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20 Great Dystopian Films That Are Worth Your Time

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

7. Mad Max 2 (George Miller, 1981)


The second Mad Max is quite possibly one of the most kick-ass science fiction films to have ever been produced. And whilst the first film was a giant hit in its own right, this sequel upped the ante, eclipsed the original and became so popular it has almost become synonymous with the post-apocalyptic film genre and one of the greatest dystopian visons to have ever graced the screen.

The story of course is set a desert post-apocalyptic landscape in which gasoline has become one of the most prized commodities. The world is inhabited by a bunch of crazed barbarians whose only purpose seems to be cruising around in their modified vehicles in search of more fuel to be able to keep doing just that. Max (Mel Gibson) has been surviving as a loner ever since having lost his family in the first film but becomes the reluctant hero when he agrees to take back a man to his compound, which houses a very rare oil refinery, after an attack by scavengers.

Once in the compound, which is being besieged by a large gang of outlaws, Max makes a deal to get the inhabitants of the camp a semi-truck, which he came across earlier, in exchange for as much fuel as he can carry. This would enable those in the compound to escape, taking with them the tanker trailer in which they have stored all their gasoline. The plan works but when Max gets ambushed on his way out, he returns to the camp and offers to drive the semi-truck as no one is as qualified as him.

Mad Max 2 is simply the stuff of legend. It’s a superior action film, a superior science-fiction film and the benchmark against which all post-apocalyptic films since have been judged against. It virtually created the science fiction sub-genre and has been copied and imitated countless times since it was released in 1981. It also set the benchmark for vehicle-related stunt work and its final climactic chase sequence has arguably never been topped.

This is also the film that made Mel Gibson an international star, for better or for worse. The film received six nominations from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, winning the award for Best International Feature, whilst it received seven nominations from the Australian Film Institute, winning five for Best Direction, Sound, Production Design, Costume Design and Editing.


6. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)

children of men

Based on the novel of the same name by P.D. James, Children of Men was director Alfonso Cuaron’s first critically acclaimed entry in the science fiction genre, before he also found commercial success last year with a very different type of sci-fi movie, Gravity.

The film tells the story of the world in 2027 when mankind has lost ability to procreate and civilisation is on the brink of collapse. The United Kingdom is the only place left in the world which still resembles some sort of functioning society but the influx of asylum seekers and general fear caused by the prospect of extinction has turned the country into a totalitarian state.

But when one woman, Kee, miraculously falls pregnant, the task of getting her safely to a group fighting for the survival of the human race falls upon a former activist played named Theo Faron (Clive Owen). Having to make their way through a landscape of utter chaos and fighting factions, the two, accompanied by a midwife, try to make it to the shore, where a ship will be able to take Kee to safety and hopefully find a cure for the global outbreak of infertility.

There’s plenty to like in Children of Men but it was the use and complexity of continuous shots by director Cuarón which really stood out and also foreshadowed the direction he was going to in with last year’s incredible Gravity.

A great cast (which also features Julian Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Caine), inspired direction, very impressive cinematography as well as a killer concept and screenplay make Children of Men a must-see for enthusiasts of grim dystopian tales. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography and Editing) and won two BAFTA awards for Best Cinematography and Production Design.


5. Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998)


Directed and co-written by Alex Proyas, Dark City is a neo-noir-ish science fiction film which looks like something of a cross between Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and the Wachowski Brothers’ The Matrix, which this film actually pre-dates by a year.

John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) awakens one night in a bathtub in a hotel, suffering from amnesia. In the room is also the body of a murdered woman and he receives a phone call from a Dr. Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland), who informs him he needs to escape as some men, known as “The Strangers” are after him.

After doing so, Murdoch learns his identity and that he used to have a wife (Jennifer Connelly) as well as the fact that, apart from The Strangers, the police is after him too for a series of murders which he doesn’t recall committing. He also finds out that he and the Strangers share a power called The Tuning with which time can be stopped. The Strangers use this power every midnight to rearrange the whole city as well as people’s minds and identities.

When he is eventually caught by police inspector Frank Bumstead (William Hurt), who sympathises with him as he has his own doubts about the strange reality everybody seems to live in, the two men seek out Dr. Schreber who, along with Murdoch’s fragmented memories of the past, might hold the key to solving the murders as well as the mystery as to what exactly is going on in the perpetually dark city all of them inhabit.

Whilst Dark City opened to primarily positive reviews, the film failed to ignite the box-office at the time of its release and bombed. Over time however the film has gained cult status and rightfully so. One of the most overlooked science fiction films of the nineties and a clear precursor of The Matrix, both in some aspects of its visual style as well as in some its themes, Dark City is a stunning looking piece of work and a great piece of metaphysical fantasy.

