Welcome to this week’s newsletter, brought to you by former Force Recon Marine, Chris Graham’s 30-10 At-Home Pistol Training Program–Guaranteed to put you in the top 10% of all shooters in the next 30 days. Learn more now by going >HERE<
A prepper’s to-do list is always long. But in-between filling storage shelves and surviving what is purported to be a frigid winter, we deserve a little down time. And what better way to do that than sitting down to a movie that reminds us why we are preparing in the first place?
Actually, some of the movies and made for television shows and miniseries are likely to have you wincing over the inane actions of the protagonists, or the glaring don’t-get-a-redo mistakes portrayed by the characters trying to cope with survival after an outbreak, or an EMP, or any number of calamities that befall them. It’s just another form of practice that will entertain us, sometimes leave us cringing over fatal mistakes, and in some cases, will help keep us on our toes.
The list supplied below is in alphabetical order, rather than by ratings. There are some incredible films like The Matrix and 1984 that I would have gladly listed here, but held back, as I was searching for movies and made for TV shows and miniseries that offered the most hands-on survival content. Even so, many shows that didn’t end up on the list have merit today if we plan to stay one step ahead of the “thought police”, so please don’t hesitate to add your own personal favorites with your comments to broaden the list!
Important Note: I am aware that not all of the made for TV movies and miniseries can be rented or purchased, but if you search You Tube, you just might get lucky. . . Just saying. . . .
(Ox’s note: These aren’t “how-to” movies, and you’ll probably see a lot more examples of what NOT to do than what you should do. All of that to say, don’t get too worked up when you see tactical, logical, and factual errors. The mission of producers is to entertain you and make money, not get you prepared. So, enjoy the movies/shows and when you see errors, make a note of them. There’s value in having a fast, highly tuned BS detector and it doesn’t have to ruin your movie watching experience.)
Apocalyptic / Survival Movies
A Boy And His Dog: Until going in search of the “best of” post-apocalyptic, survival related films, I wasn’t aware of this 1976 movie, A Boy & His Dog, which, it turns out, is a cult classic. I’ve posted a review that I found on Amazon, which details the plot, and it’s now at the top of my must-watch list:
It’s the year 2024, and most of the Earth’s nations have been demolished by yet another world war (the latest being WWIV). In this post-apocalyptic world, slow-witted survivor Vic (Don Johnson) forages through the ruins for food and women with the help of his faithful dog, Blood (voiced by Tim McIntire), with whom he is able to communicate telepathically.
Blood, more intelligent and more cultured than his young “master,” often gets impatient with Vic’s immature behavior and lack of interest in his attempts to educate the boy, but he nonetheless loves Vic and sticks with him to help him survive. And after several minor adventures and one huge misadventure, Vic does learn one incontestable actuality: Nothing is more important to a boy than his dog.
American Blackout: Made for TV, American Blackout follows the lives of ordinary Americans caught in a national power failure brought on by cyber attack. It portrays the lives of several individuals , reflecting their carelessness, frailties and the hardship that being unprepared for grid-down can bring as individuals cope with bank and communication failures, empty grocery shelves, and lack of water that quickly leads to looting. There is one survivalist portrayed in American Blackout, which the movie unfortunately portrays as being as dumb as a bag of rocks, but it’s an excellent wake-up call for the dynamics of what we should expect from the multitudes of “entitled” people who are going to become a Prepper’s biggest obstacle to ongoing survival. This made for TV drama was realistic enough that we devoted a post to the multi-faceted plot entitled American Blackout: The Devil’s In The Details .
Amerika: The fact that this 1987 TV miniseries was banned, pulled off every shelf in America, is reason enough to watch what happens when the Soviets fear they are losing the cold war and opt to deploy four thermonuclear weapons (EMP) over the United States. Down goes the grid, communications, most automobiles and the Internet. America yields to the Soviet demands and now the U.S. President and Congress are rendered talking heads to Soviet powers. The U.S. is subsequently occupied by United Nations peacekeeping forces and the United Nations Special Service Unit made up of Eastern Block forces who take pleasure in intimidating the people of Milford (where the miniseries is centered) through a show of force during ongoing training exercises. These actions are intimated in the series, but made crystal clear in the novel, Amerika, from which the miniseries sprung.
