The whole point of a post-apocalyptic story is that someone survives. But when you have a calamity that wipes out 99.9 percent of all humans, then how exactly do you explain the survivors? In honor of the new Maze Runner movie, here are the 14 dumbest ways people survive the apocalypse.
1) God swoops in and saves us
Can’t really skip the literal “deus ex machina” ending, in which God shows up and fixes everything. See The Apple—really, see The Apple, it’s great!—and the Battlestar Galactica reboot. Plus of course, Stephen King’s The Stand.
2) Alien invaders turn out to have a silly weakness
This is a whole other list by itself, but it’s still worth mentioning here. The aliens who show up and kill almost everybody—but then it turns out that they are vulnerable to the common cold (in War of the Worlds), or computer viruses (in Independence Day) or plain old water (in Signs). Or in the 1962 Day of the Triffids, the plant monsters turn out to be aliens that are vulnerable to... salt. These are stories where the humans, by rights, should be toast.
3) The survivors regroup and become a spoof of Ancient Rome
Sorry, I love The Hunger Games, but I’m never going to get over the fact that the blasted remains of the United States somehow gets turned into a Roman pastiche where people have names like Caesar Flickerman and Plutarch Heavensbee. And the actual nation is called the Latin word for “bread,” just to underscore the “bread and circuses” thing. You’d think with the human population dangerously close to extinction levels, somebody would have stepped in and said, “Hang on a tic, isn’t this a bit, well, silly?”
4) Everybody lives on a super-train
Another post-apocalyptic story that we love, but which makes, let’s face it, no sense at all: Snowpiercer. So let’s just get this straight. Humans somehow unleash an artificial Ice Age through our climate meddling, and instead of just hunkering down in an underground facility somewhere, we decide to ride around and around on a huge train, on tracks that somehow never need to be maintained or fixed, burning endless fuel? Okay then. Just checking.
5) We get used as lithium batteries by computers
Like the “aliens are vulnerable to water/salt/germs” thing, this is another one that everybody complains about constantly—but it’s still worth one more gripe. The Matrix is just a bit silly, and you have to wonder if the A.I.s were just sort of bored and did this as a practical joke. “Oh, sure, yeah, we’re using you as—snarf—batteries. That’s what we’re doing. Heh.”
6) Putting a whole town into suspended animation, then pretending that it’s still the pre-apocalyptic past.
Not mentioning the name of this particular franchise because it’s still pretty recent. But when you see an apocalypse coming, it might make sense to put a big chunk of people into suspension, to wake them up when the danger has passed. Except for the part where you wake them up in a recreation of 2014 America and don’t tell any of them the apocalypse has happened. Just, you know, for the lulz.
7) One man and one woman survive, and they repopulate the species.
AKA the “New Adam and Eve” story, which is such a common cliché in science fiction and fantasy that many magazines now list it explicitly among the plots they no longer want to see. Sadly, if the human race were reduced to one man and one woman, we’d probably be screwed anyway due to excessive in-breeding.
8) A weird quirk of geography
Because the United Kingdom or Japan is an island, they’re somehow spared from a plague or global disaster. Or there’s a valley that’s miraculously safe from a disaster that wrecked the entire rest of the world, as is the case in the new movie Z for Zachariah.
9) A moonbase somehow survives being flung away from Earth at insane speeds
Somehow, Moonbase Alpha travels fast enough that the humans are able to visit an entire new extrasolar planet pretty much every single week—but they’re not killed by the gravitational stresses (and cosmic radiation, and a billion other things) that they encounter while hurtling through space, in the still-awesome Space: 1999.
10) Outlawing all human emotions, plus works of art and puppies
The human race is nearly wiped out by devastating wars, in the classic film Equilibrium. So the survivors decide to start taking drugs to suppress all emotions (like you do) and because the drugs don’t work perfectly, they also outlaw puppies, paintings, books, and basically everything else that might provoke emotions. Leading to a scene where Christian Bale finally goes rogue and uses his “gun kata” martial arts skills to protect some adorable puppies.
11) Deciphering a number code predicting every disaster on Earth for 50 years, created by a child and put into a time capsule
Knowing is still the most delightfully nonsensical story about humans surviving an apocalypse. Some aliens figure out the Earth is going to be destroyed in 50 years’ time. Do they warn the human race? Naaah. Instead, they come up with a number code listing the exact date and number of fatalities of every single human disaster that will happen in the next 50 years—every train crash, every fender-bender—and get a child to write it down and put it in a time capsule, which will be dug up exactly 50 years from now. So that someone can find it and realize the world is ending in a few days, and get a couple of kids to safety. Makes TOTAL SENSE, right?
12) The world’s geniuses escape to a hidden “gulch” where they prosper while society collapses
You know you’re a genius if you understand how Galt’s Gulch can function in total seclusion, without a workforce with a diverse range of skilled (and unskilled) occupations. You’re even more of a genius if you can figure out how the geniuses in Galt’s Gulch are able to prosper in isolation while the rest of the world is descending into an economic apocalypse, and you somehow have time to write a five-hour radio speech. I refer, of course, to the majestic Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
13) Restoring racial purity
In the 1973 Piers Anthony novel Race Against Time, the human species is facing disaster (ecological and otherwise) because excessive interbreeding has turned everybody into beige “Standards.” We’re all one race now, and the world is doomed as a result! So in a desperate attempt to save humanity, we engineer two “pure” members of each of the three main races: white, black and Chinese. But disaster threatens when these teenagers escape their racially segregated compounds, and the white boy decides he wants to be with the black girl instead of the white girl. (But luckily, the black girl finds out about the history of slavery, so it’s fine. World saved.)
14) Just kind of sleeping through it
In an amazing number of apocalyptic tales, if you’re in a coma or just kind of taking a sleep break, the apocalypse just sort of leaves you alone until you wake up. We’re not talking about being in cryogenic suspension in a shielded facility somewhere—just asleep. In a bed. See The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, The Survivors, and others.
Thanks to Sparkymonster, Brawl2099, K. D. Bryan, Lun Essex, Chris Piers, Scott Thill, Ahegao Montoya, Philip Shropshire, Captain Rhubarb, Adam Edgmond, Danny Bowes, Mike Lynch, Lisa Hendrix, Wanda, Nicole Kranjc, Wendy Kloiber, John Rivers, TyR, Stu Willis, Nicholas Slayton, Zerode, Claire Light, Christina DiEdoardo, Phillip Lollar, Simon Billenness, Christine Bower, Ben Bird Wilson, Christian Stiehl, Juan Dominick Willis, Owlswan Free Eagle, Jonathan Glick, Andrew Liptak, Regis M. Donovan, Nick Mathewson, Chris Nashville, Eden Politte, Rikibeth, Ted Podromou, Kyle Baker, Martin Blecha, Brian Slattery, Par Winzell, John St. Lawrence, William Bryan Estes, LJ Moore, Scott James Magner, David Voderberg, Jenn Brissett, Jilly Dreadful, Tia Marie, Setsu Uzume, Brent D. Ryan, Cliff Winnig, and everybody else who helped out with this!