Ruins of the Modern Age

Yeah, school's definitely out today.

Want to make something set in the future? What better way then making it look like our current era has passed. Have all the trappings of our modern time fall into disuse and litter the landscape. Used to great effect in many After the End pieces. Related to Scenery Gorn and Ragnarok-Proofing. See also Monumental Damage Resistance. For further down the line see Techno Wreckage.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cowboy Bebop: Every time there's an episode that takes place on Earth. In one episode, Spike trudges through an abandoned museum in search of a rare Beta video tape player.
  • The Big O features a number of sequences, including one aquatic one through Grand Central Terminal, that reveal something interesting about Paradigm City: It's built on the ruins of New York.
  • Sonic The Hedgehog The Movie treats the viewers to the long-abandoned ruins of a city on the surface on the hero's way to Eggman Land—and amazingly, the traffic lights still work!
  • At one point in Scrapped Princess, the three main characters pass through the decrepit remains of a skyscraper. All that's left is the cement skeleton, but one of them remarks on how unnatural the "rock formations" look.
  • So Ra No Wo To's No Man's Land and the battlefield of Binnenland seen in flashbacks are full of tumble-down skyscrapers and ravaged cities. Even though there are glimpses of super-advanced Lost Technology in the show, the urban landscape come across as current day.
  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle has Acid Tokyo, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, a future version of Tokyo where unceasing acid rain has made decades look like centuries and the place has begun to become a desert. By extension, Clow Country is also this, although there has been has been enough time that only one building remains immediately visible above the sand, and its weathered enough to be unrecognizable.
  • Highlander: The Search for Vengeance is placed After the End as we get to see flooded sports stadiums and multistory car parks that are being used as hideouts as they're the only thing above the water level. Also New York has seen better days.
  • Sakasama no Patema: In the film's final scene, Age/Eiji asks Patema to take him with her so they can explore the ruins of the surface world. Which is strewn with collapsed skyscrapers that've been overgrown with vines, set beneath an Alien Sky.

    Arts 

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU's Kamandi by Jack Kirby was full of this, including the first issue cover which homaged/ripped off the Statue of Liberty from Planet of the Apes.
  • Kingdom lovingly shows off the ruins of Sydney.
  • Valerian: "City of Moving Waters" takes place in a flooded post-apocalyptic New York City. Most of the city's landmarks are still around.

    Films — Animation 
  • In WALL•E, the Earth has been reduced to one big pop-culture garbage heap.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Planet of the Apes: "You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!"
  • Logan's Run: The world outside the domed City is all ruins, including an overgrown Washington, D.C..
  • The ending of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence takes place in a flooded Manhattan where all the skyscrapers are collapsed, in the process of collapsing, or in really bad shape overall.
  • The Time Machine has the protagonist visit a library Twenty Minutes into the Future, and then visit the same library After the End. The library has deteriorated quite a bit by the second visit, although the A.I. is still active. Also, Word of God is that the cliffs used by the Eloi to build their villages are remains of New York skyscrapers, apparently able to withstand 800,000 years of erosion and an Ice Age but covered in dirt.
  • Waterworld. The ruins can be found underwater.
  • The alternate ending of Army of Darkness has Ash accidentally traveling from medieval England into a post-apocalyptic era. A wide landscape shot reveals this via the ruined face of Big Ben.
  • I Am Legend (the film adaptation) is set in New York City three years after the Zombie Apocalypse. The Omega Man, an earlier adaptation of the same book, features suburban Los Angeles After the End. Word of God is that the setting was deliberately moved to New York in order to show just how empty it is. After all, New York is never empty. L.A. looks empty at 3PM.
  • Battlefield Earth shows them in ruins. To the point that the humans think that mascot statues on a golf course were gods.
    Nostalgia Critic: And over here we see a mouse god named Mickey.
  • The Book of Eli: In the not-too-distant future, some 30 years after the final war, a solitary man walks across the wasteland that was once America.
  • Escape from New York, while not a true example, makes use of the trope's effect.
  • Terminator Salvation has a group of people hiding out in a 7-11 that has definitely seen better days.
  • In 12 Monkeys one James' trips leads him into the ruins of New York City.
  • Much of the setting of Oblivion (2013).

