Last Man Standing: Rating Post-Apocalyptic Survivalists


There may come a time in the not-too distant future when man will be tested – when all of their mettle will be put on the line in the ultimate battle for survival.  Sometimes it comes at the hands of bloodthirsty, genetically-created psychopaths, sometimes as a result of nuclear fallout.

Sometimes you get hit by a truck and wake up in an abandoned hospital.  Whatever the case, let’s look at some of the lone (or almost lone) survivors of apocalyptic (or quasi-apocalyptic) events and how they might actually fare regardless of their scripted ending.  We’re rating on a 1 to 10 scale, 1 being “zombie MRE” and 10 being “repopulating the earth with a horde of concubines.”  For the most part, we’re sticking with those who saw it coming and made adequate preparations.  And yes, ahead thar be spoilers, be ye forewarned.

I Am Legend


The Man: Robert Neville (Will Smith)

The Plan: Saving the world through science and medicine.

Regardless of this film’s level of loyalty to the source material, there’s no denying that Robert Neville’s planning, preparation and guidelines help him survive the vampiric onslaught of a desolate Manhattan. I’d say his chances are pretty damn good – he knows his surroundings, his enemy, and he knows how to keep himself mostly sane even if it involves talking to inanimate objects.  Neville practices a strict routine, and only succumbs when he deviates from his daily ritual.

Survival Shot: 8/10.  He was so close – so close– to an actual cure for the creepy panting vampirism that makes your hair fall out.  And he’d lasted that long already – no reason he couldn’t have made it longer.  Except the whole snared in a vampire trap dangerously close to sunset, that old chestnut.

28 Days Later


The Man: Jim (Cillian Murphy)

The Plan: Uhhh, plan?

This one’s almost not fair – the guy slept through all the major events leading up to the quarantine and isolation of Britain, and gets thrown into the mix after emerging from his coma in an abandoned hospital.  I find it hard to suspend my disbelief and accept that he was left alone and undisturbed that entire time.  And Jim’s just a bike courier – we’re not exactly dealing with Bear Grylls here.  His ensuing actions aren’t the mark of genius either.  If it wasn’t for others intervening, I’m pretty sure Jimbo would make a tasty snack for rage-infected Brits in a heartbeat.  I was surprised to see him show up on other aficionados ultimate post-apocalyptic survivors lists.

Survival Shot: 2/10.  Next to no chance, unless he holes up with some sympathetic survivors.  I give Selena better chances overall – sure Jim saves her from the non-infected, rapey former soldiers, but Selena’s been saving his ass all along, despite him slowing her down.  He’s collateral damage in my opinion.

The Road


The Man: Man (Viggo Mortensen)

The Plan: Scavenge and scrape and survive.

Despite being one of the more realistically possible films on this list (and as a parent, doubly disturbing), The Road’s Man is a determined, if desperate, father who is struggling to preserve the last shred of human decency in his young son.  This grim look at a probable future shows the absolute devastation of a land without vegetation or animal life, and the lengths a parent will go to in trying to provide for their own.  Relying mostly on his own wits and determination, the Man goes to great lengths in an attempt to raise a decent but cautious Boy in the desolate wasteland of the new world.

Survival Shot: 6/10 – He’s a resolute and resourceful little bugger, but some have postulated that his overwhelming paranoia prevented him and the Boy from being saved early on, or experiencing community with fellow survivors.  It’s hard to say whether his over-protectiveness is more of a help or a hindrance in the long run.

Book of Eli


The Man: Eli (Denzel Washington)

The Plan: Straight as piss til you hit the ocean.

Eli could very well take place in the same universe as The Road, if only a few hundred miles West and about 20 years later.  It’s next to impossible to believe that a blind man is capable of traversing the entire country on foot, but in an age where many have been blinded by “the flash”, perhaps their other senses are heightened and give an advantage.  It’s assumed Eli was a victim of the events 30 years prior, but his apparently super-human skills are not all that far-fetched – sensory substitution and human echolocation have been studied for several decades.  And he has a higher purpose, driving him to a greater end, something beyond mere survival.

