5 Lessons Hollywood Has Taught Us About The End Of The World

Bruce Willis Wont Always Be
There To Save Us

You can learn a lot from movies. Not a lot of things that are actually “useful” mind you, but a lot of things. Like how and when to run through an airport after someone (harder now since 9/11 but apparently still possible) or what not to do when a crazed serial killer is slowly chasing you through the woods (it seems counterintuitive but running away apparently is not the answer). Sure, neither of those examples is likely to come up in your everyday life, but on the off, off chance that you do find yourself in either situation (and believe me when I tell you the airport things is every bit as unlikely as the crazed serial killer) aren’t you glad you know what to do? This past weekend with Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World hollywood returned to one of their truly great lessons, “how the world is going to end and what can we do to survive it?” (sadly, sometimes, not often but sometimes, the answer is nothing). There are a lot of thing hollywood has taught us about armageddon, covering every possible scenario for the world’s end, and here are the 5 lessons we should have learned.

Lesson #1: The impetus for the end of the world will either be the Hubris of Man or the Insignificance of Man.

In less fancy terms, either we are going to destroy the world by being stupid or careless or vain, or some kind of act completely out of our control will destroy the world thus proving how little power we have. Think about it, here are some possible “end of the world” scenarios hollywood has given us and which category they fit in:

Damn You Stanley Tucci!
You’ve Killed Us All
  • Nuclear War as seen in Dr. Strangelove (Hubris)
  • Alien Invasion as seen in Independence Day or The Day The Earth Stood Still (Insignificance)
  • The core of the earth stops spinning as seen in The Core (The Hubris of Stanley Tucci)
  • The world is filled with trash and unlivable as seen in WALL-E (Hubris)
  • An asteroid is about to hit as seen in Armageddon and Deep Impact (Insignificance)
  • A bio weapon that becomes a virus that turns the world into zombies as seen in a gazillion movies (Hubris)
  • The Myans were right and the world will end in six months as in 2012 (Insignificance)
Hubris movies are obviously a warning, one we don’t seem to be listening to, but a warning nonetheless. And the insignificance movies are just a reminder of how small we are (and generally how we fight back and overcome the impossible).
Lesson #2: No matter how the world ends some people will, either through dumb luck or force of will, survive.

  • If a nuclear war destroys the world either apes are going to take over and the remaining humans will become slaves and beasts of burden (Planet of the Apes) or the wealthy and powerful men will build giant caves where they will have to have a 2 to 1 ratio of women to men, the women being chosen based solely on looks, so that the wealthy and powerful men can repopulate the earth (Dr. Strangelove).
  • If we are going to be hit by an asteroid we will do the cave thing again (Deep Impact).
  • If global warming creates a new ice age we are all going to move to mexico (The Day After Tomorrow).
  • If machines take over we will either become batteries or form small militias and fight to the end (I don’t need to tell you those two movies, do I?)
  • Aliens invasion will also create militias (Falling Skies, its a TV show but it proves the point).
All of the end of world scenarios also have the potential for a dystopia. Our technology will be destroyed irreparably, usually the world becomes a giant desert (not sure why, but it seems to always be the way), and mutants or zombies may or may not be reeking havoc. Also, there is a real possibility that in Australia cars and gas will become incomprehensibly important and people will start wearing shoulder pads for seemingly no reason. In every dystopian world there are two things that don’t go away, guns and martial arts (the lesson obviously being buy guns and go to a karate dojo).
Lesson #3: Fighting, thinking and planning will only ensure your survival if you have a significant life lesson that needs to be learned and/or you have a relationship with your soulmate that can only be repaired, strengthened or consummated by the coming apocalypse.
John Cusack must live because this
tragedy has taught him something important.
The Russian billionaire must die
because this tragedy has taught him
something important.
There are two important caveat to lesson #3. First, if your life lesson is that you need to overcome selfishness you are going to die every time. Generally you will die doing something selfless, but you will die and die painfully.
Second, as you might have guessed from above there are three potential relationships that can save you, they are:
  • You and your spouse have separated but you still love each other. As whatever world ending disaster descends one or each of you risk everything (or at least appear to because, remember, you are going to live) to save the other, thus proving your unending love. This works even better if there are kids involved.
  • You have been in love with your friend for ever but have never had the guts to tell him/her. This disaster gives you the opportunity to both say and show your feelings.
  • You did not know the abnormally attractive person who, by virtue of the situation, you are now forced to work with in order to survive. At first your personalities clash, but over the intervening, life threatening, hours or days you realize you are perfect for each other in spite of your differences. It should be noted that after you survive the disaster those differences will overwhelm your relationship and fatally doom it, but what do you care you lived through the apocalypse.

Lesson #4: If you are less dynamic, charismatic, smart and/or good looking than the people you are interacting with as the world is coming to an end, sorry, your dead.

The only exceptions to this rule is if you are significantly older, a kid or are a single parent.
Lesson #5: You probably don’t want to survive the end of days.
You might think the cave or boat options wouldn’t be so bad, but they would be. Over crowding and desperation would make living unbearable and things would only get worse when the re-population efforts began (just look at the beginning of Twelve Monkeys). Dystopia never looks fun and that is not even talking about the mutant/zombie or Alien infested futures that are apparently most often the result of the end. Do yourself a favor and avoid being the most dynamic person in your group or having a love interest that needs help. Just let the end wash over you as you should.
I know, that sounded depressing. There are three potential silver linings of course, futures that may work, so if you see one of these as possible fight for it. They are:
  • You get turned into a power source and get to live a dream life that seems entirely real to you (Neo took the wrong pill!).
  • The world gets filled with trash but somehow has the technology to build spaceships that are self-sustaining and remarkably clean.
  • There’s a one in a billion according to some scientist who may or may not specialize in the field in question that we can overcome or avert the impending doom. Apparently if you are desperate enough you can win the lottery every time.


It is simple really, if you want to live practice gun play and karate, specialize in a science that is barely relevant to potential disasters, perpetually mess stuff up with your spouse (but not so bad that things can’t be repaired) or be old and lovable, a single parent or a kid. How hard can any of that be.

But hey, what do I know, I’m fat.