List of dystopian films
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A dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος, alternatively, cacotopia, kakotopia, cackotopia, or anti-utopia) is the vision of a society that is the opposite of utopia. A dystopian society is often a planned structured society in which the conditions of life are deliberately made miserable, characterized by poverty, oppression, violence, disease, scarcity, and/or pollution for the benefit of a select minority or some unnatural societal goal.
Many of the listed works below are generally considered as being dystopian because their story emphasizes one or more detrimental societal characteristics that would be considered unusual if practiced in a utopian society. However, there are some stories with similar detrimental societal characteristics that are not considered as dystopias by some critics because these same characteristics are now currently or have in the past been practiced to varying degrees in the real world. Despite these menacing and dehumanising elements portrayed by a society in some dismal stories—it is really an attempt to depict a heterotopia, a society that is neither Utopian, nor entirely bad, but different from our own.
Such debates frequently surround literary and cinematic works that do not show the classic characteristics of dystopian fiction, such as a government-like entity that seeks total control of individuals' lives.
The following movie list is broken down into several categories: those that display an obvious dystopian theme, post-apocalyptic, those that ultimately follow a more cyberpunk theme, and those that are more miscellaneously categorized, being that they are in between dystopia/cyberpunk and something else, as previously noted, "not like our society." While the movies appearing under the miscellaneous theme may have dystopian qualities, they do not focus on their dystopian society as the main plot. Dystopian films usually display pivotal traits that most utopian societies would avoid. One common trait is mass dehumanization. Where nearly all individuals are required, voluntarily or by force, to eliminate some "natural" emotional, physical, or free will quality as to conform to a society's "unnatural" greater good goals. A Clockwork Orange seems dystopian, but may not qualify since it is only one criminal individual who is voluntarily dehumanized and not the whole of society. This film then becomes a heterotopia. In Blade Runner, it is rather ambiguous whether Los Angeles in 2019 is depicted in that film to be a dystopia, or a utopia, however evidence from the film suggests that it was a dystopia, due to the climate, pollution, and over-population of the city. Many of the movies under the heading of miscellaneous are subjective and up for more careful scrutiny when considering the definition of dystopia.
A typical dystopia paints a picture of government or society attempting to exert control over free thought, authority, energy, freedom of information. Others focus on systematic discrimination and limitations based on a variety of factors - genetics, fertility, intelligence, and age being a few examples.
Alien controlled dystopias (both governmental and societal)
Alien controlled dystopias are separate from general dystopias in that they are enacted on a people by an outside invader rather than members of the oppressed's own species.
- Battlefield Earth (film) a 2000 film adaptation of the novel, starring John Travolta.
- The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
- Dark City (1998)
- Fantastic Planet (1973)
- Monsters (2010)
- Resiklo (2007)
- They Live (1988) adapted from Eight O'Clock in the Morning by Ray Nelson
- Titan A.E. (2000)
- Transmorphers (2007)
Corporate based dystopias (nongovernmental)
A corporate based dystopia is similar to a government/societal dystopia with the exception that the repressing power is a private company or small faction rather than a government. These stories generally include the motive of commercial profit instead of, or in addition to, the benefits of increased power and authority.
- Alien series
- A.I. (2001)
- Antiviral (2012)
- Cloud Atlas (2012)
- Dredd (2012)
- The Fifth Element (1997)
- The Final Cut
- Fortress and its sequel Fortress 2: Re-Entry
- Highlander II: The Quickening
- I, Robot loosely adapted from Isaac Asimov's book
- The Island
- Johnny Mnemonic
- Mutant Chronicles
- Looper (2012)
- Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future
- No Escape
- Paranoia 1.0
- Parts: The Clonus Horror
- Prayer of the Rollerboys
- Repo! The Genetic Opera
- Repo Men
- Resident Evil series by Paul W. S. Anderson
- RoboCop and its sequels RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3
- Rollerball (1975) and its remake Rollerball (2002)
- Shredder Orpheus (1990)
- Soylent Green
- Tank Girl
- Total Recall (1990), its television sequel Total Recall 2070 and the 2012 remake
- Vexille (2007)
Cyberpunk is a science fiction subset, characterized by a focus on "high tech and low life" where advanced technology itself (not AI) is dystopian. "Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, a ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body."
- Aachi & Ssipak
- Blade Runner
- Ghost in the Shell
- Johnny Mnemonic
- Looper (2012)
- Metropolis by Osamu Tezuka
- Natural City
- Repo Men
- Sleep Dealer
- The Terminator
- The Matrix
Post-apocalyptic storylines take place in the aftermath of a disaster - typically nuclear holocaust, war, plague - that justifies a civilization's restructuring itself with dystopian like behaviors. These dystopian traits commonly insure some societal/technological system's continuing existence or some attempt to restore/preserve some desired pre-disaster qualities. Although not a requisite, many post-apocalyptic visions have a man-made cause. However, there are some simplistic post-apocalyptic films that mainly have desperate survivors engaged in some Hobbesian struggle over scarce resources. These films are more heterotopian in nature since there is a general lack of some greater societal goal being served and thus becomes people merely justifying their survival over others.
- 2009 Lost Memories
- Planet of the Apes (1968), Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes and the remake Planet of the Apes (2001)
- The Man Who Fell to Earth
- A Clockwork Orange (1971), adapted from Anthony Burgess's novel of the same name
- Dark Star (sci-fi satire film)