Top 10 Apocalyptic Horror Movie Thrillers

Herner Klenthur

Apocalyptic horror movies come in all kinds from popcorn action flicks like Will Smith’s I am Legend to the violent and fast paced Doomsday.  Both have their merits but for me none can top the apocalyptic thriller. The kind of movie that literally leaves you glued to your seat wondering what could possibly happen next.

As a rule apocalyptic thrillers deviate from the normal horror movie in that there is no big scare, there is no gore and the special FX are down played. They play out quite literally like a stage play in many cases and are more about the depth of characters and deep writing which is why I take great pleasure when I find one worth watching. So with no further rambling let me hopefully introduce you to a few new apocalyptic thrillers as I share my Top 10 in no particular order.

The Road

The Road directed by John Hillcoat is the story of a man and his son who are trying to survive the apocalypse after a world ending event. Starring Vigo Mortensen and Charlize Theron it is the story of a man who is on a single minded mission to find salvation and safety for his son in a world turned upside down. Its dark visual style and intense writing make it a must see for genre fans.


Released in 2008 this is easily one of my favorite films that I own regardless of genre. It stars Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore and was directed by Fernando Meirelles who also directed The Constant Gardner and City of Men. It is the story of a doctor who suddenly is afflicted with blindness ( played by Mark Ruffalo ) and as the blindness spreads across all of humanity he is sent into quarantine. Not bearing to be separated from him his wife played by Julianne Moore feigns blindness to be with him. A truly powerful story it is incredibly violent at times, highly disturbing at others and overall a truly powerful experience illustrating how something like worldwide blindness could bring down the human race.

Stake Land

Stake Land is not only one of the 10 best apocalyptic movies of all time it is also one of the 10 best vampire films ever made. While Twilight has brought great shame to the Vampire film genre Stake Land demonstrates everything that a vampire movie should be. If you have not seen Stake Land do yourself a favor and go see it.

Starring genre icon Danielle Harris it is the story of a Martin who was a normal teenage boy before the country collapsed in an empty pit of economic and political disaster. A vampire epidemic has swept across what is left of the nation’s abandoned towns and cities, and it’s up to Mister, a death dealing, rogue vampire hunter, to get Martin safely north to Canada, the continent’s New Eden.


Carriers is a 2009 movie that stars Chris Pine before he went on to play Captain Kirk in JJ Abrams remake of Star Trek. Unlike Star Trek Carriers is a stark look at the end of the world as two brothers and their girlfriend’s try to find sanctuary in a childhood home after a plague wipes out all of mankind.

Along the way they face moral dilemna’s and other survivors. They must face the reality of exposing themselves to other contaminated survivors, helping them or worse yet inviting in a wolf with less than nobel intentions. Carriers is a powerful movie which quickly spirals out of control demonstrating how even the closest of bonds can be broken by fear.


Directed by Bruce McDonald Pontypool is not only one of the best Canadian Horror Films ever made it is also one of the greatest thrillers of all time. It take the zombie infection genre and turn it quite literally on its head. The movie tells the story of an apocalyptic plague that is spread in a small town in Ontario by literally word of mouth.

Certain words spoken will infect people and turn them into a rampaging zombie. I do not do the film justice with my explanation you really do need to experience this film but imagine if you will the sheer though of speaking the wrong word and having your mind slowly dissolve turning you into a ravenous zombie.


HELL is from producer Roland Emmerich and frankly it is his name attached to the project which first drew my attention. That however is incredibly unfair to first time director Tim Fehlbaum who did an absolutely outstanding job with his first time behind the camera.  It is incredibly rare that a first time director can perfectly engage the audience and draw them into his mindscape with the camera nad Tim Fehlbaum does exactly that as he pulls us deep into the tortured world of HELL.

From Hell is a visceral experience that goes beyond the hype and hoopla of modern apocalyptic movies and focuses on the most terrifying elements, the lack of water, no food, and the wasteland of survivors who went from mailman and lawyer to apocalyptic survivors. A true powerhouse of a film it is a slow thrilling burn from start to finish.

Right At Your Door

Directed and written by Chris Gorak Right At Your Door is a mind melding thrillride from open to finish. A dirty bomb goes off in Los Angeles and a man barricades himself inside his house while living in fear of what has happened to his wife who went to work that day.

Right At Your Door plays out in a small close environment and is packed full of tension with an ending that will leave you shocked. Chris Gorak needs to write and direct more films because Right At Your Door is also not only one of my favorite apocalyptic thriller movies it is one of my favorite movies of all time.

The Quiet earth

Released in 1985 The Quiet Earth is the story of a scientist who commits suicide and wakes up to find that all of mankind has been destroyed. He goes to investigate and finds crashed airliners with no people in them and entire cities empty. The Quiet Earth is an unofficial remake of The World The Flesh and The Devil and was inspired by George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead which is in itself reason enough to see it. The Quiet Earth is a tragic story as the scientist discovers the true cause of the earth’s demise while seeking out other survivors and his own hand in that destruction. The Quiet Earth is a a truly outstanding thrill ride.

Night of the Living Dead

Ok so admittedly Night of the Living Dead is a classic horror movie as much as it is a thriller but for me it makes the list because as much as it is a terrifying experience it is also a deep thriller as the world falls to pieces and the dead walk and a group of lone survivors must outwit and survive the Walking Dead. Night of the Living Dead is one of the best zombie movies of all time and is also one of the best apocalyptic thrillers.

