Every cloud has a silver lining, it seems. Steven Soderbergh’s medical thriller Contagion, released in 2011, raced back up the iTunes charts to take a Top Ten position this month, helped no doubt by the film’s parallels with the current outbreak of coronavirus. This fast-paced thriller charts the rapid transmission of a virus across the globe as scientists hurry to find a vaccine and social order disintegrates.
Despite being a Hollywood thriller, this breathless multi-perspective narrative has been described as ultra-realistic – informed by the World Health Organisation and praised for its accurate depiction of a pandemic by scientists. It’s also got a Hollywood cast to make you weak at the knees – Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon – but seeing Paltrow catch the flu on film couldn’t have inspired confidence in her wellness brand, Goop.
02. The Crazies (1973)
Five years after George A. Romero’s seminal Night of the Living Dead, he gave us another film about human contagion – The Crazies. When a military plane carrying an untested bio-weapon crashes in the hills of a nearby American town, their water supply becomes contaminated causing local residents to die or become homicidal. The government draft in the military to quash the spread of the disease, given instructions to shoot on sight.
The film’s low-budget quality heightens the grisly shocks as families retaliate against the hazmat-clad military while additionally fending off the violence-prone citizens. Starring Will McMillan and Jane Carroll, it’s a believable scenario executed with extreme flourishes. Failing to make an impact on its initial release, it’s now a cult classic with a 2010 remake starring Timothy Olyphant.
03. Outbreak (1995)
Outbreak gave monkeys a bad name way before the rage-plagued primate in 28 Days Later. Opening in Zaire, Africa, a fictional disease called Motaba spreads to California after an infected capuchin monkey is smuggled into the country. The disease develops into a strain of influenza, and the small town of Cedar Creeks is placed under martial law as the infection rapidly spreads.
Although based on Richard Preston’s nonfiction book The Hot Zone, the film takes plenty of grand liberties in the name of cinematic heroics – this is a Hollywood pandemic through and through. But it entertains with a talented cast, including Dustin Hoffman, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Rene Russo. There’s also an iconic scene in a movie theatre that, where they not already closed, would make you think twice before visiting the multiplex.
04.Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Did someone know something we didn’t? There were two monkey-related pandemic flicks in 1995, this one from Terry Gilliam. Twelve Monkeys is a dystopian sci-fi fantasy set in post-apocalyptic Philadelphia in 2035. As most of humanity was wiped out by a virus in 1996, Earth’s remaining inhabitants live underground. Bruce Willis is Cole, a convict who volunteers to go back in time in the hope of reducing his sentence and finding the cause of the virus. But the past proves more bewildering than the future.
Gilliam-esque camera angles and stunning production design are impressive, particularly a desolate Philly overrun by animals. Meanwhile, Brad Pitt bagged his first Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination as Jeffrey Goines: inmate and leader of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. It’s an atypical performance that’s thoroughly engrossing, all nervous tics and a crazed glint in his eyes.
05.Cabin Fever (2016)
Executive producer Eli Roth presents this reboot of his instant-classic gorefest, which features all-new characters and all-new kills. The story is familiar: Fresh out of college, a group of five friends retreat to a remote cabin in the woods for one last week of partying – only to become snacks for a gruesome, flesh-eating virus. This fresh spin on a horror-comedy milestone stars Gage Golightly (Exeter, Teen Wolf), Nadine Crocker (Deadgirl), Samuel Davis (Machete Kills, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) and Dustin Ingram (Paranormal Activity 3).
06. I Am Legend(2007)
Robert Neville is the last man alive. He busies himself with preparing for a nightly attack from the rest of the world – all of which have transformed into blood-thirsty vampires.
07. 28 Days Later (2002)
A powerful virus is unleashed. Transmitted in a drop of blood and devastating within seconds, the virus locks those infected into a permanent state of murderous rage. Within 28 days the country is overwhelmed and a handful of survivors begin their attempts to salvage a future, little realising that the deadly virus is not the only thing that threatens them.
08. World War Z (2013)
When former U.N. investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family get stuck in urban gridlock, he senses that it’s no ordinary traffic jam. His suspicions are confirmed when, suddenly, the city erupts into chaos. A lethal virus, spread through a single bite, is turning healthy people into something vicious, unthinking and feral. As the pandemic threatens to consume humanity, Gerry leads a worldwide search to find the source of the infection and, with luck, a way to halt its spread.
09. Resident Evil 1 (2002)
Based on the popular video game, Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez star as the leaders of a commando team who must break into “the hive,” a vast underground genetics laboratory operated by the powerful Umbrella Corporation. There, a deadly virus has been unleashed, killing the lab’s personnel and resurrecting them as the evil Un-dead. The team has just three hours to shut down the lab’s supercomputer and close the facility before the virus threatens to overrun the Earth.
As a virulent zombie epidemic spreads terror across the globe, a father (Arnold Schwarzenegger) will stop at nothing to care for his infected daughter (Abigail Breslin).