Movies about pandemics are more popular than ever. This is especially true now that 2020 has been officially crowned Year of the Coronavirus, and we are all stuck at home to binge-watch anything and everything. That’s why we at Best Choice Reviews went on the hunt for the best pandemic movies.
To come up with our ranking, we began by using IMDb and Wikipedia to create a list of every movie about a global pandemic viral, zombie, or alien in nature. Note that we included only those zombie and alien movies that fit our theme — that is, something scary and unknown sweeping the population at an alarming rate. We then used IMDb user ratings to rank our list of pandemic movies by highest rating. Keep scrolling for the highest-rated pandemic movies as determined by IMDb users.
Director: Aashiq Abu
Topping our list of the best pandemic movies is Virus, a film from India released in summer of 2019. The drama/thriller recounts the real-life outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus in Kerala. Tovino Thomas, Parvathy Thiruvothu, and Madonna Sebastian star as a few of the courageous individuals who helped to finally contain the epidemic.
2. Twelve Monkeys
Director: Terry Gilliam
Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis star in 12 Monkeys, a sci-fi thriller in which a future world is mostly wiped out by a devastating disease. Willis plays James Cole, a convict who is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that has killed most humans on Earth. Pitt’s performance in 12 Monkeys was especially well received. The actor received a slew of accolades, including an Oscar nomination for and a Golden Globe win.
3. Children of Men
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Unlike many of the epidemic-themed movies on our list, Children of Men actually takes place after the pandemic has swept over the globe. The result is a chaotic world in which women have mysteriously become infertile. When a young woman is discovered to be miraculously pregnant, a former activist agrees to help her reach a sanctuary at sea. Directed by the visionary Alfonso Cuarón, Children of Men stars Clive Owen and Julianne Moore.
4. Shaun of the Dead
While there isn’t much that’s funny about global pandemic, Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead manages to find the humor. In this horror comedy film, a zombie epidemic sweeps the globe and effectively disrupts Shaun’s very uneventful life. Shaun of the Dead stars the hilarious Simon Pegg, who also happens to have co-written the film.
5. 28 Days Later
Director: Danny Boyle
28 Days Later is another pandemic-themed film which uses zombies as an allegory for a sweeping illness. Four weeks after an incurable and extremely mysterious virus spread through Great Britain, a small group of survivors try to find a place still considered safe. The sci-fi horror film stars Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Brendan Gleeson. It was well received by both critics and audiences, and even took home the award for Best Horror Film at the Saturn Awards.
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Zombieland is another movie that manages to find the humor in the idea of a zombie apocalypse. Ranked by IMDb users as the sixth-best film about pandemics, Zombieland stars Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus, a shy student attempting to make his way back home to Ohio. While crossing the zombie-filled United States, Columbus meets up with gun-toting tough guy Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and sisters Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, respectively).
7. Train to Busan
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
This hit 2016 film from South Korea really captures the rapid panic that often accompanies thoughts of global pandemic. In Train to Busan, or Busanhaeng as it’s known in Korean, a zombie virus breaks out and very quickly affects masses of the population. A train full of passengers traveling from Seoul to Busan try to survive. The movie was well received by critics and audiences around the world, and it was even nominated for a Best Horror Film Saturn Award by USA’s Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror Films.
Directors: Jaume Balageuró and Paco Plaza
[Rec] was an instant hit when it was released in Spain in 2007. In this horror/thriller film, a cameraman and television reporter follow emergency workers into an apartment building, but become locked inside with something terrifying. The movie was a hit on the film festival circuit, ultimately taking home a slew of awards like the Silver Cream Award at the Amsterdam Fantasy Film Festival, and Best Film and Jury Prize at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film.
9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Director: Don Siegel
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is about a small-town doctor who discovers that the bodies of his local community members are being taken over by emotionless alien duplicates. This sci-fi horror film is considered a classic, and stars Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter. Though a number of remakes have been attempted over the years, IMDb users agree the original remains the best.
10. Dawn of the Dead
Director: George A. Romero
Another horror classic, this time about a zombie pandemic, is 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. Starring David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, and Gaylen Ross, Dawn of the Dead is about two S.W.A.T. guys, a traffic reporter, and the reporter’s girlfriend who are forced to hide inside a Philadelphia shopping mall to escape the zombie hoards.
11. The Stand
Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel of the same name, The Stand is a television miniseries originally aired on ABC in 1994. The miniseries stars a slew of big names, including Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, and Rob Lowe, to name a few. The series begins when a terrible virus is accidentally released from a government research center. The virus kills most of the world’s population, leaving the survivors to split into two groups, one led by good, the other evil.
12. I Am Legend
Director: Francis Lawrence
I Am Legend deals with both plague and zombies. Double the pandemic! Francis Lawrence’s groundbreaking film takes place a number of years after an illness has killed most of humanity and turned those who are left into zombie-like monsters. Will Smith plays New York City’s sole survivor who is desperately trying to find a cure and save humanity. The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror Films recognized I Am Legend by nominating it for Best Science Fiction Film and awarding Will Smith their Best Actor Saturn Award.
13. Day of the Dead
Director: George A. Romero
Day of the Dead is yet another zombie pandemic movie from director George A. Romero. This time, zombies have taken over the world while a small team of scientists and military officers are stuck in an underground bunker. The movie stars Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, and Joseph Pilato.
14. The Andromeda Strain
Director: Robert Wise
Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain follows a group of brilliant scientists working in a top-secret government lab. The scientists try desperately to figure out what kind of virus has killed most of the residents of a small town, then frantically try and stop it. James Olson, Arthur Hill, and David Wayne star.