Children Of Men: A 2006 Science Fiction, Children Of Men portrays life after two decades of human infertility brings society to virtual collapse and war and chaos impacts humanity on a global level. Refuges seeking survival in the United Kingdom, which remains the worlds only stable government, are subjected to draconian immigration sanctions while a cynical bureaucrat, Clive Owen, attempts to help one of the refugees, Claire-Hope Ashitey, escape the madness. Eventually, Clive learns of her miraculous pregnancy while he protects her against incredible odds. The work of the lead actors and fellow actors such as Julianne More, Michael Caine, Chiweetel Ejiofor and Charlie Hunnam, along with stunning cinematography led to the films being nominated for three academy awards; best adapted screenplay, best cinematography and best film editing.
I Am Legend: This 2007 post-apocalyptic horror film staring Will Smith portrays a virologist who is immune to a dissemating man-made virus which was originally designed to cure cancer. Nearly 90% of the populace has perished when Smith’s character, Robert Nerville, experiments with infected rats to come up with a cure while having to scrounge for food and supplies amongst the devastation and listens for a response to his radio broadcasts requesting that survivors meet him at a designated location. Using his own virus-immune blood, Nerville discovers a possible treatment, but he is captured while trying to cure a woman of the virus. After narrowly escaping, he is attacked by dogs infected by the virus that also attack his dog, Sam, who he is forced to put down. He meets up with Anna (Alice Braga) and Ethan (Charlie Tahan), a young boy; both survivors of the virus who were traveling to Nerville’s broadcast meeting place. Norvelle, Anna and Ethan must fight off the onslaught of those who are infected at Norvile’s laboratory while he simultaneously discovers that his latest attempt for a cure was successful. Note: Many reviews also recommend the original, The Omega Man, staring Charlton Heston, made in 1971, while others prefer The Last Man On Earth, staring Vincent Price, which is the earliest 1964 movie version of Richard Matheson 1954 novel, titled I Am Legend.
Jericho: Is a popular 2006 made for TV miniseries about the aftermath of nuclear destruction that the town of Jericho dodged when several major metropolitan areas in the U.S. were hit simultaneously. Now they must contend with a lack of food and supplies and those who want to seize the town of Jericho for their own gain.
Note: I finally had the chance to view this miniseries this summer as time allowed, and although it doesn’t necessary depict a real-world scenario of grid-down (everyone in the film looks as if they’ve just emerged fresh from a shower and blow-dried their hair, followed by me-time primping in front of a mirror in preparation for their day), it does bring home, in a minor way, the real-life struggle that being thrown back to the stone-age would bring.
On The Beach: Actually, I am hesitant to recommend this movie, because even though this 1957 movie is a classic, starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins, it is not for the feint of heart. The story takes place in the future–1964 to be exact–when the northern hemisphere has been bombarded with fallout during World War III, killing everything in its path. The Australian government takes steps to offer its citizens suicide pills to avoid its populace suffering from radiation poisoning. Australian Naval officer Peter Homes, who is assigned travel on a U.S. Submarine for several weeks, must leave his wife and young daughter behind while a glimmer of hope remains as an exploratory crew is sent to research the possibility of scientific speculation that radiation levels near the Arctic Ocean may be lower than that of the northern hemisphere.
Red Dawn: This 1984 movie portrays the beginning of World War III and the impact it has on a mid-western town when invading Soviet forces take over. A group of teenagers (lead actors Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Darren Dalton, Jennifer Grey) grab supplies and flee to the wilderness to plan and execute attacks against the soviet oppressors in an attempt to save their town and their country.
Note: The 2012 remake, which portrayed the invading forces as being North Korean, wasn’t as well-received as the original.
(Ox’s note: One of the interesting storylines about this movie is that the original attackers in the 2012 remake were Chinese. The producers ran out of money and ended up getting bailed out by Chinese investors. As a result, the attacking army was changed from China to North Korea through the magic of CGI. Is the story true? I don’t know, but I do know that it would mesh with the Chinese model of Unrestricted Warfare.)
