The 12 best dystopian movies –
by D.M. Cain
From an early age I was always more interested when things went wrong in the world. The light, fluffy Disney world of my younger childhood was left behind as I passed into my teenage years and surrounded myself with works of dystopian fiction such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
This love of a futuristic world gone wrong spilled over into my movie taste as well. So, here is a list of my favourite dystopian movies of all time, appearing in no particular order. What are your favourites?
Dystopian movies list:
- 12 monkeys – a delightfully creepy and mysterious film with excellent acting and a gripping storyline. The music has an unhinged, fairground ride kind of feel to it as well.
- A Clockwork Orange – probably my personal favourite dystopian movie (and book) ever. A Clockwork Orange is unnerving and philosophical, beautifully filmed, and with a huge underground following.
- A.I. – I know a lot of people hated this movie, and fair play to them, because the last twenty minutes are terrible. (Why oh why didn’t it end when he was under the water?) But, what comes before that is excellent. The little boy is creepy and yet you feel so sorry for him. He just wants to be loved L The ‘flesh fair’ is such a horrifying concept too. I thought those scenes were brilliant.
- Casshern – Unknown to many, this Japanese classic really does deserve to get more credit. Casshern has literally everything you could ever want from a sci-fi film – unhinged scientists playing God, divine intervention, humans killing what they don’t understand, the underdogs rising in their masses. Plus, of course, epic and beautiful fight scenes, a deep and morally taxing storyline and the potential for great debate and discussion afterwards. Just thinking about it makes me yearn to go and watch it right now…
- Children of Men – one of the bleakest and most depressing films I’ve ever seen. I love the way this film pulls no punches. Nobody is safe from the death and desolation in this film. A true, gritty dystopian.
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – another fine example of what happens when humans step beyond their place (I do very much enjoy films where humans are the bad guys!)
- District 9 – some awesome fight scenes, especially with the alien weapons which are so cool! But this film is not just about the aliens. Yet again, it’s about the humans abusing them, treating them as scum and stripping them of all rights. It’s no coincidence the film was shot in Johannesburg…
- The Hunger Games – everybody loves The Hunger Games. Katniss is amazing, of course, strong and independent. She fights the system and refuses to conform to their brutality.
- Looper – A really clever storyline (though it definitely had me scratching my head at times. Hang on – is he in the future or…?) I also enjoyed that sword of Damocles feeling – that his choices in life were definitely going to catch up with him, no matter what he did.
- V for Vendetta – This isn’t just a film. It’s art. That scene where Natalie Portman cried in the rain – so beautiful. You can’t help but feel yourself wanting to rise up with V and fight the power!
- Watchmen – Not your average superhero story, every one of these antiheroes has some sort of dark, unhinged past. I loved Rorschach so much… And The Tales of the Black Freighter side story was one of the darkest, most horrific things I’ve ever read, and I flipping well loved it!
- Annihilation – Stunningly beautiful, with a creepy but enthralling soundtrack, a feminist triumph, and an intelligent and thought-provoking thriller. Man, this film had it all. It subverted my expectations at every turn and was one of those rare treasures that saw me and my friends staying up until the early hours to discuss.
My latest novel, The Phoenix Project, features a man struggling to stay alive in a prison where inmates are forced to fight each other to the death. It isn’t just his physical circumstances that threaten his life; it’s also the demons within in his own mind. I drew upon my love of dystopia to write this novel and I can definitely see influences from these movies within my writing. So, if you’re a fan of dystopia too, why not check it out?
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12 thoughts on “The 12 best dystopian movies – by D.M. Cain”
This is a great list! I havent seen a few of these and will definitely check them out.
Thanks! There are a few more I need to add to this list (Blade Runner, Terminator, Mad Max etc) Can you think of any others?
You mentioned 1984… for classics, I’d add Soylent Green and Brave New World. For newer releases, I really liked Repo Men and Equilibrium.
Feels like we’re missing more really great one though. 😂
Oooo good ideas! My husband also pointed out that even though its funny and silly The Lego Movie is a dystopian!
How funny! I’ve never seen it, but now I want to. 😄
It is genuinely brilliant! Also, have you seen Wall-E? That’s very dystopian
I love that movie! Thought about adding it too. 😂
My reply got lost in the ether, I guess! (If it happens to show up again, feel free to delete this one!)
For classics, 1984, though you did list the book, Soylent Green, and Brave New World. More recently, I really liked Repo Man and Equilibrium!
Of course it feels like there are quite a few others that are great. Matrix?