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Apocalypse Anarchy

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"The city was on fire for weeks... maybe months, I don't know. I hid down here in the museum... it was the closest building to the shelter I was in. But I could hear what was happening above. People howling like animals. Chaos. Looting, killing, it's like every foul thing inside of them came out."
Carol, Fallout 3

An asteroid is falling to Earth. A tentacular monstrosity has risen from the depths and is unstoppably destroying everything and spawning horrors. Satan has successfully copulated and his spawn will doom us all.

Regardless, it's The End of the World as We Know It, which means it's time to party. Or Freak Out. Or run. Whatever. There's no tomorrow, which means all bets are off. This usually crops up in Just Before the End settings. Either the hero takes part in the orgiastic excesses before the start of The Hero's Journey or he holds himself above it all to show nobility, or maybe he has no clue what's going on and just gets caught up in the action.

This comes in two forms:

What it boils down to is the author's optimism or pessimism. It's an extended exploration of Hobbes Was Right (with a small chance of Rousseau Was Right).

For when the heroes are breaking the rules because they need to avert the apocalypse, that's Screw the Rules, It's the Apocalypse!. Occurs Just Before the End and often segues into After the End. Contrast The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People.


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  • An ad for Pepsi Max has a group of guys invoking this trope by staging a fake newscast announcing that the earth is about to be hit by an asteroid to enable their friend to score with a woman in a bar.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Fist of the North Star is one of the prime examples of this trope. After the world gets devastated by nuclear war, practically all forms of government have been abandoned. The highest sort of organization the villages have are little communities headed by an elder. Meanwhile, there are either random gangs of mohawked thugs or armies organized under one very powerful individual, and both are more than willing to take what they want from the villages without remorse.
  • Go Nagai's Violence Jack, from which Fist of the North Star took inspiration, is even worse about this trope than that series, and its villains sink to depths of utter depravity that would provide inspiration for the darker manga that would follow.
  • Apocalypse Zero features a strange subversion of this trope; even though it's set in a Japan devastated by countless earthquakes that lasted for years, plus the aftermath of an implied nuclear war elsewhere that affected the country, society hasn't completely broken down, though chaos still occurs thanks to the machinations of main antagonist Harara and their legion of Tactical Evils.
  • Shouran Academy during the zombie outbreak in Apocalypse no Toride.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Trigger-Happy lunatic Van Zant decides to go on a killing spree when Majin Buu goes on his rampage, apparently with the rationale that, since Buu was going to destroy the world either way, he wants to go out with a bang. However, he soon drops this and decides to kill Majin Buu so he would be able to go on killing people himself, which doesn't end well for him.
  • In Magical Girl Apocalypse, corrupt cop Akuta declares that with the Magical Girl invasion and Zombie Apocalypse, he can do whatever he feels like, which includes killing and raping.

  • Christopher Titus' 2000 routine "Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding" closes with a bit that evokes this trope. According to Titus, when the apocalypse does happen, the "normal people" of the world will run around screaming "OH MY GOD! THE WORLD IS ENDING!" while the "screwed-up people" of the world will merely stand by thinking, "Hey... there's nobody watching the Lexus dealership!"
    Christopher Titus: We're going to the apocalypse with leather and a CD player!

    Comic Books 
  • V for Vendetta: Inverted by V. He's trying to bring about the end of a fascist system by increasing the amount of disorder. He inspires the population to more acts of violence and vandalism, which causes the government to crack down, which leads to more uprising, and so on. The inversion comes from the fact that, for V, the anarchy was a means to an end; the fascist government was bad, the anarchy was worse, but he believes it was a necessary step to achieve a truly happy ending with a "proper" government. It's telling that, as an agent of said anarchy, he didn't feel that he was even worthy of said happy ending.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • In Origins, during the Atomic War of 2070, the young Judge trainees Dredd and Rico, along with their field supervisor, came across a group of U.S. soldiers who were gang raping a civilian in the middle of the ensuing chaos in the nuclear exchange. When the soldiers sneer that rules don't matter as they're going to die anyway, the Judges oblige them.
    • Towards the end of the Total War arc, Vienna is caught up in a sector affected by a nuclear blast. One man attempts to rape her, telling her that it hardly mattered now as the city was being nuked. Luckily, Nimrod comes to her rescue.
  • In Apocalypse Nerd, North Korea bombs Seattle, and while a "nerd camp" and a feminist commune seem to be weathering being cut off by the U.S. government in the Cascade mountains just fine, outside the camps, there are raving gangs of big city refugees and Native Americans looting small towns and other settlements of any useful supplies. The main character himself is forced to engage in it, to the point that he's a murderer several times over by the end, not all of which were in self-defence.
  • Subverted in The Punisher one-shot "The End" where Frank and a fellow prisoner named Paris leave an underground bunker under Sing-Sing after a global thermonuclear war.
    Paris mentions something I'd forgotten; we've seen nothing living since we left the shelter. He was expecting continuity, humanity learning to adapt and overcome. A settlement. A sign.
    Instead there's not even a rat or a bug.
    You don't adapt, or overcome. You don't build a stockade to keep away the mutants, any more than you find yourself reborn with superpowers.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: During the Martian invasion of England, there are scenes of people in London taking advantage of the chaos to loot stores when Hyde returns to the League's original base. The looters, along with any other human still in London, are presumed to be killed along with the invaders when the British government unleashes Moreau's biological weapons on them.
  • The Phantom Zone: Believing that the world is about to be ravaged by nuclear war, a violent riot breaks out in Gotham City, complete with packs of looters breaking into stores and stealing anything.
    Supergirl: "He'll think twice before he steals his next toaster...!"
    Batman: "Possibly— But then he'll steal it, anyway! The world might've ended tonight...and look how he chose to celebrate its survival!"
  • A minimized example at the Chilean comic Zombies en la Moneda, although the Zombie Apocalypse is used by some people as an excuse to plunder and steal - and a secondary character dies of a stab when trying to avoid a robbery- Most people decide to lock themselves in their homes and avoid going out to the streets.
  • The Walking Dead: Rick Grimes Slept Through the Apocalypse, so the reader is only shown some brief glimpses and second-hand accounts of what happened while the Zombie Apocalypse was unfolding, but it wasn't pleasant. Abraham describes how he and his family were holed up in a grocery stores with some of their neighbors, who decided to rape his wife and daughter and forced his son to watch while Abraham and a few others were gone. Negan created The Saviors out of a gang that had been using the women of the group as sex slaves.