The Book Of Eli: Personally, I have never watched a movie that Denzel Washington stared in that I haven’t liked, and this 2010 movie The Book of Eli is no exception. Eli travels through a wasteland of murder, looters, and cannibalism after a catastrophe has killed most of the population. He must protect himself from roving gangs and thieves willing to kill for crumbs, but the knives, guns and martial arts used against him are no match for Eli and his unflappable, quiet strength. He travels West to the coast for reasons unexplained, reading each day from a sacred book. Carnegie, played by Gary Oldman, is ruthlessly searching for the book; not for good, but for power. Eli isn’t detoured from his mission when a victim of Carnegie evil insists on tagging along with him on his unstoppable mission, which is wondrously unveiled at the closing of the movie.
The Postman: Kevin Costner stars n this 1997 post-apocalyptic adventure movie. The struggle to survive the terrible ravages of what is refereedto as the “Doomwar” that has taken out all technology, leading to a complete societal collapse. Costner barely escapes a rouge group called the Holnists, and run by General Bethlehem, when he finds a United States Postal Service uniform and Jeep. Showing up in Pineville Oregon, Costner ignites the hope of the surviving townspeople when he dupes them into believing he’s a postman representing the newly restored government. After deputizing a youth as a “postal employee”, and with the promise of this fictitious government comeback, communities are fueled to likewise begin delivering mail and begin to rebuild their communities as they stand against General Bethlehem’s control. Note: It should be pointed out that The Postman was a dismal failure at the box office and with critics who ridiculed its sentimentality, yet the movie has plenty of fans who appreciate the heart of the movie that embraces overcoming adversity.
The Road: This 2009 movie is a dark but realistic portrayal of post-apocalyptic survival. Something (not specified in the movie) has caused most of the plant and animal life to perish and a father, Viggo Mortensen, and his young son, Kodi Smit-McPhee, must survive the carnage as they travel south to better their chances of survival in a warmer climate. On their trip, they discover prisoners, kept alive as a food source for their tormentors, and stumble upon an underground bunker filled with canned food and supplies that sustains them as they continue their trek south and the hardships of life devoid of even the basics, including compassion from others who are likewise struggling to survive. . . except on a few rare occasions, which is all the more rewarding when rare glimpses of selflessness appear in the movie.
The Road Warrior (AKA Mad Max 2): Made in 1981, The Road Warrior stars a young Mel Gibson and is a unique departure from the current doomsday pandemic scenarios when the plot turns to a non-existent gasoline supply which halts food production and distribution along with the transport of goods as Gibson goes in search of those responsible for the murder of his wife and child in the desolate, depopulated countryside. For those who haven’t seen the Mad Max Trilogy, the following is a good description gleaned from a fan’s review at Amazon: This movie, the second in the Mad Max trilogy, is easily the best of the three. Visually, it’s very distinctive. The first movie showed a society breaking down in the post apocalyptic world. By this movie, it’s broken down. The first movie showed the immediate aftermath. There were still working phones, power lines, people trying to go on with their normal lives, etc. There was even a police force, of which Max was a member, trying to maintain order. Now, society has descended into complete anarchy. Civilization’s infrastructure has broken down completely. In the first movie you saw shops, service stations, hospitals. Now you see people scavenging in a wrecked world. Max’s car is no longer a gleaming black vehicle, but a dilapidated, dirty old beater, its engine still in top shape, but its interior stripped, and its body covered in dust, battered and old. Max’s leather police uniform is no longer immaculate, but torn and patched. Visually, this movie set a new standard, and like “Star Wars” and “Blade Runner”, changed the way movies in its genre were made. Even the setting works in telling the story. Where the first film featured country with trees and green grass, this movie is set in a blasted desert, further accentuating the sense of collapse.
The Stand: In this 1994 miniseries, based on the Stephen King novel, a weaponized influenza is inadvertently released and kills everyone on staff at a military base except for one man, a military policeman named Charles Campion. Campion is already infected with the super virus coined “Captain Trips”, but he is yet unaware of that fact as he and his family attempt to flee and he spreads the virus. Stu, Campion’s friend, is by his side when he tells him he was followed from the base by a mysterious man. His final words are, “You Can’t Outrun The Dark Man”, which haunts Stu. The town is put in quarantine which proves futile as 99% of the world dies of the virus, leading to a complete societal meltdown. After the carnage is over, a small group of immune survivors band together, but it isn’t long before the survivors begin to have visions; a portion of the group heads for kindly Mother Abigail in Nebraska, and the other chose the dark side, Randall Flag, who is located in Las Vegas and trouble begins anew.
