The Best Movies About Plagues

If you haven’t noticed there is a decidedly macabre side to my personality that comes out every so often. Today I’m compiling a list of the best pictures with a plague theme. Considering the subject matter, it’s a remarkably common one in motion pictures. In no particular order:

The Andromeda Strain

This neat, rather minimalist techno-thriller is based on the novel that put the late Michael Crichton on the map. Will the team of scientists find a cure for the alien virus before it can spread and destroy humanity?

The Seventh Seal

Ingmar Berman’s remarkable fantasy is probably the best picture on this list.

Panic in the Streets

This picture about the search for a guy who’s carrying bubonic plague has a fabulous cast including Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas, Jack Palance, and a rare pre-blacklist appearance by Zero Mostel.

Masque of the Red Death

This Roger Corman vehicle for Vincent Price based loosely on the Edgar Allan Poe short story is actually pretty awful but it’s certainly in the genre.

The Night of the Living Dead

The original and best low budget flesh-eating zombies picture. If you’re only going to watch one virus-spread-flesh-eating-zombies picture, this is the one to watch.

The Last Man on Earth

This is the first film version of Richard Matheson’s brilliant novel about vampirism spread by a plague, I Am Legend. The Omega Man with Charlton Heston was a later incarnation of the same source material and they tell me that Will Smith’s recent version, I Am Legend, is better but the first version with Vincent Price is pretty darned spooky.


How extreme are the measures you’re willing to take to prevent the spread of an incurable plague?

There are quite a few other pictures that almost fit into the genre, for example Dr Erlich’s Magic Bullet (about the development of a cure for syphilis) or Sister Kenny (about the development of a treatment for polio before the vaccine was developed).

Any other suggestions?

5 comments… add one
  • Brett Link

    Masque of the Red as a film was pretty terrible, which always struck me as too bad – it would make a great short film in terms of imagery if done right.

    I Am Legend (the 2007 Will Smith version) is pretty good (the original ending, not the theatre ending, that is), although they inject a religious element into it near the end just for kicks.

    Stephen King’s The Stand is a mini-series, technically speaking, but it is pretty good, if supernaturalistic.

  • Tom Strong Link

    I’m rather fond of the Julianne Moore film Safe, about a woman who might have a disease that modern medicine won’t recognize. Or, she might just be crazy. It’s quite creepy.

  • PD Shaw Link

    I’ve been waiting to see if anybody chimes in for the film version of La Peste, based upon the Camus novel. Not seen it myself, and didn’t particularly like the director’s take on Old Gringo.

    Roger Corman did at least a half dozen Edgar Allen Poe “adaptations” with Vincent Price that have enjoyable parts, but have such a loose association with the primary material that I can’t remember which ones I might have liked. I almost certainly would have enjoyed Corman’s take on the Camus novel.

  • I’ve read the novel but never seen the movie.

  • jennifer Link

    i think contegion is a very scary movie how one thing can set a plauge in motion

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