Movies about Disease Outbreaks

I’ve been collecting movies about disease outbreaks, since this February 2020. I already had a few of them, and I started to look for more.

The criterion was basically: I’ts about disease outbreak from a virus or a bacterium which does NOT turn the victim into a zombie and certainly does NOT induce physical transformation into some sort of monster. So all zombie-movies immediately disqualified, as did a lot of horror- and monster-movies such as: The Thing (1982, 2011), Virus (1999), Also disqualified was anything not related to viruses or bacteria, outbreaks that relied on insects, parasites, the supernatural and so on. Like The Thaw (2009), The Signal (2007), The Faculty (1998), Shivers (1975) and all vampire movies. Which actually leaves us with a pretty short list.

  • The Andromeda Strain, 1971 (USA). An alien biological lifeform crashes to earth with a satellite and nearly all residends tof a town die. Not too realistic, but a pretty good movie (and book) anyway.
  • The Crazies, 1973 (USA) This is a Virus that’s modeled after the rabies, inducing permanent insanity and most often death.
  • Virus Fukkatsu No Hi, 1980 (JPN). This is more an “apocalypse”-movie than a disaster-movie. Their “Virus” is an impossibility, as it apparently can multiply without host, even at freezing temperatures; and stay airborne for months. It also co-opts other viruses and infects and kills all vertebrae and nobody is immune. To add to the troubles, some automatic retaliation systems threaten to launch nuclear strikes because of earthquakes. It’s not a bad movie, but extremely unrealistic.
  • Warning Sign, 1985 (USA) Outbreak in a biotech-lab. The whole movie plays in and around it.
  • Outbreak, 1995 (USA) Their depiction is pretty good, it depicts a kind of Ebola-type outbreak.
  • Twelve Monkeys, 1995
  • Virus, 1996 (USA) aka “Spill”. Classic nineties action cinema, where every car explodes. Virus is airborne, but can survive days in water; can be fought with the common cold. I don’t think they really thought a lot about it, it’s just a ploy for action cinema.
  • Pandemic, 2007 (USA) Two-part TV movie. This depicts an Ebola-type virus which somehow only affects Los Angeles and behaves more like avian flu. Also, some escaped drug lord hijacks deliveries of anti-viral medicine, and holds the city hostage. On the whole, not terribly believable.
  • Kansen rettô, 2009 (JAP) This is rather gritty, as the heroes of the movie are medical doctors. They’ve overdone it a bit with regards of dissolution of order, and underestimated global proliferation. But all in all, nicely done. The virus depicted feels plausible.
  • Carriers, 2009 (USA) A road movie in a disease-devastated land. The diesease is probably modeled afer H1N1 or something like that. It’s mostly about the cohesion of the group, and how it falls apart.
  • The Crazies, 2010 (USA) Bascially a remake of the 1973 movie; but with a quite different plot. Enjoyable but not outstanding. The ending is pretty unconvincing.
  • Contagion, 2011 (USA) Depiction of the virus is rather good; social dissulution is exaggerated.
  • Gamgi, 2013 (KOR) I can’t really understand why they thought anyone would try to stop the spread of a virus by concentrating the whole population of a city in a central ghetto. Otherwise it’s quite ok, but a bit kitschy.
  • The Last Ship, 2014-2018 (USA) This series is also about a world-wide pandemic of an avian-flu type virus that is extremely fatal. But there are immunes. It’s rather militaristic, and suffers from a Star-Trek-bridge-crew-goes-everywhere syndrome. The virus depiction is pretty ok; the social dissolution exaggerated. Meh.
  • The Carrier, 2015 (UK) Here, the disease is caused by a bacteria, which spreads by touch and causes leper-like symptomes, with a near 100% fatality rate due to organ failure. The movie is about an air crew that tries to fly to saftey where none can be found, and how their group disintegrates. Pretty good.
  • Epidemic, 2018 (USA) A small budget movie, and a very small outbreak of some disease, initially stolen from a lab, that produces hallucinations, vomiting, necrosis and death.

Since the description of these were not clear about the kind of a disaster they are about, I did watch them. They are not really about diseases. One was a mistake;

  • Pontypool, 2009 (CAN) This is about, well, more a semantic virus. And the movie is great. Heartily recommended.
  • Skybound, 2017 (GER) Some rich kids fly in a swiss-registered Hawker 800, on the outside at least, from NYC to LA. Or something; the plane is bigger on the inside, but don’t worry, compared to the illogical behaviour of the people in it, that’s nothing. Don’t waste your time.

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