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20 Great Dystopian Films That Are Worth Your Time

14 October 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Emilio Santoni

14. THX1138 (George Lucas, 1971)


Before George Lucas delivered one of the most successful science fiction films of all time with Star Wars, he already had one very different type of sci-fi film under his belt. Expanded from his student film Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, THX 1138 was Lucas’ directorial feature film debut, a highly visual yet minimalistic take on a future dystopian society.

Set in a world which seems to solely consist of technology and the colour white and where everybody is drugged, walks around in the same white outfits with shaved heads and is forbidden to have sexual relations, the film follows THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) and his roommate LUH 3417 (Magie McOmie). LUH 3417 has started reducing their mandatory drug intake, causing both of them to start feeling true emotions for the first time.

As a result the two develop feelings for each other and have sex, causing LUH 3417 to fall pregnant. The two are caught, separated and imprisoned. After some time THX 1138 manages to escape with fellow prisoner SEN 5241(Donald Pleasence) and learns that LUH 3417 has been terminated and that her name has been reassigned to foetus 66691. Already distressed and completely disillusioned with the entire world around him, this discovery causes THX 1138 to try to find a way out of the underground structure the entire society consists of whilst he is being chased by the same robotic cops who he used to manufacture in his plant.

Striking with its minimalist and primarily white imagery, THX 1138 perfectly depicts its cold, dehumanised and paranoid world. Whilst the film wasn’t either a critical or financial success upon its initial release, it gained a steady cult following and was rediscovered when Lucas became a household name after the success of Star Wars.

And whilst the film’s deliberate pace and highly stylised imagery and set design are the most obvious features here, the final climactic car chase scene through the underground complex tunnel system already show some of the more flashy flair Lucas would later become famous for. A striking debut by a director who would never direct anything remotely like this again, THX 1138 is a true gem in his filmography and of seventies dystopian visions.


13. Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002)

Minority Report (2002)

Based on the short story of the same name by Philip K. Dick, who was no stranger of dystopian visions, Minority Report is one of Steven Spielberg’s most successful post 2000 works and an action-packed noir-infused sci-fi thriller, set in a Washington D.C. where murder has mostly been ruled out.

Set in the year 2054, murder has virtually become a thing of the past in Washington D.C. as the “Precrime” police unit is able to prevent crimes before they even occur due to the use of three psychics Known as “precogs”, together they are infallible in their predictions of future crimes. John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is one of the detectives on the force but, when on the dawn of the system going nationwide, the precogs predict that he himself will murder a man who he doesn’t even know, he goes on the run being convinced that something is amiss.

When he learns that one of the precogs, Agatha (Samantha Morton), doesn’t always agree with the other two, thereby creating a “minority report”, he decides to kidnap her in an attempt to find out if he’s being set-up. And whilst it turns out that Agatha does have the same vision as the other two precogs in regards to the murder John is supposedly about the commit, he also learns that Agatha’s mother was killed and that his knowledge of the case might be related to why he finds himself in his current situation. Meanwhile Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell), who has been hunting John down, also starts to realise that things aren’t all what they seem when he finds out some of the precog’s visions have been tampered with.

As is to be expected, this Spielberg interpretation of a Philip K. Dick story focuses more on the action elements than the dystopian ones but that doesn’t mean that this film is any less successful. With a stunning visual style, both in production design and in photography, having shot the film in desaturated high contrast, Minority Report is an intricately scripted and edge-of -your-seat sci-fi thrill ride.

Most of the film’s depicted technology was also given considerable scientific thought and some of what’s on display, which didn’t really exist at the time of production, has actually become reality by now. Perfectly balancing intricate storyline and serious themes of determinism vs. free will and the dangers of preventive crime measures by government with action-packed spectacle, Minority Report is a highly entertaining dystopian film and not as bleak as many other entries on this list. The film was nominated for eleven Saturn Awards, winning four of them for Best Science Fiction Film, Director, Writing and Supporting Actress for Samantha Morton.


12. They Live (John Carpenter, 1988)

They Live

Definitely a dystopian film, although one might need sunglasses to see it, They Live is a satirical science fiction/horror hybrid directed by John Carpenter, who after a few failures at the box-office and heightened studio interference had signed a contract with Carolco, which allowed him greater creative freedom in exchange for working with smaller budgets. The first result of this contract was They Live.

