Greatest Post Apocalypse Cinema

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With the new year's release of The Road and the latest installment of The Terminator Saga (Terminator Salvation--finally we get to the good stuff), the all-seeing eye of Joe Hubris has been drawn to this topic.  The former is an adaptation of Cormack McCarthy's devastating novel.  The later, starring Christian Bale, carries the promise of the original Terminator's Man vs. Machine war of the future.  It all raises the question: what is the greatest post-apocalypse film ever made?

The first nomination: On the Beach (1959, director/producer: Stanley Kramer; starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins)

There were a few post-apocalypse released prior, but this was the first one with staying power.  Unlike 1936's Things to Come, and the 1950s' Five and World Without End, On the Beach is neither a B-movie nor an exploitation film.  It was a mainstream, big-budget Hollywood production starring big-name stars.  Gregory Peck had played Captain Ahab in Moby Dick only 3 years prior and would go on to make The Guns of Navarone, Cape Fear, How the West was Won, and To Kill a Mockingbird in the next 3.  It's appropriate that this tale of a US Navy submarine crew stationed in Australia after the war between the west and the east be included in this list of iconic films.  It can only be described as one of Hollywood's greatest runs. 
Fred Astaire is also incredible in a non-musical role.  Ava Gardner and Anthony Perkins are great as well.
At the same time, Stanley Kramer, who also directed Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremburg, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and 1967's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, got everything out of this film.  This film features more than one of the greatest moments in cinema history.  The final meeting between Peck's Commodore Towers and Gardner's Moira at dusk on the dock, as his submarine prepares to take her crew home to die is simply stunning, visually breathtaking.  Other scenes with the leads and their doomed romance are impossible to forget.
I can't imagine how audiences watching at the height of the cold war would have taken it.

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