One of the best things to do during social distancing is to stay at home and watch movies. I have a morbid fascination with the end of the world, as those of you who have followed me for a while will know. A few years back I wrote about the best and worse apocalyptic movies. Now, I’m into movies about viruses!
Over the last couple of weeks, I have binge-watched nearly thirty movies about virus, plague and zombies. It wasn’t easy, and I have been accused of being terribly morbid. The truth is, I have learned so much from the experience. Now, if a zombie tries to attack me, I know exactly how to kill the fucker. Likewise, I learned some cool new acronyms like WHO and CCDC, and developed a profound understanding of the relationship between politics and health. Please enjoy my commentary on the best movies to stay at home and watch during the coronavirus.
Blindness (2008) tells the gloomy story of a world plagued by a new virus that makes you blind. And, the blindness is also contagious! In a matter of weeks, the entire population of New York becomes blind. Can you imagine the consequences?
This is the most compelling and heart-wrenching of all the movies I have watched. Plus it gets top marks for originality in terms of the disease (flu-like symptoms are so unimaginative after all). Blindness mostly focuses on the dark side of human nature. It provides harsh commentary on what happens to the human race when the chips are down. So, if you’re a ‘glass-half-full’ kinda person, you won’t like this movie. Nonetheless, it is a good reminder to count our blessings while we have them – especially the sense of sight.
Love in the Time of Cholera
Love in the Time of Cholera (2007) is a story of enduring love set against the backdrop of the cholera outbreak in the 1830s. Fermina is torn between her desire for the passionate Florentino, and her gratitude for the more socially refined Dr Ubino.
As well as being a wonderfully romantic tale this movie also reminds us that the coronavirus is not the first deadly disease the world has seen. Seven cholera outbreaks have occurred over the last two hundred years, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Cholera still impacts people in parts of Africa and South-East Asia. In the movie, the symptoms of cholera are compared to the symptoms of lovesickness. It is so refreshing to watch a virus movie that doesn’t focus too much on the morbidity of disease.
Contagion (2011) is probably most similar to what we are experiencing at the moment with the coronavirus. The movie begins with a woman, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, becoming sick after a business trip to Hong Kong. Soon after, a new virus is sweeping the world with a mortality rate of 30%. Can a vaccine be developed before it is too late?
The eerie thing about this movie is watching the pace at which panic spreads, the strain of the epidemic on health systems, and the social distancing tactics advised by government bodies. It is all freakishly familiar! The most interesting scenes in the movie are set at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. We get to see how diseases are studied by scientists and how vaccines are developed. Riveting stuff!
Outbreak (1995) is an oldie but a goodie. A monkey from Africa bites a human, causing the outbreak of a deadly virus. The disease causes coughing and sneezing as well as red eyes, and it has a 100% fatality rate!
The story is told through the eyes of an American couple who are recently divorced. They are both scientists who specialise in disease prevention and control. The chemistry between Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo keeps this movie going. So does the comically bad acting of a young Kevin Spacey! However, the deadliness of the virus, as well as the politics of disease in this film, are a little far fetched. It makes for a good laugh.
World War Z
World War Z (2013) is one of my favourite apocalyptic movies. It is also the most realistic zombie movie I have seen (and I have watched a lot, including every season of The Walking Dead). A new zombie virus has spread throughout the world quickly and only Brad Pitt can save the day.
Brad Pitt works for the United Nations, and he bravely travels from the USA to South Korea, Isreal and even Scotland in search of a cure! The movie is pretty naughty in how it portrays the policies of certain governments. The implication is that in times of crisis, governments revert to nationalism rather than working together globally for a cure. Hmmm… sound a little familiar? I was on the edge of my seat the entire time watching this great flick.
Children of Men
Children of Men (2006) is a dystopian movie in which there are two devastating human health crises! The first is widespread infertility. The second is a flu pandemic, which kills lots of children. Fast forward eighteen years and you have a pretty grim society full of old, miserable people.
The movie is set in the U.K., which has become a police state that keeps refugees in cages and camps. This is a very dark movie, and the pace moves quickly – sometimes, it is hard to keep up with developments. Michael Cain is outstanding as a pot-smoking hippie who believes in conspiracy theories. Let’s hope life will not imitate art, and that the current coronavirus doesn’t end up making us all infertile!
I Am Legend
I Am Legend (2007) is set in New York City. A deadly virus has decimated most of the world’s population, and Will Smith has natural immunity against the virus. He is one of the only survivors. Coincidently, he is also a scientist with a home laboratory, so he spends his days developing a ‘cure’ using his own blood.
The premise of the I Am Legend is not very believable. Furthermore, the so-called ‘monsters’ created by the virus are not that scary. If you get bit by an infected person you turn into a kind of zombie that is allergic to the light and cannot think or feel, just eat. The movie also gets a little boring at points due to the lack of characters. However, the relationship between Will Smith and his pet dog is poignant. This movie also inspires your imagination to go wild – what would you do if you had an empty New York City at your disposal? In the movie, Will Smith rides a sports car down an empty road at full-speed. If it was me, I would indulge in lots of chocolates and start wearing designer clothes from all the shops.
Train to Busan
Train to Busan (2016) is a South Korean zombie movie. A new, killer virus has spread thanks to the evil pharmaceutical companies and their equally evil hedgefund financial backers. It’s about time one of these end of the world thrillers pointed the finger squarely at the rich. They are the source of all evil!
Most of the movie takes place on a high-speed train that is chugging from Seoul to Busan. The characters are a little one dimensional, and the movie ends without a satisfying resolution. However, it’s good to be cultural and watch foreign films now and again. Some of the fight scenes between the humans and the zombies are pretty creative too. I particularly liked it when the old granny opened the train doors to allow the zombies to eat her selfish fellow commuters that allowed her friend to die – serves ’em right!
Not all virus movies are good. I watched more than a few bad ones. The absolutely worse disease-riddled flicks I watched include Warm Bodies (2013), Carriers (2009), and Resident Evil (2002).
Don’t forget to also check out my recommendations on the best and worse apocalyptic movies.