Gone viral: 5 movies about outbreaks

Cuba Gooding Jr., Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman in a scene from 'Outbreak.'. Handout

TORONTO — The deadly Ebola virus is making headlines this summer due to an outbreak in West Africa that has infected hundreds of people since March. It almost seems like a scene out of a movie.

No wonder. Hollywood has been fascinated by the spread of viruses for decades.

From 1950’s Panic in the Street (in which Richard Widmark and Paul Douglas try to stop the spread the pneumonic plague in New Orleans) to last year’s World War Z (in which Brad Pitt races to save the world from a zombie virus), outbreaks have been the focus of many exciting films.

Michael Crichton’s novel The Andromeda Strain — about an alien virus — was adapted for the big screen in 1971 and again for television in 2008. Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, a book about a pandemic that seemingly wipes out the population, was made into 1964’s The Last Man on Earth, 1971’s The Omega Man and 2007’s I Am Legend.

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(Not all outbreaks are necessarily bad, though. Canada’s David Cronenberg made a film, 1975’s Shivers, about the spread of a parasite that causes uncontrollable sexual desire.)

While there are many to choose from, here are five movies about outbreaks worth checking out or revisiting.

Outbreak (1995)

An all-star cast including Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Patrick Dempsey and Canada’s Donald Sutherland race to contain an outbreak of a fictional virus called Motaba.

Contagion (2011)

This thriller from Steven Soderbergh follows a group of scientists trying to contain a virus and develop a vaccine that will end its spread. The movie stars Marion Cotillard, Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Laurence Fishburne.

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28 Days Later (2002)

This British post-apocalyptic thriller from Danny Boyle stars Cillian Murphy as a bike courier who wakes up from a coma to find himself in a city where people have been infected with the Rage virus unleashed by activists who rescued a lab chimp.

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World War Z (2013)

Brad Pitt plays a former UN investigator who travels the world in hopes of stopping a zombie pandemic that spreads through bites. It’s based on the book of the same name by Max Brooks.

Resident Evil (2002)

Based on the video games, the movie stars Milla Jovovich as part of a team trying to contain the outbreak of the T-virus at a secret underground genetic research facility. Parts of the film were shot in Toronto.

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