The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the public’s consciousness back towards movies about viral contagions. Some watch them with nails bitten down the quick, while others are simply amused by the entertainment value in relation to the real-world predicament being faced right now.
Whether skepticism, paranoia or level-headedness rules one’s mind regarding viral scenarios, there’s no denying that movies and TV shows about outbreaks can be just as frightening as they are fun to watch. Here are 10 of the deadliest viruses ever to get in front of a camera lens. Don’t forget to socially distance.
10 The Rage Virus (28 Days Later)
Director Danny Boyle blended plausible science with the traditional zombie movie formula to create this action/horror hybrid about the end of Great Britain. The few remaining survivors attempted to stay one step ahead of vicious packs of humans infected with the aptly named Rage virus.
Though it didn’t turn them into the undead, the Rage virus did override any higher cognitive brain functions and amplify bloodthirsty instinctual aggression in the human species. This resulted in countless horrifying murders and scores of others becoming infected to swell their ranks.
9 The Alien Virus (The Andromeda Strain)
This 1971 sci-fi classic is also one of the most frighteningly effective at detailing the severity of a viral outbreak. The Andromeda Strain was so named due to the fact that it was extraterrestrial in origin. The microorganism in question managed to hitch a ride to Earth via a military space satellite.
The virus causes quick and immediate blood clotting, which kills its victims outright or drives them to the point of suicide. A special government team is tasked with learning as much as they can about the strain before it becomes completely unmanageable and spills out into the rest of the world.
8 Motaba (Outbreak)
Though incredibly dramatized for the modern audience, 1995’s Outbreak hit at exactly the right moment in history when Ebola was a very real fear for the world. The film tried its best to paint an accurate picture of what happens when humanity begins digging too deeply into unexplored territory.
The film did an excellent job of portraying the horrors of a viral pandemic, however. When Motaba becomes airborne, the entire tone of the film shifts dramatically and puts all attention on the effects, which are quite terrifying. It may not be the best film in Dustin Hoffman’s illustrious career, but it’s one of the most fun to watch.
7 The Plague (12 Monkeys)
The exact nature of the plague in 12 Monkeys isn’t fully revealed in the film, but the effects are shown to be devastating to the future world. Humanity is forced to live largely underground following its downfall, as vast swathes of the planet are reclaimed by nature.
12 Monkeys is more interested in the concept of time travel and a temporal paradox (of sorts) than a full-blown pandemic film, but it still remains one of the most deadly examples of a viral outbreak in Hollywood cinema.
6 The Zombie Plague (Dawn Of The Dead)
George Romero’s first Living Dead film left the cause of the zombie outbreak ambiguous on purpose, in an attempt to criticize humanity’s inaction in the face of a nightmare scenario. The follow-up sequel, Dawn of the Dead, was the first film to establish that the outbreak was viral in nature.
Those who had been bitten by the virus were soon overwhelmed by the infection. Once they died, their corpses would reanimate, to continue pursuing the living with nothing but food on their singular minds.
5 The Ape Virus (Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes)
The original Planet of the Apes movies told a story about humanity being overwhelmed by an intellectually superior race of apes, which was the result of a viral outbreak. This particular virus doesn’t end with legions of the undead stalking the streets in search of human flesh. Rather, it reduces humanity down to the flicker of a match, right before it goes out forever. The prequel trilogy/reboot series explores not just how the apes rose to power on Earth, but how humanity fizzled out.
It all starts with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which details how a well-intentioned cure for Alzheimer’s disease manages to spiral out of control and create a legion of super-intelligent primates. The third film, War For The Planet Of The Apes, reveals that the surviving humans have begun to de-evolve intellectually, sealing our fate.
4 The T-Virus (Resident Evil)
The fictional T-Virus from the Resident Evil series is the result of direct genetic manipulation of viral codes to create a living bio-weapon. The Umbrella Corporation designed and manufactured the virus in order to sell it to various governments who wanted a deadly and highly effective tool in their viral arsenals.
Unfortunately, the T-Virus got out and swept across the world, decimating most of the population. By the time Resident Evil: The Final Chapter was finished, the virus was responsible not just for zombie outbreaks, but a host of other horrible and terrifying monstrosities, as well.
3 The Walker Virus (The Walking Dead)
The Walking Dead TV series takes a lot of cues from George Romero’s Living Dead films, but it makes a direct connection between the zombie apocalypse and an actual viral component, with no ambiguity left in the air. The Walking Dead even dedicated an entire episode that takes place at the CDC, in order to outline how the virus works.
Obviously, this is one of the most deadly viruses in any film or TV show – capable of sweeping across the world and infecting everyone. The virus manifests immediately after death by reanimating the dead corpse, meaning one doesn’t need to be bitten in order for it to take root and lie dormant.
2 The Electrical Virus (Virus)
This last Hollywood movie virus isn’t biological in nature, but electrical. The 1999 sci-fi horror film Virus gave audiences a glimpse at a very different kind of pandemic – one from the depths of space. A highly intelligent electric-based lifeform manages to take over an abandoned Russian ship and infect its computer systems in order to build itself a body using raw materials – including dead humans.
It’s up to a lone tugging crew to put a stop to the threat before it reaches the mainland and infects every single computer system and internet software on the planet. All that stands in their way are horrifying cyborgs and menacing mechanical monstrosities trying to tear them limb from limb.
1 The Novel Virus (Contagion)
This particular virus was practically a note-for-note foreshadowing of the current Covid-19 pandemic facing the world. It was the first film to forge a direct link between China’s handling of bat and pig-related viruses and the immense threats they posed to the rest of the world.
There’s a reason why Contagion became the go-to viral outbreak movie, even as new research comes to light regarding Covid.
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