Screenshot from 2011 film Contagion, in an article about movie outbreaks
Seeing worst-case scenarios like in 'Contagion' might provide an emotional release. (Image via Google Images)
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Screenshot from 2011 film Contagion, in an article about movie outbreaks

While COVID-19 is currently wreaking havoc, maybe films about epidemics could provide catharsis.

As the world continues to do its best with handling the coronavirus pandemic, many turn to movies that contain their own versions of outbreaks. Over the last week or so, many streaming services have been seeing increased interest in content that involve pandemics, viral diseases and other apocalyptic themes.

Whether they enable viewers’ anxiety over the situation or helps them relax for a moment by jokingly thinking that things could be worse, there is no doubt that there seems to be an endless supply of choices for movie outbreaks.

Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 thriller, “Contagion,” along with the 1995 movie “Outbreak,” are films that have definitely been receiving some buzz from viewers who can relate their current situation to the ones shown in each of these pieces.

Both showing feverish diseases that can easily be confused with a cold or the flu, they offer parallels to things such as researching a disease that has made itself known globally, and enforcing social order via restrictions.

While scientists struggle with finding treatments, widespread panic befalls the rest of the world and even raises questions in one of the movies about whether or not a town should be completely cut off from everyone else. It can be difficult to imagine entire cities needing to be shut down and isolated from the rest of the world, but circumstances involving threatening viruses can lead to serious precautions.

Not to mention the concept of a pandemic that originated in another country causing a widespread breakdown in social order mirrors the current reality, while the minor details such as scenes that will make a person more aware of how often they touch their face bring out more questions and concerns.

If viewers would like more horror in their outbreak films, they can look at the movie outbreaks that are shown in both “28 Days Later” and “Cabin Fever.” The latter is especially ironic to see, given that it shares one thing in common for sure with this new form of normal: a spring break gone wrong.

While it appears to be a typical “cabin in the woods” story on the surface, the viewers here can see that the killer has a mysterious illness that involves high fever and bloody infections. “28 Days Later,” meanwhile, had a virus that took less than a month to take over and decimate the human population.

In the film, a victim only has about 30 seconds before the infection takes over and transforms them into raging monsters. A zombie apocalypse is the least of the world’s worries right now, but one can easily find the early scene of the protagonist exploring the desolate streets of London to be eerily real.

These are only a few examples of movie outbreaks that showed people what could be expected during a pandemic. Some may be exaggerations, while others could scarily be right on the money when depicting what the world could be like if things continue to stay the way they are now.

Plenty of people are currently looking at weeks, if not more, of isolation (social distancing) because of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Since this includes various venues and attractions being shut down, including movie theaters, people are doing what they can to keep themselves entertained and distracted at home for the time being.

Although recent events can fill people with terror and insomnia, there’s still a list of cathartic movies about outbreaks to get them through this somehow. Whether they want realism, science fiction or horror, they will be covered. They should feel free to take a personal day off from online meetings and not leave the house for groceries so they could give some of these films a watch.


While COVID-19 is currently wreaking havoc worldwide, seeing movie outbreaks play out on film could provide a source of catharsis.

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S.T. Perez

Texas A&M University – San Antonio
English With Concentration on Teacher Certification

I enjoy music, old movies, and am trying to read some of the classics while finishing school. Writing has always been my passion; I will do what I can to let my ideas be known!

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