Jiana Smith, Contributing Writer
COVID-19 has disrupted our normal schedules. As news outlets provide coverage on the coronavirus, it seems like times are growing bleak. However, there’s no need to panic. We can each do our part to prevent further spread of the virus through social distancing to “flatten the curve,” or slow the rate of infection, as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With this in mind, those at home are easing their anxieties with the comfort of television and movies. Some are even turning to stories that deal with pandemics and apocalypses. For example, “Outbreak” (1995) is currently the ninth-most streamed movie on Netflix, while the documentary series “Pandemic” is the sixth-most popular TV show on the platform.
Below are five excellent films about pandemics.
“Unseen Enemy” (2017)
In times of intense crisis, it’s vital to know the truth. “Unseen Enemy” explains how outbreaks can spiral into pandemics through analysis of epidemics like Ebola, Zika and the flu. This documentary discusses how viruses start and spread, their impacts on health infrastructure and the economy and the conflict between individual rights and the greater public good.
The most interesting part of this film is how outbreaks begin. As climate change and deforestation destroy bat habitats, bats enter human environments and spread diseases like SARS and MERS by interacting with livestock and agriculture. This documentary is an excellent precursor for the other films on this list.
“Unseen Enemy” is available on Amazon Prime Video.
“Contagion” is a fictional affirmation of “Unseen Enemy.” Praised by scientific organizations, like the Argonne National Laboratory, for its realistic depiction of pandemic response, “Contagion” provides a dramatic account of how diseases are discovered and researched by public health agencies like the CDC and the World Health Organization.
This movie starts strong, showing how disease spreads from contaminated food through transportation and socialization. The best thing about “Contagion” is the natural antagonistic force of a pandemic and the characters’ reactions to it. They ask relevant questions about school cancellations and ways to inform the public. The movie also provides timely reminders to stop touching your face and to maintain social distancing practices.
“Contagion” is available on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Vudu.
“World War Z” (2013)
Far from the sobering realism of “Contagion,” “World War Z” follows a former United Nations employee as he travels the world to find a cure for a virus that turns people into zombies — the fast “Train to Busan” type, rather than the sluggish “The Walking Dead” variety.
This movie is a standard action-apocalypse narrative with bombastic set pieces and a hero who survives impossible situations. “World War Z” is a fun spectacle that will take your mind off reality for two hours.
“World War Z” is available on Hulu, Amazon Prime and Vudu.
“It Comes at Night” (2017)
“It Comes at Night” takes place in the aftermath of a virus. It follows two families who join forces in an isolated shelter for survival against a mysterious illness and a hostile entity.
This slow-burn film is far more morose than the others. It’s not strictly a monster film, instead focusing on human fear and desperation. The tight 2.40:1 aspect ratio enhances the themes of claustrophobia and anxiety. Overall, “It Comes a Night” is a good nighttime watch due to its thrilling sequences and ambiguous messages — with a wild ending.
“It Comes at Night” is available on Netflix.
“Children of Men” (2006)
“Children of Men” transports its audience to 2027, 20 years after a pandemic caused mass infertility. Refugees flock to London, only to be kept in cages. Amid this social turmoil, the protagonist must escort the first pregnant woman in 18 years to a boat off the coast of the UK to find a cure for the world’s infertility, while fleeing a militant group that intends to use the woman for their political message.
This is my favorite film on this list. It’s fast-paced and emotional, offering messages of goodwill and hope. It also has a beautiful score that lifts the audience’s spirits and matches its themes.
“Children of Men” is available on Hulu, Amazon Prime and Vudu.