    Fan Works 
  • The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum has this in its background, marking it as a much Darker and Edgier The Conversion Bureau story. The few nations that still exist untouched and unconsumed by the Barrier aren't exactly in good shape.
    • China: By the time of the main story, it's devolved into a lawless hellhole, with "reports of mass public executions, mass suicides, riots and God knows what else in whatever's left of the place."
    • Brazil: We don't see much outside of Rio De Janeiro. However, it's become an almost Cyberpunk Wretched Hive reminiscent of Elysium, full of starving War Refugees, incredibly overpopulated, and so short on food that some jobs actually pay in food rations instead of money. The narrator describes the city as "damn near a warzone" and considers it a terrible idea to walk outside his apartment without body armor. He also alludes to race riots and food riots, and there's apparently lost newfoals in the city.
    • America: It's not in good shape either. Despite the fact that the PHL/UN taskforce has rather good publicity, there's growing anti-pony movements affiliated with the HLF, which has become a frighteningly hate-filled movement of Right Wing Militia Fanatics with enough firepower and/or rage to attempt a takeover of a military base. Not to mention, like the people in Rio, most civilians are going hungry a lot of the time.
  • Worldwar: War of Equals: Before and during the Alien Invasion, several examples pop up:
    • According to Chapter 5: Interlude to War 2 when the Race's existence was announced in Brazil, preachers in the street became common and there were rumors of cults abducting tourists.
    • Two months before the invasion, UFO and Mayan Doomsday cults spring up and attack military installations in San Francisco. They end up getting hunted down by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
    • Los Angeles has been reduced to a hellhole reminiscent of the Rodney King riots thanks to lack of power and drinking water.
  • In Ambience: A Fleet Symphony, after the nukes finished falling, there was a second American Civil War that ended with several parts of the US seceding to form their own private sovereignties. Gangs and bandits rule much of the rest. The governments that survive, whether the Feds in America or elsewhere in the world, are little better than the rebels. Reawakening to this brave new world is what has soured many ship girls to the idea of being subordinate to humanity.
  • A nominally in-universe technical report parodying a fan-made Star Wars battle-cruiser describes conditions aboard the SDSD Freudian Nightmare that, due to the sheer overwhelming size of the vessel (approximately modeled after how "smaller" ships of usually look, but blown up proportionally to ridiculous size) have quickly degenerated into a punctually-described disaster.
  • Gensokyo 20XXV downplays this. There's no government and rules post-nuclear war (and nuclear winter) but there does seem to be some functional society, so it's not total chaos, though, it's not totally safe, either, as there's a reason why the kids are homeschooled or why the kids can't go outside without being supervised.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Simpsons Movie: When the Simpsons family (minus Homer) return to Springfield for the first time after it's sealed under a glass dome and cut off from the outside world, they find it a wrecked cityscape of seemingly abandoned ruins. The first human they meet is Moe Szyslak, who is wearing a bathrobe, two bandoliers filled with bullets and a traffic cone on his head, and pronounces himself the Emperor of All Springfield. When Barney, offscreen, denies this, Moe responds by chucking a grenade (back) at him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • We see the aftermath of the apocalypse in 28 Days Later. Apparently, suicide was more common than not, as was an increase in church attendance.
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: An asteroid is headed for earth and people are doing everything from heroin to hiring assassins to kill themselves.
  • While it doesn't happen for the world, Phil Connors in Groundhog Day discusses with a couple of guys what they would do if there was no tomorrow. Their enthusiastic answer is that they could do whatever they wanted, now with no consequences. Inspired by this, Phil decides he's going to live his "Groundhog Day" Loop in the most outlandish way possible.
    Phil: What if there were no tomorrow?
    Gus: No tomorrow? That would mean there would be no consequences, there would be no hangovers. We could do whatever we wanted!
    Phil: [thinking] That's true. We could do...whatever we wanted.
  • In Children of Men, society descends further and further into chaos as people realize that the human race will be extinguished in a matter of decades since reproduction is no longer possible.
  • Invoked by Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. He wants to show Batman how depraved his city can be, given the chance. Quite a few citizens step up to the plate, though it's implied the majority of them are the prisoners Bane released from Blackgate and armed for this exact purpose.
  • Independence Day featured an upcoming alien invasion with a wide range of behaviour: panicking masses, looting, people trying to initiate contact, media covering the events, people awaiting more information, military calmly preparing for the worst, all of this portrayed in a surprisingly plausible way.
