15 Amazing Post-Apocalyptic Thriller Books, Movies, TV Shows & Podcasts for Fans of World War Z

What’s worse than being stuck in downtown Philadelphia rush-hour traffic? Being stuck in downtown Philadelphia rush-hour traffic when the City of Brotherly Love is actively overrun by hordes of shrieking, agile, fast-moving dead.

Such is the plight of former UN Investigator Gerry Lane, played by Brad Pitt with no-nonsense, cool-dad-next-door ease. Lane flees the infection-driven mayhem with the rest of the Lane family — wife Karin and two young daughters, Rachel and Connie — as civilization falls apart around them. The family ends up as unlikely guests on a US Navy ship sheltering off the coast, driven there by the chaos and bloodshed, panicked refugees of a world forever changed,

Based loosely on the 2006 World War Z book by Max Brooks, the film bears little resemblance beyond the name. Subtitled “An Oral History of the Zombie War,” Brooks offers up something more interesting than the standard zombie fare. Described as “Mad Max meets The Hot Zone" by USA Today, the stories in World War Z are stand-alone recountings of the survivors left behind after many battles are victorious history.

A post-apocalyptic novel would never be expected to include subplots involving complex geopolitical issues, profound philosophical dilemmas, and an unblinking look at what humanity has had to endure and inflict to ensure its continued survival.

These elements make the book so notable, providing the film with much-needed texture. Zombie movies are seldom primarily character-driven. The added nuance of the concepts introduced by Brooks adds a layer of complexity that allows the story to breathe more naturally.

Like the action in Command and Control, detailed more fully below and available in our book club kit download, the action of the film takes place across a world facing the growing threat of unquiet dead with different methods — and different results. The world peopled by those left alive in the World War Z aftermath is a place full of variety and complexity.

The books, motion pictures, and podcasts listed below should prove helpful for those interested in more complex tales set in worlds staggering toward doomsday.

Intelligence Briefing (Read)

The end of the world could come about in surprising, unpredictable ways. Such is the plot of Command and Control. The CIA’s Emerging Threats Group maintains a careful global overwatch under the steely control of its department head, Don Riley. In the wake of a blind-side surprise attack against a U.S. Navy 

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Warship by a rogue Iranian vessel in the Arabian Gulf, hotspots appear across the globe, and the U.S. must respond. Forced to engage in multiple theaters, the inimitable force of the world’s largest military begins to show the wear and tear of being spread too thin.Time is running out for Riley to uncover the malevolence behind these events. Read here.

America lies in ruins, radiation has poisoned the land, and ever-adaptable humanity has transformed in strange and novel ways. A child shall lead them in the form of a young girl with a gift that promises renewed life. But a figure looms large over the torn world, a force of chaos, a bringer of death, and a sower of 

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desolation. Not for the faint of heart, Swan Song has grotesque and disturbing passages, and it’s a dark, troubling read. Read here.

After a pandemic brings a sad end to most of humanity, an itinerant group of entertainers ekes out a fragile sort of subsistence in splintered communities around the North American Great Lakes. The narrative weaves in and out of the past and present as the troupe learns of a lurking threat — a dangerous, 

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demented death cult led by a sinister, shadowy figure who calls himself a prophet. This critically-acclaimed 2014 novel was a National Book Award Finalist and the basis of the 2021 HBO miniseries of the same name.. Read here.

Lauren Olamina lives with her family in one of the few enclaves of safety left in the tortured suburbs of what was once Los Angeles. The world outside is busy eating itself alive, and the madness and chaos draw closer every day.
After a fire kills her father and ravages the only safety Olamina knows, she is 

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forced to confront the death throes of a civilization that collapsed under the weight of disease, war, chronic water shortages, and drug-crazed insanity. Read here.

What if the next World War was fought at home? In a nightmare world shrunken and twisted by climate change, drought dries the land to a skeletal, barren husk. What’s left of the former United States tears itself apart in a bloody struggle for access to what was the Colorado River, now a mirror-bright sliver of its former 

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glory. The water knives — assassins as cold and unfeeling as a sharpened length of steel — guard a Las Vegas gone feral in the Nevada heat. They stalk survivors coming out of Phoenix as they make forays in search of life-giving hydration. Soon, rumors of a hidden reserve complicate even this shattered mirror of a survival tale, and the American Southwest may prove to be the last battleground of the human species.  Read here.

