Post-Apocalyptic Movies Reflect The State of The Union

This is getting easier to imagine


In the same way that nightmares serve an evolutionary purpose of mentally preparing us for real world dangers, I believe that apocalyptic movies also serve a similar function for society: namely, they prepare us for the worst. This may explain a correlation of historical events to the rise of apocalyptic movies.

If we accept that movies are a reflection of the society that makes them, then movies are, in a sense, outlets that address a society’s underlying issues. Whether it’s new trends in technology, the changing of social norms, or issues of national security—movies often have a way of capturing what is important at the time. In the case of apocalyptic movies, it seems to me that the number of those types of movies made reflect national concerns.

Take a look at this List of Apocalyptic Films throughout the decades.

Here is a breakdown of the numbers of those movies made per decade:

Pre-1950: 4 Movies

1950’s: 12 Movies

1960’s: 23 Movies

1970s: 35 Movies

1980s : 35 Movies

1990s: 35 Movies

2000s: 62 Movies

2010’s: 65 Movies

My theory is that the number of these movies made are a reflection of the political-economic-social climate during that decade. In the pre-1950’s, there were four movies being made about the post-apocalypse. World War II just happened and perhaps society was not prepared to make those types of movies yet. In the 1950’s, that number went up to twelve–just in time for the start of the Cold War. Then the 1960’s came and America had the Cuban Missile Crisis. We were so close to an all out nuclear war with Russia. Post-apocalyptic movies doubled to twenty three.

In the 70’s those movies jumped to thirty five, perhaps as a growing tensions from the Cold War and the Vietnam War continued. Interestingly enough, those numbers stayed  exactly the same for three decades. The 1980’s had thirty five movies and so did the 1990’s. It is interesting to note that no major  traumatic national event happened during this period. The amount of war and peace was relatively steady.

Then at the start of the 2000’s, 9/11 happened. During that decade, apocalyptic movies almost doubled. The trend seems to be that whenever traumatic events endanger the American republic, the number of apocalyptic movies double.

Now we’re only halfway through the 2010’s and that number is is already sixty five. It will be interesting to note that the election of Trump has been deeply traumatic and scarring to America. With an erratic demagogue now having access to our nuclear codes, I wonder how many apocalyptic movies will be made before the end of this decade?


*Note: I am fully aware there are other variables at play. Perhaps these movies don’t correlate with national events, only that apocalyptic movies sell so Hollywood has made more of them. I’m not a statistician, okay?

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