Ruins of the Modern Age

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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 of Ruins of the Modern Age include:

Anime and 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 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.

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.


  • 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.


  • Planet of the Apes: "You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you all to hell!"
  • Survivors is set in the then-present day and depict the aftermath of a virulent disease. Our works are sliding into ruin.
  • Related: V'Ger in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.[context?]
  • 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.
  • In the recent adaption of 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 AI 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.
  • Battlefield Earth shows them in ruins. To the point that the humans think that icons of 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 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 the Honorverse, 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.
    • And the 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, by Stephen Baxter, features underwater ruins as a global flood continually rises and drowns everything. People survive by diving down and scavenging usable materials.
  • Larry Niven's Beyowulf series mentions crumbling roadways. 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 STALKER 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 millenium 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.


  • A half-submerged Statue of Liberty appears in the music video for "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse, along with every other sci-fi and western trope in the universe. The video for "Sing For Absolution", also by Muse, featured a ruined and burnt-out After the End future cityscape dominated by the ruins of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

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 burn 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.
  • Sigma Team's Zombie Shooter uses this trope to an extent; several of the game's levels have a Fallout-like look.
  • The RTS game KKnD 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 this when Sonic and Co travel to the future after some fire demon was unleashed, or something
  • 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 STALKER 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.
  • 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.
  • Most footage of The Last of Us so far has shown a large city being reclaimed by vegetation.
  • Command & Conquer 3 the yellow zones, and red zones are filled ruins of modern cities, with green Tiberium over taking everything in its reach.

Western Animation

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

Web Comics

  • Later Comics has the memorable image of a flooded False Creek, the instantly-recognisable (to anyone who's spent much time in Stargate City, anyways) Science World geodesic dome protruding from the water.
  • Homestuck has a subplot involving characters in future times exploring a planet whose civilisation has been desolated.