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The Best Pandemic Movies of All Time (If That’s Your Thing)

As the worst person on your timeline might have reminded you back in March, a lot of great art has come out of pandemics past. William Shakespeare apparently wrote King Lear during the bubonic plague. Countless iconic artists painted their way through the Spanish Flu; Edvard Munch even painted a self portrait to document his survival of it. Good for him. In a way, it only makes sense that these periods, marked by isolation and immense suffering, would push artists to seek outlets of expression and escapism.

And, it also makes sense why artists who aren’t living through a pandemic would gravitate towards the subject for source material. The drama, the paranoia, the suspense… it’s a blockbuster waiting to happen. From zombie outbreaks to alien infestation and everything in between, filmmakers have covered a lot of ground when it comes to pandemic possibilities.

So, whether you’re looking for some pandemic-ridden storylines to make you feel less alone, or something to make you grateful that you’re at least not a lone post-apocalyptic survivor, there’s plenty of cinematic antidotes for your quarantined woes. Put that COVID-19 screenplay you’ve been meaning to write on bedrest, and watch one of these best pandemic movies of all time.

Train to Busan

As if traveling during a pandemic isn’t scary enough, this South Korean thriller will have you considering some extra protection along with that mask and face shield. When a father and daughter board a train to visit her mother in Busan, they quickly learn that the outside world is being overrun by a zombie outbreak.

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28 Days Later

Directed by Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later is a post-apocalyptic thriller following a virus outbreak called the “Rage” virus, which becomes widespread after a group of London animal activists set an infected chimpanzee loose from a research lab. When a bike messenger awakens from a coma to find his city nearly deserted, he must locate his fellow survivors while avoiding zombie-like victims on their path to safety.

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Contagion

As if the Goop guru would ever let a case of severe jet lag go ignored, Gwyneth Paltrow stars as a woman who comes down with a mysterious illness upon returning from her business trip and soon dies. It soon becomes evident that she is not the only one to be infected, as a global pandemic breaks out and pushes humanity to the brink of collapse.

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World War Z

If Brad Pitt is your savior of choice in case of a zombie apocalypse, you’re in luck. Pitt stars as a former U.N. investigator who makes it his mission to save the world from a soul-sucking virus.

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Outbreak

Now 25 years old, Outbreak still poses a conflict of modern relevance, as a team of doctors works to prevent the spread of an Ebola-like virus outbreak. What they quickly realize, though, is that some of their colleagues who are supposedly working towards the same cause might have ulterior motives. The film boasts a star-studded cast, including Cuba Gooding, Jr., Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, and Rene Russo.

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I Am Legend

Will Smith stars as a scientist who finds himself the lone survivor of an apocalyptic mutant virus outbreak… and the sole chance of hope for humanity. Struggling to survive in a desolate New York City, he must juggle working towards a cure while fighting of the bloodthirsty victims that walk among him.

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Zombieland

Adding a bit of comic relief to the pandemic genre, Zombieland stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin as a motley crew of survivors who must band together to find haven from the ongoing zombie apocalypse.

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Carriers

Two brothers and their friends attempt to evade a rising virus outbreak by venturing in the desert and waiting out the end of its impact. As one might suspect, their plan is better in theory than in practice, and they quickly discover that there might be more danger within their group than there is outside their bubble.

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Pontypool

Reminiscent of War of the Worlds, this Canadian horror flick follows a disc jockey whose shift gains a newfound sense of urgency when he discovers that a deadly virus is breaking out in his town of Pontypool, Ontario. With his radio booth as his bunker, he attempts to save the outside world by reporting to his listeners about the ironic means of transmitting the virus: the English language.

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It Comes At Night

In this A24 horror flick, directed by Trey Edward Shults, two families must band together as they fight to survive an encroaching disease. However, their means of security are quickly threatened when their bond of trust proves to be more faulty than they’d expected.

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