ApocaBrits: 10 Brits in Apocalyptic Fiction

Himesh Patel as Jeevan Chaudhary in front of a Hamlet poster in 'Station Eleven'

Himesh Patel as Jeevan Chaudhary in 'Station Eleven'

Ian Watson/HBO Max

The post-apocalypse is not the ideal place to be stuck with a load of Brits. Whenever we’ve wondered who we’d want in our zombie survival team, we’ve rarely considered that random Brits would make the cut. They automatically have loads of points against them: they love a monarchy (blind faith never works out in the apocalypse), they have an antiquated sense of class hierarchy (what good is that in hazardous wastelands?), and they get awfully stuck up about things that are now completely useless (grammar, queueing, table manners). 

Nevertheless, the history of post-apocalyptic film and television is filled with memorable Brits fighting courageously against the punishing conditions of the end of the world. From the genuine horror of the 1980s era TV film Threads, to Jamie Bamber being secretly British in Battlestar Galactica to less serious fair like A Very British Apocalypse, which is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds, it seems Hollywood assumes tea time will continue even if there's no longer a sun left to set on the remains of the British Empire. 

With Daniel Radcliffe stepping into the Rapture in the fourth season of Miracle Workers: End Times, here’s a look at the best ApocaBrits from years past.

1. Tom Hardy + Nicholas Hoult, 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

Mad Max has always been the playground of Australians, but with his 2015 soft reboot, George Miller injected some Brits into his hellish desert world. Tom Hardy took over the titular drifter role from Mel Gibson, giving Max a lot more twitchy muttering than his predecessor, but another stand-out was Nicholas Hoult as albino War Boy turncoat Nux. At least Hoult kept his broad English accent, as opposed to the transatlantic/Antipodean tone we struggle to make out from Hardy.

2. Emily Blunt, 'A Quiet Place' Series

Survival horror often uses a gimmick that restricts our characters’ ability to stay alive, and John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place series about a world overrun by monsters who hunt by sound added another inventive twist on the genre. From the start, Krasinski’s real-life wife, Emily Blunt, was a standout performer – an expecting mother whose fierce loyalty to her family led to some gripping and nail-biting thrills. More British women in horror, please!

3. Andrew Lincoln, 'The Walking Dead'

Every British sitcom and romcom star should be given the opportunity to lead the biggest television show on the planet – even better if it’s about the zombie apocalypse. Before he donned the role of Deputy Rick Grimes in AMC’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s zombie comics, The Walking Dead, Andrew Lincoln was best known to British audiences as leading the first half of school-set comedy Teachers and being the guy with the placards in Love, Actually. Such trivial sentiment won’t do you a lot of good in a zombie dominion, Andrew.

4. Sean Connery, 'Zardoz'

The Scots have historically stayed clear of apocalyptic movies and TV, so any time they make an appearance, it’s extra welcome. Who knows what was going on in Sean Connery’s career when he took the role in Zardoz, playing an exterminator who challenges the gods when he’s transported across his surreal, wartorn dystopia via a massive floating stone head. Irish director John Boorman certainly doesn’t hold back on his insane reflections on the deterioration of human society, and Connery is very game to break the Bond typecast (by wearing a diaper).

5. Christopher Eccleston + Naomie Harris, '28 Days Later'

You will see no mention of Cillian Murphy’s leading turn as a survivor of a rapid plague in 28 Days Later – because he’s not British, he’s Irish. Nevertheless, Danny Boyle’s terrifying depiction of a lawless London overrun by the scariest zombies ever imagined (although not technically zombies) is made more terrifying thanks to Christopher Eccleston’s chilling and brutal portrayal of an army major, and Noami Harris as a hardass survivor who initially softens at encountering connection before being thrust into darker corners of human nature.

6. Mia Goth, 'The Survivalist'

Before she went haywire with a hatchet (twice), British rising star Mia Goth starred in The Survivalist, a stripped-back indie post-apocalypse film filmed in Ireland. Martin McCann stars as a paranoid survivor of an unknown catastrophe who has to rethink his strict isolationism when a young woman (Goth) and her mother arrive looking for food and shelter – and the daughter is offered as a concubine. Goth gets to play with the faux-naivety and suppressed sinisterness that has gone on to define her early career, making for a memorable player in this tight drama.

7. Roddy McDowall, 'Planet of the Apes'

While Roddy McDowall did appear in four of the original 1960s-era Planet of the Apes five-film series, the only film he appeared in that could reasonably be called a post-apocalyptic world is the first Planet of the Apes – and even then, we don’t know it’s set on post-apocalyptic Earth until the final moments. Still, it’s undeniable Roddy had a huge part in making this series iconic, adding a sense of decency and decorum to a dystopian vision of the future.

8. Andy Serkis, 'Planet of the Apes' Prequel Trilogy

It’s hard to find many parallels between the original Caesar performance (played by McDowall) and Andy Serkis’ motion-capture rendition of the simian rebel in the 2010s era prequel trilogy – except perhaps for their revolutionary ideals. Serkis admirably carries Caesar’s fiercely protective instincts and deep woundedness throughout the trilogy, which only gets more hellish for humans as the lethal Simian Flu spreads, handing over power to a new breed of leaders and replacing evolution’s prior favorites to rule the planet.

9. Robert Pattinson, 'The Rover'

What’s it with Australians and making films about punishing post-apocalyptic societies? The Rover, helmed by Animal Kingdom director David Michôd, is led by Guy Pearce as a man trying to recover his car in a Western-tinged hellscape. But the standout performance comes from Robert Pattinson, deep in his post-Twilight, pre-Battison “I’ll do anything as long as it’s weird” period, as a stammering, washed-out Southern American who’s completely unmoored in a lawless world, making for an unpredictable and idiosyncratic foil to Pearce’s grizzled lawman. There are few things more compelling than a teen heartthrob trying to reinvent themselves!

10. Himesh Patel, 'Station Eleven'

Delving into a much deeper and provocative fare than his Beatles riff Yesterday, Himesh Patel was one of many stars in Station Eleven, a splintered perspective story of a flu pandemic decimating the population of Earth. Station Eleven largely focuses on his character, Jeevan, in the earliest days of the world-changing events, where he portrays the paranoia of uncertainty and isolation commendably. But he’s crucial to the themes of this meta-fictional, humanist story and brilliantly delivers its greatest emotional payoff.

Picture shows: Rory Doherty

Rory Doherty is a writer of criticism, films, and plays based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He's often found watching something he knows he'll dislike but will agree to watch all of it anyway. You can follow his thoughts about all things stories @roryhasopinions.

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