End of the world in movies, books, music

December 20, 2012 


STANISLAV ODYAGAILO — Getty Images/iStockphoto

We humans have long been fascinated with the end of time, and our culture reflects it. Here are some movies, music and books obsessed with the end or life after it.


Deep Impact (1998). Elijiah Wood plays a precocious kid who discovers a comet that is on a collision course for Earth. Unless it can be destroyed, only those allowed into shelters will survive. Also starring Tea Leoni, Robert Duvall and Vanessa Redgrave.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004). Paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) must trek across America to reach his son (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is trapped in New York after a catastrophic climate shift plunges the planet into a new Ice Age.

2012 (2009). A bunch of good actors — John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor — are trapped in a silly disaster epic where the Earth's core is heating up and causing mass flooding, earthquakes, etc.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012). As an asteroid nears Earth, a man (Steve Carrell) finds himself alone and decides to take a road trip accompanied by a neighbor (Keira Knightley).

Take Shelter (2011). Lexington native Michael Shannon garnered fantastic reviews as a man plagued by apocalyptic visions who questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.

4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011). Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh spend their last day together — the end of the world has been calculated as happening at 4:44 a.m. — talking, making love and ordering Chinese food.

Melancholia (2011). In a movie that got glowing reviews, two sisters (Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg) find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with the Earth. Directed by Lars von Trier.


It's the End of the World (And I Feel Fine), R.E.M. (1987). Michael Stipe twists his tongue in this rattling feel-good classic.

The End of the World, Skeeter Davis (1962). The Dry Ridge native was in her 30s when she recorded this hit about thinking the world is over "'cause you don't love me any more."

2012 (It's Ain't the End), Jay Sean featuring Nicki Minaj (2010). This catchy pop song from the British crooner and the American speed rapper suggests we all party "like it's the end of the world."

The Final Countdown, Europe (1986). This overwrought '80s rocker was the Swedish band's biggest hit, but fans of TV's Arrested Development know it as magician Gob's entrance music.

The End, The Doors (1967). It was reportedly written about a breakup, but the somber sound and lyrics ("This is the end, my only friend, the end") make it a perfect coda for the end of humankind.


The Road, Cormac McCarthy (2006). In possibly the bleakest novel you'll ever read, this acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize-winning book chronicles a father and son trekking from possibly somewhere in Appalachia to the Gulf Coast in a post-apocalyptic world infested with roving bands of cannibals.

The Stand, Stephen King (1978). The prolific writer's early work chronicles an epic, post-apocalyptic battle between good and evil.

The Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (1995-2007). The authors' best-selling 16-novel series deals with the Christian concept of the End Times.

Earth Abides, George R. Stewart (1949). After a mysterious disease kills off most of humanity, a group of survivors must rebuild.

On the Beach, Nevil Shute (1957). In this Cold War classic, Australia is one of the few places left habitable after a nuclear world war.

The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker (2012): A suburban 10-year-old girl confronts adolescence and the whimpering end of the world when the Earth's rotation gradually slows.

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