Dysfunctional Dystopias of Tomorrow

Unlike post-apocalyptic films which Seb covered HERE, the dystopian subgenre focuses on a world that has been dramatically changed due to such problems as failing economy, over crowding, crime, bio-chemical plagues and religion. The opposite of a utopia (paradise), these societies are usually extremely repressed and run under Governmental, Alien and Corporate based law. The dystopian movies offer audiences yet another kind of excitement from seeing twisted, alternate versions of the world they live in. We’ve chosen just a few of the furious titles we think best represent the genre ranging from the 1970s to the 21st Century.

Escape From New York
Escape from New York (1981, Dir: John Carpenter)

Year: 1997

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

A war hero turned professional criminal named “Snake” Plissken (Kurt Russell) is given a chance at reprieve if he helps rescue The President (Donald Pleasance) after Air Force One is hijacked while en route to an important summit meeting. The commander-in-chief is able use a secret pod to eject to safety, but the problem is he lands in the USA’s new federal prison: The island of Manhattan. He is immediately kidnapped by a gang of nomadic thugs led by a ruthless gangster called “The Duke” (Isaac Hayes) who hold him hostage with no plans of a ransom deal with authorities. The main person in charge of bringing him back is Police Commissioner Bob Houk (Lee Van Cleef) a war veteran who makes things even more difficult for Plissken by injecting two explosive capsules into his arteries which will detonate if he doesn’t get back from his mission in time! This neo-noir, survival-action adventure thriller has become a cult classic and Kurt Russell’s portrayal of Plissken is one of his most memorable performances. TRIVIA: It was inspired by Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name. Co-starring Adrienne Barbeau, Harry Dean Stanton and Ernest Borgnine. Followed by a sequel in 1996: Escape From LA. WATCH TRAILER

Blade Runner

Blade Runner (1982, Dir: Ridley Scott)

Year: 2019

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social


Battle Royale

Battle Royale (2000, Dir: Kinji Fukasaku)

Year: 2000

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

In Japan, unemployment skyrockets leaving millions out of work. Fearing that their children will rebel, the government passes the “Millennium Educational Reform Act” wherein kids are forced to take part in an annual “Battle Royale” which is a game that requires them to fight until only one is left alive. If the kids enter a specific “death zone”, try to escape or break the rules, their explosive collars will detonate. Director Kinji Fukasaku’s vision was partly inspired by his experiences as a child during World War II working in a munitions camp. During one point, the factory was attacked and the children used dead bodies as protection. This blended with a classic “Lord of the Flies” style setting made the movie an instant cult hit that has crossed all international borders. Starring Takeski Kitano, Chiaki Kuriyama. WATCH TRAILER

The Omega Man

The Omega Man (1971, Dir: Boris Sagal)

Year: 1975

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

After biological war between China and Soviet Union kills most of the world’s population, U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Robert Neville, M.D. (Charlton Heston), a scientist in Los Angeles survives by using an experimental serum. Most of the various survivors of the mass plague transform into strange albino mutants who band together to form “The Family” a nomadic sect that plans to wipe out all modern technology left on the planet. Neville is safe during the day but at night he comes under constant attack from the Family who try to kill him as he stays in his fortified compound. He must fight them while searching for other human beings who could be alive and in need of his help. Co-starring Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash, Paul Koslo. This was the second adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend (and my favorite). It was preceded by The Last Man on Earth (1964) starring Vincent Price and followed by I Am Legend (2007) starring Will Smith. WATCH TRAILER

Strange Days

Strange Days (1995, Dir: Kathryn Bigelow)

Year: 1999

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

At the end of the 20th century, L.A. has become a virtual war zone filled with crime and social unrest. Meanwhile, a new form of underground entertainment is on the rise: SQUID (Super Conducting Quantum Interference Device) records memories from the users cerebral cortex and is re-played through another device so the client can vicariously experience the recorders most intimate sensations in their mind. An Ex LAPD officer turned black market salesman named Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) sells these memories on discs. His supplier is Tick (Richard Edson) who gets all sorts of the most provocative content from the SQUID recorders. Nero gets caught in the middle of mystery when an unknown killer records the murder of a friend of his using the SQUID and sends it to him. Believing his ex-girlfriend Faith (Juliette Lewis) to be in danger, Lenny tries to help her but is threatened by her new boyfriend, an underworld chieftain. The film puts a very interesting spin on virtual reality as entertainment. Its almost like a futuristic version of Blow Up. One of the coolest sequences in this movie occurs at the very beginning where a gang of criminals rob a restaraunt and are chased by the cops, all filmed through first person point of view! Co-starring Juliette Lewis, Angela Bassett, Michael Wincott and Tom Sizemore. WATCH TRAILER


THX-1138 (1971, Dir: George Lucas)

