10 Great Movies about Pandemics & Viruses | TheReviewGeek Recommends

10 Best Pandemic & Virus Movies

This COVID-era was probably the first time a lot of us had experienced a pandemic. Not just heard of it, but endured its treacherous aftermath. Now, the virus is slowly waning and humanity is winning the war. Of course, this isn’t the first time humanity has faced the wrath of a pandemic. The Spanish Flu of the early 1900s, Ebola and Zika outbreaks, and the Sars infection in the early 2000s, to name a few.

Movies have never been shy of taking on the mantle to dramatize these instances. Many insightful narratives have chosen to use the setting to explore deeper issues about human behavior.

In the end, these films highlight how we all come together in times of difficulties despite our differences. Although it is not strictly the case, the zombie genre is the most famous and easiest to replicate such stories. Naturally, it has the most number of films. We have carefully chosen a handful where the common thread is a reaffirmed notion of mankind’s special quality to withstand the most challenging of obstacles. These movies about the pandemic are from a diverse spectrum of time.  Enjoy the list and leave your recommendations below for us!


Contagion (2011)

When the COVID pandemic was at its peak, Contagion became one of the most watched and discussed films. The movie’s plot shares remarkable similarities to what actually happened during the pandemic. And hence it became a public favorite.

Every forum had widespread discussions about conspiracy theories on the film and that is the time when I saw it too. In typical Steve Soderbergh style, we are given very little information about the film’s plot and instead, we are thrown right into the action.

A disease that makes you cough and eventually die if left untreated, gradually spreads. Its proliferation is transient but once the cause of all the strange deaths is discovered, the world must be brave enough to fight the invisible enemy.

The most accurate thing about Contagion’s depiction of the pandemic is the blended feeling of confusion and terror that falls over the masses.

Institutions like the government fall silent, hopeless at what to do. There is chaos, intrinsic more than extrinsic, along the people, who have no idea what they have to do. Without truly making it a psychological film, Soderbergh is able to bring out the paranoia that we see in the COVID pandemic as well that doesn’t let you sleep at night.


World War Z (2013)

I recently watched ‘World War Z’ again on Netflix. The reaction was an embellished understanding of what director Marc Foster was saying with his narrative on a larger scale. Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former UN investigator, who is asked to find a cure for a rabies-like outbreak for his family’s safety.

On many levels, ‘World War Z’ holds you its prisoner due to the uncertainty of its setting. A “turned” person from the undead can leap out on you any second from anywhere. Although it was relatively late to the genre, it has enough originality and a forceful lead performance from Pitt to sail through. Foster prefaces and bookends the outbreak with a montage of clippings and political speeches to dictate the years of insolence towards the imbalance of power in the international arena.

His vision also includes some prophetical elements about the unseen dangers in the future. Vaccines and science can only go so far as to give you marked protection from such diseases and outbreaks. Coming to the film, there is not much to criticize here. The prosthetics work is amazing and the undead actually look the part.

They are scary enough and human enough to be recognized as so. Marco Beltrami’s haunting score instantly dissipates a much-needed intrigue to WWZ that is then carried forward through the compelling story.


The Sadness (2021)

This Taiwanese film by Rob Jabbaz set the Locarno festival on fire. Along expected lines, it plays out as a hopeful love story turned into a tragic bid for survival. There is not a lot of time devoted to the former but it does hold you for the first few minutes.

Taiwan becomes the battleground for survivors as the Alvin virus sends the city into chaos. Jabbaz needs no excuses to present upsetting, gore-filled details of how the zombies feast on humans. He has plenty of time spent curating these brilliant set pieces that truly outrage and enthral you at the same time.

Despite this creative choice, Jabbaz fleetingly captures the exhausting dread and uncertainty of the pandemic times. With no end in sight, seeing the positive side of things becomes a challenge. The Sadness is not your run-of-the-mill pandemic film that dramatizes the story; it offers you something more visceral, stylish, and inherently spine-chilling that you shouldn’t miss out on.


Virus (2019)

This Malayalam film tells the story of the brave hearts from Kerala, India, who put their lives at risk to prevent the Nipah virus outbreak from becoming a nationwide pandemic. Like the COVID virus, it spreads on contact and hence became a problem similar to what we experienced in March of 2020.

Under Aashiq Abu’s able direction, we see the action unfolding from the very first patient and the swift response to it from the authorities. There are stark similarities between what actually happened and the events of the film. In fact, the climax also shows how the virus was contracted by patient zero.

Abu deftly mixes the fear of the potential of the outspread and personal indications of severe trauma. Teamwork and unity are the most influencing qualities we see on the screen. That is how we defeated the virus – together, using each other’s capabilities to stand strong.

