It’s human nature to live in both sheer ignorance of society’s apocalyptic demise and in anxious awareness of the possibility. The horror genre tackles the harrowing potentials in the fall of humanity through a range of doomsday concepts. From the more fantastical, like deadly beasts born from crossed realms and subjugated beings’ overthrow from below the ground to more realistic circumstances like global warming devastation and viral plague disaster, the end of days can come in many shapes and sizes. In the expected collapse of civilization, the inherent survival skills of individuals will ultimately take over for the sake of existence. Some will lead and many will follow.
However, like all desperate organizations, the will to coexist peacefully among depleted resources and no hope of relief is far beyond expectation. The development of a leadership scale is likely to occur, but there are those who intend to use and abuse their power for bad in the worst situation. So, should we find ourselves post-apocalypse, which may very well be the case someday, it’s important to recognize admirable rulers from the less than desirable. What happens when too many people follow the wrong kind of leader come doomsday? Find out…
10. Danny McBride as himself in This Is The End
While he may produce some of the biggest laughs in debut directors Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg’s meta apocalypse comedy This Is The End, Danny McBride (Alien: Covenant) is one you wouldn’t want to be stuck with come the end of days. As an actor and comedian, viewers might imagine he’d be different than his variety of kooky roles, but as he plays a saturated version of himself in the film, a different side of his true character emerges. Selfish, ruthless, and holding all the cards, McBride’s unruly leadership is solely taken up in gross self-service. Between urinating where he pleases to wasting food and water out of ignorance and spite to personally exposing his friends to eventually leading a group of cannibals, McBride is the epitome of the worst kind of human to take charge. If he’s able to turn Channing Tatum (Magic Mike) into a slave, what hope does anyone have against him?
9. The Dream in The Bad Batch
As difficult as it is to call Keanu Reeves (John Wick) a villain in any capacity, his role in Ana Lily Amirpour’s (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) The Bad Batch is one of the less violent leaders on this list. In a desert wasteland made up of misfits deemed unworthy by dystopian laws and society, Reeve’s character of The Dream serves as a savior that oversees an oasis protected from the grit surrounding his estate of Comfort. Surrounded by a bevy of beautiful women he routinely impregnates and always looking for more, The Dream easily entices ‘Bad Batch’ members to believe in his cause using the sharing of manufactured drugs as well as providing them with secure plumbing. The Dream is handsome, charming, and gentle, supporting his followers with the promise of habitation, but at what cost. Ironically, the scariest thing about The Dream is his appeal.
8. Captain Rhodes in Day Of The Dead
It might not be the best thing to keep zombies captive for research, but then again, how could humans make any progress in discovering a stop or even a cure? Captain Rhodes of George A. Romero’s (Dawn Of The Dead) third installment of his zombified apocalypse series, Day Of The Dead certainly doesn’t see the value in the pursuit of survival through science. Rhodes is a confrontational and cowardly soldier ready to redirect military presence toward his own personal protection and away from the scientists working toward the cause of resolution. As soon as he can, Rhodes declares himself the leader of the base and takes command by threatening to execute and abandon anyone who gets in his way. Eventually deserting his own men and duties as a soldier, Rhodes is a frightening character simply in his quick ability to disown his morality and trigger-happy aggression.
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7. Isaac Chroner in Children of the Corn
It’s normal for children to play follow-the-leader, but where is the line drawn? In Fritz Kiersch (Tuff Turf) Children Of The Corn, an adaptation of Stephen King’s short story, children turn the innocent game into a more bloodthirsty sport. As a couple drives into a small town where no adults can be found, it becomes clear that the children have come together to sacrifice them in respect to unseen crop god, “He Who Walks Behind The Rows”. Leading this underage faction is the young, but wise, Isaac played by John Franklin (The Addams Family) in all his memorably creepy kid glory. Zealous and treacherous, Isaac is able to guide and position the children around the town to carry out his evil bidding promising protection from the omniscient deity. It’s one thing for a crazed leader to be an adult, but a child leading children makes this bunch terrifying on a whole different level.