Year: Unknown

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

In George Lucas’ directorial debut, Robert Duvall stars as THX-1138, a factory worker who lives in a barren, clinical society where sex has been forbidden and the general population is given mind altering drugs as a way to dull their senses and keep them working for extended periods of time. The citizens worship a being called OMM 0910, and confess to it through public booths called “unichapels”. When THX-1138’s roommate LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie) stops taking the required sedative drugs, she begins to see her life more clearly. She also substitutes non-medicinal pills for THX, causing him to awake from the brainwashing and experience sexual desire for the first time as well as question his own existance. Originally a college project, George Lucas shot this on a very low budget but was able to create an affecting, exciting work of visionary cinema that still is relevant 41 years later. Co-starring Donald Pleasance and Don Pedro Colley. WATCH TRAILER


Brazil (1985, Dir: Terry Gilliam)

Year: Unknown

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

In this bizarre steampunk satire, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is a man who is searching for a woman who appears to him in his dreams. Inspired by the totalitarian world of George Orwell’s 1984, it injects the bleak storyline with elements of slapstick comedy and screwball antics. One of the strangest films to come out of the 1980s. Co-starring Robert DeNiro. WATCH TRAILER

Total Recall

Total Recall (1988, Dir: Paul Verhoeven)

Year: 2084

Dystopian State: Corporate

Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a construction worker who decides to go on a virtual reality trip through the new RECALL program. When he is injected with the high powered chemicals, he experiences a violent schizoid embalysm. It turns out Quaid has had a memory chip implanted in his brain that noone knew about. Seeing him as a threat, Doug comes under attack from his closest friends who were secretly hired to be part of his life/watch him. He finds out he is in fact another person completely. His former self leaves him a message by video to help him learn about his past life which then leads him on a journey to Mars to help unlock a secret that could potentially change the poisoned planet forever. Co-starring Sharon Stone, Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox. WATCH TRAILER

Children of Men

Children of Men (2006, Dir: Alfonso Cuaron)

Year: 2027:

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

When the youngest child left in the world is murdered, human fertility is reduced to zero which later leads to mass social unrest and violence. The UK is the last form of real government and refugees begin to flood the island. The British military and police forces do their best to detain all the illegal immigrants. A former activist turned bureaucrat Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is kidnapped by an immigrants rights group called “The Fishes” and given to their leader, who happens to be his wife Julian (Julianne Moore). Julian offers Theo money to get transit papers for a young female named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), which Theo obtains from his cousin Nigel (Danny Huston), a government worker. These papers require the owner to be accompanied so Theo agrees to go along with Kee in exchange for a fee. This begins an adventure through the war torn country so they can reach a ship called the “Tomorrow” on which they will escape. Director Alfonso Cuaron’s vision of this future was described by him as “anti-Blade Runner”. It’s devastated atmosphere was also heavily influenced by the September 11 attacks. WATCH TRAILER

They Live
They Live (1988, Dir: John Carpenter)

Year: Present

Dystopian State: Alien Controlled

A drifter named Nada (Roddy Piper) arrives in Los Angeles looking for a job. While walking through the city he meets a construction worker named Frank (Keith David) who hires him on. Without a place to stay Nada joins a group of homeless people who live on the outskirts of town. On his travels Nada comes across a pair of sunglasses that uncover something disturbing: People around him have an appearance of alien beings and there are hidden messages on billboards and in magazines inducing mind control. His only chance is to join up with a secret alliance that want to wipe out the aliens in disguise. Nada, Frank and the rest plan to kick much alien ass and chew some bubblegum and restore human order to the world. It’s a cult classic alien invasion/dystopian adventure film. WATCH TRAILER


Rollerball (1975, Dir: Norman Jewison)

Year: 2018

Dystopian State: Corporate

In the future, war has been substituted with sports. One of these pasttimes is Rollerball, which combines roller derby and football in a gladiator style. The Energy Corporation is a global conglomerate based in Houston, Texas whose team is led by Jonathan E (James Caan) one of the most popular players in the league. Jonathan is urged by Mr. Bartholomew (John Houseman) the Energy Corps chairman to retire but is never given a specific reason. As he continues to prove he is one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen, Bartholomew and the Energy Corp have made plans to end Jonathan’s career with or without his agreement. Co-starring Moses Gunn, Maud Adams, John Beck. It was remade in 2002. WATCH TRAILER


Robocop (1987, Dir: Paul Verhoeven)