Survival Shot:  7/10.  He may be blind, but he’s far from handicapped.  Skilled with weapons, resources and knowledge, this guy perseveres and thrives in a world that would bring most to their knees.

Blast from the Past


The Man: Calvin Webber (Christopher Walken)

The Plan: This guy’s stock puts Sams Club to shame.

You thought your dad was a conspiracy nut?  This guy prepared for the Cold War that never came, with an engineering degree and feats that inspire me to make better use of my concrete cellar.  A 30+ year supply of food, fresh water, batteries… this guy’s even got his own fishery.  He helps deliver and raise his son and keeps his wife moderately sane in a home away from home.  The stockpile he’s created is enough to sustain the entire family over 3 decades, and provided entertainment, even if it was only stale jokes and backwards Honeymooners episodes.

Survival Shot: 8/10.  Prepare, prepare, and then prepare some more.  Even if it’s just a fighter plane that crashes into your house, not the first strike of the Cuban missile crisis.  Calvin Webber may be a lover, not a fighter, but I challenge you to provide a better movie example of a fully stocked fallout shelter.  Plus it’s Christopher Walken, always entertaining.



The Man: Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson)

The Plan: Twinkies and guns.  And banjos.

Aside from Tallahassee’s witty quips and life lessons, this shotgun-toting, banjo-strummin’ badass has a clear goal – Twinkies.  Even if it’s only junk food from a now defunct snack company, there’s a method to his madness that keeps this cowboy rambling on.  Having something to live for is a plus, and having a people-shoveling tank full of weapons is a big bonus.  He definitely earned all those prizes he shot up locked in the prize booth at Pacific Playland (aka Wild Adventures, yes I’ve been there).  And as a man with nothing left to live for, he’s not waiting around for anyone to tell him to nut up or shut up.

Survival Shot: 8/10.  This guy’s got the swagger, the mouth, and the firepower to back it all up.  His penchant for Hostess may be the only thing that drags him down, but I’m betting he’ll have a mouthful of Twinkie as he’s performing the next Zombie kill of the week.


The Women: Wichita & Little Rock (Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin)

The Plan: Deception & manipulation.

I couldn’t cover Tallahassee without giving a shout out to some of the more ingenious members of Zombieland’s traveling troupe of undead hunters.  Their combined street smarts and ruthless trickery make this sister team a formidable force in the age of zombies.  Their poor judgment in choosing a noisy, neon-lighted carnival as a hiding spot remains my biggest problem with their ultimate plan.

Survival Shot: 6/10.  I give them okay odds. Until they piss off the wrong person who’s just a teensy bit trigger happy.  Or are distracted by a shiny object.

Columbus broke his own rules and killed Bill Murray, so he doesn’t deserve a spot on my list.



The Man: Burt Gummer (Michael Gross)


Burt Gummer is my spirit animal.  Aside from his love and devotion to heavy artillery and explosives, this guy packs an underground bunker full of MREs, fresh water and all the comforts of home, like a toilet.  In case of Graboid attack, get in the cement-reinforced basement.  Oh, they can fly now?  Well, get in the panic room.  Oh, the flying assholes can melt doors?  Drop down the emergency escape chute.  Hell, blow your own house to smithereens if you have to.  Did I mention this guy is the only one to have survived being swallowed by a Graboid?  And three sequels?

Survival Shot:  10/10 – He’s the guy with the backup plan to the backup plan.  And if that doesn’t work, he’s got more ammo.  Trust me.

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  1. Let us not forget Burt’s pièce de résistance, Tremors 2:

    “I am COMPLETELY out of ammunition! That’s never happened to me before….”

  2. Eli walked a cross a post apocalyptic United States with his eyes closed and he has God on his side. I think he rates 10/10. And if you think God is fictional, remember, Eli is also fictional.

  3. VERY good point sean,…and to the weak article above. Why couldn’t you have put more effort into this? There are several more TV shows/movies that could be included in this list.

  4. I really enjoyed this article. I agree with Tom though. I think you could have added in a couple more people.
    Daryl – The Walking Dead
    Jeremiah – Jeremiah
    Miles – Revolution
    Just some more TV characters. Again really had fun with this one!

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