30 Best Movies and Series about Viruses and Pandemics

Before the coronavirus pandemic, movies about the pandemics tended to be more of a futuristic anti-utopia. Now, however, their reception has taken on an ominous realism and even horror.

Movies about pandemics can be included in the broader category that is disaster cinema. This is because most often their plot is about a global pandemic that is a plague decimating a vulnerable humanity. The convention of epidemic films themselves can fit within a variety of genres, such as science fiction, horror, anti-utopia, historical film and even animation.

Cinematic tales of dangerous diseases involve both real-life bacteria and viruses and imagined ones. The first group includes films about historical epidemics, such as the plague, but also films about HIV, Lyme disease or influenza. The second type are films and series about epidemics that are a creation of cinematic fiction. A great many of them are pictures about an epidemic of zombies or vampirism, while others are about an unknown virus that suddenly appears on planet Earth transferred from outer space or arises as a result of mutations in nature and is transferred, for example, by insects or birds.

Movies and series about pandemics

1. “Twelve Monkeys” (1995) – directed by Terry Gilliam

movies and series about viruses and pandemics - 12 monkeys

“Twelve Monkeys” is a Golden Globe-winning sci-fi drama whose main character is a certain James Cole (Bruce Willis). In 2035, this prisoner is sent to the past – to the year 1996, to prevent the outbreak of a global epidemic that has led to the death of 99 percent of humanity. Cole’s mission is to obtain a sample of the virus so that a vaccine can be developed. The deadly microbe is possessed by a radical organization – the Army of the 12 Monkeys. By chance, however, the protagonist ends up in a psychiatric hospital in 1991, where he meets a beautiful lady psychiatrist (Madeleine Stowe) and the mentally ill Jeffrey (Brad Pitt).

2. “Contagion” (2011) – directed by Steven Soderbergh

Movies about pandemic - Contagion

The entire globe is overrun by a deadly virus. The pandemic is progressing at a rapid pace, with each infected person dying within days. Scientists from around the world are trying to find an effective antidote. One of the key people responsible for fighting the terrible plague are two women: Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) and Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard).

3. “Outbreak” (1995) – directed by Wolfgang Petersen

Films about pandemic - Outbreak

Wolfgang Petersen’s Epidemic shows the United States attacked by a dangerous virus. It turns out that the disease had already appeared decades earlier in Africa, but the US military, which is in possession of secret information, does not want to reveal the origin of the epidemic or a possible vaccine. Military epidemiologist Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffmann) and his former infectious disease wife (Rene Russo) try to get information to win against the deadly threat.

4. “Blindness” (2008) – directed by Fernando Meirelles

Movies about viruses - Blindness

The Silver Frog Award-winning screen adaptation of Spanish Nobel laureate Jose Saramagio’s acclaimed novel, “Blindness”, is the story of a mysterious epidemic of blindness. One day, residents of a major metropolis begin to lose their eyesight en masse. Doctors cannot find the cause of the disease, nor can they cure it. The only idea to control the situation is to isolate the infected in a specially built center. Starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo.

5. “I Am Legend” (2007) – directed by Francis Lawrence

The best movies about pandemic - I am Legend

Francis Lawrence’s movie “I Am Legend” is a moving portrayal of a world devastated by a deadly plague. Humanity has been attacked by a virus that turns the infected into vampiric creatures. The only survivor in the big city is Robert Neville (Will Smith), a scientist who managed to take refuge with his faithful dog. The man is feverishly working on an effective antidote to the deadly disease. At the same time, however, every night he must face the bloodthirsty beasts that hunt him.

6. “28 Days Later” (2002) – directed by Danny Boyle

the best films about - 28 days later

Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma and is surprised to find himself in a completely deserted hospital. It turns out that 28 days earlier the city had been overwhelmed by a plague of a deadly zombie virus. The virus escaped from the lab when a group of environmentalists released monkeys infected with it. Now terrified people must fight for their lives.

7. “V for Vendetta (2005) – directed by James McTeigue

top pandemic themed movies - V for vendetta

An anti-utopian reality controlled by totalitarian power is the world depicted in the film “V for Vendetta”. The government in order to justify its authoritarian actions causes a dangerous epidemic that instills paralyzing fear in citizens. In the name of fighting the deadly plague, people give up their personal freedom and entrust their fate into the hands of those in power and their pharmaceutical companies. The only unconquerable one is the man in the mask of Guy Fawkes, a historic freedom fighter. V (Hugo Weaving). One day the man helps Evey (Natalie Portman), who is attacked by police officers.

8. “Children of Men” (2006) – directed by Alfonso Cuaron

25 best pandemic movies - children of men

“Children of Men” is a movie that tells the story of the infertility epidemic. No child has been born in the world for almost 20 years, and the globe is circulated with the news of the death of the youngest, 18-year-old inhabitant of the planet. People deprived of hope for the future lead to social anarchy. Unexpectedly, a woman named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) becomes pregnant. However, in order to give birth to her child, she must take refuge in a safe place. The most valuable person for the survival of the human species is to be protected by Theo Faron (Clive Owen). The film is based on the novel by Phyllis Dorothy James.

