Movies are, for many people, a beloved outlet. A treasured respite. A cherished (and much-needed) escape. But sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Scratch that: Sometimes life parallels fiction, and 2020 proves that point. The COVID-19 outbreak mirrored some of our favorite pandemic movies. And while we hope the coronavirus crisis ends on a more optimistic noteafter all, most of the films below are doomsday pieces; they are humanity- and world-ending sort of storieswatching these flicks can be entertaining, particularly during thesedifficult times.
Here are 20 of our favorite movies about pandemics, viruses, outbreaks, and widespread disease.
One of the most well-known pandemic movies and arguably, the most popular is Outbreak, a mid-90s action thriller about a deadly, Ebola-like virus that is spreading through parts of California and the United States.
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and Morgan FreemanRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 59%Where to watch: FuboTV, YouTube, iTunes, and Google Play
Made in 2011, Contagion is an exceptionally smart (and scary) disaster movie. Why? Because Contagion is something of a sociological study into what people would do (and how they would behave) if they were faced with a real-life pandemic. Trust us, this one hits close to home.
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate WinsletRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 85%Where to watch: YouTube, Vudu, iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Prime
Part pandemic, part zombie apocalypse movie, World War Z is a more imaginative take on what could happen if a virus spreads through society and turns us all into monsters.
Starring: Brad PittRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 66%Where to watch: Hulu and Sling TV
Set in the city of London (and much like World War Z), 28 Days Later is a post-apocalyptic, post-pandemic zombie movie. In fact, the entire film transpires about one month after the rage virus spread throughout the UK.
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Christopher EcclestonRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 87%Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Related: Best Movies of 2020
Based on a 1969 novel by Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain follows a group of scientists who are working to figure out what unknown virus killed all the citizens of a small town.
Starring: James Olson, Arthur Hill, and David WayneRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 67%Where to watch: YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Prime
Fans of The Blair Witch Project will love Quarantine. Why? Because this action-adventure film is a found footage movie, i.e. it follows a TV reporter and her cameraman who get trapped in a building thats being quarantined by the Center for Disease Control.
Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, and Columbus ShortRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 56%Where to watch: Hulu and Sling TV
Set several years after a mutated pathogen kills most of humanity (and turns the rest into monsters), I Am Legend follows U.S. Army virologist Robert Neville on his quest to find a cure and to find fellow survivors.
Starring: Will SmithRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 68%Where to watch: YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, and Vudu
Made in 1964 and starring the one and only Vincent Price, The Last Man on Earth follows Dr. Robert Morgans journey to battle the living dead after an unnamed disease kills half of humanity and turns the remaining half into zombie-like creatures. The original adaption of Richard Mathesons I Am Legend.
Starring: Vincent PriceRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 80%Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Tubi, Pluto TV
Part pandemic movie, part time travel feature, 12 Monkeys follows James Coles (Bruce Willis) journey from 2030 back to the 1990s, where he is supposed to gather information about a man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad PittRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 88%Where to watch: Hulu
In Death In Venice, composer Gustave Aschenbach travels to a Venice resort to escape personal and artistic stress. The last thing he expects is to encounter trouble, but his life is threatened when there is a sudden outbreak of cholera.
Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Romolo Valli, and Mark BurnsRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 71%Where to watch: iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play
Related: 21 Inspiring, Uplifting Movies
Set in 14th-century England during the time of the bubonic plague, Black Death follows a young monk recruited by the knight Ulric (Sean Bean) to lead a group of soldiers through the marshes into a mysterious village, where rumors are spreading that a necromancer is raising plague victims from the dead.
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean, and Carice van HoutenRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 71%Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu
Also starring Vincent Price, The Masque of the Red Death is a horrific adaptation of Edgar Allen Poes short story of the same name.
Starring: Vincent PriceRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 65%Where to watch: Vudu and Amazon Prime
Set in South Korea, Flu highlights the panic and chaos that ensues when a lethal, airborne virus infects individuals in a city less than 20 kilometers from Seoul.
Starring: Jang Hyuk, Soo Ae, and Min-ah ParkRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 61%Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Arguably the least well-received film on our list but a pandemic movie none-the-less, The Cassandra Crossing is a movie about love, terrorism, and an unnamed virus. Yes, really.
Starring: Sophia Loren, Richard Harris, and Martin SheenRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 30%Where to watch: YouTube, Tubi, and Amazon Prime
A man races against time to save his son when a new rabies virus turns people into rampaging zombies in Infection.
Starring: Rubn Guevara, Leonidas Urbina, and Magdiel GonzlezRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: n/aWhere to watch: Amazon Prime
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel, The Happening is an apocalyptic drama about the rapid spread of an unknown virus that causes individuals to commit suicide.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg and Zooey DeschanelRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 24%Where to watch: YouTube, iTunes, and Google Play
Related: 25 Best Action Movies
Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo star in this movie, in which the world has been upended by an epidemic that causes blindness.
Starring: Julianne Moore and Mark RuffaloRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 44%Where to watch: Hulu and Amazon Prime
A Netflix original feature, Bird Box follows the journey of a mother and her two children after a widespread, mysterious pathogen drives most of society to suicide.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, and John MalkovichRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 64%Where to watch: Netflix
When a virus threatens to wipe out humanity in Carriers, four friends set out across the desert, trying to elude the pandemic. However, as the minutes, hours, and days unfold, the friends learn that the darkness within themselves may be deadlier than any external threat or disease.
Starring: Chris Pine, Piper Perabo, and Lou Taylor PucciRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 66%Where to watch: Amazon Prime
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While Zombieland isnt your traditional post-apocalyptic pandemic feature, with the mad zombie disease spreading across the United States, it is a (funny) film about viruses.
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Woody HarrelsonRotten Tomato Tomatometer rating: 89%Where to watch: Peacock
Looking for more thrills? Check out the151 best horror movies of all time, ranked.
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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero