Happy Friday the 13th! Everything is good, and this is fine. As the River City gets closer to the inevitable flames of coronavirus, we’re here to keep you entertained during your quarantine. We hope you bought toilet paper.
Welcome to Dr. StangeVirus, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Corona. While we all practice social distancing and cleaning everything in our homes, RVA Mag says, “How’s about we fire up the Hulu, Netflix, and Vudu, and scare the hell out of ourselves?”
In all seriousness, we hope you’re safe and healthy. We’re sure you’ve been told enough times what to do, but in case you need more information, please check with the CDC for updated information on coronavirus, health tips, and safety precautions. Information on current cases by country can be found here, and local information from Virginia-related cases are listed here.
Now, let’s get to it. Below is a breakdown of some of our favorite pandemic movies. It’s certainly not a complete list, but it’s full of our favorites from the genre. We could spend days on just zombie-outbreak movies alone… but on that note, are you read up and prepared for the zombie apocalypse? The answer is no. Not in the least bit. Someone had to say it.
We highly suggest reading The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, and you can download it if you’re too scared to make the trip to a crowded bookstore. Get your bug-out bag ready, learn the best ways to fight, and take note of the great tips like “Blades Don’t Need Reloading,” “No Place is Safe, Only Safer,” and “Use Your Head: Cut Off Theirs!”
On to the movies. Most of these are available for online streaming, and we know you’re going to be inside freaking out — so you should probably work on making some art. Keep those hands busy. But if you’re not creative, or you want something on in the background, get ready for RVA Magazine’s master list of the best End-Of-Days flicks to keep you company during the coronavirus outbreak.
A 1971 film about a foreign pathogen outbreak is one of our first big virus films today. This one started as a book by Michael Crichton, who you probably know from Jurassic Park. The film actually follows the book very closely, as a special team deals with the impact and works to contain it. Backed in science and heavy drawn-out plot, it’s a bit of a slow burner — but it’s also a wonderful film, with beautiful, vast scenes and an amazing set design.
This one comes from the set designer of 2001 by Stanley Kubrick, who used special effects and computer-rendered effects never used in film before. Overall, it set the stage for many films to come about outbreaks, and the serious effects they can pose if not contained. This may be a bit slow for some (cough, cough, millennials — cover that cough!), so maybe this works best as a background movie while you play a game or make some art. Make some art!
Oh my god, the trailer. It freaks me out. So here we are… this film from Steven Soderbergh grasps you, and it does not let go. There are some great actors in this one, and Soderbergh is always able to get the best out of actors. This movie feels real, and it moves at a fast pace that’s set in the straight-up cold medical reality of what happens in a pandemic. This is our paranoid freakout right here, and I’m gonna tell you now that it’s not something to watch lightly — this is not your fun movie pick of the day. This is now: 100 percent, this movie will kick your ass. If you’re so inclined to jump in the fire, then this is a great baptism straight into it.
True story: I met Joel Edgerton in Ellwood Thompson’s at the juice bar when he was filming Loving here in Richmond. I had just seen him in Black Mass, and thought he was great, so I awkwardly said hello to him. I could tell he was surprised to be noticed, but he was really nice. Edgerton plays the father in this very dismal and dark film, which covers a virus that ends society as we know it.
We know a few things — one is that it comes at night. What is it? Good question. I know one thing: it’s fear. And this movie shows what that does to us. Like many other virus and end-of-days movies, we learn more about what fear does to humans, and how we respond, than about the virus itself. We want to say we’re heroes, but often we find that as humans, we fall prey to ourselves — and we let fear dictate our actions.
It Comes At Night deals with family, pandemics, fear, and panic — so it’s a delightful little film, and it’ll cheer you right up! I saw this film by myself in a theatre in West Virginia. I highly recommend doing that sometime, it makes you come to terms with quite a few things in the shadows. I really did love it, the actors and its pacing. While it’s not easy, I feel it’s a great film… even if it’s a hard watch.
4. THE STAND
One of Stephen King’s masterpieces, The Stand is pretty topical right now. It played on TV some years ago when I was just a kid, and I remember watching it then. This one’s about a strain of influenza that has been modified for bio-warfare, and it causes an apocalyptic pandemic that kills most of the world’s population. This all happens in the 80s during the Cold War fears, so it plays a bit off of that, along with religious overtones throughout. It shows the breakdown of society when these things happen, and the emotional toll that it brings to populations enduring it.
This is a multifaceted story, told from multiple characters’ points-of-view. It tells of the deaths not directly caused by the virus, but by looting and vigilantism due to the breakdown and collapse of society. There is so much to describe, but you have to see it for yourself… this is one epic tale, much in the vein of Lord of the Rings if Middle-Earth was rocked by a virus that wiped almost everyone out.
