10 medical disaster movies to binge-watch
Writer: Florey DM
Here are some of the movies from the past 40 years that focus on contagious diseases.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is understandably putting the world in a dire situation. It's led to hospitalisation and deaths - or at the very least, self-quarantines. Here's something else that's spiked during this grim time: interest in medical disaster films.
People who find themselves suddenly cocooned at home, with plenty of time on their hands, have started turning to fictional films about deadly contagious diseases to take their minds off of the actual contagious virus currently ravaging the world. That last sentence there too dramatic? If yes, you might want to look away now but if drama's what you're looking (with tons of apocalyptic infections) then read on.
Note that while there are medical disaster films made prior to the 1980s, what we have below are our 10 picks of such films that were released within the past 40 years, arranged by year.
Let's start with "Pandemic". While this does lean more on the zombie side of flicks, the zombification is caused by a contagious virus. It follows a doctor who is leading a group as they try to find survivors of a worldwide pandemic caused by the virus. This movie might not be for everyone though as it is shown from a first-person point-of-view.
"World War Z" (2013)
Brad Pitt is one good reason to watch a movie. Him aside, this is a good movie to kill almost two hours of your time with. This also falls more into the zombie category but again, caused by a contagious virus. Pitt stars as former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane who, along with his family, is struggling to survive the zombie pandemic.
Now this one is looking very familiar, huh? A big crowd of people covering their mouths and noses with masks, it's basically how the world reacted when COVID-19 started spreading beyond China. This South Korean movie imagines a world thrown into chaos due to a deadly H5N1 outbreak, which will leave anyone infected dead within 36 hours.
A year before the above movie was released, this one hit the big screen. Touted as South Korea's first medical thriller, it opens with gruesome dead bodies found floating on the Han River. Cause of death? Parasitic horsehair worms - or more specifically, virus-infected mutant ones. Humans that are infected by them will suffer from excessive hunger and thirst, before throwing themselves into the river.
Now this one is eerily similar to what's happening right now. A novel virus spread from China, causing a pandemic as it rapidly infects other countries across the globe, leaving everyone in a panic as the US' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rush to find a cure for the deadly virus. This movie boasts a very star-studded cast, with names such as Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bryan Cranston and even Singapore's Chin Han being part of the lineup.
While this isn't exactly a disaster movie yet, it does revolve around a vial of virus, designed as a bioweapon that could cause global devastation if it falls into the wrong hands. Kamal Haasan stars as 10 different characters in this movie (hence English title: "The Ten Incarnations"), his Govind role, an NRI bio-scientist in the US, created the bioweapon but had a change of mind. When the vial goes missing, Govind races against time to retrieve it before the terrorists his boss was planning to sell it to can use it to set off a deadly pandemic.
"I Am Legend" (2007)
Will Smith seldom disappoints in his lead roles. In this movie, he plays U.S. Army virologist Lt. Col. Robert Neville, who is immune to a virus that has turned the world's population into Darkseekers. Now he and his dog Sam wander the post-apocalyptic world while struggling to avoid these vampiric, cannibalistic humans.
This J-horror, which also goes by "Kansen", is directed by Masayuki Ochiai (who also helmed "Ju-On: The Beginning of the End, "Ju-On: The Final", the American adaptation of Thai horror "Shutter" and "Parasite Eve"). It's set in a hospital where a patient with a mysterious rash arrives for treatment. His body mass is also strangely liquefying into green goo. Unfortunately for the doctors and nurses who've come into contact with him, they also become infected by the mysterious disease and start spewing green goo.
Based on the nonfiction book "The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston, this movie focuses on an Ebola-like virus. Called Motaba, the virus originated from the African jungle, but it started spreading from the US after a monkey infected by it was brought into the country for lab tests. As the deadly virus spreads, mutating to become airborne, the military must come up with an antiserum to fight it.
Another J-horror, this one is also known as "Fukkatsu no hi" ("Day of Resurrection") . When a plane crash accidentally releases a military-engineered virus, it creates a pandemic that wipes out almost all the world's population within just seven months. The only survivors are the scientists stationed in Antarctica, where the extreme cold renders the virus inactive.
Cinema Online, 19 March 2020