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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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Reportedly, Ronald Reagan watched this film before it aired and it forced him to change his concept of nuclear war—proving culture really does have an impact.

10. The Happening

Mother Nature is pissed at us. We have become a "surface nuisance,” as George Carlin once put it, and “the planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas.” Only in The Happening, instead of shaking us off, the earth induces us to off ourselves. Spurred by a ripple in the trees—an electromagnetic current, perhaps, or an imperceptible soundwave?—people across the Northeastern US begin killing themselves, one by one. A girl in Central Park shoves a pencil into her ear, impaling her brain. Dozens of hapless suits climb to the roof of a building and leap to their deaths. (Its release date was seven years after 9/11, but that one felt a little too soon.) Turns out, after centuries of mistreatment, the planet is releasing a deadly neurotoxin to eradicate us so it can save itself. Can protagonists Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel lead their family to safety?

Frankly, this is probably the worst movie in this list, and certainly the most painful M. Night Shyamalan film, which is saying a lot. But it’s worth watching for the sheer creativity of the concept—just one more way to visualize humanity going down, not with a bang but with a very pathetic whimper.

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd is an associate editor at AlterNet and a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor. Formerly the executive editor of The FADER, her work has appeared in VIBE, SPIN, New York Times and various other magazines and websites.