  • The Day After has a rather low-key version of this trope. As tensions first build and then erupt into (conventional) war, the reaction of the public becomes more and more high strung, with traffic jams as people flee the cities, grocery stores being utterly overwhelmed by customers, and phone lines quickly becoming jammed as people try to get in contact with distant loved ones. Then the nukes launch and the building panic boils over with people stampeding en masse in a desperate attempt to seek shelter before the warheads start detonating. Afterwards, looting becomes so common (and looters act so sociopathic) that summary execution is authorized by the government.
  • Threads follows a similar pattern to The Day After, except in Britain instead of the central United States.
  • In The Road the world has descended into chaos. It's the law of the jungle.
  • The Seventh Seal depicts a historical version of this during the Black Death. Lisa the blacksmith's wife runs away with her lover and passes herself off as "Lady Cunegunde"; some people go drinking and wenching, while others Burn the Witch!.
  • Evolution goes with the first version, except it's more of a drunken frat party and one girl with a "I Don't Want To Die A Virgin" placard, among other more adolescent displays of anarchy.
    Harry: (on smoking again after he'd long quit) Not much of a point to clean living anymore.
  • Shown in Deep Impact: when the American President reveals that a comet is on a crash-course for Earth, he immediately attempts to head it off by declaring martial law and invoking emergency powers to freeze wages and prices. This is shown to be mostly successful: barring a few riots, society keeps functioning. Things start breaking down as the comet's impact grows imminent and the government retreats to its shelters, with the entire East Coast attempting to evacuate at once (with predictable results).
  • Played straight in Battleship, when news of the Alien Invasion spreads, there are riots happening in several parts of the world. Though the attack is only on Hawaii, there are people who believe that its the end of the world.
  • In Downfall during the Soviet offensive to Berlin numerous soldiers that are far enough from the ever closing frontline gleefully abandon their positions and get drunk and party away with disconnected civilians while shells blast buildings into rubble and small arms fires echo through the streets. Another scenes shows a couple slicing a piece of meat from a dead horse while the battle rages around them.
  • In Left Behind (2014): everybody seems to lose their shit when the Rapture takes place.
  • In 20 Years After: There are no longer any modern governments due to the aftermath of the nuclear war and plague. There are only small settlements left.
  • In Empire of the Sun, Basie mentions to Jim that the worst part of a war were the beginning and end. When the Japanese invade, they bomb Shanghai, and eliminate any token resistance, while people run every which way they can, and Jim loses his parents in the chaos. When the occupation sets in, foreign nationals are rounded up where they try to lead a comfortable life under Japanese care. When the Empire of Japan is defeated, the internees run out of the camp as allied forces systematically destroy any remnants of Japanese resistance, and Jim has to fend for himself for a while after being forsaken by Basie, until he's found by Allied forces and reunited with his parents.
  • The Day the Earth Caught Fire: Water rationing is imposed as the Earth hurls toward the Sun. At one point, the protagonist has to fight his way through a street full of teenagers high on drugs having a water fight. He eventually makes his way to the apartment of his Love Interest, and they spend a more quiet time together.
  • Ultraman Cosmos vs. Ultraman Justice: The Final Battle: Early in the movie after Ultraman Cosmos is seemingly killed, and its revealed that Earth will be wiped out in 35 hours, the movie then cuts to a rock band celebrating doomsday in the streets of Tokyo.
  • Riot Girls: With society's collapse, all that's left in a small town is a bunch of teenagers struggling for survival. One group of them are rich jocks who've become brutal overlords, the others poor scavengers.
  • Future World (2018): Since civilization fell, there is no central state, only different struggling small communities with gangs preying on them.
  • In The War of the Worlds (1953), Dr. Forrester drives a truck full of equipment meant to help find a weakness to fight the Martians, hoping to get it to a lab set up in the mountains. However, while driving through Los Angeles, he's assaulted by a mob of rioters, who throw the equipment from the truck, beat up Dr. Forrester when he tries to fight them off, and drive off with anyone who can hang on. When someone tries to bribe his way on, he's told that his money is no good anymore and thrown off.
    Dr. Forrester: They [the Angelenos] have cut their own throats!
  • George A. Romero's Living Dead Series in general depicts this vividly, but it's most notable in Dawn of the Dead (1978), where the opening scenes show the disintegration of authority in Philadelphia as increasingly draconian law enforcement efforts to contain the zombie outbreak lead to riots. Later in the film, The Mall that the survivors are holed up inside gets looted by a biker gang. Land of the Dead puts a twist on it, showing the pre-apocalypse elites, unconstrained by the rules of modern, liberal American society that forced them to treat others as their equals, building a Feudal Future where they get to live as lords while everybody else begs for scraps and competes for their favor.

