Sometimes you have to embrace what stresses you. Yes, we’re all going through the struggle of dealing with an actual pandemic, but it can help you zone out to watch some fictional pandemics on film. At least you can comfort yourself by saying, “Well, this pandemic isn’t that bad after all.” Here’s a mix of dramas, horror movies, and a few documentaries to get you through the long hours inside.
This is probably the best-known movie on the list. Steven Soderberg, the director of many art films, portrays what people would do during a deadly pandemic.
The Wailing (Amazon Prime)
Do you like 3+ hour horror movies in Korean, subtitled in English? I do. In this movie, there’s an outbreak of some sort of virus in a small Korean village. Soon, paranoia and suspicion take the community by storm, and it’s the people’s reaction, more than the problem, that causes the mayhem.
Korean horror can be pretty gory, so you can skip parts if you’re squeamish, or just hide your eyes behind your hands. No shame.
Night of the Living Dead (HBO Max)
You may not equate zombies with pandemics but think about it; they spread contagion usually via bite or blood. At first, people don’t believe in it and then suddenly, the world is changed.
This is the classic zombie movie. If you haven’t seen it, you probably should. Also, it has some trenchant commentary on race relations in America.
12 Monkeys (Amazon Prime)
Terry Gilliam was one of the original members of the Monty Python comedy group. After that, he went on to direct a series of fantastic films. This one stars a time-traveling Bruce Willis who is trying to stop a pandemic that happened in the past. It’s worth watching for the weird sets and also includes a young Brad Pitt as a manic eco-terrorist.
Children of Men (Hulu)
This list is heavy on the sci-fi, but before coronavirus, pandemics seemed like the subject of science-fiction. This might be the best near-future film I’ve ever seen. It’s incredible from start to finish. The world looks real, the acting is top-notch all the way through, including a pot-smoking Michael Caine. This is a powerful film with realistic action-sequences and a beautiful story.
The Seventh Seal (Amazon Prime, Google Play)
Even if you’ve never seen this, you’ve definitely seen images, parodies, and tributes to several of the iconic scenes in it. Bill and Ted play chess with Death? That originated here. It’s a film worth watching but a slow one. When you’re done with zombies, check this out and increase your arthouse cred with the cool kids.
It’s also a classic movie by one of the world’s premier directors who inspired countless directors in the 20the century.
That’s right, Dracula — and here’s why.
What is a vampire? A disease spreading machine is what a vampire is. They primarily spread their vampire contagion through the blood. The disease’s symptoms? Depends. Sometimes you can turn into a bat, sometimes you sparkle.
The Great Plague of London (Youtube)
Coronavirus isn’t the first pandemic that changed the world. In medieval times, the plague was a way of life. The rich would run to the countryside, and the poor would stay in cities and not do so well.
This is a documentary about a plague outbreak in London in the seventeenth century. It’s especially worth watching if you’re a history lover.
Influenza 1918 (PBS Video, Amazon, Netflix)
This documentary by American Experience, a PBS program, takes a look at the history of the deadly flu pandemic that took over the world about a hundred years ago. All the comparisons of previous pandemics to the coronavirus help to brush up on your pandemic history.
Hong Kong: Chasing the Virus (PBS)
A journalistic piece about the first SARS outbreak in 2003-2004. This is another virus that is closely compared to coronavirus pandemic. Watching this will give you some great background to better understand today’s pandemic.