20 Cult Dystopian Movies You May Have Missed

7. Idaho Transfer (1973)

Idaho Transfer (1973)

“In the Earth Year 2029 there are only twelve young people left. They should be trying to start a new civilization… instead they’re trying to kill each other!” [9]. The government has been able to create a time travel device and have discovered that an ecological catastrophe will soon eliminate the whole population of earth.

The effects of the time travel on older people is too destructive, so they have created a team of young people under the age of 20 to try and repopulate 56 years into the future. The government shuts the program down and they end up becoming trapped in the future. Then things turn into Lord of the Flies as each of them is killed off.

A very strange and unusual low budget 1970’s film noted for being directed by Peter Fonda. The film was shot for around $150,000 and featured a bunch of unknown unprofessional actors. It is very reminiscent of the era of the 1970’s, and its bizarreness is something that will make you either love it or be bored to death. The end of the film has a pretty big twist.


8. Fantastic Planet (1973)

Fantastic Planet

“A Sublime Trip to a Fine New World” [10]. On a faraway planet, humans (Om’s) are treated as slaves and pets for the giant blue race called the Draags. Other Om’s live in the wilderness and are occasionally slaughtered in order to keep their population down. One Om named Terr is taken as a pet and seeks to revolt against the ruling masters.

This is a French animated feature that is based on a 1957 novel titled Oms en serie by French author Stefan Wul. It has some stunning animation that draws on surrealistic and psychedelic imagery, which was created by French surrealist artist Roland Topor. The themes focus on the relationships between humans and racism, as well as between humans and animals.


9. Zardoz (1974)


“I have seen the future and it doesn’t work” [11]. In the year 2293, the world has been divided into two groups, the civilized immortal Eternals and the barely civilized mortal Brutals. A group of Brutal Exterminators maintain control and kill the other Brutals, at the orders of a huge flying head called Zardoz.

In exchange for food that is collected, Zardoz exchanges weapons for the Brutal Exterminator. One Exterminator named Zed (Sean Connery), hides on Zardoz to discover what is on the other side. There he meets two Eternals and discovers that a plague is among the Eternals, causing them to lose interest in life and fall into catatonia. While there he discovers the true origin and nature of the god called Zardoz.

This one will probably cause a divide in opinion among sci-fi fans, you’re either going to love it or hate it. It has some amazing imagery, especially the large Zardoz head and the look of the Brutals.

The overall cinematography is great; it is a pretty mesmerizing movie. There is some humor, plus you’ll either love or laugh at the way Sean Connery looks in the film. The downside is the plot can get confusing and slow at times, plus the big reveal moment may not be as exciting as people had hoped for.

This was written, produced, and directed by John Boorman, who had previous success with Point Blank, Hell in the Pacific, and most notable Deliverance. It was his commercial success with Deliverance that gave him free reign on this film.

In his career, he has been noted for being a bit pretentious and for going on ego-trips [12]. He should be commended for trying to push the boundaries in the hopes of making something that was on the level of a Stanley Kubrick and 2001 [12].

The movie did not do very well at the box office, but has cult following among sci-fi fans, “playing at revival houses, on college campuses, and on the midnight movie circuit for several years” [12].


10. Death Race 2000 (1975)

Death Race 2000 (1975)

“Across the town the traffic is MURDER” [13]. Based upon a short story titled The Racer by Ib Melchior, the United States has turned into a totalitarian regime run under martial law since an economic collapse in the 1970’s.

The Transcontinental Death Race was implemented as a way to pacify and reduce the size of the population. A group of five drivers race across the country where they get bonus points for the pedestrians that they kill. A resistance group wants to capture the most popular driver Frankenstein, in hopes of using him as leverage against the president.

It is quite possibly Roger Corman’s best movie, at least from a production stand point. It takes a satirical look at a dystopian setting and the sensationalism of the media, featuring interviews and one commentator that is a parody of Howard Cosell. Each driver has their own unique and outrageous persona, including a cowboy, a Nazi, a Roman God, an Italian, and Frankenstein.

This may have been influenced by the Italian film The 10th Victim, but at the same time the high paced racing style had to have directly influence Mad Max. It stars David Carradine and features one of Sylvester Stallone’s early roles, before he became an action superstar.

The excessive violence and nudity led to many critics panning the picture, but it was more successful than the big studio release of Rollerball in that same year. It was released on Blu-ray by Shout Factory and looks stunning after receiving a restoration.