  • After The Day in Alas, Babylon, a not insignificant fraction of the town get dead drunk. A smaller fraction just gets dead. In the months that follow, the citizens of Fort Repose have to learn that "highwayman" wasn't always a romantic figure...
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • "Nightfall (1941)": Lagash has six suns that periodically goes through an eclipse, producing one night of total darkness every couple of thousand years, which terrifies the people on the planet. They burn down their entire civilization in the freakout, then the survivors start over from scratch. By the time of the next eclipse, the only record of the previous one is in mythology.
    • Nightfall (1990): They basically burn down their entire civilization in the freak-out, then the survivors start over from scratch. By the time of the next eclipse, the only record of the previous one is in mythology.
    • In "The Psychohistorians", Hari Seldon tells Linge Chen that while Trantor won't fall for centuries more, should Chen execute him, the spreading rumors about the future demise will make the people tear the Empire apart in decades at most.
  • The nuclear apocalypse in A Canticle for Leibowitz and the rise of anti-intellectual terrorism that followed all but guaranteed the near-total collapse of civilization. It would be well over a thousand years before mankind surpasses the pre-Deluge world, only to nearly destroy itself again in another nuclear war.
  • In the early Discworld novel The Light Fantastic, this occurs as the Disc heads toward a red star, and the population increasingly tends toward anarchy. In particular, because the Disc is implied to consist mainly of magocracies at this time, the established regimes fall apart when wizards discover that, under the red star's influence, magic stops working. Death notes this and comments on its strangeness:
    The death of a warrior or the old man or the little child, this I understand, and I take away the pain and end the suffering. I do not understand this death-of-the-mind.
  • The Last Policeman has this as a framing device: a comet has been detected that will hit Earth and wipe out all life, without any possibility of survival. Society continues for about a month before people start to realize the futility, and subsequently everything starts breaking down. Jobs are abandoned, food starts to get scarce, and people start partying like it's the end of the world. In the midst of all this, someone is killed, and the protagonist, the titular last policeman, takes it upon himself to find the murderer, even as all his colleagues ask why he even bothers when everyone is going to die anyway.
  • In the Left Behind series book Glorious Appearing, a good deal of humanity who have taken Nicolae Carpathia's "mark of loyalty" and worshiped his image is in a panic when they realize their finances went up in smoke with the destruction of New Babylon prior to the Lord's coming.
  • Moon Crash Series: "The Dead and The Gone" - Alex begins stealing from corpses on the street to get food on the black market.
  • My Girlfriend Is a Zombie shows the logical extreme of a Zombie Apocalypse. Governments and Social Services are non-existent, and the survivors have to fend for themselves, only being able to get supplies by looting, and they have to constantly be on guard, not just from the prevailing zombie threat, but each other.
  • Newsflesh The novella Countdown has some of the major figures killing themselves as the rising begin. And San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats has people going to San Diego determined to go to San Diego Comic Con despite rumors of the zombie apocalypse...rumors which turn out to be true.
  • On the Beach: At the end, people were just taking stuff from stores. Also, hosting a lethal car race.
  • C.T. Phipps:
    • This is an ongoing problem in Cthulhu Armageddon as human society has been reduced to a bunch of Wild West towns and fortress cities that are more or less independent because travel is incredibly perilous. The Great Old Ones continue to stomp around along with their creatures, warping reality along the way that humanity is guaranteed to go extinct unless they find a way to escape or change.
    • In The Cyber Dragons Trilogy this is a Downplayed Trope as the Eruption of the Yellowstone caldera results in the Collapse, which ends with a billion people killed globally and ten years of anarchy. It's a downplayed trope because eventually society gets, mostly, back on its feet and becomes a Cyberpunk Dystopia.
  • In The Road the world has descended into chaos. It's the law of the jungle.
  • The Stand: As Captain Trips sweeps across the U.S and quickly grows out of control, society begins to increasingly break down, but things don't get really bad until information leaks to the public that not only is the U.S military using lethal violence to supress protests and cover up just how bad the outbreak is, the government created the superflu in the first place and the entire disaster is their fault. Desertion becomes rampant as soldiers turn on their officers, civilians form into mobs, there's widespread looting, rape and murder everywhere, the only reason things aren't even worse is because the flu kills almost everyone. Even afterwards, survivors engage in this, such as a group of Army deserters forming a travelling rape gang with captive women.
  • In The Survivalist series by Jerry Ahern, the protagonist John Rourke does a Crash Course Landing when World War III breaks out, only for the other passengers to be massacred by one of the outlaw biker gangs that spring up in the aftermath, while Rourke's family have to kill some rapists who try attacking them. However the upcoming Soviet invasion means everyone soon has a vested interest in restoring law and order, either to fight the invaders or (for the Soviets) maintaining the appearance of control, and the gangs are either absorbed into La Résistance or destroyed.
  • Played with in The Twilight's Last Gleaming. In part because of the nature of the apocalypse, society doesn't instantly collapse. However, as the reality of what has happened after the Yellowstone eruption sinks in, this trope plays out on the scale of nations, with Western Europe invading South America to grab their farmland, since Europe is about to turn into a frozen wasteland.
  • Victoria shows most of the United States gradually descending into this as the economy collapses and the tyrannical federal government loses control. In some places, there are militias or NGOs (though these are themselves not always nice people) who can take over in a relatively orderly manner — e.g., the Christian Marines in the Northeast or the Landwehr in the Midwest — but in others the chaos is complete, with (for example) Pennsylvania lapsing into utter anarchy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for all that it treated apocalypse as routine, didn't often show the effect on the general public because the public almost never knew. Only thrice did they show how the public would respond to a world-ending threat.
    • "Graduation Day Part 2": the students of Sunnydale High band together to take on an attack of vampires and snake. Averted.
    • "Hush": The Gentlemen steal everyone's voices. Everyone freaks out, gets drunk, goes to church, resorts to violence in the streets.
    • "Chosen". Everyone knows the end is entirely nigh, and they all leave town. With a minimum of violence, even.
  • In an episode of M*A*S*H when they think that they are all about to be killed, several of the NCOs get together for a high-stakes poker game. One of the neophytes asks, "So, what are the stakes again?" After explaining that they're basically a year's wages for the cheap chips, he asks, "And if we don't die tomorrow?" "Whites are a cent, blues are a quarter, and reds are a dollar."
  • In Smallville, riots break out all over the world when Brainiac unleashes a computer virus which starts shutting down all technology on Earth (happens during the episodes Vessel and Zod).
  • The Strain: As the vampiric plague spreads, New York collapses into chaos, with multiple scenes of looting used to demonstrate this in the back half of Season 1. It gets worse in Season 2, as on top of the looting and violence, there are numerous fires shown to be burning out of control at any given point, and things get so bad that the city ultimately declares martial law. By Season 3, the only parts of the city not reduced to scavengers fighting over the remaining supplies are the ones being run like a Police State.
  • This is the story of several episodes of Sliders particularly "Last Days" and "Exodus, part 1," in which the end is near and society has degenerated in this way.
  • The Time Tunnel: In "the End of the World", the return of Halley's Comet in 1910, causing worldwide panic monitored by the Time Tunnel control room, interposes an obstacle to saving over 200 miners trapped in the cave-in of the "Emperor Mine". Relocated to this time period, Tony and Doug try to organize a rescue party, but all of the townspeople have left town to wait for the end of the world predicted by a respected professor.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Midnight Sun", Earth is moving closer and closer towards the Sun. A radio report warns people to be careful outside due to widespread looting and wandering maniacs on the streets. It's all a fever dream the main character is having, but reality isn't much better, as Earth is actually moving AWAY from the Sun and is slowly freezing over.
  • The Walking Dead (2010) is an extended exploration of this trope, with the first two seasons basically breaking Rick down and forcing him to abandon civilized behavior.
  • The X-Files: "War of Coprophages" has people in one town think that they are all going to be killed by cockroaches which got there either due to Government Conspiracy and their experiments, or that they are alien robotic invaders. Chaos ensues. It's most apparent in one scene in a convenience store where everybody is trying to grab whatever supplies they can and two ladies fight over the last can of insecticide.

