Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
I know it isn’t just me.
Every prepper I know loves a good disaster movie. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be that good for some of us to watch them. We just enjoy sitting back and watching a fictional disaster unfold so that we can strategize how we would handle it, mock the hero for his or her poor decisions (you know, those dumb moves that a prepper would never make), and feel absolutely justified with regard to our lifestyle choices.
A movie is like the prepper version of a sporting event, where we can cheer, jeer, and scheme our ways through some imagined event. It engages our love for critical thinking while allowing us to take a break from our everyday activities. (Check out Fabian’s article on what you can learn from his favorite survival movies.)
Viewing a disaster movie or series actually serves a greater purpose than pure entertainment. It’s a great way to introduce the preparedness mindset to your family. (And remember, Fun isn’t the F-word for preppers!)
In our house, we often pause the movie (I swear, the kids do it too. It isn’t just me lecturing them!) so that we can discuss what the character’s next move should be. It encourages family members to think a situation through and try to predict the outcome of the boneheaded decisions that characters often make.
Just in time for your next Survival Movie Marathon
Below are some of our favorite survival-themed movies. They aren’t all cinematic epochs, but there are lessons to be learned from them. Often those lessons are “Here’s what you should never, never do in the event of a giant earthquake.” The shows can provide launching points for discussion with the kids. I shouldn’t have to say this, but before someone complains and thinks that I watched “The Road” with a 5-year-old, you must use your discretion and not scare the pants off of small children.
There’s a mixture of genres on our list: dystopian, wilderness survival, rebellion, natural disaster, manmade disaster, and even some sci-fi. The common thread is that there are good lessons about humanity, how a crisis can bring out the worst in some folks, how you always have to think a step ahead, and how you must always have not only Plan B, but sometimes, C, D, or even the whole darned alphabet.
This list only contains movies. If you’re looking for a series to binge-watch instead, check out this article. If you prefer prepper/survival reality shows, this article contains some suggestions for that genre. This is an updated version of the list that includes some of the great suggestions from you, the readers. 🙂
50 Movies for Preppers
I chose only movies that can be found on Amazon or Netflix for immediate streaming. Don’t worry, there’ll be another even longer list in the future!
In absolutely no particular order, just in time for your next Survival Movie Marathon:
- Zombieland (The first rule of Zombieland? Say it with me, everyone: CARDIO!)
- How It Ends: A Netflix original about an apocalypse of unknown origin. I like that it starts off with the guy being anti-gun but shows his quick evolution.
- Waterworld (The planet is completely covered with water, ala a futuristic Noah’s flood, but with more boats)
- The Hunger Games (The first in the series, this movie takes place in a dystopian future where young people are pitted against one another in an effort to keep the majority of the country from rebelling against the pampered few in charge.)
- World War Z (Another zombie movie – this one features a virus run amok, civil breakdown, and a family struggling to survive. My biggest issue with this movie was the whole “The UN will save you” and “Get your vaccines” theme.)
- Divergent (It’s another story about dividing and conquering in the quest for control)
- Red Dawn (’84) (The original tale of teens fighting an enemy occupation. WOLVERINES!)
- Red Dawn (2012) (The remake with a new enemy and better clothes)
- Adrift (Based on a true story, a young couple manages to sail into a hurricane which all but destroys their boat and injures the guy. Talk about a survival mindset with this woman.)
- Tomorrow When The War Began (This is an Australian flick about some kids who come home from a camping trip only to discover that their country has been invaded by a foreign army)
- The Maze Runner (This is another dystopian teen movie, but it’s a good way to make survival skills look cool to teenagers)
- Swiss Family Robinson (This is from the 60s but a great family flick. It’s interesting to see how a shipwrecked family reuses things from the boat to make their survival tree-house more comfortable.)
- Aftermath (Maybe not the world’s finest film, but a good look at how hysteria prompts perfectly normal people to behave horribly.)
- L.A. Apocalypse (Even Hollywood knows that Los Angeles would be a terrible place to be in the midst of a disaster.)
- The Book of Eli (Brutal, but with a beautiful message.)
- The Day After Tomorrow (No! Don’t burn the books!!!)
- 2012 (Mostly, I just love the Woody Harrelson conspiracy nut character who turns out to be right about everything.)
- The Road (So horrifying and dark I could only watch it once.)
