10 Pandemic-Themed Movies and TV Shows to Watch This Year

Three girls watching movie.

Bonnin Studio for Stocksy

Because human beings are curious creatures, it isn’t enough to live through a pandemic—we also want to experience it through other people’s eyes. This is probably why pandemic-themed movies and television shows have seen a surge in popularity in the last few months.

For your pandemic viewing pleasure, we sifted through dozens of titles (many of which involved a whole lot of zombies) to bring you a curated list of the top 10 pandemic-themed movies and TV shows to watch while you are self-isolating.

01 of 10

Contagion (2011)

Contagion movie poster.

IMDb

This 2011 Steven Soderbergh drama is probably the most highbrow cinematic depiction of a pandemic you are going to find. With an all-star ensemble cast, including Gwyneth Paltrow (who is the first to be killed off by the highly infectious and incredibly deadly virus), Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and Bryan Cranston. The film’s writer, Scott Burns, even consulted the World Health Organization to make it as accurate as possible. 

Available on: Amazon

02 of 10

Outbreak (1995)

Outbreak poster.

Punch Productions

When it came to infectious disease obsession, the 1990s were defined by Ebola-type viruses. First, there was the 1994 book The Hot Zone, Richard Preston’s seriously dramatic nonfiction chronicle of the terrifying viral hemorrhagic fever. Then came Outbreak, starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, and Donald Sutherland, which dominated theaters.

The film takes place in a small California town that is quarantined and locked down after an Ebola-like virus that took out an entire African village is transported over via a smuggled monkey. Somehow, the disease mutates and becomes airborne, and governmental health organizations like the CDC and the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) scramble to come up with a vaccine before it spreads across the country.

Available on: Netflix

03 of 10

Virus (2019)

Virus poster.

OPM Cinemas

A fictional film based on true events, this Indian movie filmed in the Malayalam-language revolves around the deadly 2018 Nipah virus epidemic scare in the Indian city of Calicut. The zoonotic disease top-listed by WHO had a 75 percent fatality rate—and with no vaccination and treatment protocol. The movie chronicles the community of the small town infected, who managed to prevail against the virus before it spread outside of their boundaries. 

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

04 of 10

Cargo (2017)

Cargo poster.

Umbrella Entertainment

This Australian film focuses on a post-apocalyptic world, in which a virus has transformed the majority of the world into...zombies. The film stars Martin Freeman as a father who is trying to protect his daughter from the evils that be. The twist? He gets infected with the zombie virus, which takes 48 hours to do its magic, and needs to find a way to keep her safe from himself before it is too late. 

Available on: Netflix

05 of 10

Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak (2020)

Pandemic poster.

Netflix

The release of this Netflix documentary, chronicling the world’s efforts to find a cure for the flu, coincidentally coincided with the COVID-19 outbreak. The episodic docuseries was an important watch pre-pandemic, as the flu has been ravaging humanity for far too long. But now, due to the heightened awareness of just how impactful a virus can be, it is a must-watch. 

Available on: Netflix

06 of 10

Carriers (2009)

Carriers movie poster.

Paramount Vintage

An incredibly infectious and deadly disease is spreading around the world, and four friends—including one played by Chris Pine—are on a mission to find a safe, plague-free haven to live out their lives until a vaccine is found. The only problem? On their mission, they encounter infected people who spread the disease within their group, and things start to get messy. 

Available on: Netflix

07 of 10

Containment (2016)

Containment poster.

Eyeworks, Warner Bros.

This CW attempted to tackle pandemic potential in this short-lived series, which lasted all of one season. It centers around a mysterious virus that lands in Atlanta where an area is contained while doctors scramble to find a cure. Sound familiar? The plot is eerily similar to Outbreak. However, as far as ratings and reviews go, the show did not fare quite as well. Unsurprisingly, it has recently peaked in popularity due to the current pandemic. 

Available on: Netflix

08 of 10

93 Days (2016)

93 Days poster.

Native FilmWorks

Another film inspired by the real Ebola outbreak of 2014, this movie centers on a Nigerian epidemic and the struggle to keep it from spreading to a large city of 21 million. It examines a deadly virus from all aspects, including perspectives of the people who get it to the medical teams trying to save lives, and the complicated relationships between all of them. 

Available on: Netflix

09 of 10

12 Monkeys (1995)

12 Monkeys poster.

Atlas Entertainment

What do you get when you take Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, and Madeleine Stowe and throw them in a post-apocalyptic Philadelphia, ravaged by a deadly virus? A sci-fi thriller-slash-time travel pandemic movie.

Willis plays a time traveling prisoner who heads back into the 1990s to learn about the virus while Pitt is an eco-bioterrorist—who unfortunately may have something to do with the pandemic of the future. During his time travel, he ends up in the wrong year, and as a result, is hospitalized in a mental institution thanks to Stowe, a doctor. The film was also adapted into a television show, which can be streamed on Hulu. 

Movie available on: Amazon, Hulu

10 of 10

Black Death (2010)

Black Death poster.

Egoli Tossell Film

This horror-slash-adventure film, starring Eddie Redmayne and Sean Bean, is based on the bubonic plague in 14th-century England. After the black death takes over the country, a young monk Osmund (Redmayne) joins knight Ulric (Bean) to investigate a small town, where plague victims are rumored to be coming back from the dead. However, Osmund is also on the hunt to find Averill (Kimberley Nixon), a beautiful woman he was secretly involved with pre-pandemic, who has gone missing. 

Available on: Google Play

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