Post-apocalyptic worlds have become something of a fascination for popular culture. They tend to ask the question, “What would the world be like if everything fell apart?” If anything, we all know it wouldn’t be good no matter how you shake it. For years, many writers and authors have tried to answer this question with their own post-apocalyptic stories, novels, and films. From The Stand to The Walking Dead, many take creative approaches to what things might be like. Along the way, audiences around the world have been enthralled. We may not want to live it out, but we sure love to watch it. Check out these 25 Incredible Post-Apocalyptic Worlds You Need To See To Believe and see if your favorite made our list!
The Hunger Games
Few are unaware of The Hunger Games. Both the books and movies alike were incredibly popular and for good reason. It boasts imaginative world-building with the twelve districts of Panem vying for power and success in the games. For his part, Gary Ross brought the movie to life in the film, showcasing the vast disparity between rich and poor.
This novel by Hugh Howey builds a breathtaking world where most people live underground in a silo to survive. The outside world is too harsh and dangerous to live on anymore. Howey paints a desperate and hostile world not only above but also below with hazardous politics and a tricky web of deceit.
The Last of Us
Gamers are no strangers to this post-apocalyptic drama. With a great story, great characters, and a beautifully designed post-apocalyptic world by Naughty Dog, this Playstation 3 game will put you in awe as you fight for survival against the fungal zombies trying to eat you.
It’s not exactly the greatest movie, but there’s no denying the world building is spectacular. In this reality, the polar ice caps have melted, resulting in the Earth flooding completely. Kevin Costner plays a mutated human trying to help a mother and her child to find dry land.
A unique animated film released on 9/9/09, this post-apocalyptic story follows a rag doll come to life who holds the secret to saving humanity. Portraying a grim apocalyptic fantasy world with an incredible attention to detail, if you haven’t experienced this film, it’s time to put it on your list.
Ready Player One
Originally a book by Ernest Cline and now a major motion picture, this story details an overcrowded world and a character living in “the stacks,” a place where mobile homes are stacked on top of each other. Naturally, everyone loves the Oasis, the digital world where you can be anything, but the real world is just as compelling if not as glamorous.
I Am Legend
Based on the story by Richard Matheson, this film starring Will Smith is about Robert Neville, the seemingly last man on Earth, wandering around a post-apocalyptic New York City. But, lurking in the shadows, are blood-thirsty vampires, waiting for Neville to slip up.
This video game trilogy by 2K Games showcases a vast and rich underwater world known as Rapture and a sky world called Columbia. Rapture hoped to be a utopia, but it went into decline, whereas Columbia claims to be a utopia yet has a dark, seedy underbelly. Both worlds have impressive and creative world-building, drawing from several philosophers and thinkers for their concepts.
Released in 1999, this anime is about a man cryogenically frozen due to his disease and wakes up in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where humans and bugs called “Blue” are at war. Brutal, violent, and desolate, Earth is mostly ruled by these bugs, while everyone else has escaped to a space station called “Second Earth.”
Though not the greatest story, the stunning special effects and cinematography showing a desolate world in the aftermath of an alien invasion are great selling points. There’s something compelling about an abandoned world combined with sleek science fiction technology.
This classic book by Ray Bradbury follows Guy Montag, a fireman who burns books, as he starts to question the society he lives in. It’s been adapted to film and TV, but nothing beats Bradbury’s intricate and genius writing.
With spectacular graphics and a vast and breath-taking world devastated by nuclear weapons, this video game takes the franchise to a whole new level. With the ability to make a variety of choices and carry a plethora of gear while you wander the wasteland full of zombies, monsters, and raiders, there’s no question this post-apocalyptic game is a must-play.
This best-selling novel by Cormac McCarthy focuses heavily on the relationship between a father and his son but sprinkles in the horrors of a world gone down the tubes. The film starring Viggo Mortensen especially does a great job highlighting the realism and desperate nature of the post-apocalypse.
Planet of the Apes
These classic films, especially the latest trilogy starring Andy Serkis, are stunning in their portrayal of a world ravaged by the Simian flu and the ascension of a new race of super-intelligent apes. From the original classic with Charlton Heston to The War of the Planet of the Apes, this is a world we could get lost in for ages.
This groundbreaking magnum opus by Stephen King presents a world where a superflu has decimated most of the human population except for some. With the world in ashes, both good and evil rise up, creating a conflict of Biblical proportions.
The Walking Dead
While things may have gone downhill in the last few seasons, there’s little doubt the world of The Walking Dead is a horror show no one wants to experience but everyone wants to watch. With compelling characters and danger lurking around every corner, zombie television has never been so good.
The Handmaid's Tale
Though originally published by Margaret Atwood in 1985, this book has been once again popularized on the Hulu television show. It shows a post-apocalyptic society called the Republic of Gilead that overthrows the old United States government and forms a tyrannical theonomy, a land ruled by divine law. In it, women are subjugated to men as women’s rights have been abolished.
Adapted from Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?, both this film and its successor, Blade Runner 2049, feature a dark and gloomy world consumed by large corporations, smog, and overbearing advertisements. In it, androids known as “replicants” are used for labor and a detective has to track the ones down who rebel against their human slavemasters.
Reign of Fire
Set in the near future, millions of fire-breathing dragons rise up from the earth and turn it to ash. The surviving humans hide in caves and try to avoid detection from the dragons. No, it’s not a great movie, but, come on, a world of fire-breathing dragon overlords is pretty awesome!
Published in 1987 by Robert McCammon, this novel is the quintessential post-apocalyptic story about humanity trying to survive the aftermath of a nuclear war. Not to mention, there’s a hint of fantasy with an ancient evil roaming about trying to kill a girl named Swan and a band of humans determined to save her. McCammon paints a very dark and sad portrait, so proceed with caution.
This post-apocalyptic drama is set entirely on a train, traveling through a desolate ice world. With the poor and hungry in the back of the train and the wealthy in the front, a band of impoverished passengers fight their way to the front only to discover an awful truth.
This movie, along with the especially thrilling Mad Max: Fury Road, follows Max as he tries to survive the heat of the desert world and a dangerous band of marauders. Both water and gasoline are precious commodities that only a select few control. In a world with little hope, the only thing Max cares about is own survival.
While most of the Terminator movies are set in modern times, quite often each film will show clips of the ravaged future and the war between humanity and machine. This horrific world is on full display, of course, in the movie Terminator: Salvation, starring Christian Bale.
While most of the real world is given to us in pieces in this first film, more is revealed in the sequels, and it’s a depressing picture. Human bodies are kept in organic sacks and harvested by machines as energy. To keep their minds preoccupied, they have them plugged into a digital world. Humans in the real world try to fight for their brothers and sisters plugged in, but waking them up proves difficult. Many don’t want to wake up at all.
Children of Men
What’s more terrifying, sad, and hopeless than a world without children? Turns out, not much. With an infertile world in chaos after years of no children and the media counting down the deaths of the youngest people on earth, one man is tasked with escorting a pregnant woman to safety.