  • "When the World Ends" by The Burning Hell is a vaguely tongue-in-cheek consideration of the end of the world, and asks what sorts of anarchy society might descend into.
    When the world ends and everybody shows their fangs will there still be right and wrong? ... When the world ends and it's all a bit depressing will there be any law, will it be like Mardi Gras?
  • Parodied in the Vocaloid song "Finally the End of the World (Except Not Really)", in which the world doesn't end on Mayan Doomsday and the singer has to apologize to the people she "Insulted, defiled, graffiti’d, and tortured, stole stuff from, harassed and abandoned".
Because in the end
It ended up
Dang it
  • The gist of Prince's "1999" is that the world's going to Hell in a handcart and there's nothing you can do about it, so let's party!
Everybody's got a bomb, we could all die any day
But before I let that happen, gonna dance my life away
  • The 2Cellos cover of The Show Must Go On has them performing a concert as a planetoid is about to crash into the world, complete with a 'time to impact' timer on the wall of the auditorium.
  • Steel Panther: In "Party Like Tomorrow is the End of the World", the world is ending, so Steel Panther throw a huge party which ends up being a massive orgy full of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. The lyrics encourage the listener to have unprotected sex, go on a crime spree, and engage in potentially deadly stunts; after all, you won't have to face the consequences of these actions tomorrow. Subverted in the video, as the party ends up being so awesome that Satan himself changes his mind about ending the world after having that much fun.
  • GWAR gives us "Ragnarök": An upbeat song about all the opportunities for horrific acts of sex and violence once the world ends.
    It all gets pretty crazy, bedlam all around
    Anarchy, chaos rule the street, it's a Ragnarök party town!

