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The Rise in End-of-the-World Films

The end is near, and it's coming to a theater near you, or right into your own living room. As of this writing, over 250 end-of-the-world movies have been produced, with more than 100 appearing since 2000. The pace of apocalyptic drama shows no sign of slowing down. The number of apocalypse-themed movies from 2000 to 2009 doubled over the previous decade, and is on pace to double again by the end of this decade. In the past few years you could have seen the following end-of the-world films: Tomorrowland, Terminator Genisys, San Andreas, and Mad Max: Fury Road—to name a few.

The first end-of-the-world movie was the appropriately named 1916 Danish film, The End of the World, featuring a near-miss by a comet which triggers worldwide natural disasters and social upheaval. The "doom-from-space" theme got a re-start in When Worlds Collide (1951), with the planet-killing heavenly body being a rogue star on a collision course with Earth. The asteroid apocalypse concept then lay relatively dormant until Deep Impact and Armageddon. A variation of the doom-from-space scenario, the "alien invasion apocalypse," got a classic start in 1953 with the film version of H.G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds. Spielberg helped remake that film in 2005. Then there was the blockbuster Independence Day (1996), which features a horde of alien barbarians, roaming the galaxy to plunder planets for their resources.

The most popular world-ending scenario for the last few years has been the "zombie apocalypse, but there also has been Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, Brad Pitt's World War Z, and the list goes on and on.

Possible Preaching Angles: Could it be that deep down we know that our history has its appointed conclusion, that the end of our story has already been written? Perhaps it is no accident that the recent increase in the number of apocalypse-themed films has coincided with the rise of increasingly chaotic geopolitics. We look to movies and TV—the way we used to look to the Church and worship—to tell us who we are and where we are going, even unto the end.

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