I’ll Love You Until The End Of The World

The apocalypse brings out a lot of strong feelings, especially love.

The apocalypse is perhaps the ultimate plot device for shaking loose some core truths about mankind. It’s a primal fear that brings out the best and worst in mankind on screen, showing us both our resourcefulness and ruthlessness, its succor and savagery in equal measure.

So it’s no real surprise that filmmakers often use the end of the world as a framework for love stories. From an emotional point of view, love can be downright apocalyptic - it’s a monumental, earth-shattering event that, by design, consumes everything in its path. Love is the alpha and the omega, the reason we’re here and the thing without which we cannot live. Love and the apocalypse make a whole lot of sense together. Here then are four remarkable instances of love in the face of Armageddon.

Taylor and Nova, Planet Of The Apes (1968) 

Not exactly the most progressive relationship in apocalyptic sci-fi, time-traveling Colonel George Taylor (Charlton Heston) is paired with de facto cavewoman Nova (Linda Harrison) by an ape scientist (Kim Hunter) who wants them to breed. It’s an ironic fate for Taylor- here’s a man who fucked off to the stars because he hated humanity so much, and is now its last hope. Taylor resists the pairing at first, instead regaling the mute, uncomprehending Nova with stories about how he and his male shipmates were going to take turns on their female crew member (“She was to be the new Eve, with our HOT and EAGER help, of course…”). Eventually he decides that Nova’s uncorrupted, simple nature is the last shred of humanity worth fighting for. When he loses Nova forever in the film’s sequel, it drives Taylor to set off a bomb that destroys the entire planet. We’ve all been there.

Jim and Hilda, When The Wind Blows (1986)

Elderly British couple Jim (John Mills) and Hilda (Peggy Ashcroft) have seen their share of war, and as survivors of the German blitz during WWII, they each react differently to the news on the radio of an impending global strike. Jim begins to fret about the coming attack and goes into doomsday prepper mode, following ludicrously futile instructions from government pamphlets. Hilda shrugs the news off with a dismissive “stuff and nonsense” attitude, thinking it’s just scare tactics to sell newspapers. But when the bombs drop and wipe out all signs of civilization, Jim and Hilda keep calm and carry on, facing famine, isolation, and radiation poisoning by clinging to a banal routine and their deep, abiding love. Their behavior in the face of death, vacillating between denial to resignation, often feels a little TOO real for a cartoon, one which gave many a young Gen-Xer Cold War nightmares back in 1986.

Shaun and Liz and Shaun and Ed, Shaun of the Dead (2004) 

Edgar Wright’s debut feature film is surely the goriest “guy finally gets his shit together for love” movie ever made, but it’s also legitimately one of the best. Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a 30-something slacker coasting through life and disappointing everyone around him until a zombie apocalypse forces him to take stock in himself and rise to the (very) bloody occasion. In the process, he finds hitherto untapped inner strength, achieves closure with his distant stepdad (Bill Nighy), and finally proves his mettle to Liz (Kate Ashfield), the woman he loves. Shaun and Kate's story is swell, but one could argue the even deeper love story of Shaun of the Dead is that of Shaun and Ed (Nick Frost). As Shaun is forced to grow up by the hordes of the undead, Ed goes through essentially the same character arc as Shaun, but in his case the love he proves himself worthy of is his best friend's. 

Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese, The Terminator (1984)

Though not technically a love story set during the apocalypse, the story of Reese (Michael Biehn) and Sarah (Linda Hamilton) goes one better: it’s set on either side of that apocalypse, both borne from it and set in motion to stop it. Sarah Connor has no idea of the dystopiian nightmare that lies ahead, and Reese has known only death and destruction his entire life. When Reese is sent back in time by Sarah's own son to save her from an unstoppable cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger), their union blossoms into humanity’s last chance. Perhaps no love story here shares the stakes and scope of this one, and perhaps no other story here better represents the cocktail of destiny, desperation, and cosmic confluence that love can often be. The astronomical odds of Reese and Sarah's love became the stuff of cinematic legend, and was perhaps crystallized perfectly by writer Bryan Donaldson: