Planet Earth Alert: 10 Dystopian Movies That Warn Us About Our Future
One of the most iconic movies of the last 40 years, Blade Runner is responsible for changing the way scifi flicks represented our world. Ridley Scott’s vision of a truly global society eking out a living on the streets of a rain-soaked Los Angeles, while the rich lived in luxury high overhead in Mayan-like pyramids, suggested the future may not be bright for everyone—or anyone. Here are 10 more dystopian classics from the last decade, all included in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, that continued those themes.
1. AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
The melding of Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick’s often-jarring visions makes for a fascinating movie. The story of a young boy, the latest in a new range of robots, who is spurned by his human family and left to roam the world alone is a darker movie than many critics suggested. That the most human character in the movie is a robot is damning, suggesting we should look at the way we live our lives on this planet.
2. Another Earth (2011)
Mike Cahill’s movie, co-scripted by BABYLON‘s Brit Marling, is a masterclass in how to take a small budget and produce a movie that outdoes most blockbusters. A young woman crashes into a car the moment a celestial body appears in the sky. By the time the woman is released from prison, having seriously injured the driver and killed his wife and child, it is believed that this new planet is an exact replica of Earth. If so, did the woman’s doppelgänger make the same mistake that fateful night?
3. Children of Men (2006)
One of the bleakest and most convincing one-day-in-the-future narratives, Children of Men is arguably Alfonso Cuáron’s best movie. Employing long takes, bringing the best out of lead actor Clive Owen and portraying London as a city under siege through chaos and terrorism, the story of a planet bereft of new life is chilling, thrilling and a little too close to reality for comfort.
4. Cloverfield (2008)
Has there ever been a movie with a cast of more unappealing characters than Matt Reeves’ impressive directorial debut? Before an alien appears off Manhattan island and announces its presence by hurtling the head of Lady Liberty into an apartment block, we are punished with twenty minutes in the company of that island’s most annoying residents. Their eventual demise comes as some relief, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that they could have suffered a little longer—just as we had to in their company. The found-footage movie may be old hat these days, but Reeves’ movie does its best to inject the concept with new energy.
5. District 9 (2009)
It’s rare to see a major scifi movie not located in America, so Neil Blomkamp’s Johannesburg-set satire-cum-chase movie still feels as fresh as the day it was released. Aside from the local and wider political references, Blomkamp’s film profits from a stunning performance by Sharlto Copley as a man who is gradually transforming into one of the creatures he has spent years preying on.
6. Minority Report (2002)
One of Steven Spielberg’s most accomplished action films, Minority Report may not appear to portray the world as a decaying mess, or a future without hope. However, it’s vision of law and order in our post-Edward Snowden society feels all too relevant. Tom Cruise is at his best as the head of the Pre-Crime Unit, who realizes that something is rotten in the heart of the organization. It’s philosophical rumination on the nature of good intentions achieved through dubious action makes Spielberg’s movie is a cautionary tale for our times.
7. Primer (2004)
Cited by many as the only time-travel movie that actually makes sense, Shane Carruth’s debut also deserves to be seen at least three times, if only for it’s mad logic to become clear. Though less abstract than his follow-up, 20113’s Upstream Color, Primer is nevertheless mind-boggling in its tale of three friends who discover a way to travel back in time. The only problem with the paradox lies in the fact that each journey alters the course of reality, resulting in multiple selves existing in the same timeframe.
8. The Mist (2007)
Frank Darabont’s brilliant scifi/horror movie uncovers the insidiousness of religious fundamentalism in the age of terror. An experiment has gone wrong, unleashing a strange mist that covers a town. Within it are creatures not of this Earth. Holed up in a department store, the townspeople soon find themselves behaving abnormally, allowing the local religious nut to hold sway. Unfolding over a few days, The Mist demonstrates how the briefest disruption of the status quo can quickly descend into chaos.
9. The Road (2009)
Without a doubt the most depressing movie in the list, The Road also features the most complete vision of the future. We never know why the world has fallen apart. Instead, we follow a father and son as they avoid marauders and cannibals on their journey along a winding road to the coast and the hope of a safe haven. Viggo Mortenson is perfectly cast, with Kodi Smit-McPhee holding his own as the young lad forced to grow up in the most unnatural of environments.
10. Wall-E (2009)
A Pixar movie in a list of dystopian scifi movies? Really? The Earth of Andrew Stanton’s inspired animated feature is, on many levels, no less bleak a place than that of The Road. It is so mired in the waste products of a consumer society gone mad, only a robot can exist on the planet, tasked as it is with clearing up all the rubbish. Meanwhile, mankind, or what remains of it, floats through the heavens in huge spacecraft. The first 45 minutes of Wall-E are some of animation’s finest and it still remains one of the most inventive scifi movies of recent years. Dystopia has never, ever looked so colorful.