Equally incorporating elements of film noir, German Expressionism, Kafka and science fiction, the film was director Proyas’ follow-up to The Crow and so far the crowning achievement of his filmography, proving that he was a highly imaginative visual storyteller. If you like your science fiction dark, dystopian, moody and visually arresting, Dark City is just what the doctor ordered.


4. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange is a violent dystopian science fiction satire directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Malcolm McDowell.

Alex (Malcolm McDowell) is a Beethoven loving delinquent in future London, who, together with his gang of “Droogs”, likes to get stoned at the Korova Milkbar before committing some “ultra-violence”, i.e: murder, rape and other heinous acts. When Alex is apprehended after killing a woman by smashing her skull with a giant phallus, he is sentenced to 14 years in prison. But two years into his sentence, he is able to partake in the experimental Ludovico treatment, which is designed to rehabilitate criminals by exposing them to violent imagery whilst being drugged and listening to loud renditions of Beethoven’s compositions.

As a result, Alex becomes nauseous whenever confronted with violence, sexual imagery or the music of his favourite composer. He is released but becomes a victim to the people he used to terrorise as they are out for revenge. Constantly abused by those he did wrong by and despising his life now that he can no longer enjoy Beethoven’s music, Alex tries to commit suicide, turning public opinion against the treatment that “cured” him.

Highly controversial due to its extremely violent content (the film was originally released with an X-rating in the United States), A Clockwork Orange was a critical as well as financial success upon its release. The film was later slightly re-cut to obtain an R-rating in the U.S. and was withdrawn from release in Britain, at the request of Kubrick himself, when various violent real-life crimes were linked to the movie.

No matter how difficult to watch and violent the film might be, it’s ultimately a biting satire about a world gone mad and psychological conditioning by the government. The film is filled with iconic scenes, imagery and phrases , an incredible soundtrack which features a lot of Beethoven as well as disturbing Moog synthesiser compositions, extremely black humour and a mesmerising central performance by Malcolm McDowell, who would forever be associated with the role of Alex.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, three Golden Globes and seven BAFTA Awards (all including Best Film and Director). It also won those awards at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards as well as the Pasinetti Award for Best Foreign Film at the Venice Film Festival.


3. Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988)

Akira movie

Akira is not just one of the best animes ever released. It’s one of the best science fiction films ever released as well. An absolute landmark in Japanese animation, which forever opened the eyes of the West to anime, its influence can not be understated and its cyberpunk vision of a dystopian future is as impressive today as when it was first released over 25 years ago.

The year is 2019 and Tokyo has been rebuild as neo-Tokyo after some cataclysmic event caused 30 years ago by someone called Akira. Tetsuo is a young member of a motorcycle gang, who greatly looks up to its leader Kaneda. One night Tetsuo is involved in an accident with a child-like being who has been sprung from a laboratory by an underground resistance group. As his gang look on, he’s taken away by the military.

Later, when Kaneda tries to bust him out of the military hospital with the help of the resistance group, he finds out that Tetsuo has gained great psychic abilities. The power however goes to his head and he escapes by himself on a quest to look for the legendary Akira, who apparently is held captive somewhere by the military. As time progresses Tetsuo seems to lose all sense of reality and control over his powers and it soon looks like neo-Tokyo might be under threat again, just like it was 30 years ago by Akira.

Akira was adapted from a 2182 page manga and deals predominately with the first half of the comic book series. Whereas most animes up until that point had limited animation, Akira broke the rules by having its dialogue pre-recorded to which the character’s mouths were later animated in sync and having an overall fluid motion, previously unseen in the genre.

Additionally the film had a huge scope, stunning designs and a truly unique and unforgettable soundtrack. The film has a fully realised cyperpunk dystopian vision that has never been matched in any other animated work and if you only see one anime in your life, make sure it is this one.


2. Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)


A highly influential German Expressionist silent science fiction film, Metropolis is directed by Frtiz Lang, who co-wrote the movie with his then wife Thea von Harbou, and is especially noteworthy for its grand design and as the first ever feature length film in its genre.

Set in the futuristic dystopian city of Metropolis, the film deals with the glaring difference between its upper classes, who live in luxury and decadence in its high towers, and the huge working class, who live in slave-like conditions in the lower parts of the city, keeping its machinery going. Freder (Gustav Froehlich) is the son of the city’s ruler, Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel), and lives in blissful ignorance about the the conditions of those below until he one day meets Maria (Brigitte Helm), a beautiful girl from the city’s lower levels, when she visits the Eternal Gardens with a group of kids to show them how the wealthy live.