John Nada (Roddy Piper) is an unemployed drifter who finds construction work in Los Angeles and befriends Frank Armitage (Keith David). Frank takes him to a shanty town where John takes up residence as he stubbles across some strange going ons in the local church. When the church is raided by police one night, John finds a box of sunglasses in the wreckage, which he hides after taking one for himself.

Soon he finds out that the sunglasses are far from normal and that wearing them allows a person to see the world as it really is: dominated by aliens and full of subliminal messages through advertising to ensure mankind sticks to consuming and obeying whilst small surveillance drones monitor everybody’s movements on the streets.

He goes back to get the rest of the sunglasses and convinces Frank, after a lengthy fist-fight, to wear a pair too. The two men then join the resistance where they learn that the aliens use a special broadcast to hypnotise people into not seeing the truth around them and that stopping the broadcast is the only way for the world to wake up.

There’s a lot to like in They Live and Carpenter manages to squeeze everything from his limited budget. The central concept of the sunglasses, which allow one to see the world as it really is, black and white and filled with propaganda through advertising and commercialism in a seemingly free society, is simply great and the film also features one of the best fight scenes ever put on film as Roddy Piper and Keith David lay into each other for more than five minutes.

The film combines sci-fi and horror elements with biting satire and action and the film also sports a classic one-liner about chewing gum and kicking ass. As long as you don’t let the budget restrictions or Piper’s dubious acting put you off, this is one hell of a B-Movie.


11. The Matrix (The Wachowski Brothers, 1999)


Whilst not their first feature film, there is no doubt that The Matrix was the movie that put the Wachowski Brothers on the map in a big way, and they have been struggling to make anything half as impressive ever since.

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), who goes by the hacker-alias Neo, is a regular guy working in a cubicle whilst doing some hacking in his spare time. One day he is contacted by what is seemingly another hacker, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), who tells him that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburn) will be able to reveal the truth about “The Matrix”, a term Neo has been encountering repeatedly online.

When meeting Morpheus, Neo is given a choice of taking one of two pills; if he takes the blue pill, all will go on as it did before and he will forget about their meeting but if he takes the red pill, Neo will learn the truth and nothing will ever be the same again. Neo chooses the red pill and wakes up in the real world, a futuristic dystopian nightmare where machines have taken over the world, enslaved nearly everybody and created a massive artificial intelligence illusion (the world Neo knew before taking the red pill and always assumed to be real).

They do so by keeping mankind asleep and using their bodies to produce energy. But Morpheus and his small group of resistance fighters, who live outside of the Matrix, think Neo might be the prophesied “One”, who will be able to break the Matrix and restore freedom for mankind. Meanwhile agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), a sentient “agent” program designed by the machines to hunt people outside of the Matrix down, is trying to stop Neo from ever fulfilling his destiny.

The Matrix was the Wachowski Brothers’ love letter to anime, science fiction and actioned-packed Hong Kong cinema and was a success on every level. The script combines an intricate storyline with mindblowing set pieces and the film will forever be associated with “bullet time”-effects, where the camera moves at regular speed through scenes taking place in extreme slow-motion.

The art direction and design also stand out as the Wachowski’s managed to create a totally believable yet utterly fantastic world and the film also popularised the use wire-fu and intricate kung-fu choreography into the Western mainstream. The film won four Academy Awards (Best Editing, Sound, Sound Effects and Special Effects) as well as Best Science Fiction Film and Best Director from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. A landmark blockbuster, which spawned two extremely disappointing sequels despite the fact that their technical aspects were nothing to sneeze at either.


10. Gattaca (Andrew Niccol, 1997)


Gattaca, a title comprised on the first letters of guanine, adenine, thymine and cytosine, which are the four nucleobases of DNA, is a 1997 science fiction drama, which was the directorial debut of New Zealand screenwriter Andrew Niccol, who also wrote the screenplay.

Set in a dystopian future society where one’s lot in life is determined by one’s genetics instead of one’s education or talents, the world has been clearly divided in the haves, those able to afford the genetic manipulation of their offspring and who are referred to as “valids”, and the have nots, the rest of the population who cannot so and are called “in-valids”. Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is an in-valid and is therefore excluded from the Gattaca space program, his greatest dream in life.

He consequently seeks the help of a DNA broker German (Tony Shalhoub) and manages to make a deal with Jerome (Jude Law), a valid who has been partially paralysed in an accident and willing to sell Vincent various of his DNA samples, needed to forge his genetic identity. By doing so, Vincent enters the space program and everything goes according to plan until one week before his departure into a space, a mission director is murdered, causing a widespread search for the killer amongst all involved in the program.

An intelligent, cool and ultra-stylish exploration about the ethics surrounding genetic manipulation and science, Gattaca is filled with social commentary and a stunningly designed and shot piece of psychological science fiction. The film also features Uma Thurman as Vincent’s love interest and an impressive supporting cast, which includes Ernest Borgnine,

Alan Arkin, Elias Koteas and Gore Vidal. Also of note is the movie’s soundtrack, composed by Michael Nyman, which adds greatly to film’s mood. Whilst not a great financial success, the film earned plenty of critical praise and Gattaca received an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration as well as winning Best Film and Soundtrack awards at the Stiges Film Festival.


9. Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)


Perhaps best described as a dystopian satire, heavily borrowing elements from Orwell, Kafka as well as Huxley, Brazil was the ambitious follow-up to Gilliam’s Time Bandits and the film that firmly put him on the map as a director, after having starred his career as part of the Monty Python troupe.

Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is a civil servant in a future society, which has become a nightmare of bureaucracy, automatization and totalitarianism. To escape this horrible world, Sam often day dreams about being a hero and saving the girl of his dreams in far more appealing worlds. When one day he is called to investigate the incidental death of an innocent citizen during an interrogation, who was mistaken for a terrorist, he is astonished to find out that the man’s widow Jill (Kim Greist) looks exactly like the girl from his dreams.

Through his association with the woman, he actually gets in contact with the terrorist the government was after in the first place, Archibald Tuttle (Robert DeNiro). Through him and his infatuation for Jill, Sam slowly gets sucked into the resistance and is consequently arrested and interrogated by his old friend Jack Lint (Michael Palin).

A visually inventive satire, Brazil can easily be imagined as 1984 on drugs with a good measure of humour thrown in. As per usual with Gilliam films, the movie is bursting at the seams as every possible idea he had seems to have been thrown in and can be hard to follow as a result, especially as it’s also quite a visually overwhelming piece of work.

The film was Gilliam’s real breakthrough as a director although it only became a success in Europe at the time of its release, whilst it was largely ignored in the United States, where it has become a cult classic since. Apart from those mentioned above, the film has a fantastic supporting cast which includes Ian Holm, Jim Broadbent, Bob Hoskins and Katherine Helmond.

Brazil was nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplay and Art Direction), won two BAFTA Awards (Best Production Design and Special Effects) and also managed to win Best Film, Director and Screenplay at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards.


8. Fahrenheit 451 (Francois Truffaut, 1966)

Fahrenheit 451 (1960)

Based on the novel of the same name by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian science fiction film, which would turn out to be the only American film adapted for the screen and directed by François Truffaut, starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie.

Some time in the future, the government has placed a ban on all books in order to control public opinion and the profession of fireman now consists of enforcing the law by burning every illegal book that is found. In this world, we follow Montag (Werner), a fireman married to a woman (Christie) completely indoctrinated by the state’s views, who has started to doubt the system as well as his job.

Montag has also started to fall in love with an unorthodox young girl who has moved in next door, Clarisse (Christie in a dual role), who turns out to be part of the underground resistance. This causes Montag to doubt his role even further and he starts stealing books whilst on the job and hiding them in his home. But when Clarisse’s house is raided and Montag is informed upon by his wife for his possession of books, the only thing left to do is try to escape to the so called “book people”.

Fahrenheit 451 has a terrifying and fantastic central premise and one that seems to become more relevant with the passing of each year. The film is a strange mixture of a very normal boring looking world and a highly stylised one with some very unique production design features. Shot in washed out colours by future director Nicholas Roeg, the film looks quite unlike anything else and it lacks any written word, as even the opening credits are spoken.

The performances also seem muted, enforcing the film’s theme of a population which is being kept “asleep” by a constant barrage of mindless entertainment and propaganda whilst Julie Christie’s dual role clarifies Montag’s struggle between his old life and his doubts. And the film’s finale, in which Montag escapes the city and makes his way to the alternate society of “book people” in the woods, is as powerful as ever.

A truly unique piece of work, Fahrenheit 451 is an insightful and underrated dystopian nightmare, which, whilst being distancing, is also extremely powerful. The film was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.



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  • this bear is tops blooby

    Hmm, I wonder if THX1138 inspired the Manhunters design.

  • I wouldn’t put Fahrenheit 451 in that list as I thought the film was weak. Especially as it felt awkward and the visual effects were poor as it’s Francois Truffaut’s worst film.