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The Far Side: From 1986. Two fishermen look at mushroom clouds, one says "I'll tell you what this means, Norm—no size restrictions and screw the limit."


    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS After the End includes both uses of this trope. The first case is an explicit option in the "choose your apocalypse" setup, either as a primary cause or (more often) a secondary effect. And the second case is represented via hostile bandits and paramilitary groups.

    Video Games 
  • After the End: A Post-Apocalyptic America: Varies from region to region. Some parts of America have descended into tribalism — Viking raiders ply the Great Lakes, pirates descend from Canada to harass the East Coast, nomadic horsemen run rampant in regions of the Midwest not brought to heel by the more civilized Native Americans, and savage tribes worshiping the gods of the Cthulhu Mythos dominate New England — but others, including Mexico, the Holy Columbian Confederacy, the Anabaptists, the Native American tribes of the Midwest, and the Caribbean Empire, have managed to rebuild into large-scale feudal societies.
  • Dead Rising: The protagonists have to deal with a lot of looters and psychopaths who pop up with the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • This trope, as well as the efforts to avert it and bring order back to the world, is a major part of the Fallout universe. Starting in April 2052 and ending on October 23, 2077 the world is embroiled in the Resource Wars, a series of conflicts over the last of the oil in the world, starting between smaller states and eventually resulting in Europe and the Middle East falling apart when the oil fields eventually dry up. China and the United States (and an annexed Canada) become the last remaining stable powers and intense rivals, a rivalry that boils over into nuclear conflict that finishes off both. There is widespread anarchy shortly after the bombs fell and in the ensuing weeks. The Sierra Army Depot closes itself off from the outside world as the Vaults seal and the Enclave escape into shelters. Major cities such as Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Mexico City are destroyed. Survivors eke out a living in the ruins. Las Vegas and the surrounding Mojave area are largely protected by Mr. House and while the bomb heading for Boston misses the city itself, it turns the area south of the urban center into a radioactive hotspot.
    • 2161: 84 years after the bombs fell begins Fallout. Civilization is reduced to shantytowns struggling to make an agrarian existence on the soil. There is trade between towns, especially to and from the Hub, but roving raider gangs as well as mutant animals pose a constant threat outside of city walls. The closest there is to Pre-War society is the Vaults, such as Vault 13. The only "superpower" is an army of Super Mutants that have ties to the Children of the Cathedral.
    • 2197: 36 years after (120 years after the Great War) Fallout Tactics begins. Villages across the Midwest subside on agriculture. Major cities, such as Chicago, are left to rot as ruins with tribes living in the outskirts. The major superpower is the Brotherhood of Steel, the remnants of the Super Mutant army from the first game, and the Calculator. Sometime during this game and Fallout 3 the survivors of the Brotherhood airship form a new chapter in the Midwest.
    • 2208: 47 years after the first game (131 years after the Great War) Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel begins. Texas, along with the rest of the Midwest, is still habited by tribal villages, while some city ruins are still being used. Major superpowers are the Brotherhood of Steel's Texas Expedition, the Reavers (a techno-religious cult), another group of remnants of the Super Mutant army from the first game, and the Church of the Lost.
    • 2241: 80 years after the first game (164 years after the Great War), Fallout 2 begins. Major settlements, such as the New California Republic (previously Shady Sands) and Vault City, thrive and begin to bring order to the wasteland. Smaller settlements such as Arroyo continue to eke out a living but somewhat thrive. Smaller towns and cities from Pre-War times survive, such as New Reno which was shielded by mountains and the fact that it was a lesser target. New Reno becomes a den of vice and sin, all of the worst attributes from Las Vegas and amplified. Major Powers are still the Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave.
    • 2277: 116 years after the first game (200 years after the Great War), Fallout 3 begins. The Capital Wasteland is a barren and dusty wasteland with sparse water supplies, as the Potomac River being rendered partially undrinkable due to the radiation still present. The Pitt, once lawless ruins, in under control of Lord Ashur and his raider army. The East Coast Brotherhood, a splinter faction of the Brotherhood, as well as the "Brotherhood Outcasts", forms a major super power alongside Rivet City (a settlement build on and around an aircraft carrier) and the Enclave. Roving bands of raiders and Super Mutants, as well as ghouls and assorted monsters, prove a constant threat to anyone outside of a settlement's walls. There is minor trade between villages but not much else. Point Lookout, Maryland is nothing but a radioactive swamp inhabited by mutant rednecks called "the Swampfolk" as well as mutated animals and tribals. Additionally, smugglers set up shop in order to profit off anything they can.
    • 2281: 120 years after the first game (204 years after the Great War), Fallout: New Vegas begins. In the 40 years between this game and Fallout 2, the New California Republic has established functioning law and order across what was California and Oregon. The young state has a standing army, currency, trade, mail system, and other pre-War services (though not to the same extent). The Followers of the Apocalypse provide large-scale humanitarian aid to the needy. Raider gangs are non-existent, long since replaced with political corruption and cut-throat business practice. In the east, the ex-NCR citizen Edward Sallow forms "Caesar's Legion" with Bill Calhoun and Joshua Graham. Formed out of seven tribes, Caesar's Legion becomes a major power east of the Colorado River bringing order under threat of death. Between these powers stands the Mojave Wasteland, which received only nine strikes due to the foresight of one Mr. House. The only major city is New Vegas, a ghost town turned glittering oasis. Small towns dot the area with trade between them, and are largely protected by the New California Army, with only the Fiends and Great Khans proving a large threat. Outside of the Mojave are primitive tribes such as the Dead Horses, the Sorrows, and the White Legs. The Enclave is non-existent and the Brotherhood of Steel is forced to hide in bunkers.
    • 2287: 126 years after the first game (210 years after the Great War), Fallout 4 begins. The Commonwealth, post-War Boston, is in the same shape as the Capital Wasteland ten years prior. Raider gangs, monsters and Super Mutants prowl and settlements struggle to survive. The current superpower is the Brotherhood of Steel who arrived the same year in vertibirds and The Prydwen, an armored airship that serves as a mobile base. The Commonwealth Minutemen were once major players and allowed widespread protection but have since crumbled. Additionally, a mysterious group called the Institute is rumored to be present in the area. The Railroad is a minor faction and underground movement with a primary aim of freeing sentient synths from their creators at the Institute.
  • Forever Home: The prologue shows that the surviving population of the world becoming lawless marauders who fight each other for resources in a world doomed to famine by endless dust clouds. To bring it home, the boss of the prologue is Sarge, who is normally an ally in the main story.
  • Goodbye Volcano High has a slow-burn example. After news of the asteroid comes out, for a while, the panic is mostly relegated to social media. As it seems like it's getting closer, it starts affecting the mental health of the students. After the asteroid's electromagnetism causes the permanent aurora borealis in the sky, the panic sets in for real. Classes are suspended indefinitely at Volcano High and the school is immediately vandalized, many shops in town shut down, and Caldera Bay becomes a ghost town.
  • The Last of Us: Over a 20 year span, 60% of humanity lies dead from either the cordyceps infection or from struggling to survive against the infected and themselves. Roaming gangs of bandits prey on small family groups, women and children are routinely abused, raped and murdered, and cannibalism is all too common.
  • Left 4 Dead had a comic tie in showing what the survivors did before the zombie outbreak happened. In Francis's case, he decided to loot a store when everyone was rioting during the beginning of the Green Flu outbreak. When Francis sees zombies are real and they are coming for him, he has his friends haul up a jukebox to the roof of the bar and blast music while he and his friends have some fun by shooting zombies on the streets below.
  • LISA: The Painful RPG kicks off several years after almost all women in Olathe died out. Many of the remaining men have organized themselves into roving bands dedicated to finding the alleged last girl in existence in order to rape her, and several more either become Addled Addicts to an extremely dangerous drug or have been Driven to Suicide.
    • LISA: The Pointless expands on the original game's Garbage Island, presenting it as a wasteland whose population have resigned themselves to humping trash and killing themselves out of pure nihilism. Downtown Olathe is little better, being engulfed in an endless Mob War even before the violence-worshipping Infinity Franchise come knocking.
    • LISA: The Hopeful shows that the backwaters of Olathe are terrorized by an army of rape-happy sexual predators known as the Lovelies. Meanwhile, the only men with knowledge on how to operate televisions use it to broadcast Gladiator Games instead of calling for help.
  • The Nintendo Wars game Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, set after a meteor strike wrecked the world, has as its first villain the Beast, a former Sociopathic Soldier who leads a group of heavily armed raiders, attacking the few remaining enclaves of civilization and looting them of everything valuable. He's being secretly funded by Caulder, a Mad Scientist using the apocalypse as a testbed for various unethical experiments.

