Apocalyptic fiction flourished in the following years, reflecting our cultural concerns about disease, technology and the ever-increasing efficiency of war. Novelist H.G. Wells returned to the theme again and again with books like "The Time Machine," "The War of the Worlds," and "The Shape of Things to Come."
But the apocalypse story really took hold after World War II, when the introduction of the atomic bomb proved that we had more to worry about than plagues, aliens and angry gods: We were entirely capable of triggering the end of the world ourselves. Stories of nuclear apocalypse quickly migrated to movie theaters in tales allegorical ("Godzilla"), satirical ("Dr. Strangelove") and starkly literal ("On The Beach" -- like "MadMax," an Australian production.)
The 1983 made-for-TV movie "The Day After" brought Cold War anxiety into the living room, depicting the aftereffects of a nuclear war in small town America. More than 100 million people tuned into the original broadcast -- it's still the single highest-rated TV film in history.