Tomorrow When The War Began is a 2010 drama filmed in Australia and set in the town of Wirrewee. Many claim it’s a respectable Aussie version of Red Dawn, but I can’t vouch for that until I get the chance to watch it. As much as I love Red Dawn (one of my favorites), I’m willing to give this movie a try. The following review for Tomorrow When The War Began was found on Amazon:
This is the film adaption of John Marsden’s 1993 novel of a group of teenagers caught up in a foreign invasion of Australia. In short – it’s great! Given the books popularity, I had some concerns that the film might not do it justice and it might look like `Home & Away’ (Australian TV Soap) goes to war! But the actors, most with TV acting experience, do a creditable job and aren’t there solely for their looks or profile. For the most part they fit what a normal group of teens would look like and as the action kicks in they take on a suitably unkempt look anyway. Of the key characters, Homer was very good and most importantly, Ellie worked for me too. There was a surprise or two in terms of casting choices and frankly Robyn will not work for everyone. A real plus was that some of the secondary characters get more exposure than in the book. The interactions between them all are fine, with the humor in particular being well delivered. For those concerned about coarser things, there is a little bit of sexual conversation but no nudity, some low level drug use and I’m pleased to say minimal bad language.
With a film adaption there are always a few tweaks to the original story and I have to say that for me, these all worked quite well and in a number of scenes, were very good. There was also some additional information on the wider situation with the war and this was most welcome given the book is very vague on this aspect. All the key events in the book are there and the film makers did a good job constructing them. There are plenty of explosions and the war violence is conveyed in a stronger manner than in the book. It is quite action packed and I found it to be genuinely exciting at times! It is not Mad Max and it shouldn’t be either.
Take Shelter Is a movie I hadn’t heard about until researching likely apocalyptic/survival movies for this post, but if the recommendations for this 2012 movie hold true, it looks to be a worth-while couple of hours spent in front of the TV. Here is a review I culled from Amazon:
There is a lot of food for thought in this movie. In prior times, a man like Curtis would not be assumed to be mentally ill. The fact that he is having visions would be respected by both the bible and in native folk lore as he would be seen as a possible prophet in their midst. Curtis’s mother has been in long time care since she was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. However, when we meet her, the question is really open as to her as well. We live in an age where science has decreed that things like portents, omens, seers, prophets and the like are impossible. That anyone who deals in this matter is just plain loco.
Curtis begins turning his storm shelter into more of an atomic bomb like shelter and runs into one person after another who is teed off at him, from his employer to his colleague to his wife. Yet he persists. What he sees is supported by reports which have been filed around catastrophes. For example, when tidal waves come in, birds do go crazy. They swarm and take off and some, in their hurry to get out, drop dead from the sky to the ground.
So the big question is whether Curtis is having a psychotic break with reality or if he is a seer who feels and sees a disaster coming. I know most people are going with the mental illness interpretation. Personally, I think since this this kind of person has been chronicled for thousands of years that it is possible that such a person could exist but does not want to broadcast his visions for precisely the reason that people will think he is insane. Michael Shannon as Curtis and Jessica Chastain as his wife are both terrific. One caution about this movie: it is very slow. If you are looking for a quick paced movie, this is not it.
12 Monkeys: I haven’t yet watched this 1995 movie, but it’s now at the top of the list after reading so many recommendations for this movie along with glowing reviews. Here is a bio of the movie found on Amazon: In this science fiction masterpiece, Cole (Bruce Willis) is sent back in time to save the human race from a deadly virus that has forced mankind into dank underground communities in the future. Along his travels, he encounters a psychiatrist (Madeleine Stowe) and a mental patient, brilliantly portrayed by Brad Pitt, who may hold the key to the mysterious rogue group, The Army of the 12 Monkeys, thought to be responsible for unleashing the killer disease. Believing he can obtain a pure virus sample in order to find a cure in the future, he is met with one riddle after another that puts him in a race for time.
