The 8 Worst Apocalypse Bunkers in Science Fiction

The 8 Worst Apocalypse Bunkers in Science Fiction
The Vaults in the Fallout series might be the worst place to spend your time after an apocalypse. (Screenshot: Bethesda)

If the world were to end, you’d probably want to be as sequestered as possible — preferably underground with a freshly stocked pantry, your loved ones close by, and plenty of stuff to distract you from the fiery inferno outside your door. Apocalypse media loves a good bunker plotline, but the fallout shelters we see in television, movies, and video games are rarely the best places to lay your head down to ride out the end of days; just look at the likes of Fallout, Into The Night, or The 100 to see my point. This list compiles some of the worst, most grotesque, and eeriest bunkers in recent years, with shelters that tried everything from draining people of their blood to experimenting with cryogenics.

(Spoilers abound, proceed with caution.)

Mount Weather – The 100 (2014-2020)

The 100 takes place nearly a century after a nuclear apocalypse has wiped the majority of humanity off the face of the planet. The mega-space station that formed in the wake of the apocalypse sends down 100 prisoners to test the conditions on Earth. The group’s target is Mount Weather, a real fallout shelter in Virginia that could house some government personnel in the face of nuclear annihilation. The bunker serves a similar purpose in the show’s second season, housing the descendants of a pre-apocalypse American government in a lavish underground complex that is secretly killing outside survivors and using their blood as medicine to treat radiation burns.

Howard’s Fallout Shelter – 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

The sequel to 2008’s blockbuster kaiju film Cloverfield saw the franchise take a hard left into psychological thriller territory. 10 Cloverfield Lane tells the story of a young woman named Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who wakes up after a car crash in the doomsday shelter of John Goodman’s Howard Stambler, along with John Gallagher Jr.’s Emmett. From there, Michelle has to decide which is worse: Howard’s unhinged behaviour while mourning the loss of his daughter, or the potential apocalyptic threat that may or may not be awaiting her outside.

NATO Military Shelter – Into The Night (2020-Present)

Into The Night is a Belgian Netflix series that explores what happens when the sun is suddenly probably going to microwave us. No joke: our cast of characters begin their journey on a red-eye flight, but as the sun suddenly begins emitting radiation that destroys all DNA and penetrates everything except water, they are forced to continue flying into the night (get it?). The show’s second season takes place mostly in an underwater bunker that has everything: food, clothes, community, and an intimidating military presence that forces the characters on a journey across Europe from their shelter in Bulgaria to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.

Mother’s Bunker – I Am Mother (2019)

Imagine being the first human born after an extinction event kills everyone on Earth. Throw in a maternal caregiving robot and a mysterious woman (Hillary Swank) breaking into your fortified bunker, and you’ve got the plot of Netflix’s 2019 sci-fi flick I Am Mother. Mother’s bunker is completely automated, allowing her to gestate, raise, feed, and educate the children that will repopulate planet Earth. It sounds idyllic. That is, until our main character realises she might just be a test subject in a large experiment.

The Heralds’ Missile Silos – Far Cry 5 (2018)

Ubisoft’s anthology video game series Far Cry released its fifth instalment in 2018. Far Cry 5 takes place in a rural Montana county where a cult of religious zealots calling themselves Eden’s Gate begin to overthrow the local government and intimidate, kidnap, and murder the locals. The cult is led by a charismatic preacher named Jospeh Seed who is preparing his people for “The Collapse,” a nuclear apocalypse that Eden’s Gate will shield themselves in missile silos that have been renovated into bunkers.

Raven Rock – Oblivion (2013)

Tom Cruise’s Jack Harper — also known as Tech 49 — is an end-of-the-world mechanic just like any other: he is tasked with repairing the drones that scour Earth for remaining aliens in the wake of a war that has decimated the planet. Once his job is complete, Jack and his wife Victoria will be able to join the rest of humanity, which has been evacuated to a space station departing soon for Titan. Or will they? The “aliens” that are being hunted by Jack’s drones are actually humans, and Jack and Victoria are clones of pre-war humans that were captured by an extraterrestrial artificial intelligence. The humans that remained after the invasion are holed up in Raven Rock Mountain Complex, a real-world nuclear bunker located in southern Pennsylvania, and they risk annihilation by simply stepping foot outside.

Philadelphia – 12 Monkeys (1995)

12 Monkeys is a staple of modern time travel fiction, which sees prisoner James Cole (played by Bruce Willis) sent back in time from 2035 to 1996 to stop the Army of the Twelve Monkeys from releasing a deadly virus that causes a worldwide breakdown (sounds familiar). In 2035, Cole lives underneath the ruins of Philadelphia in a subterranean militaristic society run by the mad scientists that figured out how to send humans back in time. Cole is serving a minimum of 25 years in prison, and while he is able to leave his underground dwelling to collect biological samples, wild animals pose a threat, as nature has reclaimed the planet.

The Vaults – Fallout (1997-present)

The long-running Fallout video game series takes place in an alternate history where American scientists figured out how to reliably use nuclear energy after World War II, leading to decades of social and economic prosperity wrapped up in a shiny retrofuturistic aesthetic. Over time, this lifestyle came to an end as resources became scarce, culminating in 2077 with “The Great War,” which ended in a worldwide nuclear holocaust. Vault-Tec, a corporation specializing in fallout shelters, anticipated this war and built dozens of fallout shelters across the United States called “vaults.” Civilians could purchase space in these bunkers, which were secretly designed to serve as testing facilities for various sociological experiments. For example, in Fallout 4 (the most recent main series game), Vault 111 was used to test the effects of cryogenics, Vault 75 trained child soldiers after staff murdered their parents, Vault 81 exposed its residents to various sicknesses to design a cure-all medicine, and so on. Be careful where you seek shelter, even if the outside seems worse.