The Divide

The Divide is directed by Xavier Gens who brought us the French gem Frontieres. Nuclear explosions force the residents of a New York apartment block to run from their building seeking shelter in an old bomb shelter. Once in the shelter they realize the dangers outside, as well as inside the shelter. This is a true psychological thriller as the survivors degenerate into animals and at times it is extremely difficult to watch.

It is a prime example of the true dangers in times of high stress as average people turn into ferocious and vile beasts. Xavier Gens is at his finest with this film.

So now that you have read my Top 10 Apocalyptic Horror Movie Thrillers worth watching, what are yours?


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      1. Governator88 August 31, 2012 at 6:40 pm

        Very good list, thank you. I will check out Pollypool & Stake Land. Curious how 28 Days Later could be left off any list like this though.

        • Josh August 2, 2013 at 2:59 am

          Maybe because 28 days isn’t really apocalyptic? As it’s centralised to England. That’s my guess anyway.

        • czolish April 13, 2017 at 11:29 pm

          Pontypool was not very good.

      2. Devon Olson January 22, 2013 at 12:30 am

        Great list seen all of them! Divide was hard to watch at times. A classic that I am thinking of is On the Beach. Great scene with the window sending out the morse code.

      3. jmatts78 April 4, 2013 at 12:10 am

        The Quiet Earth is awesome. The ending is just wow.

        I was mostly happy with The Road since it stayed very true to the book. The only bone of contention I have is with the boy. In the book the big event happened when he was a baby, so it was believable that he’d never had a coke before. But in the movie he was already about 9 or 10 or something before hand. Then they did the coke drinking scene and we’re supposed to believe that he’s never had anything like it before? Nah. It’s a nit-picky complaint, I know.

        • Jen June 12, 2013 at 7:39 pm

          I thought that the boy in the Road was born during the time of the apocalypse in the film. There is a scene where the Man is helping his wife give birth and I presume that is when the boy is born, so if that was the case then it would be sticking to the book and he wouldn’t have had a coke before.

      4. gregory May 4, 2013 at 9:10 am

        The Divide was good at the beginning but then just crap :). My opinion.
        A very very nice list my friend good job

      5. Christine May 27, 2013 at 3:06 am

        Great list! Pontypool is one of the few movies I’ve watched in the past couple of years that actually creeped me out. Stake Land was also a great watch. The Road seems very interesting.

      6. Tiago June 1, 2013 at 7:46 am

        Man, Meirelles directed City of God, and not City of Men.
        City of God is the best movie produced in Brasil in all times, even got an oscar nomination, and it’s really good. City of Men came latter, and was partly produced for T.V., not the same quality.

      7. Tiago June 1, 2013 at 7:48 am

        4 oscar nominations, sorry.

      8. Paul June 29, 2013 at 3:07 pm

        I thought ‘Carriers’ was quite disappointing if I’m honest! However, Blindness is an absolute fave of mine, and it’s nice to see it on a top 10 list.

      9. Daryl October 5, 2013 at 11:25 pm

        Great list…My favorate is Omega Man

      10. idleprimate October 6, 2013 at 3:56 am

        When the wind blows, Threads, the day after, and Testament. All harrowing nightmare post nuclear films.

        Perfect Sense, a recent film about a disease effecting everyone, robbing them of their senses one by one was a truly sad and fatalistic film. Part of the new genre of indie artsy movies that incorporate horror/sci-fi elements to tell human stories.

        Kudos on including The Quiet Earth. I’m really on the fence about The Divide. It had its own vision but also seemed to devolve into an exploitation film.

        There are so many postapocalyptic films youcould make several lists using different criteria.

        • bob schild March 30, 2017 at 12:39 pm

          cool..thx on the movies you said..i havent seen have of your ones….ill check it out

      11. david Flack ( wolfie) October 6, 2013 at 9:18 am

        again a fair enough list. haven’t seen “Hell” and i didn’t like “Carriers” much but the rest are ok.

      12. William Miller April 5, 2014 at 8:58 pm

        Very interesting and intriguing list. I’ve seen Hell, Right at Your Door, Night of the Living Dead, Stake Land, and The Road. All worthy choices, especially the last three I mentioned. I can only assume you left off The Dead, the original Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later simply because you didn’t have enough room? I also really enjoyed Children of Men. I hadn’t heard of Pontypool and Blindness, but on your recommendation, I’ll look for them.

      13. Chuck April 8, 2014 at 12:21 am

        “Hell” suprised me with it’s competence. I recommend it.

        Pontypool is horror done by David Mamet. Not a bad thing.

        I saw “The Quiet Earth” right after it was released on VHS. Blew my mind. I wasn’t used to NZ flicks, but it was a great entry.

      14. Mr Mose September 29, 2014 at 8:28 pm

        Here are a few at least worthy of a mention, After Dark Horrorfest 2 back in 2007 released (Tooth & Nail). Stephen Kings (The Stand) really people this has options, you can read it, you can download from audible listen to the it OR you can watch it. If anyone feeling ambitious all 3 at once.

      15. bob schild March 30, 2017 at 12:37 pm

        all you guys forgot the movie The Day after movie. i wish they could do a rmake of this movie nowadays .