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From 'Outbreak' to 'Contagion,' virus-themed movies trend on streaming channels 

click to enlarge Contagion. - WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.
  • Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
  • Contagion.

Call us masochists, but movies about widespread medical epidemics are starting to trend on social media and streaming channels.

While many Americans are self-isolating to avoid catching or spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus, many of us are also watching movies, either for self-flagellation or for reassurance that everything usually works out in the end.



Outbreak (1995) is the story of a fictional virus that spreads from Africa to small-town America. The disease spreads quickly after mutating and becoming airborne. The film stars Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and Kevin Spacey. It is currently trending at #6 in the U.S. on Netflix.

Contagion (2011) is the story of another airborne, flu-like disease that spreads rapidly and affects daily life. Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, and Jude Law, the movie is also trending. It is currently the second-most popular Warner Bros. film online.

Movies like I Am Legend (2007) and to a lesser degree, The Andromeda Strain (1971) have all recently returned to the spotlight as moviegoers indulge their baser instincts. Psychologists explain that people turn to thrillers like these because they allow them to feel the heightened emotions of an actual crisis while still retaining some sense of control.

In addition to fictional movies, the Netflix docuseries Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak (2020) is also seeing a spike in viewings.

With Michigan restaurants and bars ordered to shut down dine-in business, and more and more people forced to stay home to quell the spread of coronavirus, watching movies and television has been a preferred activity. The increase in pandemic-related film watching could continue to increase, and it's possible that even more movies with medical apocalyptic themes might be produced after the scare has come and gone.

Contagion producer Michael Shamberg told BuzzFeed News that the film “shows that ultimately there will be a solution and humanity will recover.”

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April 1, 2020

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