    • Charles Barnes

      I wouldn’t put it on the list either (especially over some great films he’s listed both here and in the honourable mentions) but I still feel as though its a good film in its own right.

      Maybe not one of Truffaut’s best, but unlikely one of his worst. Maybe more middle-of-the-road.

  • Charles Barnes

    Ah, I adore dystopia 🙂 Oh, but who doesn’t?

    That being said it was almost ruined for me thanks to to Year 11 Extension English, and the subsequent over saturation of the genre I was exposed to. This was on top of having to treat a passion like schoolwork (plus listening to all those comrades ‘enlightened’ by 1984 -_-). Once that was all over though, it was no issue slipping back into a steady adoration of one of my very favourite genres.

    Nice to see love for the 1984 film 🙂 I actually prefer it to the book, which I actually hate, to a degree. I’ve personally never considered it anything more than anti-communist (or whatever have you) propaganda: a book with its message first, and its story second. I am a firm believer in the fact that any individual who reads it without knowing of how ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ it is to love and adore the book would not love it, or at not as much as they claim to. It is the biggest literary I’ve ever encountered, and one of the biggest bandwagons period. Something like Fahrenheit 451 I consider way, way more effective due to pulling off a great story whilst ingraining a thought-provoking solid message within. The film puts much more emphasis on the piece as a narrative, and is very well made to boot, with incredibly good acting.

    Good to see Soylent Green here. The twist/quote is more iconic than the film itself, but the film is still very much worth the watch.

    The Trial dystopian? Interesting, but not at all wrong. I’ve always considered Kafka to be separate from dystopia, but understand fully why you would. He did have a strong influence on the genre, especially in Brazil.

    Still need to see Minority Report :/ Need to get on to that one!

    Brazil should be higher, damn you >:(

    The Fahrenheit film is good, but I personally feel you’ve placed it too high. It isn’t a great movie as such, like some of the films its overtaken.

    Never cared for Dark City much myself :/

    Completely worthy and understandable top three, and overall, a really good list, and one that I’ll certainly read again in future (if indeed I don’t get frightened enough of these films to cease thought of the future!).

    • Giles Lewey

      These films are “safe.” A genuine dystopian film would have qualities that make you unhappy. Existenz, for example. A boy and his dog?

  • Robin Parmar

    An excellent list, although “Minority Report” and “The Matrix” are too action-oriented to be dystopian; any social commentary is accidental. A better choice would be the rather crap “V for Vendetta”.

    Any list I made would have to include “Alphaville”, “The Omega Man” (1971), “A Boy and His Dog”, “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, “The Quiet Earth”, “Idaho Transfer”, “Phase IV”, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”, and “Gamera: Revenge of Iris”.

    • The Super King

      The Matrix has more social commentary than any movie on that list and it’s not even close. Morpheus is the king of exposing society for what it is. His quotes are far more relevant than anything found in the other films. It’s very unfortunate that you allowed the action to distract you from all the gems that Morpheus dropped.

      • Brian Lussier

        Clearly, you didn’t get A Clockwork Orange if you think The Matrix has more social comment to it than it. I agree with much of what you say, but The Matrix doesn’t have more relevant things to say than Clockwork. That’s just plain ignorance…

        • Phil Rosenthal

          i always felt the themes explored in the matrix are much grander than the ones in clockwork orange. clockwork orange is about a society gone wrong. the matrix is about all of existence being a lie. both scenarios suck but one seems more suckier than the other to me.

      • Robin Parmar

        Or maybe I thought the “social commentary” in The Matrix to be facile and largely ripped off far superior sources.

        • Mushion

          I don’t suppose you’ve read the source material of minority report. Because it may not show it in the movie perse, but the original story was pretty on point

          • Robin Parmar

            Yes I am a huge Dick fan and have read that story, which I consider to be fun but relatively minor. In any case the film and story need to be considered on their own merits. Only two decent films have been made from his material, and one is “Barjo”, which I can reasonably assume few have seen.

          • A Scanner Darkly was well done.

        • Raymond

          You may be right about it being ripped from superior sources, but it does exist there. It’s something for the kids you know? I mean, when I watched it as a kid I wasn’t ready to read Baudrillard let me tell you. I mean I’m still not lol I struggle with understanding what he is talking about half the time. But it did kind of set up the way for me to thinking about philosophical literature and philosophy and a lot of different philosophical problems brought up with that movie (of which there are many).

