When it comes to storytelling in modern cinema, there are stakes and there are STAKES. And I think we can all agree the destruction of planet Earth is about as big as you can get. Sure, several films hook us in with the ‘farewell, world!’ premise: Armageddon, Men in Black II, Independence Day, etc. But there’s always some mass annihilation sidestepping at the last-minute. Below are five flicks that actually have the cojones to pull the trigger. Bonus: YouTube video of those final few moments on Earth! Are there spoilers? Obvi!
‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’
Okay, I kinda lied: this is the one entry that doesn’t have online viz of our planet going bye-bye (dammit, YouTube!). But rest assured, bye-bye it most certainly goes. Basically, a bunch of damn, dirty apes are killing each other, only this time a big ol’ bomb is also in the mix. Dr. Zaius has a chance to set things right but refuses, resolving himself to the fact that man (or monkey, or whatever) is only capable of destruction. So the bomb goes off, everyone dies, and a solemn voiceover dude says this: “In one of the countless billions of galaxies in the universe lies a medium-sized star, and one of its satellites — a green and insignificant planet — is now dead.” Oh snap! You di’nt!
Nicholas Cage is great at a lot of things: yelling, getting stung by bees, feigning sciency stuff, etc. But when it comes to saving the world, his skills leave a little something to be desired. In Knowing, I’ll give Nic credit for piecing together sixty years’ worth of clues that — when assembled — warn humanity about a nasty apocalypse. But since he can’t actually do anything about it, my praise kinda needs to be on the faint side. End result: seven billion people die a fiery death. Silver medal try, buddy.
Unlike the other movies on this fine, fine, list, Last Night (a Canadian flick!) features characters well aware the planet’s about to go belly up. The only thing never revealed is why it’s gonna happen. Although given the fact it’s permanently light outside,I’m guessing ol’ Mr. Sun likely has a role in all this. Anyhow, what makes Last Night so gripping is its exploration of how folks choose to spend their final few days. One of my favourite storylines sees a gas company owner (David Cronenberg) phoning every last one of his customers to reassure them their power will stay on until the very end. Does the end actually come? You bet your ass, compadre.
We’re all familiar with the iconic final scene that sees Slim Pickens cowboy-riding a nuclear bomb dropped onto a Russian ICBM complex. But it’s easy to forget there’s a bit more to Dr. Strangelove’s ending than a military outpost getting blown six ways to Saturday. Basically, this act of aggression triggers a doomsday device that, well, leads to pretty much the whole planet getting its nuke on. Ergo, this closing montage of mushroom clouds (eerily underscored by Vera Lynn’s rendition of We’ll Meet Again). How’s that for political satire?
‘The Cabin in the Woods’
Who’d have thought a film about dumb teens in a creepy cabin would end with the complete destruction of good ol’ Earth? Visionary-slash-crazy-man Joss Whedon, that’s who. You see, there’s this ritual involving, um, ancient aliens, and they need five youngsters to die every once in a while, and uh, their deaths have to be really specific or else it’s kablooey time for everyone. So yeah, that. Kinda hard to explain, and t0 be honest, I’m not sure the premise fully holds up. But one thing’s for sure. Everybody. Flippin. Dies. At. The. End. Which admittedly is way very cool.