The global coronavirus outbreak has caused us to make some major life changes to get through it. Re-learning personal hygiene, working from home, and limiting social interactions is just some of the things we have to do. And yes, it can get a bit boring. Thanks to the endless options of content to watch online, self-isolation is not as bad as you’d think. But it doesn’t have to be all scary. Scores of movies and series have shown humanity cope with the worst-case scenario of pandemics. We are no Will Smiths, but we can at least learn a thing or two by turning to movies. We’ve compiled a list of virus and pandemic movies and series you can watch online while reflecting how much it applies to the current epidemic.
Run Time: 128 minutes
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr., Patrick Dempsey, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Spacey
Pandemic: Motaba (fictional)
Plot: Outbreak is proving to be the breakout movie of the virus genre in the coronavirus outbreak. The movie follows a CDC team trying to contain a fictional hemorrhagic virus that now seems similar to Ebola. But an evil military officer is trying to prevent the discovery of a cure to use this virus as a deadly bioweapon. Pre-McDreamy Patrick Dempsey and his glorious mane are reasons good enough to watch this, tbh.
Run Time: 106 minutes
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet
Plot: While virus outbreak movies depict an extreme scenario, Contagion has become the most-watched movie amid COVID-19 measures. The movie’s near-authentic depiction of how viruses spread, how conspiracy theories abound, and the struggle to find a cure make for a gripping reflection of the current scenario.
Run Time: 130 minutes
Director: Robert Wise
Cast: Arthur Hill, James Olson, Kate Reid, David Wayne, Paula Kelly, George Mitchell
Pandemic: Alien virus (fictional)
Plot: Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name was adapted into this sci-fi thriller that was lauded for its innovative use of cinematography. Marveling at yesteryear tech aside, it’s captivating to see our group of heroes save the day when an alien organism that drops from space turns into a deadly virus on Earth.
The Hot Zone
Number of episodes: 6
Director: Michael Uppendahl, Nick Murphy
Cast: Julianna Margulies, Noah Emmerich, James D’Arcy, Liam Cunningham, Topher Grace
Plot: National Geographic brought us this miniseries based on Richard Preston’s 1994 book that inspired Outbreak. An army scientist discovers Ebola in a lab but has no known cure when she’s facing an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.
Run Time: 129 minutes
Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer
Plot: Similar to the SyFy TV series adaptation, a deadly virus has wiped out most of humanity, forcing the survivors to go underground. The survivors in the post-apocalyptic future have figured out time travel and send one person back in time to stop the organization that spread the virus.
Panic in the Streets
Run Time: 96 minutes
Director: Elia Kazan
Cast: Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas, Barbara Bel Geddes, Jack Palance, Zero Mostel
Pandemic: Pneumonic plague
Plot: A police doctor realizes that a murder victim is a carrier of the pneumonic plague. Immediately, he’s on a race to find out the victim’s identity and who he may have passed the infection onto before the news spreads to the public and causes mass hysteria.
28 Days Later (Sequel: 28 Weeks Later)
Released: 2003 (USA)
Run Time: 113 minutes
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, Brendan Gleeson
Pandemic: Rage virus (fictional)
Plot: A rage-inducing virus takes over the U.K., prompting four survivors to fight the odds and the infected to cope. The 2007 sequel depicts the events following the end of the previous movie.
I Am Legend
Run Time: 101 minutes
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok
Plot: One of Will Smith’s best works, I Am Legend depicts a post-apocalyptic world where people infected by a virus turn bloodthirsty. Smith’s character tries to find the cure in this action-thriller. Don’t forget to keep the tissues at arm’s reach for that heartbreaking scene.
The Seventh Seal
Run Time: 96 minutes
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe, Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson
Plot: This Swedish masterpiece is set during the Black Death that spread across Europe in the 1300s. The supernatural spin shows a knight and the physical manifestation of Death play a game of chess in exchange for a chance to escape from the plague.
Run Time: 85 minutes
Director: Àlex Pastor, David Pastor
Cast: Lou Taylor Pucci, Chris Pine, Piper Perabo, Emily VanCamp
Plot: An infectious virus has wiped out most of humanity in this post-apocalyptic thriller. A group of friends and some of the few survivors embark on a road trip to a place that will hopefully keep them safe from the virus.
Run Time: 101 minutes
Director: Christopher Smith
Cast: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice Van Houten
Plot: Sean Bean and Carice Van Houten got some practice for GOT in this period horror film set in plague-ridden medieval Europe. It follows a knight and a monk investigating cases where those who died of the plague are seemingly resurrected using witchcraft.
Run Time: 92 minutes
Director: David Mackenzie
Cast: Eva Green, Ewan McGregor
Pandemic: Virus causing people to lose sensory perception
Plot: An infectious virus taking over the world causes people to lose their sensory perception in this sci-fi drama. With a scientist and chef’s romance budding into something deeper, this pandemic couldn’t have struck at a worse time.
Director: Steve Gukas
Cast: Bimbo Akintola, Danny Glover, Somkele Idhalama, Bimbo Manuel
Plot: This authentic depiction of the 2014 Ebola crisis reflects the lengths medical professionals and healthcare workers go to prevent the spread of a disease.
Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak
Number of episodes: 6
Director: Isabel Castro, Doug Shultz
Plot: Netflix released this hauntingly relevant series in January 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to spread beyond borders. The six-part documentary profiles the heroes at the frontlines of viral epidemics in the battle against influenza.
Pandemic: Spanish Influenza
Plot: The 1918 Spanish influenza outbreak was the biggest epidemic to strike the U.S. While many documentaries on it exist, PBS revealed how the virus spreads and how it began.