  • Done oddly in 1/0: It's the creator who decides to break all the rules when the apocalypse comes, removing the consistent physics and resurrecting all the characters who were Killed Off for Real so he can send them into our world before the comic ends.
  • In one page of minus., after an asteroid is detected on a collision course with Earth, there are scenes of how various people react, some of them fitting the trope.
  • In Bicycle Boy, the unforgiving desert is filled with several nomadic anarchist groups, and one of the main cities is described as run by anarchists.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • The overall setting of Tankmen where all nations and governments have been wiped out in the far future, and soldiers of various factions are stated to be fighting each other for the heck of it. The characters themselves seem to treat the war they go through in an unusually casual manner, and there's more chattering and cock jokes than serious war-related action in the series overall.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, Jimmy's dad wanted to have some time alone and locks himself in the garage, just as some robots are erasing all of humanity due to their inherent flaws. When he goes out he discovers everyone has disappeard (Unaware his son and friends are still around), and cries over the fact he has lost everyone. But to try to take his mind from it, he start playing around with the abandoned cars and takes as many ice cream from the store as he wants.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head mistake a chemical train crash for the end of the world, and begin looting the town when everybody's gone.
  • Duckman: In Apocalypse Not, Duckman discovers his entire hometown has been abandoned, and assumes he's the last man on Earth (everyone else is just at a disaster drill in the bomb shelter beneath the town, which Duckman of course managed to be completely oblivious about), and takes the opportunity to loot, trash half the town, and indulge in petty acts of revenge vandalism. He also ends up accidentally blocking the exit to the shelter with his hijinx, trapping everyone inside and forcing the rest of the cast to find a new way out.
    • In Gripes of Wrath, the new "utopian" society controlled by the Super-Computer ends up collapsing within a few days, and anarchy breaks out. After briefly lamenting, Ajax decides to cheerfully join in with the rioting because he could use a new stereo.
  • Played with in Family Guy. Peter reponds to the news that a black hole is going to consume the Earth in 24 hours by going on a crime spree, but it's ultimately just him doing what he normally does, just a lot more of it in less time. Later subverted when he reveals that he's not doing it because of the end of the world, but because he's trying to avoid spending time with his kids.
  • Futurama: Bender gave up his seat on the only evacuation ship just so he could participate in looting when earth was about to get destroyed (not that he doesn't steal under mundane conditions too). In fact, he displays this behavior as early as the eighth episode. When Fry accidentally discovers the smelliest object in the known universe and Prof. Farnsworth declares it's headed for Earth...
    Bender: Welp, let's get lootin'! [picks up TV and walks out, whistling]
  • Justice League - During the opening story, Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter witness some looting going on during the Alien Invasion. Diana is unimpressed, but J'onn reminds her they're only acting out of fear. Having just become the sole survivor of a similar apocalypse, J'onn's empathy is not surprising.
  • The Simpsons: Springfield has a very unfortunate tendency to descend into rioting and looting at the slightest hint of danger, or because the citizens were angry about a sports event. Here are a few examples.
    • In The Homega Man, Homer is the last man alive (in Springfield at least) after France nukes the town due to Mayor Quimby mocking them, and decides to get over his grief by doing everything he's ever wanted, which among other things included dancing naked in the church.
    • In The Cartridge Family, a soccer riot, caused by the Springfield audience finding soccer incredibly boring, ends up engulfing most of the town, and inspires Homer to buy a gun for home protection, setting up the plot for the rest of the episode.
    • In Poppa's Got A Brand New Badge, a summer heatwave ends up causing a blackout (set off by Homer plugging in a Christmas decoration and overloading the grid), and the citizens take the opportunity to riot and loot half the town.
    • In the Y2K episode segment of Treehouse of Horror, Homer causes worldwide destruction because he forgot to fix his computer. Chaos ensues and widespread looting begins.