Struck by her beauty and aghast by her poor appearance, he makes his way down to the lower levels and discovers the conditions there. When he later confronts his father about these, he learns to his horror that his father thinks that this is the way things ought to be.

Freder then goes back below and takes the place of one of the workers to find Maria whilst his father seeks the help of an old inventor friend (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) who has built a robot, which they use to mimic Maria as she has started to preach for equality and call for a Mediator between the rich and poor in the city’s lower levels. But what Joh Fredersen hasn’t foreseen is that his son has grown into this Mediator and that his old inventor friend despises him and will use his invention in an attempt to bring down Metropolis.

The most expensive film ever produced at the time, Metropolis cost many times over the normal production cost of a regular film and nearly bankrupted its studio upon its release as it was met with mixed reviews. As a result, and due to its excessive long running time of over two and a half hours, the film was cut substantially as about one quarter was excised for the American release.

Consequently large portions of the film have been missing over the years and various versions have floated around until in 2008 a damaged 16mm print was found in Argentina from which a 95% restored version was created and finally shown in 2010 in Berlin. Its influence can not be understated as Metropolis added a whole array of images and ideas to cinema and popular culture. Countless films have referenced it, varying from Dark City’s Expressionistic style, the design of C3PO in Star Wars and even an anime of the same name.

The film has been the inspiration for many a pop singer, varying from Madonna to Queen to even rap artists and even a musical theatre production has been staged. Metropolis is also the first film ever to be inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. A truly epic and monumental endeavour, Metropolis is where modern science fiction and dystopian films started.


1. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)


Based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner is a dystopian neo-noir science-fiction film and arguably, along with Alien and The Duellists, one the greatest films directed by Ridley Scott, who never again returned to such heights.

The year is 2019 and Los Angeles has turned into a sprawling dystopian megapolis filled with giant neon signs and flying vehicles. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a retired blade runner, detectives who specialise in hunting down and taking out rebellious replicants, life-like androids with a build-in limited lifespan who are designed by the Tyrell Corporation to take on jobs which actual humans are not willing to perform in the off-world colonies.

Deckard is called back into police headquarters and put back into active duty by his former boss (M. Emmett Walsh) when a few replicants, lead by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), have escaped to earth in search for extended lifespans. As Deckard investigates and visits Tyrell headquarters to gain a better understanding of the latest model replicants, he meets Rachael (Sean Young), a woman unaware of the fact that she isn’t human, and falls in love with her. In the meantime Roy Batty and his fellow replicants try to gain access to the Tyrell corporation too as they want their designer to somehow undo the time limit placed on their existence.

Whilst Blade Runner wasn’t a huge success upon its initial release and divided critics, the film gained a true cult following over the years and has since been regarded as a true science fiction masterpiece. The film’s look was unlike anything that had ever come before it and its production design, special effects and the melancholic synthesiser score by Vangelis still make it a truly unique and stunning experience.

The film also works on many levels; as a dystopian criticism of a capitalist culture gone haywire, as a meditation on what it means to be human and as one of the best examples of a neo-noir. On top of that, there’s the outstanding cast with Harrison Ford clearly trying to distance himself from his heroic wiseguy image from Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, whilst Rutger Hauer made his international breakthrough as the enigmatic replicant leader. In addition Sean Young, M. Emmett Walsh, Daryl Hannah, Brion James, Joanna Cassidy, Edward James Olmos, Joe Turkel, William Sanderson and James Hong all round out a great supporting cast.

Blade Runner has been released in no less than seven different versions, three of which have been widely seen. After negative feedback from test screenings, the film was initially released in a heavily altered studio-cut, which added a voice-over whilst also adding as well as deleting certain scenes. In 1991 the studio released the “Director’s Cut”, removing the voice-over and studio-imposed ending whilst adding a vital dream sequence, whilst in 2007 the “Final Cut”, the only one Scott had complete control over, was released for the 25th anniversary of the movie.

One of the most influential science fiction films ever made, Blade Runner remains a cinematic milestone and only seems to get better with age. Fans of the movie are also advised to seek out the nearly three-and-a-half hour “making of” documentary Dangerous Days: The Making of Blade Runner.

Author Bio: Emilio has been a movie buff for as long as he can remember and holds a Masters Degree in Cinema Studies from the University of Amsterdam. Critical and eclectic in taste, he has been described to “love film but hate all movies”. For daily suggestions on what to watch, check out his Just Good Movies Facebook page:



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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