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On the Scope (Watch)

The last baby born to a species dwindling in the face of its own infertility, the youngest son of doomed humanity loses his life in a senseless nightclub attack, cut down by a deranged fan. The death of Juan Gabriel Yacuzzi Diego, better known as Baby Diego, throws the world into collective mourning, setting the 

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stage for the unfolding of a tale at once hopeless, bleak, and yet somehow defiant in the face of the setting sun. Clive Owen is the perfect Theo Faron, a disgruntled, disenfranchised civil servant going through the motions in the grinding monotony of the world’s end. After a terrorist attack — now commonplace in a Britain that stands as the last bastion of civilization — the ghost of a happier past, ex-wife and lover Julian, played with compelling and understated power by Julianne Moore, makes a surprise appearance and a startling request. I would be remiss if I were not to point out the equally fine novel by P.D. James upon which the film is based — worthy of a read before or after viewing the movie it inspired. Watch here.

Cmdr. Dwight Lionel Towers and the crew of the USS Sawfish shelter in the Southern Hemisphere under the control of the Royal Australian Navy after the American government falls silent. The world has ended or at least begun to end, and Australian high command detects a strange, undecipherable signal from the 

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U.S. West Coast. Towers, played with commanding presence by Cary Grant, is ordered to take the Sawfish out into a dying world to uncover the invisible hand sending the broken, tormented message in a strange parody of Morse code. What he and his crew find may hold the secret to continued survival… or it may just be the last echo of a dying race. Grant is joined by a star-studded ensemble cast featuring Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins, Donna Anderson, and John Meillon in this grim and gripping Armageddon story based on the novel by Nevil Shute. Watch here.

Humanity’s dependence on electric power and all that it makes possible is the culprit in this end-of-the-world film. A blackout that stretches coast-to-coast plunges America into literal and metaphoric darkness, and the rest of the world careens to a halt as technology fails. Primitive, brutal lawlessness rises to take 

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its place. This film qualifies as a hidden gem, enjoying solid reviews and audience approval but netting only $40,000 at the box office due to its limited release. Watch here.

Scotland has been sealed off and left to its demise as it reels under the effects of a doomsday virus. Chaos and mayhem prevail, and marauders and cultish survivors who fashion themselves after the knights of old compete for dominion over loch, moor, and highland. When the virus suddenly and inexplicably 

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appears in a beleaguered London, a team is sent into the madness that has become Scotland to find a cure before Britain meets the same grim fate.
Reminiscent of films like Escape from New York, Charleton Heston’s vehicle Omega Man, and 28 Days Later, the doomsday tale was hailed in Scotland but perplexingly escaped wider notice. Watch here.

This 2014 end-of-the-road is set in a dystopian Australian Outback: lawless, isolated, and insane in the wake of a global economic disaster. The grim and graying former soldier Eric, played brilliantly by Guy Pierce, protects a young American who found himself trapped in a world away from home. Robert

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Pattinson plays the feckless Reynolds, relying on those around him for his survival. This overlooked gem garnered five AACTA nominations and won two, among them Best Supporting Actress for Susan Prior’s masterful performance. Watch here.

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Sent Over Shortwave (listen)

1. Ash Tales: Stories of the Apocalypse

This weekly story-based podcast focuses on end-of-the-world scenarios as compelling and engaging as they are grim. Name a possible end of days scenario — plague, famine, nuclear holocaust — and this podcast has likely presented a version in a stand-alone episode.

2. Blackout

A world left after all the lights go out is the focus of this fictional offering staring Academy Award® winner Rami Malek. He plays a radio DJ working out of a small town, trying desperately to keep his family and friends alive in the wake of a nationwide power grid failure. Now in its second season, Blackout is the 

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powerful story of things that can hide in the shadows.

3. Remainder

This thriller podcast takes place in a world bereft and barren after the Day of Ash broke humanity and shattered its dreams. Join Dr. Daniel MacNaughten as he and his team lead the search for a powerful, mysterious weapon over a troubled landscape patrolled by a menace known as the Unbroken Horde. This podcast 

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regularly features brutal violence and adult themes — listener discretion is suggested.

To sleep, perchance to dream. A night watchman finishes his lonely duty in a strangely still, quiet morning. The peace belies a terrible source — everyone who slumbered in the small hours of the night has perished due to inexplicable and terrifying causes. The watchman and a band of insomniac survivors fight the 

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ghosts of a decimated world, and their own increasing exhaustion in search of answers before sleep inevitably closes their eyes for good. Listen Here.

5. Liminal Apocalypse

Like those left behind in On The Beach, this survivors’ tale is haunted by ghostly radio transmissions. As the five who inhabit the story cower in the bunker they thought was the last safe place, a signal makes them question what they know of the broken world that remains outside. Fans of the film that inspired this list may

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be dismayed to learn that plans for a sequel have fallen apart, and there will likely be no World War Z 2. The book the film takes its inspiration from may scratch the itch, as perhaps would Max Brook’s first book, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. Covering such rarities as zombie behavior and the best ways to prepare to repel a home invasion of attackers who can’t die, this first book presents a more complex and varied tale of shambling horror. Readers looking for more subtle and developed end-of-the-world stories would do well to check it out, along with the other offerings on this list.

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