Sub-genre of SF, the post-apo has given birth to a certain number of cult works. As the launch of the highly anticipated series The Last of Us is imminent, here are 10 masterpieces, representative of the extraordinary diversity of the genre.
#10 Death Stranding
Latest game from Hideo Kojima, the father of Metal Gear, death stranding plunges us into a destroyed world, after the barrier separating the world of the dead from that of the living. Since that event, the souls of the dead have been lurking in the pouring rain on the surface of the Earth, while the survivors live in underground bunkers.
In this video game released on PlayStation 4 in 2019, we follow Sam Porter Bridges, played by actor Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), a delivery man who travels across the devastated United States of America to connect survivors. A melancholic and contemplative masterpiece, in which Hideo Kojima achieves his cinematic ambitions more than ever, since he brought together a cast including Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux and even Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive). Note that the game will soon be adapted to the cinema!
#9 Snowpiercer – Bong Joon-ho
Following a failed geoengineering attempt to halt global warming, Earth undergoes a new era of particularly deadly glaciation. On a completely icy planet, roll a gigantic train housing all of the surviving humanity. On board, two castes. The rich live in the front, in opulence, while the poor live in the back, in unspeakable conditions. One day, a revolution breaks out.
Originally, The Tranceperceneige is a cult French comic strip, written by Jacques Lob and drawn by Jean-Marc Rochette. But in 2013, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, known for Memories of Murder, The Host and Parasite, will adapt it into a feature film with Chris Evans (Captain America), Tilda Swinton (Moonrise Kingdom, 3000 years waiting for you), Ed Harris (A History of Violence, Westworld), John Hurt (Harry Potter, Elephant Man) and Song Kong-ho (Memories of Murder, Third). The director, who found there an echo of his political ideas which are at the heart of his cinema, sublimates comics, making it a film of great visual richness. Further proof of the incredible diversity of South Korean cinema!
#8 I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
Before being a movie with Will Smith, I’m a legend is a brilliant novel, written by Richard Matheson (The Shrinking Man). Robert Neville, haunted by the death of his wife and daughter, is the sole survivor of an epidemic that turned humans into bloodthirsty, daylight-fearing people. Released in 1954, the novel has lost none of its force.
A novel about loneliness and remorse, I’m a legend is also a masterful inversion of Dracula by Bram Stoker, whose quality far surpasses the 2007 film adaptation. Short, but particularly effective, I’m a legend is one of those novels that we reread with pleasure, as the end is surprising, and amazes us each time.
#7 Ravage – Barjavel
With The Reckless Traveler, Ravaged by René Barjavel is undoubtedly one of the greatest novels by its author, but also one of the best post-apocalyptic novels of all time. Published in 1943, it starts from a very simple premise: the annihilation of our civilization after the sudden disappearance of electricity. Barjavel, very suspicious of scientific and technological progress, portrays with a biting irony the reactions of the inhabitants, deprived of running water, light and machines, as well as the inability of politicians to anticipate the crisis and to offer the population a satisfactory response. Given the climate in which we currently live, reading Ravaged of Barjavel could find an echo in the news. To read without moderation!
#6 Y, The Last Man – Bryan K. Vaughan
Before writing one of the best space-operas of the last twenty years with Sagathe Canadian comic book writer Brian K. Vaughan kept us on our toes with Y, the last man. Published by Urban Comics in France, this exciting series immerses us in the adventures of Yorick, the only man to survive a plague that killed all living things with the Y chromosome. Evolving in a world in which women reorganize themselves to live without men, Yorick becomes the object of all attention: some see in him the savior of humanity, while others want to kill him, to put an end to the patriarchy.
Absolutely thrilling, Y, the last man benefits from Brian K. Vaughan’s unparalleled talent for cliffhangers. The comics are thrilling, and you always want to read the next chapter. The writing of the characters is neat, and the Pia Guerra drawings are also very successful. We recommend!
