Don’t panic, but this could be the last copy of The Newton Kansan you ever read.
That’s right, today is Dec. 21, the day the Mayan calendar supposedly comes to an end, signifying imminent global apocalypse and the end of life as we know it (or the fact that maybe the Mayans simply got tired of working on a calendar that stretched thousands of years into the future, and just stopped).
All kidding aside, the idea of predicting the destruction of the Earth based on the day an ancient calendar ends is pretty ridiculous, but that hasn’t stopped people from coming up with various conspiracies and theories about how the Earth will end: a collision with a giant asteroid or a rouge planet, a black hole, a frenzy of solar activity, etc.
According to NASA, the prediction the world will end in 2012 started with claims that Nibiru, a planet supposedly discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. Although the catastrophe initially was predicted for 2003, when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012 and linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar.
NASA also says contrary to popular belief, the Mayan calendar does not really cease to exist on Dec. 21, 2012.
“This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then — just as your calendar begins again on Jan. 1 — another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar,” the organization said.
Hollywood has come up with plenty of its own doomsday scenarios over the years, so what better way to celebrate the unlikely apocalypse than by watching some of these classic disaster/apocalyptic films?
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Starring Martin Freeman, Mos Def and Sam Rockwell
Arthur Dent is an average British citizen with a rather mundane, average life ... until the day he learns his best friend is actually an alien visitor from another planet, is forced to hitchhike on board a hostile alien ship, and escapes seconds before the Earth is destroyed to make way for a new hyperspace expressway. Oh, and this film is also a comedy.
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s” quirky brand of humor probably isn’t for everyone (the film begins with a montage of singing dolphins — and no, I’m not joking). But it’s a fun film for those who love British comedy and science fiction.
Armageddon (1998)
Starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Ben Affleck
Who do you call when a giant asteroid is heading straight for the Earth, destined to obliterate all life on the planet? Why, Bruce Willis, of course!
Willis stars in this disaster film to end all disaster films about a team of oil drillers who are recruited to travel to space and destroy said asteroid before it destroys the Earth.
The film has a fun ensemble cast full of famous faces, and while it certainly isn’t a deep film (the caliber of the actors is higher than the parts they’re given to play), it’s an entertaining popcorn flick with good special effects that are still pretty solid, even more than a decade after the film’s release.
2012 (2009)
Starring John Cusack, Woody Harrelson and Oliver Platt
As a geophysical team investigates the effect of radiation from unprecedented solar storms, they learn the Earth’s core is heating up. Since no disaster movie is complete without a grim predication about the Earth’s imminent doom, experts in the film determine the Earth’s crust is becoming unstable and the entire human race is headed for extinction.
The world’s leaders race to build “arks” to escape the apocalypse, while volcanic eruptions and strong earthquakes in grand Hollywood fashion threaten those plans.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Kate Ashfield
A zombie apocalypse isn’t the most likely subject for a comedy, but that doesn’t stop British comedian Simon Pegg.
Pegg, who is perhaps best known for his role as Scotty in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboot, plays Shaun, a disenchanted salesman who is frustrated with his humdrum life.
While it takes him about half the movie to realize there is indeed a zombie invasion in the United Kingdom (despite the fact zombies are wandering all around the streets), once Shaun finally realizes what has happened, he rises to the occasion and fights back against the walking dead.
Independence Day (1996)
Starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum
The extraterrestrial visitors in this film aren’t exactly as peaceful and friendly as E.T. In fact, they’re downright hostile, and Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum (as a U.S. Marine Corps pilot and a computer expert, respectively) are called upon to save the Earth from imminent destruction as giant alien spaceships appear in the skies.
Bill Pullman makes an appearance as President Thomas J. Whitmore, who officially becomes one of the coolest commanders-in-chief on film when he pilots one of the fighter jets targeting the alien ships.
WALL·E (2008)
Starring Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight and Jeff Garlin
At first glance, this Disney/Pixar animated movie about a little garbage collecting robot who dreams of traveling amongst the stars might not seem to belong on a list of doomsday/apocalyptic films.
But the film’s plot is meant to subtly raise some thought-provoking questions about our planet’s future. In WALL·E’s time, the planet has been made uninhabitable by piles and piles of trash. Out of all the doomsday scenarios in the films on this list, it’s probably the most realistic.