9. ”The Stand” (1994) – TV series

25 best pandemic films - The Stand 1994

Bastion is a 1994 Emmy Award-winning series based on the prose of Stephen King. It tells the story of the reality after a worldwide pandemic. A deadly virus has decimated humanity, and those who managed to survive create a completely new social order. An apocalyptic battle between good and evil will unfold before the eyes of the few remaining survivors.

10. “Black Death” (2010) – directed by Christopher Smith

Best films about viruses - Black Death

The plot of the movie “Black Death” is set in fourteenth-century England. A plague epidemic is raging in the country. The only place free from the plague is a small village. A young monk Ulric (Sean Bean) is given a mission by the bishop to investigate the matter. The clergyman suspects that the village has made a pact with the devil.

11. “Containment” (2016) – TV series

the best pandemic movies of all time - Containment

The plot of the series “Containment” is set in Atlanta, where a rapidly spreading epidemic is occurring. The city is isolated from the rest of the country, and scientists undertake a race against time to create an effective vaccine. The protagonist, police officer Lex (David Gyasi) intends to do everything to help his stranded loved one Janie (Christina Marie Moses) and friend Jake (Chris Wood) in quarantine.

12. ”Flu” (”Gamgi”, 2013) – directed by Sung-su Kim

movies about the plague - Flu

“Flu” is a Korean movie about an outbreak of a mysterious disease that occurs in a city just 20 kilometers from the country’s capital, Seoul. The source of the infection is a group of illegal immigrants. Their bodies are found in an abandoned truck. The only surviving and infected person escapes.

13. “The Andromeda Strain” (1971) – directed by Robert Wise

films about the plague - The Andromeda strain

An orbiting research satellite falls to Earth, and just two days after the event, almost all the residents of the village in the state of Arizona, where it happened, die. It turns out that the orbiter brought a deadly plague to the planet. A special group of scientists must confront the unknown phenomenon and develop a drug to prevent the epidemic as soon as possible.

14. “Perfect Sense” (2011) – directed by David Mackenzie

the greatest movies about pandemics - Perfect Sense

“Perfect Sense” is a film depicting the story of a very peculiar pandemic. It involves the gradual loss of all senses by humans. In such a reality live two people madly in love with each other: Susan (Eva Green) and Michael (Ewan McGregor). She is a renowned epidemiologist and, despite being ill herself, is trying to unravel the mystery of a mysterious disease, while he is a cook who, due to the loss of taste and smell, cannot do what he loves most.

15. ”The Ivasion” (2007) – directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel and James McTeigue

pandemic movies - The invasion

The Patriot spacecraft crashes while landing on Earth. Te debris of the vehicle spreads across the country, and with it the remnants of a dangerous virus. An unidentified disease from outer space attacks people in their sleep, replicating the infected person. The altered inhabitants of Earth thus become aggressive and emotionless. So psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman) avoids sleep at all costs, as she must find her son, who can help fight the epidemic. Alongside Kidman, the male lead is played by Daniel Craig.

16. “Dallas Bayers Club” (2013) – directed by Jean-Marc Vallee

epidemic movies - Dallas Bayers club

Awarded three Oscars, “Dallas Bayers Club” is a moving story about the lonely struggle of AIDS patients against the health care system. The film is based on a true story, whose main character is Ron Woodroof, an electrician with a lush erotic life. In 1985, the man learns that he is infected with HIV. He quickly discovers that the drugs he receives do not improve his condition at all, so he decides to look for alternative methods of fighting the virus. He manages to get a lot of useful information and bring in medications that alleviate his symptoms and prolong his life. However, it turns out that the protagonist has to fight the hardest battle not with the AIDS epidemic, but with pharmaceutical companies looking out for their own interests. The lead role was played by Matthew McConaughey. An excellent supporting performance, meanwhile, was created by Jared Leto.

17. “Medical Investigation” (2004 – 2005) – TV series

television show about pandemics - Medical investigation

A pandemic threat is emerging in the country. A special cell of medical services set up to deal with similar cases starts investigating the case. The group of scientists is led by Dr. Stephen Connor (Neal McDonough). At the same time, however, the media relations service is trying to calm public opinion and prevent panic.

18. “120 BPM” (“120 battements par minute” (2017) – directed by Robin Campillo

movies about virus outbreak - 120 BPM

“120 BPM” is a French film awarded with six Cesars. The picture is set in France in the 1990s. AIDS cases have been on the rise in the country for almost a decade. HIV-infected people decide to set up an organization to fight for the rights of the sick.

19. “The Horseman on the Roof” (“Le hussard sur le toit”, 1995) – directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau

the best pandemic movies - The Horseman on the roof

“The Horseman on the Roof” is a French movie set in the 1830s. A Piedmontese officer, Angelo Pardi (Olivier Martinez) as a result of a duel must flee from the Austrians to France. He ends up in Provence, where a cholera epidemic has just broken out. He decides to hide in an abandoned house, which, as it turns out, also houses another wild tenant – a beautiful French aristocrat, Pauline de Theus (Juliette Binoche) looking for her missing husband. Delighted by the woman’s beauty, the soldier decides to help her find her spouse staying in the isolated town.