          You know you need that entertaining introduction. People will see that and some will be inspired to go and look up the more difficult and complex works that inspired it. Or at least familiarize themselves with it on wikipedia or something, which, I think is still valuable. At least they know about it and acknowledge it. It’s better than if it had stayed in obscurity (which let’s face it, a lot of that stuff would if it wasn’t for the popular culture that sometimes mines it for its creative output).

          • Robin Parmar

            Yes, I understand your point if the film does actually introduce people to Baudrillard. Somehow though I think that quite unlikely for most viewers (you might be an exception!)

            Isn’t it more likely that fans of The Matrix will just go on to the next piece of entertainment, regardless of how philosophically vacuous it might be? In any case Baudrillard is far from an obscure writer and doesn’t need bad interpretations to “help” his profile.

            Popularity is no measure of quality in any case. Though I apparently risk being labelled a hipster for even suggesting the obvious!

          • Jadakiss

            No I think that is obvious. I don’t think many people are REALLY ready to admit to thinking popularity is any measure of quality. You only have to suggest what that would imply, that some pop singer or movie or book they don’t like is great (say, Justin Bieber or Transformers or 50 Shades of Grey), and they would have to walk back on that one.

            Anyway it’s a fair point you make. Personally, I think the Matrix is great at being what it is, a weird soup of science fiction, anime, 90s culture, and philosophy. And I do think it works as a kind of “insert philosophical metaphor here” type of story, a kind of template where you can come up with many different philosophical interpretations. It seems to inspire so many different ones, and that’s worth noting I think. I mean philosophers as diverse as David Chalmers, Herbert Dreyfus, and Slavoj Zizek have all read in very different philosophical problems into the movie. What other pop culture phenomenon could make that kind of claim? But, my personal fondness for the movie could be pure nostalgia, and I’m ready to admit that. I watched it at that crucial moment in childhood you know, where these lifelong relationships with pop culture franchises form. I’m not saying it’s Tarkovsky levels of philosophical and cinematic quality. I recognize it’s essentially a popcorn movie. But I think for being a popcorn movie, it manages to at least go as far as that medium could go in being philosophically interesting.

        • MysteriousRonin

          First you say “any social commentary is accidental”, and now you’re saying it has some but it’s ripped from other sources you think are superior.

          I lol’d at how little you know about what you’re talking about.

          • Robin Parmar

            You do realise that the two statements you quote are not mutually exclusive? The content could readily be accidental and facile. But I guess your emotional reaction to the fact someone likes different films from you blinds you to little things like meaning and logic.

    • Krsto Ristivojevic

      Honestly The Matrix is better and more dystopian than any of the films you mentioned, although I havent watched Idaho Transfer and the Gamera thing. Judging by the rest of them I think that only Alphaville can even compare to The Matrix masterpiece, I feel sorry for you if you got distracted by the action. Try watching Animatrix, it has a lot less action and more social commentary. Also you seem like just another spineless hipster, calling out the films most people never even heard of.

      • Robin Parmar

        You lost all credibility with the hipster comment. No need to feel so threatened just because someone has seen films you have not. Live and learn in peace.

        • mUTE

          ^ Such a hipster reply

    • John W. Thackery

      The Omega Man and A Boy and His Dog are post-apocalyptic, not dystopian.

      • Jess Overton

        You could say the same thing about Mad Max (which was hugely influenced by A Boy and His Dog anyway). I think there’s a lot of crossover between dystopian and post-apocalyptic genres, so don’t get too caught up in the labels.

    • mUTE

      Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is just childish drivel. You have lost all credibility.

    • Bill Roger

      You are an obvious bigot mate. Please explain why “Gamera: Revenge of Iris” is even considered a dystopian piece.

  • Great list, agree with all the choices and happy to say I’ve seen most of them with one or two left to see!

  • Phil Woodhammer

    Great, but I miss Ghost in the Shell

    • 김혜영

      How about Blindness, V for Vendetta or Blade runner?
      There are so many movie about distopia. But
      I think Blade runner is the best

      • tea & snark

        Blade runner is on the list….

      • Pica Lima

        n1 in the list…

  • Bitt Faulk

    I’m a huge fan of Philip K. Dick, and for that reason, I hate-hate-hate the movie adaptation of “The Minority Report”. The movie completely undercuts the entire point of the short story. It’s completely dumbed down; it merely has the pretense of being smart. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who has not yet read the story, and would encourage anyone to do so. (Try searching for “Witwer remained silent”.)

    • grootrm

      Minority Report is good enough as a movie to hold its own

  • Christina Barr

    I can’t believe Equalibrium didn’t make the list!! One of the best dystopian movies ever made!!!