The feel-good movie of all virus movies here: Outbreak. You’ve got Morgan Freeman, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey (I know!), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Him too! Ahhh!), and a host of other people we might also have issues with, all in this film. It has cute monkeys and a few good scenes, like its movie theatre scene with particles of spit going into everyone’s mouths (yuck).
Look, in no way should this film be seen as giving you any good information. They do things you absolutely should not do. If this film were to take place in real life, Dustin Hoffman’s character would be walking around infecting people. And by the way, check out this ecologist from the CDC breaking down the pandemic scenes in this film on YouTube. Anyway, the good guys win in this one — because that’s what we used to want in movies.
Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic nightmare fuel is a terrifying ride into the virus-made zombie apocalypse. The trailer doesn’t really show how good this film is, so trust us that it’s much better than you’ll expect from this clip. You’re probably familiar with it — I would hope — but get the re-watch in, because it’s worth it. I remember the first thing I thought watching this was, “Wait… zombies can run? Well, that changes things.” This one is more serious, and to me, more realistic regarding what would happen in a real-world zombie outbreak. It’s both a political allegory and a humanist drama, and I think the best zombie movie ever made. It’s also a work of art: from its editing to its great actors, it has moments of pure fear and pure beauty. I just hope it never comes to this.
I watched this last night for the second time, on Netflix. It has Chris Pine, and it’s a great movie that shows what fear can do to people in an extreme situation. Even family. In a world where anyone you meet, and even the people close to you, can be carriers, what do you do? What if it’s you?
These questions play out in a tight-traveling group, with rules to keep them safe. But you know how that’s going to go… not good. Tough decisions sometimes have to be made, and who’s going to do it? At the center of this movie is a pair of brothers whose relationship is tested. The virus is a version of the bird flu that has mutated, and now it’s everywhere. Even the trailer is eerie in the context of our current coronavirus situation, though I would like to say this one has a hopeful ending. I guess it does, in a way.
8. 12 MONKEYS
Another one you probably already know, 12 Monkeys has some great actors here as well. It’s a vehicle for Brad Pitt, and was the first time many of us thought, “Woah, Brad Pitt is awesome.” It’s based off of a movie I watched in film school called La Jetee, which is hauntingly-beautiful, and also centers around the end of the world from a viral weapon. In 12 Monkeys, we get to time-travel back and try to save the future.
It’s always fun with time-travelling paradoxes, and the complete mental loops that they make us take. This one is more neo-noir science fiction than an actual virus outbreak film, but it’s worth a mention, as it’s very good. The ending is so beautiful; I’ve always loved this one. 12 Monkeys is a great movie if you don’t want to fully descend into the virus theme, but want something great along similar lines to entertain.
This is based on I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, a great and quick read. This is the old Vincent Price (full movie is embedded above), and it’s a bit slow at parts, but I really like it. You may be familiar with the story from I Am Legend with the Fresh Prince, but that’s okay — it misses out on many of the deeper elements. The 1971 Charlton Heston movie Omega Man is also based on I Am Legend, and it’s decent, but it changes many of the pieces of the novel that I think are perfect. This is, if you ask me, the one to watch.
So the basic concept here for The Last Man On Earth is a pandemic: it causes many people to become vampires, more or less, and it seems to conform to stereotypes of fiction and lore. Our hero, Dr. Morgan (Neville in the book), studies the vampires and gathers them during the day, killing those he can. He’s looking for a cure to save the human race. I don’t want to give away too much, but in the end, he finds himself being as much of a “legend” as the vampires he hunts. Like I said, this is one of my favorite books. It’s a quick read, and it gets into politics and humanity in similar ways as The Walking Dead, many years earlier.
At the end of a list like this, we need some lighter fare. Yes, this movie is about a computer virus, but still… HACK THE PLANET! This is a fun ride, and it’s got a lot of future star power that we’ve come to know very well. A virus that causes a worldwide disaster — that fits right in. It’s a classic group-of-friends movie, like Goonies for the cyber age. It’s funny to watch now, looking back on the ways technology has evolved to its status quo today. If you need something a little lighter on the list, this is your go-to!
Well, that’s a good start. There’s a quick list below of others to check out if you’re still wanting for more. Keep safe out there, support your friends and family by staying home, and clean stuff, yo!
Remember this important message from Brak:
MORE TO WATCH:
Resident Evil Series
Walking Dead Series
Children of Men (honorable mention for film quality)
…and all the other zombie films.