The Kerala administration did a phenomenal job of ending the virus outbreak back when it happened and the movie gives them due credit for it.


Train to Busan (2016)

One of the most special entries on the list is the South Korean film Train to Busan. You will probably hear more about it when the American remake directed by James Wan releases next year.

The most refreshing aspect about TTB is its fully realized collection of characters that are not a part of the story but are the story. Without them, it is just a bunch of empty streets with the “turned” rolling around in the dirt.

It has its roots in Korean culture and society, often the most unique aspect of the films from the country. Class warfare is intrinsic to anything that Korean filmmakers create and Train to Busan is no different. We see on the screen a unique blend of thrills and emotions that is just as fascinating as it is heartbreaking.

One after the other, the characters turn and die. The ending is a similar affair. Do not be surprised to find yourself choking up when by the time the credits roll in!


In the Same Breath (2021)

In the same Breathe is one of the most important documentaries of our times. Not only is it the only documentary on this list, but it is also the only film that brings us real information from this recent pandemic era.

The hard-hitting truth about China and the origins of the virus are difficult to digest. Brave filmmakers have come together to expose the communist government’s brazen, shameful, and utterly inhumane attempts to propagate a false narrative in the face of irreparable loss of lives.

We have all seen how global media have mostly blamed the instigation of the virus on China. Its dictator’s inconsiderate tactics to quite the few who spoke the truth and wanted the world to know are seen in the documentary’s highlights.

The emotional exhaustion and fear that gripped hospitals and the healthcare systems in the early days of the pandemic is truly soul-shaking. Amplifying the true warriors’ voices is its biggest achievement. It is a must-see film for how uncompromising it is in its style and ethos. For every human being who lost a loved one.


Cargo (2017)

This pandemic movie is initially shot from the perspective of the survivors in the aftermath of all the violence. More often than not, we see these kinds of movies go through an elaborate phase of a setup and the gradual. chaotic fever of the outbreak rising up the streets.

‘Cargo’ defies all those expectations. It gives a fresh start. And even when it is thrust into action, there is always a sense of a thinking mind behind all those turns of events.

The Aussie setting is a distinguishing story element. The inclusion of Aboriginals and local culture truly adds value to your experience. It also gives the film a different flavor and the story an intelligent, emotional depth. Martin Freeman gives an important performance that is as intense as it is delicate.


Zombieland (2009)

‘Zombieland’ is a fun rendition of a raging pandemic that has destroyed most of the human occupation in the States. As the name suggests, it has become a land infested by zombies. A few survivors join forces to navigate the threat and rediscover the camaraderie and social ethos that made life so much fun.

Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Jesse Eisenberg all turn in smartly acted performances with the right temperament for the light film. There is no search for the moral truth or something altruistic bringing out purity in cinema. Zombieland is pure fun and must be enjoyed as such. It is easy on the eye, passes the time, and delivers impressively choreographed and thought-out action sequences that are just as funny.


It Comes at Night (2017)

This post-apocalyptic pandemic story is probably the only true horror film on the list. It is differentiated from staple content because of how and from what perspective it is shot.

On a psychological level, director Trey Shults plays with the viewer and his characters. He surrounds his narrative in an air of ambiguity that never quite manifests. All we know is that it is there, lingering somewhere near. If unity and togetherness are key to survival in such situations, ‘It Comes at Night’ defies those tropes.

Here, the bid to survive is harder due to the fleeting unknown that never quite presents itself. The humans are seen as such and not as turned monsters trying to rip each other out. In fact, the ironic beauty of it all is that humans are the monsters for whom self-preservation comes first before anything.


Help (2021)

This television film starring Jodie Comer shows the current pandemic taking shape in an elderly nursing home in Liverpool. Stephen Graham, who had his breakout Boiling Point release this year in the cinemas, also headlines the film.

Help is a bold political mouthpiece against the government of the day for its lackluster and irresponsible response to the pandemic. It was just a slice of the horrors that unfolded as the pandemic raged in Britain. The final climax where the fourth wall is broken underlines why this project was made. Its incredibly humane story keeps you emotionally invested, as the helpless patients suffer along with the nurses who are forced to take care of them.

Comer’s character is just one of those unseen and unsung heroes who put their lives at risk to take care of others. This kind of pure generosity is hard to find in mainstream cinema these days. But plenty of Samaritans like her woke up to help others from a place of compassion.


So there we have it, our 10 TV show picks for movies centering around pandemics and humanity coming together to stand tall and fight back.

What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!


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