Contagion is known to be a breakthrough in respect of movies predicting the spread of contagious diseases.
Movies are otherwise known to create fictional scenarios appearing very close to reality. As cities, states, and countries begin closing their doors to the outside world in hopes of containing COVID-19, the world around us is falling into the early stages of fear and paranoia. And while no one really knows how this virus will pan out, now might be a great time took look at some of the classic movies about global pandemics to see if there is anything we can learn.
Admittedly, it’s a slippery slope with this genre as movies like the ones in this list often boil down to zombies or other supernatural elements, but there are a few films out there that provide a more realistic and honest depiction of how society reacts to the prospect of a global pandemic. Here are just a few of those movies.
Contagion, the medical thriller featured one of the best casts and since its release in 2011 remains just as popular nearly 10 years later but for an entirely different reason. Much like the Coronavirus that is quickly working its way across the surface of the planet, the virus in this movie starts in China, is spread by a travelling businesswoman (Gwyneth Paltrow) who then brings it back to her home in the United States. Along the way, nearly everyone besides her husband (Matt Damon) is brought down to their knees by the virus as the world begins to isolate or die off. This truly fascinating and anxiety-inducing disaster film offers a realistic portrayal of a world in the midst of a medical crisis as governments and private industries compete to contain the virus by coming up with vaccine that will hopefully save humanity while it still exists.
‘Outbreak’ was one of the movies that was watched with a combination of excitement and fear, and those conflicted feelings remain to this very day.
This 1995 medical disaster film features a star-studded cast lead by Dustin Hoffman as Colonel Sam Daniels, who along with his colleagues (Rene Russo and Kevin Spacey) are tasked with containing, Motaba, an Ebola-like virus in a small California town before it can spread to the rest of the world. The outbreak in question spreads after an infected monkey is stolen from an animal testing lab and then escapes. As the virus spreads, it quickly mutates and begins to spread like influenza. With no other choice, civilian and government agencies are forced to shut down the town at the center of the outbreak before it can grow into a worldwide pandemic.
The practices carried out by the agencies are more or less realistic until the military steps in and tries to use the virus as a biological weapon.
‘Children of Men’ released in 2006 might not be the first movie that comes to mind when you start thinking about depictions of infectious diseases, but there are quite a few similarities to the real world’s approach to dealing with a global calamity. Starring Clive Own as the activist turned anti-hero Theo Faron, this thriller welcomed audiences into a world that has been brought to the brink of collapse after years of widespread infertility and a flu pandemic. This bleak, depressing, and emotional feature will break your body and spirit in its depiction of humanity in what could very well be its final moments. With the global economy virtually nonexistent, borders closed to outsiders, and people losing faith in humanity as a whole, it’s frightening to see how easily society can collapse in the face of an outbreak.
While most movies about viral outbreaks focus on the effects of disease on the macro level, the 2017 horror-thriller ‘It Comes at Night’ instead turns its attention to a small group of people and how a highly contagious infection slowly turns them against each other.
Starring Joel Edgerton as Paul, the patriarch of a secluded family far away from society, the movie examines what happens when a group of people is forced to share close quarters in self-quarantine in hopes of survival. This intimate look at the impacts of an unknown virus on a close-knit family and how it slowly rips them apart is one of the most depressing and evocative portrayals within the outbreak genre. With the prospect of the contagious disease making its way to the family’s isolated home, the family begins turning against one another in order to keep themselves alive.
The 2013 South Korean film Flu ponders the idea of what would happen to society if a highly aggressive and contagious strain of Influenza A burned its way through a major metropolitan area. After a group of smugglers locates and opens a shipping container housing several illegal immigrants who died of an unknown illness, the deadly virus quickly begins to spread throughout one of the largest cities in South Korea, killing its victims within 36 hours.
This article originally appeared on The Weekender and has been reproduced with permission