    • Gorazd Rajar

      Jup, Equlibrium is definitly missing!

  • Phoebus

    Great list! One fix though, “Akira” is a film of 1988 (not 1998)

  • Hal Dunn

    Great list. City of Lost Children is one of the most visually stunning movies ever. Twelve Monkeys and Brazil are amazing. And of course, the best, Blade Runner.

  • David Nathaniel

    “one the greatest films directed by Ridley Scott, who never again returned to such heights.”

    I’d have to disagree here. You can have your opinion about Ridley Scott’s best films, but you do a disservice to films like Thelma and Louise (1991), Gladiator (2000), Blackhawk Down (2001), Matchstick Men (2003), and American Gangster (2007) when you (essentially) say that Ridley Scott peaked with Blade Runner (1982). The man has had a pretty illustrious career.

    • Brian Lussier

      He did peak with Blade Runner. Some of the other films you mentioned are pretty darn good (American Gangster in particular), but none of them qualify as masterpieces. Blade Runner does.

    • Kosta Jovanovic

      Aside from t&l and american gangster, none of the movies mentioned come even close to blade runner, his peak definitely

  • Jericho

    How could you say not a word about the great music by Vangelis in Blade Runner??????

  • gearecho

    In ‘Blade Runner’ a Golden Age is happening in outer space, while Earth is only a discarded husk of galactic expansion. As dazzling as the movie is the truly amazing things are only suggested by street advertisements and statements made by some of the characters. The terrestrial setting isn’t meant to represent the state of society in the future. It’s just where the story takes place.

  • James

    Good list, although I’d swap the watered down version of Minority Report for Equilibrium. Not half as well known, but equally as good if not better. Better in my opinion for the lack of Cruise.

    • Jess Overton

      I couldn’t even get through Equilibrium without laughing. It had great ideas, but the execution was terrible and made me cringe. Minority Report was slightly more bearable..

  • Brian Lussier

    Brazil should be much higher, and A Clockwork Orange should be #1, perhaps #2 if you really insist on making Blade Runner #1.

    • Facundo


  • DonRoberto

    The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the Margaret Atwood novel, easily earns a spot on this list, whereas some of the listed movies — Blade Runner and Minority Report, for example — present worlds that aren’t truly that much different than our own. Unless you define our present existence as a dystopia, such movies cannot honestly be described as dystopian.

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  • Ramses Alonso

    What about Robocop? I think you missed it

    • Ezzy

      Headline has 20 on it and list has 20 films. Nope, they didn’t miss it, they excluded it.

      • grootrm

        You, I like your snark

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  • SupernaturalCat

    The Quiet Earth 1985

    …and Dawn Of The Dead 1978

    • John W. Thackery

      Dawn of the Dead is post-apocalyptic.

  • Rafael Deangelo

    I’ll never got why people see Blade Runner and The Matrix as philosophical pieces… Both are plenty of action-movies clichés. (sorry my poor English)

  • Additionally:

    Starship Troopers
    Day Watch / Night Watch
    The Island
    Escape From New York
    A Boy and His Dog
    District 9
    A Scanner Darkly
    Rise of the Planet of the Apes
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
    28 Days Later
    Dawn of the Dead (2004)
    The Battle for Terra
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    Mulholland Drive
    American Psycho
    Strange Days
    Spirited Away
    Being John Malkovich
    Eyes Wide Shut

    • Rosie Spaceboy

      eyes wide shut and american psycho – dystopian how?

      • Rosie Spaceboy

        and mulholland drive… not dystopian. maybe Terminator 2 instead

    • quasardrake

      District 9 should be at or near the top of this list. Starship Troopers is one of only two movies I ever actually got up and walked out of – its fascistic tones were so nauseating that by twenty minutes into the film I had had it with the thing. The other movie I walked out of was David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” (over the “alien baby” scene – I was just 19 at the time). Strange Days is one of my favorite films, and has stellar performances from Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett – I just saw it again recently and was disturbed at how close current society has come to the depiction of it in Strange Days. It also featured one of the hottest, most erotic kisses ever put on screen (IMO). Interesting to find I was not the only person to consider that “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” had a strong dystopian undertone…

    • John W. Thackery

      A Boy and His Dog, 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead are post-apocalyptic, not dystopian.

      Planet of the Apes is post-apocalyptic but Rise of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t fall in either category since nothing had happened yet.