#5 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind – Hayao Miyazaki
The post-apocalyptic genre has great importance for Japan, the only country in the world to have suffered the violence of the atomic bomb. It suffices to be convinced of this to read manga like the gigantic Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo. For this selection, we wanted to cite another, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Windfirst manga and second film by Hayao Miyazaki, released in 1984, two years before the creation of Studio Ghibli.
In Nausicaathe mangaka-director plunges us into a world ravaged by pollutionin which the survivors have reorganized into quasi-medieval societies, and must survive against the threat of spores and giant insects. Ecological and profoundly peaceful fable, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a true masterpiece, both in manga and in film. We also recommend that you listen to the soundtrack, beautiful to die for, by Joe Hisaishi, who signed his first collaboration with the master of Japanese animation.
#4 the Mad Max saga – George Miller
Cult saga of the brilliant George Miller, madmax tells the story of a former policeman who takes up arms to get revenge on a gang of bikers, who killed his wife and son. The tetralogy (for now!) madmax immerses us in a post-apocalyptic world, plagued by violence. Brilliantly mixing the action film and the road-moviethe post-apocalyptic context allows above all George Miller to give an additional soul to the magnificent Australian decorationswhile narratively legitimizing this world of hyper-violence.
The fourth movie Mad Max: Fury Roadremains to this day a veritable tour de force of staginga gigantic slap in the face delivered to the public and to contemporary blockbusters, and above all one of the best films released during the entire 2010 decade. And to discover the first images of the spin-off, it’s here!
#3 The Scourge – Stephen King
While it may not be horror master Stephen King’s best-known novel (That, shining, The Dark Tower, Christina, Carrie, The green Line), The scourge remains one of his greatest novels. A particularly deadly flu escapes from a US military laboratory, spreads across the United States and kills a very large part of the population.
The survivors are divided into two camps: that of old Mother Abigail, on whom everyone’s salvation depends, and that of Randal Flagg, the Faceless Man, major evil character in Stephen King’s work, incarnation of Evil who appeared in particular in The Dark Tower. For this latest struggle between Good and Evil, the cult writer confessed to having been partly inspired by Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien.
#2 The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part. II – Neil Druckman
While the HBO series The Last of Us is about to be released on our small screens, how not to quote The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part. IIwhich are among the greatest video games of recent years? These are two masterpieces, as exciting as they are heartbreaking. The Last of Us immerses us in a world where humanity has collapsed following a cordyceps pandemic, a fungus that takes over the brains of its victims, turning them into bloodthirsty monsters. We play Joel, a survivor, who has the delicate mission of delivering Ellie to the Fireflies, in order to find a cure.
Brilliantly mixing post-apocalyptic and survival horror, The Last of Us is a violent and visceral work, but also of infinite tenderness and poetry. The father-daughter relationship between Joël and Ellie is heartbreaking, and everything is enhanced by the music of Gustavo Santaolalla. The second opus is also sublime, in its way of telling, behind the story of revenge, a true story of love and loneliness. The HBO series also promises to be great : co-directed by the creator of the games, Neil Druckmann, and Craig Mazin, known for having been the showrunner of Chernobylit could well be one of the great masterpieces of 2023.
#1 The Road – Cormac McCarthy
Known for writing the novel No Country for Old Men, adapted by the Coen brothers, Cormac McCarthy is undoubtedly one of the greatest American novelists of his time. With The road (also adapted to the cinema by John Hillcoat, with Viggo Mortensen in the main role), the writer signs one of his greatest novel. The world has been devastated by a cataclysm. The sun is eternally hidden by clouds, humanity has almost disappeared. And the survivors very often become cannibals. In this violent reality, a father and son head south, their meager possessions packed into a supermarket cart.
Desperate, The road is a powerful and moving novel about the father-son relationship. He also inspired the game The Last of Us to Neil Druckmann, who paid him a vibrant tribute. Above all, it is an initiatory and metaphysical story, in which the writer wonders about transmission, our value systems, and more generally the human condition. We also recommend that you listen to the original soundtrack of the film, composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, who are quite knowledgeable in despair.