I wonder why we love dystopian realities so much? From literature to film to theatre, we just love imagining just how bad things could be (or maybe reminding ourselves how bad it could get if we don’t change our ways). So it’s not surprising that there are some awesome movies set in less than idyllic futures… or even presents, Here I look at my 10 favourites.
A dystopia is a community or society, usually fictional, that is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It is the opposite of a utopia. Such societies appear in many works of fiction, particularly in stories set in a speculative future. Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. Elements of dystopias may vary from environmental to political and social issues. Dystopian societies have culminated in a broad series of sub-genres of fiction and are often used to raise real-world issues regarding society, environment, politics, religion, psychology, spirituality, or technology that may become present in the future. For this reason, dystopias have taken the form of a multitude of speculations, such as pollution, poverty, societal collapse, political repression, or totalitarianism. – Wikipedia.
The Matrix (1999)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Lawrence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving
Dystopia: The human race is harvested by a race of machines to provide a source of power while their minds operate within a matrix that they believe is reality, apart from a group of rebel hackers trying to overthrow the system.
Could it really happen?: It probably already has
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
Starring: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston
Dystopia: Post-apocalyptic. Gasoline is in extremely short supply and gangs in bondage gear attack communities of survivors trying to steal their supply.
Set in: 1986 (disputed)
Could it happen?: Probably not. Unless all branches of Ann Summers survive the apocalypse
Tank Girl (1995)
Starring: Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts
Dystopia: Earth has been turned into a wasteland where all water is controlled by a massive corporation… but not if one mental girl in a tank can help it.
Set in: 2033
Could it happen?: Er… maybe, but not with this much colour.
Starring: Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepherd
Dystopia: Following the less intelligent breeding way more than the intelligent, the world has become stupider and stupider until a man from the past with an IQ of 100 is the smartest man alive.
Set in: 2106
Could it happen?: It might be inevitable
The Hunger Games (2012)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson. Liam Hemsworth
Dystopia: The totalitarian state of Panem (formerly North America) is divided into 12 districts and the ruling Capitol. Every year each district must send two tributes to The Hunger Games, where they must fight to the death.
Set in: Unknown but definitely future
Could it happen?: In some ways the first world is much like The Capitol with the developing world performing the function of the districts already.
The Fifth Element (1997)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman
Dystopia: Not as dark as a traditional dystopia but the all controlling nanny state is definitely not ideal.
Set in: The 23rd century
Could it happen?: The government restricting everything for “our own good”? Definitely
Starring: Christian Bale, Taye Diggs, Sean Bean, Sean Pertwee
Dystopia: All feelings and emotions are outlawed by a fascist government and controlled by drugs, until a law enforcement officer skips a dose.
Set in: Late 21st century
Could it happen?: I can’t imagine a future where everyone agrees to no music, film, art or literature. Even if it stops all war.
Demolition Man (1993)
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sandra Bullock, Wesley Snipes
Dystopia: Initially this society looks like a post-modern utopia but the government’s restriction of any personal freedoms is distinctly dystopian, along with the way potential criminals are arrested before they’ve actually committed any crimes.
Set in: Late 21st century
Could it happen?: Maybe but I think there is a lot of evolution to come before we reach this level of non-violence.
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro
Dystopia: A society completely controlled by bureaucracy to the exclusion of any common sense or free thought.
Set in: Late 20th century
Could it happen?: Anyone who has spent any time trying to resolve a problem with a utilities supplier over the phone could argue that its already happened.
District 9 (2009)
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt
Dystopia: After a space ship breaks down over Johannesburg, the aliens on it are forced by the South African government to live slum-like conditions with severely restricted freedoms.
Set in: 2010
Could it happen?: As this film is a metaphor for what has happened to illegal immigrants in South Africa you could say it is already happening in one form.