28 Days Later (NOT to be confused with 28 Weeks Later!–reviews for this copycat title weren’t good): This 2002 movie depicts animal rights activists who, while freeing chimpanzees from their captors, unleash a virus called the “Rage” on humanity. When Cillian Murphy wakes from a coma, he discovers that London has been ravaged by people infected by the virus and is rescued by Naomie Harris and Noah Huntley who explain that the city has been virtually destroyed. Food and water are scarce and survival unsure for the small group as people who are infected are in hot pursuit. Several of those who were uninfected must be killed once exposed to the blood of the infected with the Rage as it’s devastation overcomes its victims within 30 seconds after exposure to tainted blood or the bite of those infected. One of the survivors, Brendan Gleeson, plays a recording broadcast by a military blockade claiming there is an answer to the virus and invite survivors to safety. What isn’t mentioned in the recording is that females are held against their will for procreation, assuring a growing population within the platoon. Upon arrival, the group escapes the death the platoon has planned for the males and rescues the females, after which they flee to a remote cottage where they attempt to be rescued through a banner they unfurl as a rescue helicopter is shown flying overhead.
Humorous Apocalyptic / Survival Movies
Blast From The Past: I love this movie! Although it may seem an impossibility to insert humor into prepping, Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek were amazingly funny in this 1999 romantic comedy. Walken, a scientist, has prepared for “the end” with an underground home that has been outfitted with decades worth of food supplies–including fish holding tanks–back-up power and every possible convenience. Spacek, his pregnant wife, reluctantly follows her husband underground when “the big one” hits and they live life underground for the next 30 years until Walken deems it’s safe to surface and sends their clueless 30-year old son above-ground to the realities of life 30 years later. His innocence is refreshing but thoroughly confusing to his love interest when she is hired to drive a U-Haul to collect Walken’s substantial list of survival supplies while his wife remains underground, secretly swilling vodka while wearing the uniform of a 60’s era housewife–an apron–to keep her sanity. Better stop there, so I don’t give away the entire plot!
Tremors: Okay, I really can’t help myself from adding this 1990 spoof-on-monsters movie that adds a twang of the old west to this movie. I honestly can’t justify including this movie to the top 20 list based solely on its survival content, unless you count Reba McEntire up on the roof with her husband , played by actor Michael Gross, (otherwise known to the ex-mining town of Perfection, Nevada’s other 12 residents as Bert and Heather Gummer), both die-hard survivalists, yelling out everything they’d done to get prepared (save for Eminent Domain, which they couldn’t have beaten, anyway) shooting at a snaggle-toothed monster tunneling from the foundation of their cement block bug-out home with an arsenal (including an elephant gun) that’s determined to make them an afternoon snack. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward are undeniably funny as the hapless, sometimes handymen heroes who must gather their neighbors together and hightail it out of town and away from the “things” that have an uncanny way of out-thinking the humans. But I should stop there to avoid giving away the entire plot. If you’re game for an entertaining break from reality, and want to be privy to an impressive array of guns and hilarity, I highly recommend you rent this movie.
Family Apocalyptic / Survival Movies
Swiss Family Robinson: This much loved 1940 Disney Classic is a family style utopian portrayal of life after a shipwreck. The Robinson family must be resourceful to survive on an East Indies island, so they lash together a make-shift raft and transport livestock, two huge Great Danes, tools and supplies from the shipwreck to a tropical beach most of us can only dream of, which becomes home once they’ve built a thatched tree house and devised a pulley system to deliver fresh water and necessary supplies to their comfortably quaint “home”. The boys learn to be resourceful in-between frolicking with unlikely wildlife: an elephant, an ostrich, a zebra, and ultimately a tiger they trap in a deep hole they’ve dug that threatens their and their livestock’s safety. They later discover a girl, disguised as a boy, whose family are hiding from pirates, and eventually engage in a PG-rated battle with these dreaded pirates while the eldest sons compete for the attention of the female who is “adopted” by the Robinson family. Although unrealistic, this movie is a must watch for those with children. The underlying message of the movie is that resourcefulness equates to survival and a “perfect world”.
We’ve reached the end of the top 20 survival-related movies. Did you find any of your personal favorites on the list, or do you have others in mind that should be included? Please sound off by posting below!
God bless and stay safe,
David Morris and Survival Diva