    Literature 
  • In the short story "By the Waters of Babylon", by Stephen Vincent Benét, the son of a priest goes on a spiritual journey to the ruins of an American city. This story came out in 1937.
  • In the novel The Road, a man and a boy survive by scrounging materials from the ruined landscape After the End, and pass by several abandoned cities.
  • Becomes omnipresent in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time at just about the point the reader starts thinking he's reading a standard fantasy tale. The Breaking of the World, followed by repeated wars and a slow depopulation, have left wrecked cities (along with the occasional Artifact of Doom) all over the world. Unexpectedly played for laughs when a mysterious museum artifact that "radiates pride and vanity" can be recognized by readers as a Mercedes hood ornament.
  • In Honor Harrington, the city of Chicago is built upon the remains of the old Chicago, nearly destroyed in the Final War that wiped out much of the population still on the homeworld, about two millennia prior to the main story setting. The Eric Flint short story "From the Highlands" goes into this a bit, including the protagonists stumbling into the remains of the Art Institute. Also, a plot-important political rally takes place in the partially renovated remains of Soldier Field... deep underground.
  • H. G. Wells' The Time Machine (the original novel and probably other adaptations as well) has a museum dedicated to the rotting ruins of the past. The museum itself had long been forgotten by the dull and complacent future children of humanity.
  • In The Book of the New Sun there are entire towns that make their living by digging up the refuse of the past. Then again, the novels are set so far into the future that it may not be the ruins of the modern age, rather some future age. (We are told that the mine tailings contain perfectly preserved corpses, which is probably beyond today's science.)
  • Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt has this in its title—we're remembered as the "Roadmakers," because our highways are the only things we left behind.
  • Flood features underwater ruins as a global flood continually rises and drowns everything. People survive by diving down and scavenging usable materials.
  • Larry Niven's Beowulf Shaeffer series mentions crumbling roadways on Earth. They're crumbling not because of disaster, but quite the opposite — they became obsolete once flying vehicles were ubiquitous. There's a section of roadway around Los Angeles preserved so that people can drive on it for sport.
  • The multi-author Death Zone series, which take place about 50 years after S.T.A.L.K.E.R. show five such zones where ruins of former cities (including St. Petersburg) are isolated from the rest of the world by gravity barriers. The ruins are also present for several miles outside the zones, caused by the initial blasts that destroyed these cities and formed the anomalous zones. The people inside the zones have adapted their bodies using nano-implants, scrounge for supplies, and vie for control. Not only is the environment dangerous (various anomalies, poisonous air), but the area is covered with rogue nanotechnology that infects anything that comes into contact with it, machine and man alike, turning the unfortunates into metallic zombies.
  • John Wyndham's The Chrysalids has the remains of US cities as being still radioactive enough to still glow at night and kill passing sailors over a millennium after the 'Tribulation', where nuclear and mutagenic weapons were used in an all-out world war.
  • His other books The Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes also feature the descent into ruin of civilisation, although more on a permanent scale in the former book, describing London being reclaimed by vegetation and buildings collapsing.
  • "The Zone" from Roadside Picnic is a region abandoned by all (well — almost all) human population, and industrial facilities and whole city quarters have been left deserted and slowly crumbling (or inexplicably preserved by the strange properties of the Zone) for decades.
  • The protagonist of Earth Abides watches the city of San Francisco deteriorate from nearly intact to fire- and earthquake-ravaged ruins over the course of several decades following a plague that wiped out most of the human population.
  • Much of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series has this aesthetic. Especially the city of Lud, which is an alternate-universe New York hundreds of years After the End, populated by violent, fanatic gangs who scavenge the ancient technology and mostly use it to kill each other.
  • The Tripods series has the main characters touring France, passing through a ruined Paris at one point.
  • Much of Locksmith's Closet is set in this. After a while, going back and forth between the inhabited, functioning world of the present and the ruins of the future starts to have a bad effect on Lock's mind.
  • Ape and Essence has a poem describing a ruined sewer.
  • In Star Carrier's back story, global warming caused water levels to rise, with many coastal cities across the world drowning, while others were only protected by sea walls. Then the Chinese performed their Colony Drop in the Atlantic, causing most of those cities to be completely flooded. Now, these largely abandoned cities are called the Periphery. Only squatties live these, refusing the join the modern society. In particular, the ruins of Manhattan are frequently referenced, as Trevor Gray, one of the point-of-view characters, lived most of his life in the ruins of the TriBeCa Tower. Another key character is from the Washington Swamps, the remains of the former D.C. area (the administrative District of Columbia has been moved to Columbus, Ohio, the new capital). Yet another character is from the ruins of Baltimore. Notably, the Statue of Liberty is mentioned to have largely survived being drowned several times, and Periphery restoration efforts are shown at the end of the third novel.
  • Seattle in Clocks that Don't Tick. The streets are filthy, full of casual murder, and home to entrepreneurs selling false cures to the setting's myriad diseases. The buildings are crumbled, crumbling, or patched up with plywood and glue. According to one of the protagonists, the rest of the world didn't fare any better.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Shown in Aftermath: Population Zero and Life After People. Both show the ruined remains of the modern cities succumbing to nature's relentless advances, but showcases also several ancient ruins surviving for even more time.
  • Survivors is set in the then-present day and depict the aftermath of a virulent disease. Our works are sliding into ruin.
  • Revolution: The family passed by many familiar locations now overgrown with plant life, as shown in "Pilot". Also an Averted Trope instance of Ragnarok-Proofing.
  • Stargate Atlantis: In a variation, one episode shows Ronon's home planet Sateda, on which the architecture resembles that of present day Earth. The area in which the action takes place is full of partially destroyed buildings and littered with rubble.
  • An episode of Sliders has the group slide into a world where archaeologists are excavating After the End American cities. The archaeologist who's digging San Francisco out of a desert dates the site as 16th century. When the protagonists look at some of the "artifacts", they see common things for a late-20th century city. The archaeologist doesn't even know what a parking meter is, and the sliders have to awkwardly try to explain the concept of "buying time". He thinks the concept is ridiculous. Oh, and they also find Quinn's old timer in the ruins, obviously nonfunctional after 400 years. And Rembrandt is a deity to the locals, who show him the secret shrine they built from all his merchandise.