- Elysium (The Earth has been all but destroyed, and the elite look down from above…as always.)
- Terminator Salvation (The most “survivalist” of all the Terminator movies, it takes place after the whole shindig at Cyberdyne, when machines rule the world)
- Alive (The one about the plane crash survivors who ate their teammates.)
- Cast Away (Love this! It points out the value of creative problem-solving but also explores the mental toll that survival can take on a person, particularly if they are alone.)
- Poseidon (2006) (There is so much “what NOT to do” in this movie!)
- Defiance (A story of resistance against a much greater fighting force)
- The Revenant (A man who makes his living in the outdoors is mauled by a bear and left for dead by his “friends.”)
- The Edge (This wilderness survival saga emphasizes skills and smarts over the usual macho special effects ninja stuff)
- The Grey (Plane crash, frigid elements, very uncool fellow survivors, and hungry wolves.)
- Against the Sun (Holy cow. Being stranded at sea. NOT the way I’d want to go.)
- Snowpiercer (I have to admit, I didn’t really love this movie. But it’s a good illustration of how power can corrupt even a good person.)
- Panic in Year Zero (A family heads off to go camping shortly before a nuke hits Los Angeles. A good example of the “Golden Horde” here, even though the nuclear stuff wasn’t super accurate.)
- Behind Enemy Lines (A soldier who was shot down in enemy territory must use his skills to survive until he can be rescued.)
- Into the Wild (A young guy gives away all his stuff and hitchhikes to live off the land in Alaska.)
- Contagion (Two awesome lessons in this movie: how easily a virus can be spread and how important it is to be able to lock down and shelter in place in the event of a pandemic.)
- Outbreak (Another deadly virus movie that emphasizes the ease at which a pandemic can take place.)
- V for Vendetta (Dystopian cinema at it’s finest. I absolutely LOVE this movie. Not really about survival, but about the value of freedom and the importance of standing up for what is right)
- War of The Worlds (The original invasion of Earth by aliens. The classic has the added bonus of not having a highly annoying character played by Tom Cruise, who you will itch to slap in the newer version)
- How I Live Now (A girl moves to the English countryside, but soon the idyllic setting is marred by war and a military state. She has to hide out to survive.)
- Soylent Green (Too many people on the planet means not enough food. Watch as the horrifying truth comes out about what people are actually being fed.)
- Children of Men (There is only one last ray of hope in a world where no babies have been born in nearly 20 years.)
- Extinction (Aliens have invaded and a dad will do whatever he must to save his family. Twist at the end)
- Goodbye World (You’ll be envious of the awesome SHTF set-up these people have. That is, until you find out they are completely unarmed and horrified that someone has a gun. IT’S AN APOCALYPSE, PEOPLE!)
- The Postman (There’s often civil unrest after a war. This movie is about hope in the American West after civilization has basically been destroyed.)
- Remnants (Solar flare. Continuity of government plan. Total chaos in the streets.)
- Deep Impact (Doomsday is approaching in the form of a giant comet that is due to impact Earth and cause an extinction level event.)
- The Host (Don’t pre-judge this movie based on the fact that the author also wrote The Twilight Saga. It’s about a group of survivors who create a sustainable lifestyle after aliens eradicated most of the humans. And of course, the subsequent rebellion against the aliens.)
- Dante’s Peak (When the volcano near a small town is discovered to be no longer dormant, it’s time to get the heck out of Dodge.)
- Solar Attack (A solar flare is racing towards earth, changing the climate, and promising massive devastation if not extinction. The plan to stop it is kind of silly, but there’s a lot of interesting information about CMEs (Coronal Mass Ejections)
- Cat.8 (Who’s surprised that the government uses some technology they should never have invented and causes Armageddon?)
- 127 Hours (A hiker gets his hand stuck between two rocks. Waits. Waits. No help. Not many people would have the courage to do what they’ve gotta do to survive.)
- Birdbox (Yes, the premise is kind of stupid. But the survival aspects of letting the wrong people in, gangs of crazy people, and operating by the new rules of a chaotic situation are well-illustrated.)
What are your favorite prepping or survival movies?
I know you’ve got movies to add to the list! Please share them in the comments below. Remember, they don’t have to be examples of GOOD survival skills. They can also be cautionary tales!