Mayan Apocalypse Film Festival – 21 Films for Our Final 21 Days

The ancient Mayan calendar draws to an end on Dec. 21. Here 21 films to see—and what they taught us about our species—before doomsday

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The Mayan apocalypse — we all know about the calendar, the prophecy, and the debate. The ancient Mayan calendar draws to an end on December 21st, as the winter solstice syncs up with the end of a calendar cycle. Many scholars say there’s nothing to indicate that the Mayans predicted doomsday for humanity (read an expert’s take on all the Doomsday chatter), but the abrupt end to the Mayan vision for the future has fueled theories and speculation for decades, that perhaps they knew something we don’t about a coming cataclysm.

Well, Dec. 21 is now only 21 days away; three weeks, it would seem, until our untimely extinction. As I was reminded this morning by colleagues of the nearing Mayan cliff, I started pondering how I would spend my last three weeks on this planet. Would I return to my hometown? Spend three weeks traveling the globe? Nah. As a lifelong movie addict, I’m far more intrigued by the possibility of maxing out my credit card, renting out the glorious Uptown Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a month, and overnighting prints of my 21 favorite films. Call it the Doomsday Film Festival, but I’ve learned more about this planet, its people, and our common experience through cinema than through any vacations.

(MORE: The all-time greatest movies about the apocalypse)

I’d spend my days in the balcony with a big tub of popcorn, remembering all that’s made humanity wonderfully complex. Here are my 21 initial choices, and what those films taught me about our species…They aren’t the best films ever made — just the comfort food that I return to over and over again. These aren’t the favorites of my brain, but my heart.

What would your list be? Post your thoughts in the comments below. And without further delay, my Doomsday Film Festival:

Dec. 1-7: Youth

Discovering the world: Beasts of the Southern Wild, with perhaps the greatest opening sequence of all time and the most inspired depiction of a strong and independent child (for the record, young Quvenzhané Wallis deserves an Oscar nomination). Also: The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick’s meditation on the majesty of Mother Earth.

The magic of youth: Spirited Away, one of the greatest works of fantasy and one of the most beautiful pieces of animation. This is imagination at its most vivid.

A parent’s love: Late Spring, still perhaps my favorite film by Yasujiro Ozu, about a father’s sacrifice to ensure his daughter’s happiness.

First love: Before Sunrise, which captures the nervous energy of meeting your soul mate — the night that begins the rest of your life.

True love: L’Atalante, Jean Vigo’s nostalgic drama about a newly married couple, and the heartache of an early separation.

The joy of music: The Blues Brothers. No, it’s not the best musical ever made, but you can blame my dad, who ensured I watched the film a few times every year.

Dec. 8-14: Hard Truths

The war fields: Paths of Glory, Stanley Kubrick’s scathing vision of bloody battlefields, indifferent commanders and the utter absurdity of war.

Greed: Heat, Michael Mann’s crime epic about just how much two men will throw away for cold hard cash.

Betrayal: The Godfather: Part II, in which Michael’s discovery of his brother’s betrayal leads to one of the darkest decisions in the movies.

Obsession: Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Werner Herzog’s masterpiece about the treasure hunters who lose everything in their obsessive hunt for the fabled City of Gold. Look deep into Klaus Kinski’s eyes, and you will learn something about the darker side of the psyche.

Arrogance: The Fountain, Darren Aronofsky’s criminally underrated sci-fi epic (I’m well aware I like the movie more than anyone else on the planet) about man’s neverending struggle against mortality, convinced we can bend the universe to our will.

Broken hearts: Vertigo, Alfred Hitchock’s vision of a man who’s fallen in love with an imaginary woman, and the woman who, loving him, agrees to play the part. The lies we tell ourselves.

Empty wallets: Bicycle Thieves, one of the great visions of poverty, parental pride and how an empty piggy bank upends all other Earthly concerns.

Dec. 14-21: Sweet Memories

Pets!: My Dog Skip, which, admittedly, runs counter to my life. I’m a cat guy, but this movie about a boy and his dog has to be one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen.

Friendship: The Big Lebowski, perhaps my favorite comedy, about the Dude and his crazy friends who somehow avoid getting killed while botching a ransom and pulling a piece out on the lanes.

Redemption: Before Sunset, Richard Linklater’s real-time stroll through Paris, awash in regret, romance and second chances.

Power of prayer: Wings of Desire, the meditation on mankind’s loneliness, despair, hope, joy and transcendence. An angel gives up immortality for the mere chance to taste the joys of being a human.

A city’s electricity: Chungking Express, Wong Kar-Wai’s sexy, thrilling, sumptuous love letter to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.

The majesty of the planet: Baraka, the non-narrative 1992 documentary that captures many of the world’s most incredible sights in rapturous 70mm.

The great unknown: 2001: A Space Odyssey, the greatest of all films (and the most important movie in my life). About mankind’s evolution, and the NEXT chapter beyond Earth, I’d keep the film on repeat through the apocalypse, hoping that the end would come during the psychedelic journey through the Star Gate.