Year: Near Future

Dystopian State: Corporate

In Detroit, a corporation called OCP (Omni Consumer Products) runs all the cities businesses. Their new dream project is “Delta City” which will transform the decaying urban center into a brand new utopia for people to live and thrive in. Part of their transformation plan involves creating a robotic police force. Their first model “ED-209” an imposing tank like robot designed by the ruthless CEO Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) is a failure after it malfunctions and kills someone during a demo. Meanwhile a city cop named Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is brutally killed by the evil Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his thugs during a pursuit. His head/brain is saved by Jones’ competitor (Miguel Ferrer) and used to create Robocop, the first functioning cyborg police officer. Robocop fulfills his duties to stop crime, but Murphy’s inner memories continue to haunt him as he lives as a non-human entity. Co-starring Nancy Allen.. WATCH TRAILER


Sleeper (1973, Dir: Woody Allen)

Year: 2173

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

In this “Citizen Kane of sci fi comedies”, nebbish health shop owner/jazz musician Miles Monroe (Woody Allen) awakes in a strange new world after being stuck in cryogenic status for 200 years. As he tries to make sense of his current situation, he poses as a robot butler for a young woman named Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton) who he later kidnaps as he evades being captured by the authorities who are out looking for him. Miles and Luna at first don’t get along but later fall in love and join a rebel alliance set to to overthrow the regime in power. Woody Allen brings his unique style of humor to a dystopian atmosphere and the laughs are aplenty from start to finish! WATCH TRAILER

Minority Report

Minority Report (2002, Dir: Steven Spielberg)

Year: 2055

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

Washington D.C.: Crime is deterred through a new method which employs psychics that can see things occurring in the future. When Pre-crime officer Captain John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is accused of committing a future crime himself he tries to evade capture while investigating who is behind the charge with the help of Agatha (Samantha Morton) one of the pre-cogs that work for him. This is a very cool mix of potboiler, psychological thriller and action film that really packs a wallop with its fast paced storyline and high-tech setting. Based on the story by Philip K. Dick. Co-starring Colin Farrell and Max von Sydow. WATCH TRAILER

Demolition Man

Demolition Man (1993, Dir: Marco Brambilla)

Year: 2032

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

After decades in a cryogenic freeze, Los Angeles Det. John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) is unfrozen and released to help the police of San Angeles (post earthquake merging of San Diego and LA) bring his old arch enemy from the 20th century, super criminal Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) to justice. Spartan must stop Phoenix while contending with the overly polite citizenry who live under strict moral codes where sex is outlawed and even cursing is forbidden! Co-starring Sandra Bullock, Denis Leary and Bob Gunton. WATCH TRAILER


Equilibrium (2002, Dir: Kurt Wimmer)

Year: Unknown

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

Christian Bale stars as John Preston, a warrior-priest/officer in a future society that has outlawed artistic expression and whose citizens are forced to intake drugs to suppress all normal human emotions. After missing one of his daily drug intakes, Preston begins to come out of the controlled brainwashing. With his mind clear he leads a resistance movement against the government oppressors who utilize a unique form of self defense which combines gunplay and martial arts called “Gunkata”. A fun THX-1138 meets Matrix-esque action thriller that has developed a bit of a cult following over the years. WATCH TRAILER

Logan's Run

Logan’s Run (1976, Dir: Michael Anderson)

Year: 2116

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

In this stories’ alternate future, the limit of peoples aging is limited to 30 years after which they must be executed through a ritual called Carousel. Each person’s age is shown through a lifeclock crystal which is embedded in their hand. If anyone tries to evade their death sentence, they become runners (escapees) and are then tracked down by special agents called “Sandmen”. Logan 5 (Michael York) is one of these officers. Due some circumstances beyond his control, Logan reaches his limited age earlier than expected and becomes a runner himself. He tries to infiltrate an “underground railroad” type operation where people can survive while living in a secret area called “Sanctuary”. Co-starring Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Farrah Fawcett and Peter Ustinov. WATCH TRAILER

The Matrix

The Matrix (199, Dir: The Wachowskis)

Year: 1999

Dystopian State: Governmental/Social

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) has two lives: during the day he is just another faceless computer programmer, at night he is “Neo” a genius level cyber hacker. One night Neo is contacted by the mysterious “Morpheus” (Laurence Fishburne), a famous outlaw hacker who is on the run from the government and who wants to meet him. Neo is first introduced to Morpheus’ protege “Trinity” (Carrie Anne Moss) who tells Neo that his secret hunches about another hidden world outside his own are in fact real. Neo is shown that the “real world” is an really a dark, ugly devastated planet and his current life is just one big illusion, i.e. a computerized program. After seeing what’s true and what’s not he immediately joins Morpheus’ crew of rebels who plan to take back control of “The Matrix” and change the world. This film was truly groundbreaking with its unique concept, stylized visuals and action sequences. There were two sequels made but instead of continuing what the first film started, they seemed to only mess the storyline up and turn it into another CGI heavy franchise. We still highly recommend the original. WATCH TRAILER

Do you have any favorite dystopian movies? Let us know!

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