      District 9, Aliens, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Avatar, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Mulholland Drive, American Psycho, Being John Malkovich and Eyes Wide Shut are neither dystopian nor post-apocalyptic.

      Perhaps you should look up the definitions of dystopian and post-apocalyptic.

      • Post apocalyptic and dystopian are not mutually-exclusive. Maybe look up the definition of that one.

        And since you want to try and establish some false authority without an honest examination of the term, here it is:

        “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”

        That’s a wide range of possibilities. So, if you’re going to be honest… (oh hell, that’s no longer an option).

        • John W. Thackery

          Dystopia deals with the human condition in a society in the process of collapse. Post-apocalyptic deals with the human condition AFTER the collapse of society. These are very specific, jackass.

          • mUTE

            Making up your own definition of a word to make your point is pathetic.
            pol is right, you are wrong. Deal with it without acting like a bitch.

    • tocantins

      And Sleep Dealer

  • Django

    Snowpiercer is a dystopian film right?

    • Yannick T. Messias

      Yes it is ^^

    • Cristhian Caicedo

      yes, indeed.

  • Qualiarella18

    pls, join this cinema forums.

  • Dusty Grooves

    great list but where the hell is Logan’s Run? its a great, fun, sexy film with social commentary great art direction and might be one of the coolest Dystopian films of the 70s!

    • Giles Lewey

      Have you watched Logan’s Run recently? Impossible to finish sober.

  • Holy fliping Spoiler alerts, batman.

  • Isana Amed

    Soylent Green might be a faulty movie but definitely one of the scariest futures because of it’s realism. We are TOO many and population keeps growing, money is badly distributed and food is getting worse and worse to feed us all. That seems to me like a very dystopian future very possible to happen.

  • Daniel C

    I think Predestination is a good movie. Maybe not for the list but it’s great.

    • Jacob Kilgannon

      I really liked that one as well, although I’m not sure that I would necessarily call it dystopian.

  • Valentin Genev

    Favorite list!

  • Nice list and good ranking. Robocop and Dawn of the Dead are missing. Plus Equilibrium, Escape from New York, Daywatch, and Daybreakers are all worthy of this list.

    • John W. Thackery

      Dawn of the Dead is post-apocalyptic, not dystopian.

  • Daniel Koehnen

    “Blood Camp Thatcher”, “Themroc” and “La decima vittima(The 10th Victim)” belong on this list IMHO 🙂

    • Robin Parmar

      10th Victim… good choice!

  • Jeff Jordan

    Land of The Blind is worth watching too…

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  • RobynRobotron

    This should say “the Wachowski siblings” as we all know now that one of them is a woman. It doesn’t matter that the Matrix was made before she came out as trans.

    • quasardrake

      Actually, BOTH of the Wachowski siblings have now gone public about transitioning and are both “out” as trans-women.

      • RobynRobotron

        Actually, Lilly has only been out for a couple of months, so I couldn’t have known that when I wrote my previous comment. There’s also no need for a hyphen in between “trans” and “women”, a space is just fine. I am quite curious as to why you felt the need to put quotes around “out”, as the sisters are, in fact, out and openly transgender.

  • Ufuk Istanbul

    How about ‘stalker’ tarkovsky ?????

    • Robin Parmar

      Hard to know if that is dystopia or a very Russian utopia. 🙂

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  • boson

    Great write-ups. However, you got an aspect of Brazil wrong. The lady who looks like the woman of his dreams is not the man’s widow, but the widow’s upstairs neighbour, whose floor they drill through to capture the innocent man.

  • Alberto Rey Pérez

    Wall-E.. That sweet Pixar one.

    • John W. Thackery

      WALL-E is post-apocalyptic, not dystopian.

  • Sara Oh

    Zero Theorem

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Some very fine stuff here, though I think the first Mad Max offers a more compelling vision. For 80’s weirdness enthusiasts I would highly recommend Decoder and Split. Both have their flaws, some will find them hard to bear, but the former is virtually a counter culture classic and the latter a whole bunch of fun at the least

  • Jacob Kilgannon

    Equilibrium and Snow Piercer anyone? Also, when I think dystopian worlds I always think of Dredd. It doesn’t have a lot of commentary necessarily, but it’s still an awesome film set in a dystopian society.

  • Jay Dawg

    With a new Bladerunner sequel in the works, its my hope that they understand that sometimes the questions are more important than the answers … .

  • Radford’s Ninety Eighty Four should be no. 1.

  • Erika Fiore

    I miss Equilibrium here. *although it has some similarities with THX 1138, its a great movie.

