7 apocalyptic movies with happy endings

Finding it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel? In these difficult times, it's important to stay optimistic, and that's where cinema can help.

Hollywood has frequently wrestled with the spectre of the world ending. And several films, audaciously, had the nerve to end on a happy note, telling us that everything will be alright in the end.

So, get cheered up with our blog list of classic end of the world movies with happy endings.

1. Armageddon (1998)

Earth is faced with asteroid annihilation in Michael Bay's characteristically ludicrous disaster thriller. The explosions have more credibility than the dialogue as Bruce Willis' crack team of drillers head into space, land on the rock, and attempt to blow it up before it reaches our planet.

We all know that the movie reaches a sentimental conclusion as Bruce says goodbye to on-screen daughter Liv Tyler via video link. Nevertheless, he not only saves the day but secures the future of the entire human race in the process. We think that's a worthy sacrifice, and a good enough reason to be happy at the end of the movie.

2. 28 Days Later (2002)

Danny Boyle and author Alex Garland collaborated for the first time on this commendably terrifying pandemic horror. 28 Days Later is bleak and nihilistic in its study of the rage virus, which turns the population of the UK into red-eyed, blood-crazed maniacs.

Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris play the two survivors who make it to the end of the movie. For a film that's often so violent and shocking, it ends on a surprisingly optimistic note, with the infected dying out and our main characters awaiting rescue. It wasn't always the case, though – two other versions of the climax were shot in which Murphy's character Jim died. That would have been two much after 90 minutes of pure terror.

3. Shaun Of The Dead (2004)

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's classic rom-zom-com expertly pinballs between big laughs, gory shocks and surprising moments of poignancy. The Spaced team, also including actor Nick Frost, take great pleasure in depicting the uniquely British reaction to a deadly zombie invasion, which ultimately means retreating to local pub The Winchester to await rescue.

After much carnage and chaos, Pegg's title character and his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), survive the epidemic. In the process, it appears that Frost's loveable slacker Ed has tragically perished. But no – the endearing finale, set to Queen's 'You're My Best Friend', shows a zombified Ed chained up in Shaun's shed, ready to play on the PlayStation.

4. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Having blown up The White House in Independence Day, director Roland Emmerich decided to freeze the entire world in apocalyptic weather movie The Day After Tomorrow. Of course, it's utterly ridiculous, with a batch of characters fending off a killer deep freeze by shutting themselves in a well-heated New York library. But the scenes of destruction, including a Manhattan tidal wave, look as spectacular as one would expect.

It all culminates on a cheesy and schmaltzy, though uplifting, note, as Dennis Quaid's scientist manages to trek through the new ice age to track down and rescue son Jake Gyllenhaal. We can only hope both characters later put their heads together to figure out how to rescue the rest of mankind.

5. I Am Legend (2007)

In order for this Will Smith disaster movie to obtain a happy ending, it must betray the essential message of its source material. Richard Matheson's chilling novel I Am Legend gets its title from the fact that vampires are the new normal, and the story's sole human survivor is an anomaly, an ironic yet deeply unnerving twist.

In order to better fit Smith's star status, the end of the film is changed. Although Smith's character dies, he ends up being embraced as a heroic icon at a remote outpost of human survivors. It's a happy ending, a lot happier than the book, but it completely misses the point.

6. Wall-E (2008)

Disney-Pixar's Wall-E is an audacious movie on a number of levels. Not only does it begin on a disquieting note, with a devastated future Earth bereft of human life, but it also centres on a silent central character. The eponymous Wall-E, a devoted trash compactor, can't speak, but instead communicates in a series of squeaks and whirrs, which brings the film, or at least its first third, closer to the realm of timeless silent cinema.

By the end, it looks like we're in for a tear-jerking finish, as Wall-E's circuits end up fried, in the process wiping his memory. As his robot love interest Eve valiantly attempts to reignite the spark, a residual memory flickers, and he comes to remember who she is. Two robots reminding us humans how we ought to live – it's an inspiring message of hope amid an apocalyptic wasteland.

7. This Is The End (2013)

Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and company play exaggerated versions of themselves in this lairy end of the world comedy. As the Biblical apocalypse strikes Los Angeles, a group of popular Hollywood comedy stars (and Michael Cera, sending himself up brilliantly) decide to club together.

With possession on the cards and much more besides (even Emma Watson turns up to create trouble), it's all these stoner slackers can do to stay alive. In the end, everyone does die – but they pass into a version of heaven where weed is readily available, and Backstreet Boys can be immediately summoned to perform. Who says the apocalypse needs to have a sad ending?


What are your favourite apocalypse movies with happy endings? Let us know @CinemaCity.