15. World War Z
Director: Marc Forster
In World War Z, Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a former U.N. employee who is tasked with traversing the globe in an attempt to stop a global pandemic that is destroying humanity, toppling governments, and overpowering armies everywhere. Though the pandemic is zombie in nature, everything about the film is serious and realistic, with the C.D.C. and W.H.O. playing especially important roles. World War Z was a hit among audiences and critics alike. It was awarded a number of coveted awards from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror Films, the Empire Awards, and the Guardian Film Awards, among others.
16. 28 Weeks Later
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
28 Weeks Later is the follow up to 2002’s 28 Days Later. This time, it’s six months after the newly named rage virus has ravaged the UK, and the U.S. Army has arrived in London to help a group of survivors to start again and repopulate. But of course, not much goes as planned… Jeremy Renner and Rose Byrne star in this popular thriller, which took home the prize for Best Horror Movie at the UK’s Empire Awards.
17. Last Man on Earth
Directors: Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow
In this sci-fi, horror film from 1964, Vincent Price plays Robert Morgan, a doctor turned reluctant vampire slayer when a virus turns humanity into the living dead and he becomes the titular The Last Man on Earth. Franca Bettoia and Emma Danieli also star in this Italian classic.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion is, arguably, the ultimate pandemic movie. A woman, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, travels to China on business only to return home to Minnesota to die from a mysterious illness. Less than a day later, her young son is also dead. Contagion follows a group of healthcare professionals, government officials, conspiracy theorists, and everyday people as they struggle to survive an epidemic sweeping the globe. The movie also stars Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, and Jude Law, to name a few.
Director: Sung-su Kim
Flu, known also as Gamgi in its native Korean, is a South Korean film released in 2013. The film captures the fear and chaos that ensues after an airborne virus infects a city near Seoul, and kills more than 9,000 people in less than two days.
Director: Bruce McDonald
Pontypool is a fantasy thriller released in Canada in 2008. The film follows a radio show host in a small town in Ontario as he interprets the possible outbreak of a deadly disease. The movie, which is based on a bestselling novel, did well on the film festival circuit, and among horror fans. Actor Stephen McHattie was awarded a number of prizes from the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards and the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival.
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
In the 90s blockbuster Outbreak, Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo play army doctors (and former lovers, of course) who struggle to battle government officials and find the cure for a deadly virus sweeping through a California town. Outbreak was a huge hit at the box office when it was released in 1995, and won quite a few sci-fi themed awards from various organizations. The movie also stars Cuba Gooding, Jr., Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, and Donald Sutherland.
Director: Fernando Meirelles
In Blindness, a mysterious epidemic of instant “white blindness” ravages the city. Julianne Moore plays a woman who follows her now-blind husband to the quarantine facility, despite retaining her sight. Once there, she witnesses the ways in which society breaks down completely in light of the pandemic.
23. The Girl With All the Gifts
Director: Colm McCarthy
The Girl With All the Gifts is a 2016 film which takes place in a dystopian near future. A mysterious fungal disease has ravaged humanity, leaving most as flesh-craving monsters. At an army base in rural England, a cruel doctor (played by Glenn Close) conducts experiments on a group of hybrid children who crave human flesh, but have also retained the abilities to think and feel. One such child is Melanie, or “the girl with all the gifts.”
24. The Crazies
Director: Breck Eisner
Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell star in The Crazies, a 2010 thriller directed by Breck Eisner. When a plane crashes into a small farming town, a mysterious and highly toxic virus escapes into the community. When quarantine proves to be unsatisfactory, a small group of people fight to survive. The UK Empire Awards, the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards, and the Fright Meter Awards all recognized The Crazies as one of the best thriller/horror films of 2010.
25. The Omega Man
Director: Boris Sagal
Charlton Cheston is The Omega Man, one of only a few human survivors of a plague that has wiped out most of Earth. To reach his ultimate goal of creating a cure, he must first battle The Family, a “luddite death cult” made up of the zombie-like infected. Anthony Zerbe and Rosalind Cash also star.
Director: Flavio Pedota
Filmmakers from Brazil and Mexico teamed up to make this film, Infection, released in 2019. The film stars Rubén Guevara as a Venezuelan father who battles humanity and nature in order to keep his young son safe from a new rabies virus epidemic. Infection was named Best Picture at the Guadalajara International Film Festival, while the Hex After Dark Film Festival declared it the Best Foreign Film.
Director: Jeong-woo Park
Deranged, or Yeon-ga-si as it’s known originally, is a Korean drama about a bizarre illness which sweeps through the country and causes people to drown themselves. Detective Jae-pil doesn’t really believe in the crisis until he receives valuable information that suggests the illness is man made. Things get worse when his brother’s wife and children begin showing symptoms.
28. The Cassandra Crossing
Director: George P. Cosmatos
The Cassandra Crossing boasts an all-star cast which includes Sophia Loren, Martin Sheen, Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, and O.J. Simpson, to name a few. The stars play passengers on a European train. When it’s determined that the passengers have been exposed to a deadly disease, they’re forced to stay on the train in quarantine.
Directors: The Spierig Brothers
Daybreakers takes place in a 2019 run by vampires. It’s the future for this film made in 2019, and a plague has turned just about every human into a blood-sucking vampire. Unfortunately, the blood supply is dwindling fast, so a researcher works covertly with a small group of vampires on a way to save humankind. Daybreakers’ impressive cast includes Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Neill.
Directors: David Pastor and Alex Pastor
Chris Pine and Piper Perabo star in Carriers, a 2009 adventure drama. To escape a lethal virus that’s overtaking the globe, four friends attempt to find a safe place reputed to be free of illness. As they struggle to avoid the infected, the group begins to turn on one another.