26 comments
mysharona01
mysharona01

@mattdipaola @timeculture I guess it is too late to start at number one and work through the list #evenIfIStayedUpAllNight

Ms_Toni
Ms_Toni

@iBleeze @joebiam hey, that's cool!! Might need to watch some of these!

mhoward7904
mhoward7904

I think you've got to have The Natural in there... every emotion possible played out in spades and the end scene just may be good motivational preparation for running around while bits of sun rain down upon us?  

www.viewsfromapier.blogspot.com 

Ronnie_Matrix
Ronnie_Matrix

@TIME Forget doomsday prophecies, the Mayans have all but succeeded in confusing us. I'm not paying attention to doomsday preachers.

Phaethon
Phaethon

Several months ago I personally cancelled the 2012 apocalypse.http://phaethon.net/2012/So quit worrying and go and go find a cure for a disease, or solve world poverty or find something else useful to do.

skeletoncrew.2012
skeletoncrew.2012

Add in the independent feature "Something Completely Different Off That Wall Out In Left Field" from You Tube for an even 22

sverry7
sverry7

Hmm, a last days film fest.... Well, let's see, how about the Danish (I think, only saw it once some time ago) movie Knockin' on Heaven's Door? It would tie in nicely with your film fest theme as it chronicles the last days of two terminal cancer patients. Sound grim? Well, it's actually a comedy, more or less. Then there Bergman's The Virgin Spring, based on a Medieval miracle story that somehow brings uplift and inspiration out of heartbreaking tragedy. Next, the not so well known Memphis Belle, which is based on the true story of the amazingly courageous American B-17 bomber pilots during WW2. Ah, next would come Kirosawa's Ran, the epic tale of feudal Japan. But then for contrast, how about Bruce Willis in Die Hard, the original. Hey, why take the end times lying down? You never know, you just might be able to change the direction of a bus going full tilt for a precipice... As for the rest, well, Gettysburg ( a great movie) would be too long and I don't have time to dredge up the others. Take care.   

Tara St Wood
Tara St Wood

i just brought me an iphone to record my last 21 days on earth

Natasha Dial
Natasha Dial

No plans, since the sun will rise on December 22nd.

Henry Douglas
Henry Douglas

It's all astronomically based. I don't hear much from the likes of NASA, or related agencies telling us about a cometary/asteroid strike, so the only remaining plausible source would be a significant geopolitical event. The prophecy is man-made, and looks to be man-fulfilled, if at all.

AbduSays
AbduSays

@SuzaneNayak @shabanais yeah yeah GIRLs only

AbduSays
AbduSays

@shabanais @suzanenayak lolllllllllllllllllllllllll.... No no no.. I am not joining this convo.... GIRLs only... #KThanxThejhaBahi

AbduSays
AbduSays

@shabanais @suzanenayak what's this discussion ? Can I join ? Or Ur bf will get angry and block me ?

Carole Hoffman Howell
Carole Hoffman Howell

Well, since I didn't win the powerball, I guess it will be business as usual.

Rich Wang
Rich Wang

If you believe in this drivel, please drink from the punch bowl in 21 days...

Hon Sheliahosm
Hon Sheliahosm

I do not believe that. If the world will be end in the next 21 days, I will not study hard to prepare my assignments. I will find a wonderful boyfriend and let him break my virginity, let me experience the feeling from a girl to a woman.

Sara Anderson
Sara Anderson

Really... Another doomsday? This one has been proven false, and repeatedly corrected by Mayans. That doesn't stop doomsdayers!!! I swear it is its own ridiculous subculture.

MattyRenn
MattyRenn

@time or you can be a NEWSMAGAZINE and say the Mayans didn't factor in leap years so their 12/21 has long since passed. #Hacks

mattdipaola
mattdipaola

@mysharona01 - just watch the first and last 15 min of each. You'll get the gist ;)

iBleeze
iBleeze

@Ms_Toni @joebiam Y'all got it. I'll be busy teetering on the edge of death.

ZacharyEliTanton
ZacharyEliTanton

@MattyRenn The Mayan solar calendar has no leap years, and is 365 days long. However, this is not the calendar that is being used to predict the end of the world; the Mayans used a long-count calendar for extremely long periods of time. The concept of leap-years is irrelevant to this calendar system, because it's not based on solar years, simply on math.You know how we use a base-10 counting system? (10, 100, 1000, 10,000 etc.) The Mayans used a modified base-20 counting system for keeping track of days - the second cycle went up to 18 rather than 20. So they tracked days in cycles of 20, 360, 7200, 144000, 2880000, etc.We're coming to the end of one of the 144,000 day cycles. This calendar will reach 12.19.19.17.19, on December 20, and then turn to 13.0.0.0.0 on December 21. This happens roughly every 400 years. No big deal. Perhaps not significant at all but the fact is the leap year argument is irrelevant.