. The commentary and content of “Dawn of The Dead” are possibly even greater than that of its predecessor. Once again, a new decade arrives, and with it Romero “finishes” his trilogy. A more action- oriented and character-focused third film has made this the black sheep of the franchise, but its strong ending and memorable characters make this one a must-watch, too. With several remakes, and even three more follow-ups made by Romero in the 2000s, nothing comes close to the masterpieces the original three are.
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Staring: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Lawrence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston
Genre: Drama, Sci-fi
Runtime: 1 hour & 46 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
This stands as a study of societal breakdown in the midst of a pandemic with some people strangely being immune and the severity of the virus baffling even the highest medical and government personnel. This is best described as a medical thriller more than anything else. If you have a nurse or doctor in the family, showing them this may influence them to work from home.
The Resident Evil Franchise (2002, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2016)
Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson (2002, 2010, 2012, 2016), Alexander Witt (2004), Russell Mulcahy (2007)
Staring: Mila Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Maibus, Colin Salmon, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller, Li bingbing, Ruby Rose, William Levy
Genre: Sci-fi, Thriller
Runtime: 1 hour & 40 minutes, 1 hour & 38 minutes, 1 hour & 34 minutes, 1 hour & 40 minutes, 1 hour & 36 minutes, 1 hour & 47 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%, 20%, 24%, 22%, 29%, 37%
IMDB: 6.7/10, 6.2/10, 6.3/10, 5.8/10, 5.4/10, 5.5/10
If dumb action movies are your thing, than the big screen adaptaions of the Resident Evil video games are equatible to the Godfather (if Al Pachino were a Ukrainian supermodel). While the bar for video game movies is already low, with each successive sequel, this franchise just gets bigger and dumber. While other films on this list handle a viral outbreak in more nuanced ways, here it’s just a typical lab accident. Still there is some (albeit ironic) enjoyment to be had here.
Directed by: John Erick Dowdle
Staring: Jennifer Carpenter, Jay Hernendez, Columbus Short
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Runtime: 1 hour & 29 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
The American remake of Spanish film Rec. loses some of the original’s tension, but makes up for it in its found footage style and a lack of a properly composed film score. The lacking plot and character development is compensated by the production value, atmosphere and performances. While Rec. went onto have a franchise of three sequels, Quarantine would have a sequel of its own in 2011.
John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)
Directed by: John Carpenter
Staring: Kurt Russel, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, David Clennon
Genre: Horror, mystery, sci-fi, thriller
Runtime: 1 hour & 49 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
It would be easy to assume a remake of a classic science fiction film that was already an adaptation of a novel wouldn’t turn out very well, but it’s arguable that John Carpenter’s The Thing surpasses both as a landmark in horror cinema. Because of great performances, a tense atmosphere and incredible practical effects, many put this in the upper echelon of horror movies. The pure paranoia and hysteria that grips the members of the small Antarctic outpost is absolutely bone chilling. While the film’s 2011 prequel doesn’t live up to expectations maybe the rumored remake will.
It Comes At Night (2017)
Directed by: Trey Edward Shults
Staring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Genre: Horror, thriller
Runtime: 1 hour & 37 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
This is a secluded, post-apocalyptic story surrounding a family trying to survive in the wake of a virus that ravaged the planet. They struggle to take care of each other and another family seeking refuge while the mysterious virus looms closer. Brimming with atmosphere and great acting, the film succeeds in its ability to immerse the viewer into the world and make the story feel eerily realistic. There will definitely be some who see this film as slow moving and not for them, but if a patient viewer watches carefully, they will see just how well crafted the movie is.
The Happening (2008)
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Staring: Mark Whalberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez, Betty Buckley, M. Night Shyamalan
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Fantasy
Runtime: 1 hour & 50 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 18%
The infamous lowest point in director M. Night Shyamalan’s career (until The Last Airbender), is a bloated, half-baked drama with a shoddy script, awful acting and maybe the worst twist in film history. The main reason for watching it though is exactly that, the nonsensical twist and the stilted acting make this somewhat of a treat to sit through.
I Am Legend, The Last Man On Earth & Omega Man (2007, 1964, 1971)
Directed by: Francis Lawrence- Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow- Boris Sagal
Staring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan, Willow Smith, Salli Richardson- Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli- Charlton Heston, Rosalind Cash, Anthony Zerbe, Eric Laneuville
Rating: PG-13, NR, PG
Genre: Thriller, Drama, Sci-fi
Runtime: 1 hour & 44 minutes, 1 hour & 28 minutes, 1 hour & 38 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%, 74%, 65%
IMDB: 7.2/10, 6.9/10, 6.5/10
Here are three very different takes on the same novel by Richard Matheson (there is a fourth adaptation also from 2007 called I am Omega, which boasts a 3.3/10 on IMDB). Each has a different ending, characters, even reasons for the apocalypse in the first place. While The Last Man On Earth is an almost a beat for beat recreation of the novel, the other two have some critical differences. “Omega Man” is basically just a very loose adaptation, only keeping a few plot threads while going off the rails into a crazy dystopian romp. I Am Legend infamously has two different endings (no spoilers for what they depict). To choose, if you want accuracy, go for Last Man; for a bizarre time, pick Omega and for action; the 2007 I Am Legend. Honestly speaking, the book will always be the best.