6. Jonathan Matthias in The Omega Man
Thinking about potential apocalyptic after-effects of a widely distributed vaccine is not exactly the kind of mind space one might want to occupy at the moment, but it establishes the vacant environment of Boris Sagal (The Name Of The Game) The Omega Man based on Richard Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend. As one man remains immune, he fights against a cult of strange infected individuals that refer to themselves as “The Family”, headed by the sinister Jonathan Matthias. Once an anchorman in life before the devastation of the plague, Matthias sees the man’s resistance and hope as the threat to humankind, or what he believes to be humankind, and uses “The Family” to hunt him down. Matthias doles out horrible orders and executions, showing no signs of true emotion other than anger and destruction turning him into an allegorical force against the greater good.
5. Father in The Sacrament
Though all of the other films on this list see a more fantastical apocalyptic means (but who knows, right?) Ti West’s (House Of The Devil) found footage style The Sacrament plays a narrative off of some true unfortunate events. As journalists document the life of a large religious compound, they encounter one of the most dangerous kinds of leaders to actually exist in a man followers call Father, played with eerie authenticity by Gene Jones (Dementia). Like the horrible mass suicide that occurred in Jonestown at the hands of a despicable Jim Jones, Father represents a very real evil figure that drove hundreds to their death. Seemingly harmless and righteous, Father’s tremendous manipulation and condemnation is a quiet attack that has and could still happen.
4. Wilford and Minister Mason in Snowpiercer
Bong Joon-ho’s American adaptation Snowpiercer sees humans aboard an ongoing train seeking refuge from a climate damaged planet. Fixating on a classist driven vehicle, the film depicts a lower class rebellion on the elite. Tilda Swinton’s (Suspiria 2019) Minister Mason is a stone-cold villain intent on carrying out her boss’ master plan in keeping an oppressive class system in place throughout the vessel. Though Minister Mason is the one face that viewers get the most screen time with, Wilford is the higher-up that calls the shots. Ed Harris’ (mother!) Wilford is a conspiratorial culprit with further intentions on weeding out base inhabitants in an already strained faction of humanity. With no respective conditions for those below the ranks, Minister Mason proves that a leader like Wilford is only as good (or bad) as his second-in-commands.
3. Red in Us
Jordan Peele’s (Get Out) tremendous social commentary in Us speaks to the downtrodden, the discarded, and the oppressed. As a woman and her family take a trip to the beach, they find themselves attacked by warped representations of themselves. Ascending from their repressive control below the ground, The Tethered beings revolt against their respective dominators. Initiating and heading up the uprising is the woman’s tethered entity, Red, played by Lupita Nyong’o (Black Panther). Though Red has very good reasons to organize a rebellion and take action in bringing The Tethered to the surface, she does so with malice and murder. As viewers learn the truth behind Red’s true identity and motives, the film spins a unique narrative on classism and segregation. Though her plan results in mass slayings, there is something to be said for the inspiration behind her endeavor.
2. Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road
Revisiting the fan-favorite Mad Max series was surely an apprehensive task, but director George Miller (The Witches Of Eastwick) turned out one of the most respected hits of modern cinema with Mad Max: Fury Road. Setting the world in vacant desert badlands, the film follows Max in his escape and rally against the tyrant king of the War Boys, Immortan Joe. Hoarding precious resources like fuel, ammunition, and women for breeding, Joe leads a vicious weaponized army by the hundreds. Joe is a powerful madman that seeks to maintain control of the army he has built in the wake of the world’s downfall. He is a stacked, big bad monster that demands crowds of henchmen and is able to set traps to tactfully close in on his prey. Like an armored dictator under no human code other than what he sets for his forces, Immortan Joe is the apocalyptic leader of nightmares and it’s not just because of how scary he looks.
1. Mrs. Carmody in The Mist
As a sister in radical religion, Mrs. Carmody of Frank Darabont’s (The Shawshank Redemption) adaptation of Stephen King’s novella The Mist is a delusional, cunning leader who preaches false promises while subliminally crafting hatred and conflict. As a number of people find themselves trapped in a grocery store surrounded by a monstrous fog that has consumed the town, her overbearing beliefs ultimately overpower logic and morale. Representing a microcosm of humankind, Mrs. Carmody serves as a treacherous commander who slowly gains power amongst the weary. She might seem like the local “Karen”, but over time she is able to take advantage of the weak and desperate masses around her and turn the group on others who dare to disagree. Hopefully the apocalyptic clashing of realms remains a fictitious possibility, but her Mrs. Carmody is a very scary personification of infectious mass influence and contagious blind obedience that continues to divide and antagonize society.
Which one of these leaders do you like the best? Which do you think are the most dangerous? Who would you rather follow in a post-apocalyptic world? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!