Can Movies Teach Us Anything About Staying Safe (and Sane) During the Coronavirus?

By Rosunnara RothLast Updated Sep 16, 2020 1:41:11 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Paramount Pictures/IMDb

Remember when we thought being trapped indoors and worldwide contagions only happened in movies? Well, the times have certainly changed. Many earlier films reflect similarities to the COVID-19 world around us, and almost instinctively we can’t stop watching them. While disaster films have more action and drama than my actual life, I still point at scenes screaming, "That’s happening now!"

Sometimes, I wish we responded to the pandemic like in the movies. There’s a lot of moments we can relate to and even learn from, so grab the popcorn and settle down for all the hard-learned lessons in these Hollywood films, from pandemic movies like World War Z to thrillers and comedy dramas.

Contagion (2011): We Need an Army of Contact Tracers

How much damage can a pig and a bat cause? In Contagion, the two create a deadly virus that leads to quarantines, closed airports and food riots worldwide. Besides never letting us see these creatures the same way ever again, this movie presents the urgency to send more contact tracers out in the field, so here’s a shoutout to the character Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) for showing us the importance of the job.

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Photo Courtesy: Claudette Barius/Warner Bros. Entertainment/IMDb

In one scene, Mears tells an infected individual to get off the bus while she races to his location to prevent the virus from spreading. Seems dramatic, right? But it’s the serious response we need for today’s pandemic. Contact tracers help identify and isolate infected individuals while tracking the people they’ve been in contact with to try to stop the spread. It’s important to know who may have been exposed for their sake and others. With that being said, it’s time to assemble and release the contact tracers!

The Andromeda Strain (1971): The Government Should Invest More in Science

In this sci-fi thriller, an outer space virus kills citizens, and the government immediately recruits the best scientists to investigate the situation. Just like in reality, these two groups don’t always get along. However, unlike reality, they both take the virus seriously.

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Photo Courtesy: Michael Ochs Archives/Stringer/MoviePix

The Andromeda Strain teaches us that when the government gives you funds, you should go buy protective suits and a five-floor research facility. Plus, don’t be afraid to ask for more resources. Well, at least that’s what the film’s scientists do to save humanity. Overall, the movie seems to argue that we need to fund science and hire the top experts to fight a pandemic.

Panic Room (2002): When in Doubt, Self-Isolate

Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart play a mom and daughter who are stuck in a scary situation. They must hide from robbers in their home’s "panic room." It’s like the grown-up version of Home Alone with more serious booby-traps. After watching the film, I wished that every home came with a panic room.

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Photo Courtesy: Columbia Pictures/IMDb

The lesson? Practicing self-isolation can save lives. Also, being cooped up at home with another person can make the situation less stressful. Overcoming tough times is better with friends or family. You can all set up your own pranks and booby-traps at home so everyone can keep their cool and sense of humor.

World War Z (2013): Share Helpful Information Without Causing Alarm

Starring Brad Pitt, World War Z gives us a look at how governments respond to a highly contagious virus. Spoiler alert: It turns out that most countries are unprepared, so they fail to manage it. In one scene, supermarkets are cleared out due to fear and uncertainty. Doesn’t that bring back not-so-fond memories of the toilet paper shortage?

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Photo Courtesy: Paramount Pictures/IMDb

Watching World War Z is like seeing real life through a screen. The film emphasizes the need for governments to provide reliable information to keep people from hitting the panic button. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people saw the mayhem at grocery stores, and it really started to feel as if there were no rules anymore. Thankfully, the situation has improved, and toilet paper is back on the shelves.

The Breakfast Club (1985): Don’t You Forget to Have a Real Talk

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Photo Courtesy: Universal Pictures/IMDb

Trapped in Saturday detention, five high-schoolers come out better than when they went in. The secret? They sit down and talk to learn more about each other and themselves. John Hughes’ classic film shows that even the most unlikely people can become friends.


For some of us, it feels like we’ve been stuck at home for eternity. Whether you’re living with your parents or a roomie, it’s a good idea to start a conversation (if you haven’t broken the ice yet). Even small talk can lead to a deeper conversation and connection. By the end of quarantine, it wouldn’t be surprising if you all started singing "Don't You (Forget About Me)" in true Breakfast Club style