The Arc Toward Hope in Postapocalyptic American Films: From On the Beach to The Midnight Sky

Anne Hudson Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An arc toward hope in postapocalyptic American films can be seen between Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film On the Beach, based on Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel of the same name, and George Clooney’s 2020 film The Midnight Sky, adapted from Lily Brooks-Dalton’s 2016 novel Good Morning, Midnight. Clooney’s film makes direct and indirect references to On the Beach, which brought international attention to the threat that radiation fallout from nuclear weapons could end all human life on Earth. In On the Beach, no one survives. Already underway before the COVID-19 pandemic developed, Clooney’s ambitious project for The Midnight Sky underwent a script revision after filming had begun to accommodate the unexpected pregnancy of its lead actress. In the revised ending, there is hope, albeit slight, that the expectant astronaut couple aboard spaceship Aether might avoid the environmental disaster from the unspecified “event” that has occurred on Earth by returning to the moon of Jupiter their mission had explored and found capable of sustaining human life. Released on Netflix in December 2020, The Midnight Sky was viewed by millions even as the first vaccines for COVID-19 were becoming available. The arc toward hope, Clooney believes, is the right ending.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-132
Number of pages9
JournalPerspectives in Biology and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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