The ten best London apocalypses on film

The big smoke lives up to its name as it faces annihilation in these disaster movies

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London has taken a hammering in the movies this summer, besieged by blue-goo aliens in 'The World's End' and bombed to smithereens in 'GI Joe: Retaliation' and 'Star Trek into Darkness'. That's nothing new – over the years movies have hurled their fair share of mayhem at our fragile little city.

  • Things to Come

    This HG Wells adaptation isn’t strictly set in London but in the fictional city of Everytown – still, those white terraced houses, big red buses and stiff-lipped residents do feel awfully familiar. Three years before the outbreak of war, the film predicted that bombs would reduce the city to rubble by Christmas 1940 – which is almost exactly what happened. Thankfully, its more outlandish forecasts – a decades-long conflict, a global plague and a tribal society ruled by Ralph Richardson in an Afghan coat – haven’t come to pass. Yet.

    Read the Time Out review of 'Things to Come' (1936)

    Things to Come
  • The Day the Earth Caught Fire

    Nuclear fear may have been all the rage in the early ’60s, but there’s something nicely down-to-earth about this city disaster scenario: it gets a bit hot. When the Earth is knocked off its course by bomb testing and veers towards the sun, Londoners react as we always do during a freak weather event: the trains stop running, the pubs fill up and everyone complains.

    Read the Time Out review of 'The Day the Earth Caught Fire' (1961)

    The Day the Earth Caught Fire
  • The Day of the Triffids

    What’s scary about ‘The Day of the Triffids’ isn’t the slightly daffy concept of carnivorous walking plants, it’s the idea of global blindness, here brought on by a freak meteor shower. The image of a man waking in hospital to find a London reduced to a ghost town strewn with abandoned automobiles and populated entirely by legions of helpless, shuffling figures still feels genuinely otherworldly. Unless you’ve ever been to Milton Keynes.

    Read the Time Out review of 'The Day of the Triffids' (1962)

    The Day of the Triffids
  • Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD

    Like an army of pissed-off pepperpots, the Daleks reduce this fair city to a smoking ruin populated by reanimated corpses and a resistance army so fond of flat caps and corduroy they look like a particularly rowdy chapter of the NUM. Luckily, help is at hand in the form of Peter Cushing and Bernard Cribbins, here to save the world by tearing about in a bread van and bombing the earth’s core.

    Read the Time Out review of 'Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD' (1966)

    Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD
  • No Blade of Grass

    One of the great lost British sci-fi flicks, this creepy oddity sees the world under threat from a plague that kills only crops. At first the disease is just a handy excuse to look down on Johnny Foreigner – ‘It’s because them Chinese fertilise everything with human shit!’ – but when our own supplies start to dwindle there’s panic in the streets. Just when it seems things can’t get any worse, the government decide to ease the crisis by nuclear bombing the major cities. It’s the Blitz spirit, only backwards.

    Read the Time Out review of 'No Blade of Grass' (1970)

    No Blade of Grass
  • Lifeforce

    Space vampires! Zombie slaves! Excessive nudity! Brent Cross Shopping Centre! The plot of this loopy sci-fi-horror hybrid from ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ director Tobe Hooper may be idiotic, but the film is unmissable for a handful of brain-scrambling moments: Patrick Stewart ferociously snogs a dude, Mathilda May strolls the Strand in the buff and the climax involves the hero stabbing himself with a sword while having sex on the altar of a cathedral. Hallelujah!

    Read the Time Out review of 'Lifeforce' (1985)

    Lifeforce
  • 28 Days Later...

    A man wakes up in hospital to find London reduced to a ghost town strewn with... hang on a second! Yes, Danny Boyle’s zombie flick may have half-inched the opening of ‘Day of the Triffids’, but those images of Cillian Murphy shuffling across Westminster Bridge are still deeply haunting. Like the rest of the city, Parliament is presumably overrun with braindead monsters preying on the flesh of the living. Insert topical joke here...

    Read the Time Out review of '28 Days Later...' (2002)

    28 Days Later...
  • Shaun of the Dead

    More movie-brat fun, as Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright play ‘Night of the Living Dead’ for laughs. Even though the city is never quite overrun, the scene in which our heroes barricade themselves in a pub to escape being eaten is a classically British image of apocalyptic survival. Um, what are pork scratchings made of, anyway?

    Read the Time Out review of 'Shaun of the Dead' (2004)

    Shaun of the Dead
  • Children of Men

    A film in which London is brought low by a combination of rampant immigration, social disobedience and prog rock. To be fair, the city itself doesn’t look all that different – aside from a spot of shabby-chic redecoration – but that doesn’t stop our hero Clive Owen from escaping at the first opportunity and heading off into the countryside to smoke bongs with Michael Caine.

    Read the Time Out review of 'Children of Men' (2006)

    Children of Men
  • Star Trek Into Darkness

    To paraphrase Wilde: once may be regarded as misfortune, twice looks like carelessness – or, indeed, vindictiveness. 2013 first saw London laid low in ‘GI Joe: Retaliation’, and then a few weeks later it happened again in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’, when Londoners Benedict Cumberbatch and Noel Clarke betray the town that raised them. Ben, Noel, we trusted you…

    Read the Time Out review of 'Star Trek Into Darkness' (2013)

    Star Trek Into Darkness

Things to Come

This HG Wells adaptation isn’t strictly set in London but in the fictional city of Everytown – still, those white terraced houses, big red buses and stiff-lipped residents do feel awfully familiar. Three years before the outbreak of war, the film predicted that bombs would reduce the city to rubble by Christmas 1940 – which is almost exactly what happened. Thankfully, its more outlandish forecasts – a decades-long conflict, a global plague and a tribal society ruled by Ralph Richardson in an Afghan coat – haven’t come to pass. Yet.

Read the Time Out review of 'Things to Come' (1936)

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