‘Melancholia’ and Our Favorite Cinematic Apocalypses

Lars von Trier is a great filmmaker, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy you’d much like to hang out and have a drink with. Aside from all that Nazi stuff, his films tend to traffic in the grimmest possible subject matter: he’s tackled rape, slavery, the death penalty, paralysis, and genital mutilation, so it somehow seems logical that his latest picture, Melancholia (on demand now, in theaters Friday) is about nothing less than the end of the world.

Apocalypses are a popular topic for filmmakers — though most are more interested in the narrative possibilities of the post-apocalyptic world than the event itself. Melancholia distinguishes itself by being something of a pre-apocalyptic picture, delving into the anxiety and fear of those who are awaiting the earth’s possible collision with a foreign object (timely!). After the jump, we’ll take a look back at a few of our favorite cinematic apocalypses.

strong>The Road Warrior

George Miller’s 1981 follow-up to his hit Mad Max has become, in the years since its release, the quintessential post-apocalyptic movie: set in a vast and mostly deserted wasteland, populated by meek survivors and leather-clad, mohawked marauders, its iconography became our go-to pop-culture conception of a crumbled and ravaged world.