The Last of Us Prequel: why The Road is the main inspiration?

Is The Last of Us a plagiarism?

The Last of Us Prequel: why The Road is the main inspiration?
Juan Carlos Saloz

Juan Carlos Saloz

  • Updated:

Now that the HBO Max series has ended, we can safely say that The Last of Us is one of the greatest cultural works of the 21st century. The video game was already a milestone in its time, managing to rise as one of the best rated titles, especially in its narrative, of all time.


But the series has made the value of the title grow even more. It has been a full-fledged transmedia revolution, and may be the first of many titles that end up succeeding on streaming platforms. At the moment, Netflix has BioShock and Amazon Prime Video has God of War, so things are looking good for the future of video game adaptations.

However, riding on the success of The Last of Us, a 2009 film has surfaced whose plot is dangerously similar to that of the video game: The Road. The feature film came out four years before Naughty Dog got their hands on their video game… and it’s best to judge for yourselves.

Connections between The Road and The Last of Us

The Road is a film directed by John Hillcoat and starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee, but also features stars such as Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce. At the time it competed at the Venice International Film Festival and received very good reviews, but few remember it today.

What is most striking about The Road is its plot. The film is based on the book of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, and the original work went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. In other words, it is a story known to all and that went far at the time. But what exactly is it about?

Cada cual es el mundo entero para el otro: La carretera, de John Hillcoat –  Tiempo de Cine

The story tells the life of an anonymous father -we don’t know his name at any point- and his young son. Both survive in a post-apocalyptic world turned into a winter desert where there is nothing left but hostility. The curious thing is that we never know what happened to make the world what it is, since the plot focuses exclusively on the relationship between the two.

Both the movie and the book tell how the main characters are constantly searching for food to eat and a roof over their heads to sleep and be safe, as they flee the cold temperatures on a journey south on which they seek to reach the coast. Along the way they encounter bandits and cannibals who are a great threat to them. And, with no animals or plants left, they constantly fight for the few resources that remain.

Throughout the film we follow the father in his struggle for survival, as he teaches his son to fend for himself in this hostile world. In addition, throughout the film he must fight against a psychosis that does not leave him alone. These are nightmares that appear to him in the form of flashbacks. The film uses these resources to tell his story, how the boy’s mother died and why he wants to reach the coast.

La carretera (The Road) (2009) - Filmaffinity

Although comparisons are odious and The Last of Us has ended up being clearly superior in many ways, it is curious that the plot of the game (and the series) is so similar to that of this work. Both feature a post-apocalyptic, wintry world, a father and son (or adopted daughter) as protagonists, a journey to a specific location, and a traumatic past that haunts the main character.

Watching the movie, there are many more coincidences that appear between these two works. It is true that The Last of Us has much more: it has infected by Cordyceps, the relationship between the protagonists is more complex and there is more character development. However, this comparison is still striking, and many believe that it is plagiarism.

The Road movie review & film summary (2009) | Roger Ebert

Inspiration or plagiarism?

Despite the fact that evil tongues speak very fast and that the creators were already accused of plagiarism at the time, Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley, the directors of the original game, never denied their attachment to The Road and acknowledged that they were inspired by the film.


In an interview with the Los Angeles Times about how the game set a precedent in the early 2010s, both creators cited the movie as one of the foundations on which they built their world. In addition, they also highlighted other references such as the Japanese game Ico.

Juan Carlos Saloz

Juan Carlos Saloz

Cultural journalist specialized in film, series, comics, video games, and everything your parents tried to keep you away from during your childhood. Also an aspiring film director, screenwriter, and professional troublemaker.

Latest from Juan Carlos Saloz

Editorial Guidelines