Earlier this year, Max show The Last of Us took the world by storm, delivering one of the best video game adaptations we’ve seen in recent years. Adapted from the iconic titular video game, The Last of Us imagines a world in which nearly the entire planet’s population has been either killed or turned into zombies by a pandemic. Mostly set in an unrecognizable Boston twenty years into said pandemic, the series mainly follows a father-turned-smuggler named Joel (Pedro Pascal) who is given the task of escorting a teenager named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across the US, as she might be the only immune person in the entire world, and therefore the key to saving humanity.
The Last of Us was so successful for its combination of factors, such as its immersive worldbuilding, the incredible acting from Ramsey, Pascal, and the rest of the cast, and a premise that’s made even more scary by the science behind it, as the fungal infection that causes the pandemic is an unlikely but possible turn of events. Not only that, but the storytelling itself is highly effective, reaching its peak at a highly emotional, slow-burning episode about the tragic, twenty-year-spanning love story of two survivalists (Nick Offerman’s Bill and Murray Bartlett’s Frank) who fall in love in the middle of the apocalypse – an episode that was so effective that Steven Spielberg wrote a letter to writer Craig Mazin to praise the show.
If you’re like us, you binge-watched The Last of Us as soon as it was released, and now you’re looking for another post-apocalyptic watch to fill the void left by the Max show. So here’s a list of 5 films to watch if you liked The Last of Us, that capture the essence of the series and feature themes of survival, human nature, and emotional depth.
1. The Road (2009)
The Road is a hauntingly beautiful film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel of the same name. If the first episode of The Last of Us immediately got you gripped with the story of a father (Pascal) and a daughter (Nico Parker) who try to escape and outsmart the pandemic before it begins, The Road is the right film for you, revolving around a nameless Man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son – known as The Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee, of The Power of the Dog) – who travel through the post-apocalyptic world they inhabit.
It’s a journey of survival that tests them to the extreme, as they risk being captured or even killed by fellow humans. And, though it’s a bleak humanity that McCarthy, and director John Hillcoat, depict, it’s also ultimately a journey that highlights the importance of hope and the resilience of the human spirit. Though no movie would ever manage to capture the essence of the novel, the film is still a haunting watch, elevated by its performances and atmosphere, and it features similar moral dilemmas to The Last of Us.
2. Children of Men (2006)
Set in a dystopian future where humanity faces societal collapse, Children of Men depicts a world on the brink of extinction. Here, the plague is not a pandemic but something even scarier: infertility. Master storyteller Alfonso Cuarón introduces us to a world where the youngest person in the world has died, and the Earth’s population is about to become extinct. To save it is the most unlikely hero: an activist-turned-cynical bureaucrat named Theo (Clive Owen) who is one day kidnapped by an immigrant-rights militant group that might just hold the key to saving the world. And so, against all odds, Theo becomes humanity’s last hope, in a race against time to protect humanity.
Children of Men has the same sense of urgency and desperation as The Last of Us, with characters striving to protect a glimmer of hope amidst the chaos. On top of this, it’s also a showcase of director Alfonso Cuarón’s talent behind the camera, with its stunning visuals and camerawork and highly immersive narrative.
3. I Am Legend (2007)
If Children of Men is made stronger by its visuals, I Am Legend is a strong movie despite them, as the special effects are certainly not the film’s highlight. But this 2007 post-apocalyptic movie, set in a New York City inhabited by infected creatures, is elevated by its central performance from Will Smith, which keeps us hooked from beginning to end.
The film follows the last human survivor, a genius scientist named Robert (Smith), as he navigates the desolate cityscape while searching for a cure to a pandemic of man’s own creation, as, not unlike Ellie in The Last of Us, his immune blood might be the key to saving everyone. But in I Am Legend, the plague doesn’t turn people into zombies but into mutant vampires, and this makes Robert’s mission more difficult as he also needs to escape his fellow bloodthirsty humans. The film explores isolation, survival instincts, and the blurred line between humanity and monstrosity, resonating with the themes in The Last of Us.
4. A Quiet Place (2018)
While not set in a post-pandemic world, A Quiet Place would be the perfect watch after The Last of Us because it tackles survival instincts and the threat of hostile creatures. The film revolves around a family whose only hope of survival is doing what the title suggests: living in absolute silence, as they are being hunted by deadly creatures who are attracted by sound. Similarly to The Last of Us, A Quiet Place’s protagonists are also parents – Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (John Krasinski) – trying to protect their children, which adds even more urgency to this story.
The film’s intense atmosphere, clever use of sound, and strong focus on family dynamics create a thrilling experience that resonates with fans of the genre, and the film is made even more compelling by how scary the absence of sounds makes it. This also enables director John Krasinski to experiment with the medium, giving you an experience like no other. And if you end up liking the film, Part II is also out now!
5. Divergent (2014)
The last film on our list is a YA dystopian drama that you’ll adore if you’re a fan of The Hunger Games and similar novels that were turned into films. Divergent is part of a trilogy, but while Veronica Roth’s books are all great reads, the first film is the only one that’s really worth watching, mostly for a compelling premise that will have you think about identity and socio-political dynamics.
Divergent follows a girl named Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) who lives in a post-apocalyptic, unrecognizable Chicago, where society is divided into five factions based on what their purpose in life will be: selflessness (“Abnegation”), peace (“Amity”), honesty (“Candor”), bravery (“Dauntless”), or wisdom (“Erudite”). When a person turns 16, they are first subjected to a test that should give them an idea of where they should be placed, and then asked to share their final decision at a public ceremony. But things get complicated when Tris’ test results are inconclusive, revealing that she belongs to the category the authorities fear the most: Divergents – that is, those who do not fit in anywhere, as they can be many things at once.
And so begins Tris’ adventure in Dauntless, the faction she chooses, where she cannot tell anyone what she really is and, on top of this, has to prevent a war from happening between the factions. While Divergent has some pacing issues and is clearly aimed at a specific audience, if you’re part of that audience you’ll love this dystopian tale, which also features an appearance from Kate Winslet.
The Last of Us immerses viewers in a gripping narrative, as they navigate its post-apocalyptic world with a series of compelling, well-rounded protagonists that they come to deeply care about, even more so given the impending threat at hand. Each in its own way, the 5 films listed above also offer captivating stories, memorable characters, and thought-provoking themes that will appeal to fans of the Max series and the game that inspired it Fans of the game who are interested in exploring the world of cryptocurrencies should check out crypto casino platforms, which offer exciting gaming experiences with secure and anonymous transactions, enhancing the gaming experience for enthusiasts.
Their exploration of survival, humanity, and the fragile balance between hope and despair. makes the five films listed above must-watches post-apocalyptic, dystopian movies. But there’s even more to explore in this subgenre, from other Max series like Station Eleven to recent post-apocalyptic movies like Knock at the Cabin and Don’t Worry Darling. So grab your popcorn and prepare for a cinematic journey that echoes the essence of this beloved Max show.