The best post-apocalyptic documentaries to watch online

June 28, 2021

The world one day after massive destruction. This decadent canvas, as chaotic as it is empty, is the atmosphere that the following social documentary films that Guidedoc presents in this list. All of them raise dilemmas and questions about human beings as an endangered species.

What is a post-apocalyptic documentary?

According to the Christian bible, apocalypse refers to the end of the world as we know it. It was part of the biblical threats to men to exert on them an acceptable moral behavior.

The burning of the city of Sodom, Noah's Flood and other biblical passages try to illustrate this kind of destructive act of mankind.

Since the beginning of cinema, narrative films have tried to depict post-apocalyptic scenarios with worlds that have remained in our collective imagination, such as the settings of Terminator, The Time Machine or Blade Runner.

But what about documentary cinema? How can you document a scenario that has not yet, in theory, happened to humanity? That is, its almost total destruction.

What are the best post-apocalyptic documentaries?

The following titles are the best post-apocalyptic documentaries you can watch online:


Above and Below


A woman dressed in an astronaut's suit in a Californian dessert in the documentary Above and Below


This triptych of characters confined to the margins of society shows men and women who inhabit the underworld of the sewers of the city of Las Vegas and the endless, and in the arid lands of two great American deserts.

In this way, director Nicolas Steiner makes a delirious approach to the social exile of these characters who struggle to legitimize their humanity in relatively inhospitable geographies.

April, an ex-combatant in Iraq, finds in the red desert of Utah the escape she longs for by exploring its territory dressed in an astronaut costume. Rick, Cindy and Lalo make of the sewers their barricade against outside socialization.

Finally, David strives to communicate with God with the objects that he has at hand, isolated in a refuge of the Californian desert.


Dial H-I-S-T-OR-Y 


A plane crashes in a still of the documentary Dial H-I-S-T-OR-Y 


Based on an imaginary conversation between a terrorist and a literary writer, this documentary dissects the history of airplane hijacking seen through mainstream television media.

Constructed with vertiginous editing, the film is a cinematic essay that reflects on the state of shock caused by the media coverage when aircraft are hijacked in any part of the world.

This unique film, premiered at the Pompidou in Paris, four years after 9-11, shows us images of explosions, terror and fear, emotions that are trafficked in these constructions of television stories in which the terrorist is presented as a splendid anti-hero who has, in turn, kidnapped the social role of the literary writer.


Working Man's Death


African men working in a slaughter house in the documentary Working Man's Death


Making another of his usual social polyphonies, director Michael Glawooger takes us on a journey through apocalyptic work environments that we would never have imagined.

His intention is to shake us up as a spectator to provoke a reflection on the failure of the capitalism as a promise of social progress and general welfare for the working man.

The forgotten miners of the snowy Dombas mine in Ukrania, the sulfur collectors on an active volcano in Indonesia, the butchers of an infernal open-air carnage in Nigeria, men disarming the scrap metal from a shipyard in Pakistan and the Steel workers at a plant called "The Future" in Liaoning in China make up the bulk of the film.




A man lights a sparkler in the film Bugarach 


In 2012, humanity was bombarded with slogans, advertisements about the end of the world. And although there was no mass hysteria, the mystery surrounding the Mayan calendar’s destructive prophecy stalked our minds for years.

For the small French commune of Bugarach, the myth had an unexpected twist: That little village, with a population of just 194 inhabitants, would be the only one to survive the apocalypse.

The documentary is about five characters that live in Bugarach waiting for the end of the world. This award-winning documentary introduces a magician, a warrior, a mayor, a mountain guardian, a journalist and an “extraterrestrial” as its main characters.

The film is a unique work about human's obsessive need for a paradigm shift. Some will cling to their religious beliefs, others will see it as an opportunity to take advantage of people and others will just want to return to their daily, safe lives. 



A man walks in a dessert in the documentary Metatron


Ever since childhood, Ernesto has been obsessed with the figure of a cube. Several decades later, in his adulthood, he is at a moment of inspiration and is preparing a project for when the earth as we know it ceases to exist. The figure of a cube, again, has all the answers.

In this experimental short film premiered at the renowned Visions Du Réel Film Festival, Ernesto's calculations and laboratory notes and tools are shown to us on screen as fragments of a proposed utopia.

Aware that the planet will succumb to the separating forces of the universe, Ernesto gives no further details about his project but assures us that everything has to do with detachment from the earth. In this perfect state, the individual achieves complete freedom, where, for example, he conquers an island in the middle of the ocean that has no government.

Filmed with a fixed and aseptic framing, futuristic images appear one after the other. But in one shot, a tropical landscape appears. We are indeed in Cuba. The cube as a figure returns before us in the film. Ideas of a new ecology, anarchy and a life beyond the three-dimensional plane seem to be possible.

Oil Globbers


Two men in an oil industry in the Oscar nominated short film Oil Globbers


In this Polish short film directed by renowned filmmaker Jan Sverák, a strange footprint in the ground triggers an intrepid journey of scientists and filmmakers in search of an out-of-this-world creature.

Set in a toxic, post-apocalyptic landscape, two filmmakers accompany a zoologist and a biochemical scientist on a road movie into a territory where little evidence of humanity seems to remain on earth. All we see around are great smokestacks of decaying industries that continue to emit their polluting fumes.

The travelers call this fictitious place "Northen Bohemia" home to the creature they themselves have given the scientific name of “Petroleus Mostensis”, an elusive little specimen you will not find in any academic article or encyclopedia.

From this point on, this scientific expedition becomes completely unpredictable and suspense surrounds us with every passing second. But it's all really a mockumentary so vivid and gripping that it won the Oscar for best short film in 1988.

From The Depths


A group of miners look at us in the documentary From The Depths


According to historical and scientific evidence, it is possible that, in a post-apocalyptic world decimated by toxic fumes, massive social upheavals or natural disasters, the only way to survive the hazards of the outside world would be to live a life underground, in the depths of the earth.

The bunker as a survival space would be our everyday habitat, but it would not necessarily look like the futuristic, ideal domestic space that movies and TV series have shown us. Not at all. In fact, they would probably look more like coal mines.

Filmed entirely in the last coal mine in Italy before its final closure, if we look at it from this post-apocalyptic perspective, every second of this documentary will flash before our eyes with an awe we have never experienced before. 

Halfway between a thriller and an observational documentary, in this film we accompany the only woman in the group of miners. This character makes us discover a universe of total darkness, only illuminated by the flashlights of the helmets of workers accustomed to the confinement of these damp cavities.

Suddenly, we marvel at the horrifying shapes of the stalagmites, the rocky edges of the man-made tunnels and the infinite echo of what seems to be the bowels of the earth. Could this, in the near future, be our only option for survival?

California City


A woman plays a harmonica in the Californian dessert in the documentary California City


In the middle of the Californian desert is the myth of a city that could never exist. They said it was going to be called "Cal City", a megapolis with hundreds of thousands of prefabricated houses and perfectly paved roads for thousands of cars

But all this only became sketches. All that remains is the desert and a few semi-abandoned buildings.

Dressed in a suit reminiscent of an astronaut's uniform, a faceless man wanders through this desert to eliminate mosquito-breeding sites in pools of water. As he walks alone through this inhospitable landscape, we wonder what has become of civilization. 

Is it possible that the fate of "Cal City" could be the same as that of our big cities once everything is extinct? A ghost woman, an old love of our protagonist, constantly reappears like a mirage. Will she have the answer to this riddle?

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