    Music Videos 

    Video Games 
  • Chrono Trigger: While most of the ruins found in 2300 A.D. are futuristic, the Lab/Site 16/32 areas look like ruins of a modern day city from the overworld and within, with burnt out cars, and the remains of stoplights.
  • Fallout: It has been many decades since the winds of the apocalypse blew in over America and took the old world with it, leaving only the Wasteland in its place. Post-war America is a central muse of this series.
  • Zombie Shooter uses this trope to an extent; several of the game's levels have a Fallout-like look.
  • Krush Kill n' Destroy uses this trope. It is set After the End, and two of the levels feature the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building half-submerged in the ground.
  • Half-Life 2 uses this trope in almost every scene.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) has Crisis City, the ruins of Soleanna, when Sonic and Co. were forcibly warped to the future by Dr. Eggman and Mephiles.
  • Wolfire Games' upcoming title Overgrowth (the sequel to their earlier Lugaru) has some hints towards this trope, but the developers insist on leaving it to the players' interpretations.
  • Etrian Odyssey: Shows up alongside the reveal that the setting is Earth All Along, some indeterminate amount of time after the end.
  • Large Staple of the Metal Saga series.
  • The early stages of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West are set in a New York that is actually in better shape than it should be.
  • Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
  • The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games are set in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Northern Ukraine, with the ruins of the city of Pripyat. The rest of the world is just fine, though. For now.
  • Final Fantasy VII had a location that was an archaeological dig. One of the relics that's been partially unearthed is quite clearly an F-14 Tomcat, implying that the story takes place on Earth in the distant future. While this was possibly Jossed by Word of God's claim that VII is a distant sequel to Final Fantasy X, there is, however, still the "500 years later" coda that shows Midgar in ruins
  • A section of Gran Pulse from Final Fantasy XIII provides the trope picture. All around there, especially in places like Oerba, are ruins that have been abandoned for over half a millenium, owing to the fact that most of the inhabitants were either Cie'th-ed or killed, and the last survivors were frozen for centuries elsewhere.
  • The opening chapters of The Last of Us are set in a decaying Boston invaded by vegetation.
  • In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, most of the world's battlefields are cluttered with the Tiberium-choked ruins of major cities - and occasionally the ruins of base designs from the previous game. The Yellow Zones of Tiberium Wars are no better, while the Red Zones are so far gone as to be hellish alien landscapes.
  • Tokyo Jungle has you take control of a feral animal in the ruins of an overgrown, post-apocalyptic Tokyo.
  • In Crysis 3, New York City has been abandoned and quarantined within a huge dome, and the old buildings are now covered in moss and greenery as CELL soldiers and the Ceph roam the streets.
  • Both Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light prominently feature the post-nuclear war ruins of Moscow, in the form of both the Metro tunnels (obviously) and the devastated, overgrown, mutant-infested surface city.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time we get a lot of settings like this, such as hospital (complete with helicopter plate), a baseball arena for the wizard tournament and other various structures and remnants, such as the police cars and ambulances in the Underworld.
  • Futurama occasionally includes sojourns to the underground ruins of Old New York. Played straight with Los Angeles, which was never rebuilt after an apocalypse. The city is still inhabited, and Bender refers to mentioning this as "social commentary".
  • Just about every episode of Thundarr the Barbarian.