20. “Khaleja” (2010) – directed by Trivikram Srinivas

the best pandemic films - Khaleja

“Khaleja” is an Indian production. A mysterious epidemic breaks out in a small mountain village. However, the local clairvoyant is convinced that God will send a savior to the inhabitants. Soon a cab driver, Raju (Mahesh Babu), turns up in the area by chance and comes to run his errands. The locals immediately take him for the prophesied man of God.

21. “Under Our Skin” (2008) – directed by Andy Abrahams Wilson

30 movies about pandemics - Under our skin

“Under Our Skin” is a great documentary about the Lyme disease epidemic. It’s a disease that is still sometimes misdiagnosed, with thousands of infected people struggling with its symptoms without a proper diagnosis. The film reveals the behind-the-scenes of the discovery and fight against Lyme disease, but also the dark side of the interests of pharmaceutical companies, which often stand in opposition to the well-being of patients.

22. “A Closer Walk” (2003) – directed by Robert Bilheimer

30 films about pandemics - A Closer Walk

“A Closer Walk” is another documentary – this time telling the story of the AIDS epidemic. It is a film showing the development of the HIV virus on many continents: in Africa, Europe, Asia or North America and its effects on the health care system. Leading figures of the modern world, such as the Dalai Lama and Kofi Annan, were asked to speak in the documentary.

23. “The Pharmacist” (2020) – TV series

pandemic tv shows - The Paharmacist

“The Pharmacist” is a Netflix documentary series about one of today’s epidemics – drug addiction. The main character is Dan Schneider, a Louisiana pharmacist whose drug-addicted son is killed in a gang shootout. The distraught father wages war on pharmaceutical companies, partly responsible for the great opioid crisis in the US.

24. ”Odessa” (2019) – directed by Valeriy Todorovskiy and Irina Tretyakova

30 best movies about viruses - Odessa 2019

“Odessa” is a Russian movie set in the eponymous Crimean city, where a cholera epidemic broke out in 1970. The main character of the work is a famous journalist Boris (Evgeniy Tsyganov), who comes from Moscow with his eight-year-old son to his in-laws to spend a vacation by the sea. It soon turns out that a plague is spreading in the city and the metropolis is cut off from the world.

25. “The Strain” (2014 – 2017) – TV series

series about disease spreading - The Strain

The series “The Strain” is the story of a mysterious disease, the first cases of which are discovered aboard a plane landing in New York. It turns out that most of the passengers are dead, and those who managed to survive show strange symptoms: they behave like vampires. The country’s top epidemiologists face quite a challenge.

26.”Carriers” (2009) – directed by David and Alex Pastor

Movies about disease spreading - Carriers

A dangerous epidemic is sweeping the world. Four friends try to find a safe haven, but they are unaware of the challenges they will face on their journey. Starring Chris Pine, Piper Perabo, Lou Taylor Pucci and Emily VanCamp.

27. “The Thing” (1982) – directed by John Carpenter

Top movies about viruses - The Thing 1982

The plot of the film The Thing is set in a research station in Antarctica. One day a group of scientists takes in a wild dog that escapes from the pursuit of Norwegians. The researchers decide to find out what happened at the base of the Scandinavians, but when they get there, they find that everyone is dead. Meanwhile, at night, the dog reveals its true nature – it is a carrier of a mysterious disease, which is an extremely intelligent life form and can attack in a sophisticated way, embodying itself in the body of the victim.

28. “Virus” (2019) – directed by Aashiq Abu

Top films about viruses - Virus

The 2019 Indian film Virus is a medical thriller based on fact. It tells the story of the deadly Nipah virus, which attacked in India’s Kerala state in 2018. The bat-borne plague, which causes pneumonia and encephalitis, was contained thanks to the heroic sacrifices of brave people. The film portrays their courageous action.

29. “Coronavirus. Explained” (2020) – TV series

Movies about coronavirus - Coronavirus explained

One of Netflix’s productions, “Coronavirus. Explained” is a popular documentary about the biggest pandemic of the 21st century, which broke out in late 2019 in China. The documentary miniseries is a compilation of existing research, scientists’ opinions and theories on COVID 19 and its possible effects on the entire world

30. “The Last of Us” – TV series (2023)

Top series about pandemics - The Last of us

The famous and widely advertised series “The Last of Us” is based on the popular computer game. Thus, the canvass for the script is a post-pandemic world in which survivors live in isolated enclaves, and their daily life resembles existence in a totalitarian social system, where there is no room for personal freedom. One day Joel is given a mission to smuggle a 14-year-old girl out of the quarantine zone, who, it turns out, is immune to a deadly virus and could bring salvation to all of human civilization. The film stars Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in the lead roles.

The imdb website named “The Last of Us” the best series of 2023. Is it a deserved title? In my opinion, no. Admittedly, the series had a great promotion to coincide with our pokoronovirus experience, but it leaves a lot to be desired both in terms of the construction of the presented world, as well as the script and character outline.

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