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10 Best Movies Where Humanity Gets Its Comeuppance

Humanity does terrible things to the earth and to each other. But Hollywood loves to depict our punishment.

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3. Outbreak

In the 1990s, slash-and-burn agriculture was one of the issues at the forefront of the environmental movement, as forests across South America and Africa were being decimated by logging and ranching. Deforestation worried climate scientists, but it also alarmed biologists, who argued that the dense rainforest likely contained organisms we’ve never identified—not just animals and insects, but viruses as well. Enter Outbreak, a cautionary tale against clearing uncharted territory.

The setting is Congo, 1967. A monkey or monkeys carrying a deadly virus has been unleashed in a village. The US, instead of developing a vaccine or cure, opts to completely destroy the infected with napalm (obviously). Fast-forward 30 years, and the virus wasn’t gone, just sleeping... and it’s soon transmitted to the US by an illegal exotic animal trader who ships an infected monkey to California (sub-moral: don’t illegally trade exotic animals). The trader is infected, and spreads it around to several others, including his girlfriend, all of whom die gruesome deaths in which their eyeballs bleed out of their skulls and their internal organs melt like cheese in a microwave. (Clearly, the virus was based upon Ebola, which emerged in the mid-’70s before experiencing a brief renaissance in the 1990s.) Who will save us all? Why, Dustin Hoffman, of course!

4. Children of Men

One of the most profound and best-made films on this list asks a philosophical question: if we knew we were soon to become extinct, how would we behave? The answer is deplorably—our instinct to survive is only dwarfed by our instinct to dominate each other. We are all just piddling animals with tools too advanced for our tiny brains. In Children of Men’s grim near-future, it is 2027, and no person on earth has been able to reproduce for two decades. Our end is imminent, and we have become a planet of nihilists. Governments are collapsing, terrorism is rampant, and Britain has devolved into martial law, with troops that hate everyone, but immigrants in particular. There is one hope, though: Kee, a beautiful Ghanaian immigrant (played by Clare-Hope Ashitey, now a real-life anthropologist), who is the first human on earth known to be pregnant in 20 years. Obviously, humans have on the whole lost their compassion, but Theo Faron (Clive Owen) vows to save Kee from crazed revolutionaries, mentally deranged mobs and the British army. Another question: can one child save all humanity?

This is also a good time to point out that Chiwetel Ejiofor, a great actor, is also a veteran of the end-of-days film, having starred in this, 2012, and the reality apocalypse movie Tsunami: The Aftermath. Hopefully there are more in his future!

5. Battle Royale

This Japanese cult classic is a microcosm of what could happen if we all continue procreating willy-nilly... and a warning to children never to trust adults. At the turn of the millennium, amid dire global overpopulation, a group of teenagers embarks on a class trip. As their bus pulls away, they are gassed to sleep, and when they wake up, the once-happy schoolmates have been dispatched to an island and fitted with electrical collars, which will explode if they are tampered with. They are instructed by an impossibly joyful TV host that they have been randomly selected to compete in Battle Royale: a scheme concocted under the “Millennial Education Reform Act,” which is in fact a survivalist fight to the death. Each schoolchild is given a random weapon and instructed they must murder each other; the final kid left gets to leave the island, but Japan has become simply too populated to sustain all of the children being born. Creative population control! The cruel game pits best friends and lovers against one another, while others opt for suicide, and portrays humanity at its basest (and goriest). It also casts adults as spiteful, cowardly bastards so cold they would dupe happy teens rather than come up with a more humane way to keep population down. Like, say, birth control? Let this be a lesson to you, conservatives!