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Viewership of virus movies has surged significantly during this COVID-19 outbreak, according to reports, and while that might seem counterintuitive to our tendency towards escapism, it could actually have a psychological explanation. Exposure therapy, a behaviour therapy sometimes used to treat anxiety disorders, involves exposing a patient to the source of their anxiety without the intention to cause them any harm or danger, thus alleviating their stress or fear.
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For instance, someone who is afraid of snakes might be asked to hold a snake — or, someone who is afraid of a disease outbreak, might watch a film about viruses that can’t hurt them. This (and our morbid curiosity) could be the reason why you’re reaching for movies with titles such as ‘Virus’, ‘Contagion’ and ‘Outbreak,’ during your self-quarantine. While some still prefer light entertainment involving romance, comedy and idyllic plot lines, we revisit a list of movies that deal with outbreaks and post-apocalyptic themes, and their effects on society.
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Daybreakers (1993): In this sci-fi horror, a plague begins to turn everyone into vampires. They must farm the surviving humans, while researching a substitute for human blood, which is becoming scarce. Ethan Hawke is a vampire haematologist, while ex-vampire ‘Elvis’ (Willem Dafoe) attempts to save humankind.
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12 Monkeys (1995): In this sci-fi thriller set in the future, the world is wrecked by disease, and a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made illness, which erased most of the human race. Starring Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and Madeleine Stowe.
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Outbreak (1995): A deadly epidemic, carried into America by a monkey from another continent, hits a town in California. Meanwhile, army doctors struggle to find a cure to the virus. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman.
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The Faculty (1998) : After a series of bizarre incidents, students at the rundown Harrington High begin to suspect that their teachers are infected with something abnormal and must save the world from alien domination. Starring Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, Clea DuVall, Salma Hayek, Usher and Jon Stewart.
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Resident Evil (2002): The Umbrella Corporation’s bioweapons trigger a zombie apocalypse and covert operative Alice (Milla Jovovich) takes them on. The highest-grossing movie franchise based on a video game, ‘Resident Evil’ has a total of six films.
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28 Days Later (2002): In this post-apocalyptic horror, a mysterious virus wrecks the United Kingdom, leaving a group of survivors to deal with the fallout of the disaster — while avoiding those who were infected by the virus. Starring Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris.
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Dawn of the Dead (2004): A remake of the 1978 film, Zack Snyder’s directorial debut follows the survivors of an epidemic, which causes those who are infected to transform into flesh-eating zombies.
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Children of Men (2006): It’s 2027 and for 18 years, infertility has plagued the nation, leaving humanity on the verge of collapse; until one woman becomes miraculously pregnant. Starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine.
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The Painted Veil (2006): In this period drama based on a 1920s book, scientist Dr Walter (Edward Norton) finds out his wife Kitty (Naomi Watts) is cheating on him with another man (Liev Schreiber). The couple goes to China, where Walter fights a cholera epidemic, and Kitty embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
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I Am Legend (2007): A plague has killed most of humanity and turned the remainder into monsters, but a single survivor (Will Smith) in New York City battles to find a cure.
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The Happening (2008): In this apocalyptic thriller directed by M Night Shyamalan, a science teacher (Mark Wahlberg), his wife (Zooey Deschanel) and their daughter fight to escape an airborne toxin that causes its victims to commit suicide.
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Quarantine (2008): The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) quarantines a building after its human inhabitants begin to turn into zombies after getting infected by a virus — and reporter Angela (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) are stuck inside. The film is a remake of the 2007 Spanish horror flick ‘Rec’.
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Doomsday (2008): Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) and her specialist team are deployed to Scotland, which has been ravaged by zombies, to retrieve a cure for a deadly virus known as the Reaper.
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Carriers (2009): In this post-apocalyptic body horror, four friends — Danny, Brian, Bobby and Kate — try to flee a pandemic sweeping America, but one of them gets infected by the virus. Starring Chris Pine and Piper Perabo.
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The Crazies (2010): A toxic virus spreads through a quaint farming town after an unusual plane crash, and everyone — except for Sheriff David Dutton, his wife and two others — turns into a violent psychopath. Starring Radha Mitchell and Timothy Olyphant.
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Perfect Sense (2011): A womanising chef (Ewan McGregor) and a shy scientist (Eva Green) fall in love, as a viral epidemic begins to strip people of their sensory perception.
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Contagion (2011): Panic and chaos erupt around the globe when a woman and her son die, leading to the discovery of a fatal virus. Meanwhile, the CDC in America tries to stop its spread. Starring Matt Damon, Lawrence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet and Jude Law.
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World War Z (2013): A former UN employee (Brad Pitt) races against time to save humanity from a vicious zombie pandemic that’s toppling governments.
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Warm Bodies (2013): In this paranormal romcom, a zombie saves a human girl from an attack, and the two form an unlikely relationship. Starring Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer.
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Flu (2013): This South Korean film follows a lethal strain of the H5N1 virus that kills its victims within 36 hours, as the airborne disease hits a city less than 20km from Seoul. Starring Hyuk Jang, Soo Ae and Roxanne Aparicio.
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Maggie (2015): In the Midwest of America, teenager Maggie (Abigal Breslin) is infected by an outbreak of a disease that gradually turns its victims into flesh-eating zombies, but throughout her transformation, her father (Arnold Schwarzenegger) stays by her side.
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It Comes At Night (2017): Few survivors remain in this post-apocalyptic horror film. After an unnatural threat disrupts the world, two families are forced to share a home in a reluctant alliance to keep evil forces outside — only to realise that evil lurks among them. Starring Joel Edgerton.
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The Cured (2017): Years after a zombie plague hits Europe, society grapples with how to reintegrate former zombies into their ranks. Starring Ellen Page and Sam Keeley.
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A Quiet Place (2018): In a post-apocalyptic world, one surviving family hides out in silence and near-isolation from a deadly threat that attacks at any hint of sound. Starring John Krasinski and Emily Blunt.
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Virus (2019): In this Malayalam medical thriller based on real events, Kerala is up against a massive outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus, but a group of courageous individuals risk their lives in hopes of containing the spread. Starring Tovino Thomas, Parvathy Thiruvothu and Madonna Sebastian.
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