11. A Boy and His Dog (1975)

A Boy and His Dog

“The year is 2024… a future you’ll probably live to see” [14]. Based on a series of short stories turned into a novella by author Harlan Ellison, it is a post apocalyptic tale of a teenage boy (Don Johnson) and his telepathic dog working together in order to survive. It’s pretty much as if Mad Max and Clockwork Orange screwed each other, had a baby and popped this sucker out.

The film is basically a buddy comedy, mixed with rape and ultra violence as the boy finds food for the dog and the dog sniffs out women for him to rape. In between, they have comedic banter as the more intelligent dog berates the boy, battle marauders that pull a makeshift car like a chariot led by a man wearing a blanket cape, watch porno movies at a make shift movie theater, and deal with an underground society that wear clown like makeup and want to use the boy for breading.

The movie is all sorts of crazy and that’s what makes it great. Its lack of financial success has made it grow as a cult film and has inspired other films and media. It is obvious that this film is an inspiration for the Mad Max films; there are several scenes from this movie that were clearly recreated in The Road Warrior movie. Max also has the dog as a companion in the second film, even though it doesn’t talk to him. The film was also an inspiration for the popular video game series Fallout [15].


12. Logan’s Run (1976)

Logan's Run (1976)

“The only thing you can’t have in this perfect world of total pleasure is your 30th birthday . . . Logan is 29” [16]. In the 23rd century, people live in what may be considered an idyllic utopian society where there is no family or jobs and they are free to pursue whatever pleasures that they choose.

The only caveat in this society is at the age of 30, you must be terminated in a ceremony called the carousel. Some people believe that there is a sanctuary some place and they choose to become a runner, Logan-5 (Michael York) is a Sandman that hunts them down and kills them. Logan is ordered to become a runner and infiltrate this sanctuary and destroy it.

With the help of Jessica-6 (Jenny Agutter), he escapes the society and they discover that there actually is no sanctuary and that the outside world is uninhabited except for one old man.

This is a classic of the sci-fi genre that for the time had some excellent special effects; which included miniatures of the utopian city, a moving system of transit, a scene of a decomposing body, and the overrun locations in Washington D.C. There was also good acting from York, Agutter, Richard Jordan, and Peter Ustinov, very nice and interesting set designs, a heavy electronic score, and a pretty cool looking robot.

The film won an Academy Award for its visual effects and nominations for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Cinematography. It might not hold up as well as other popular sci-fi films from the era like Star Wars and Planet of the Apes, but still has relevance in the genre and dealt with themes of consumerism and religion.


13. Mad Max (1979)

Mad Max (1979)

“He rules the roads” [17]. In a dystopian futuristic time, society has begun to break down and the Australian Highway patrol tries to maintain control of the roads. Led by their top pursuit officer Max Rockatansky, they have to try and deal with a violent motorcycle gang led by a man called Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne).

The back and forth battle between the police and the gang ends with Max’s wife and child being murdered by the gang. Max then looks to get revenge and kill the remaining members of the motorcycle gang.

This was the ultimate in guerilla filmmaking. Shot on a budget of AU$350,000, everything had to be done as resourceful as possible [18]. Film permits weren’t obtained and director George Miller and crew would have to stay behind to sweep up the roads after the car crash scenes [18].

They passed on casting an American actor because it would use up the whole budget [18]. They had widescreen camera lenses that they used which were essentially discarded from America to Australia, after the filming of The Getaway [18]. Gibson was a relative unknown casting choice at the time, having another cult film released the same year called Tim.

The film is memorable for many reasons. The style and speed of the car chase scenes had never been filmed like that before and had a uniqueness and intensity too it. The cars, motorcycles, and police uniforms all had a distinct and different look to them, something that is probably more a part of it being an Australian film. Max’s outfit and his black pursuit special car have become an iconic part of this character and the franchise that has been built.

It had a mixed reception among critics because of its violence, but it was a very large success worldwide and has continued to grow as a cult film. It held the Guinness World Record for highest box office to budget ratio up until The Blair Witch Project was released in 1999 [19].

It spawned two sequels with Gibson starring in the 1980’s and has revived itself with Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015, which many considered one of the most exciting films of the year. Maybe somewhat surprising, but most of the new generation of Mad Max viewers were not aware of the three previous films.

So if you’re a fan of the new film, action, or Ozsploitation, then you should watch this.