    • Jacob Kilgannon

      I’m definitely a fan of that one. It definitely borrows from a few other films, but overall I found it to be really entertaining.

  • Erika Fiore

    I know this article was written two years ago, so I’ll just drop “High-Rise” here to recommend you all =)

  • εασ


    • John W. Thackery

      Her is dystopian future?

  • John W. Thackery

    Mad Max 2 is post-apocalyptic more than dystopian.

  • Daniel Spink

    Good list, I will have to check out a few of the films which I haven’t seen yet. As a fan of the dystopian genre, I would also like to add Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series of short films, although they are often set in a very near / present day setting, they focus on the harm which technology can do to us. (Not full length films I know, but still worth a mention.) There are loads of amazing dystopian Anime shows available that I have really enjoyed. Pyscho Pass is a good one to start with, also Ergo Proxy, Attack on Titan, Shinsekai Yori, Akami Ga Kill, and of course a good percentage of the Studio Ghibli films involve some dystopian themes. Brave New World was also made into a TV series which is worth a few hours of your time, would be nice to see a decent film version of that being made.

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  • Yvonne Ritson

    Total Recall, and The Running Man??

  • Yvonne Ritson

    ooo and “The Whistler”, slightly obscure

  • ihaterobsheffield

    dude, stop using the word ‘whilst’.

  • Spirit of 1776

    Robocop is not a dystopic film..its really like that today!

  • cr0wgrrl

    Snowpiercer should be on this list. It’s brilliant.

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  • Phil Surtees

    I am so sick of people referring to the future in Blade Runner as a dystopia. There is NOTHING dystopian about it. All the people we see appear to be perfectly happy as they go about their business. There is no police state. The government isn’t suppressing people or forcing them to do anything. There’s nothing to indicate that companies have overwhelming power. They have androids to do all the dangerous work for humans! They have flying cars. People can go and live and work in outer space. In one version we see that outside the city there are trees and forests etc., so there is no reason to believe that the environment is destroyed. We do hear that animals are expensive, but we also find out that they still exist. What, exactly, do people think is dystopian about it? The fact that most of the movie takes place at night and that we see it raining? That is NOT dystopian. We see ONE factory belch some fire into the sky. That does not make the future a dystopia. People obviously don’t understand what a dystopia is because there is NOTHING dystopian about Blade Runner…

  • Dan Cole

    I am a huge Terry Gilliam fan, & love 12 MONKEYS.
    But I have to say that Brad Pitts (who I generally like) performance always felt like he was doing an imitation of Dennis Hopper in APOCALYPSE NOW

  • Alberto

    Fantastics films, i only watched a few of them, i list all of them to see in the future, thanks.

  • Raphael Bruckner

    Can’t argue with most of this list….however V for Vendetta should have been on it as well as all 3 of the Matrix Films and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy……..So I guess Taste of Cinema still needs some work.

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    Great list, perhaps I would add something from the Black Mirror series

    • Joe Borg

      Carl Edgar Consiglio a day ago
      Like its just about him whether he goes or not? Tal-biza how self-centred he is – takes one to know one! I had told you you are of the same kind. Int altruist hux? Kemm grejt biex tahseb ghal rasek ma tmurx ma tkunx moqdi sekonda. Self serving nobis; tisserva b’kulhadd for your own ends. And it seems you are not even aware of it? u nahseb lanqas ta madwarek. Unbelievable. Ta principju. Iva. Mur gibek toqod nieqes fil hajja ghal principji jew tirrinunzja ghal li jaqbillek.

    • Joe Borg

      and in typical fashion nippruvaw numiljaw u nbaxxu lil min ghix hajtu decenti u korrett ovjament anke mmarduhom jekk hemm bzonn; nitmejjlu bihom dawk ghax nerds, mdejjqin bihom infushom u shahar u ma nafx xiktar. mhux hekk. miskin hawn min fil medjokrita assoluta mdorri; and they do not know any better. you made me so grateful for my life believe me.

    • Joe Borg

      I never met people with such an intern hazin in my entire life. No wonder everyone was trying to protect me. Don sabih dak eh intern hazin u vendikattiv. U ghira sfrenata nahseb ghal min tarawh ferhan u mahbub min nies.

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  • grootrm

    Hillary Clinton is so out of touch with reality that she actually wrote in her book that the novel 1984 was meant to convince its readers to trust what the government tells us.

    No joke.

    The country, nay, the world, dodged a bullet in Nov