The Strain (2014-2017)
Staring: Corey Stoll, Kevin Durand, David Bradley, Richard Sammel, Miguel Gomez, Natalie Brown, Ruta Gedmintas, Mia Maestro, Johnathan Hyde, Jack Kesy, Max Charles, Rupert Penry-Jones
Genre: Horror, Drama
Episode Number: 46
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Based on Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s horror trilogy, the series centers around a doctor investigating a plane landing. Among many casualties, a mysterious virus appears bearing similarities to vampirism. The doctor and his crew rise to the increasing challenge to fight off the vampires from overtaking New York, and possibly all of humankind.
Staring: Billy Campbell, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kyra Zagorsky, Mark Ghanime, Matt Long
Episode Number: 26
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
In this Syfy original, scientists from a disease prevention group are stationed in the arctic to conduct research on a reported viral outbreak. Genetic engineering has created a zombie-like virus that renders its victims inhuman. From terrifying discoveries to gripping twists, this series starts out with a lot of potential, but burns itself out after playing all its cards too early. Helix falters on its overambitious ideas, but still provides some entertainment.
Ash vs The Evil Dead (2015-2018)
Staring: Bruce Campbell, Dana Delorenzo, Ray Santiago, Lucy Lawless, Jill Marie Jones, Ted Raimi
Genre: Horror, Comedy
Episode Number: 30
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Taking Sam Raimi’s beloved Evil Dead trilogy along with iconic hero Ash still being played by Bruce Campbell and spinning the series off into a pulse pounding, intense, meta-humor-filled hack and slash adventure is everything fans of the original movies could ever ask for. The biggest problem with the series is it was untimely canceled after its third season. Not groovy at all.
Fear The Walking Dead (2015)
Staring: Alycia Debnam-Carey, Lennie james, Kim Dickens, Coleman Domingo, Frank Dillane, Danay Garcia, Ruben Blades, Cliff Curtis, Mercedes Mason
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Episode Number: 69
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Serving as a prequel to one of the biggest shows of the last decade, “Fear” makes its bearings in a fresher earlier stage of walker horror than depicted in the original series, but the looming threat of what is to come is ever present and growing with every episode. The show shares several themes with its sister series, like man’s savagery outclassing their undead counterparts, but in a way that isn’t used for shock value. It serves as a stepping stone to the world of “The Walking Dead.”
The Stand (1978)
Written by: Stephen King
Page Count: 1,182
Genre: Dystopian, Horror, Fantasy
Adaptations: 1994 Television mini-series
Choosing King’s seminal masterwork is a neverending debate. Would it be The Shining? It? Pet Sematary? “The Dark Tower” series? Many will argue it’s his vampire horror epic The Stand. The novel (and tv mini-series) depict survivors trying to climb up from the ashes of humanity that was nearly wiped out after a weaponized strain of influenza was unleashed. This award-nominated novel not only inspired the likes of bands Metallica and Anthrax but has kept the public interest for years, staying in publication as one of Kin’s most beloved works. Not only was there a 1994 television mini-series and a Marvel Comics published graphic novel series, but for years there have been rumors of either a feature film or new tv adaptation in the works.
“The Walking Dead” (2003-2019)
Written by: Robert Kirkman
Number of Issues: 193
Adaptations: 2010 Television series, several novels and video game spinoffs
This game-changing comic book series created by Robert Kirkman and published by Image Comics, is one of the best selling and critically praised comic books ever. Spawning a two television series, video games, books and basically any type of merchandise you can think of, this legendary series just wrapped up its run last year. With 193 issues (the consensus being that this is better paced and made than the repetitive nature of the tv series), this work has enough to keep you busy until the quarantine is up or the tv series ends, whichever comes first.
World War Z: An Oral History of The Zombie War (2006)
Written by: Max Brooks
Page Count: 354 pages
Adaptations: 2013 film adaptation, 2019 video game
Considered one of the definitive depictions of an apocalypse (especially one involving zombies as so many seem to do), this book takes the word “world” very seriously having several points of view across the planet in the form of interviews collected by the United Nations. The novel goes beyond the accounts of the zombie uprising and viral spread of the disease into the implications of how it affects the social, economical, religious, political and environmental changes experienced by people worldwide.
“Y The Last Man” (2002-2008)
Written by: Brian K. Vaughn
Number of Issues: 60
Adaptations: Upcoming television series
The Vertigo series that has been put on a pedestal as a seminal work in the comic book industry, “Y The Last Man” is set in a world where an unknown virus has wiped out the entirety of the male population except for one man (and a monkey, once again monkeys and the apocalypse go together like facemasks and medical gloves). While the world descends into madness, he and his mother try to keep him from a series of antagonists trying to capture him. The series has won three Eisner awards and is the subject of an upcoming FX television series.