    Real Life 
  • A common historical pattern, in historical accounts of lethal epidemics, death of empires, financial collapse and other severe regressions, is the breakdown of social mores and restraints on behavior.
  • Thucydides said of the epidemic that took nearly a third of the Athenian populace in the summer of 430 B.C.E.:
    Men now coolly ventured on what they had formerly done in a corner, and not just as they pleased, seeing the rapid transitions produced by persons in prosperity suddenly dying and those who before had nothing succeeding to their property [...] Fear of gods or law of man there was none to restrain them. As for the first, they judged it to be just the same whether they worshiped them or not, as they saw all alike perishing; and for the last, no one expected to live to be brought to trial for his offenses, but each felt that a far severer sentence had been already passed upon them all and hung ever over their heads, and before this fell it was only reasonable to enjoy life a little.
  • The Black Death of 1348-1350 saw many outbreaks of mob violence against Jews, Roma, foreigners, lepers and other marginalized groups whom many Europeans blamed for the plague.
  • The first years after the fall of the Soviet Union led to the dramatic rise of The Mafiya and other scofflaw groups. Hell, the first years after any of Russia's revolutions and societal catastrophes.
    • The February-October period of 1917 is an even better example. The central authority ceased to exist, the police were shut down by angry mobs, the peripheries of the empire moved towards secession and the army started to wander away in the middle of a World War. Say what you will about Vladimir Lenin and his Bolsheviks, but they put an end to this chaos.
  • The collapse of Saddam's dictatorial government led to the Americans entering Baghdad almost unopposed. That also had the unintended consequence of ending any semblance of law and order as Iraqi army personnel abandoned their posts and the police stopped patrolling the streets. Jails were opened, liberating political prisoners as well as regular criminals. While the U.S. Army guarded several strategic spots in the city, the jubilant crowds went ahead and looted Saddam's palaces, shops, museums, and other peoples' homes. Saddam's merciless tactics ensured that all Iraqis were oppressed equally, and anyone who showed dissent was brutally taken down. With his army and brutality gone, militant extremist groups grew by leaps and bounds, forcing the U.S. into a bloody guerrilla war, and eventually led to the rise of ISIS.
  • The Somali Civil War began when multiple clan-based rebel groups overthrew the government of Siad Barre in 1991, and after that the various groups almost immediately turned on each other, rather than set up a new central government. The next few years saw Somalia collapse into a mess of feuding warlords, guerrilla warfare, rampant piracy off the coast, disease and famine. The violence and anarchy, which has claimed the lives of an estimated 500,000 people, resulted in an environment that many observers equated to a real-life Mad Max. It's been a slow process, but gradually, a central government has started to form in Somalia with the assistance of several African Union nations and other foreign governments, but that government continues to find itself challenged by armed groups like the Islamic militant Al-Shabaab.