List of dystopian films

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This is a list of films commonly regarded as dystopian.

A dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος, alternatively, cacotopia,[1] 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.

Governmental/Social[edit]

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.

Title Year Comments
12 Monkeys 1995 Based on Chris Marker's 1962 short film La jetée.In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.
1984 1956 Loosely based on George Orwell's novel of the same name.
2081 2009 Film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron. Everyone is finally equal.
A Scanner Darkly 2006 Adapted from Philip K. Dick's novel of the same name. A dangerous new drug causes the users to begin to lose their own identity.
Aachi & Ssipak 2006 South Korean. In a future where energy is made from fecal matter, the government rewards defecation with "juicybars"
Æon Flux 2005 Adapted from Peter Chungs's animated television series of the same name.Aeon Flux is a mysterious assassin working for the Monicans, a group of rebels trying to overthrow the government.
A Clockwork Orange 1971 Adapted from Anthony Burgess' novella of the same name.
Alphaville 1965 A U.S. secret agent is sent to the distant space city of Alphaville where he must find a missing person and free the city from its tyrannical ruler.
Atlas Shrugged: Part I 2011 Based on a novel by Ayn Rand. An alliance forms fight the increasingly authoritarian government of the United States.
I, Robot 2004 Adapted from a series of short stories by Isaac Asimov
Babylon A.D. 2008 Veteran-turned-mercenary Toorop takes the high-risk job of escorting a woman from Russia to America. Little does he know that she is host to an organism that a cult wants to harvest in order to produce a genetically modified Messiah.
Battle Royale 2000 Based on the novel and manga of the same name.
Battle Royale II: Requiem 2003 Sequel to the 2000 film, Battle Royale.
Blade Runner 1982 Based on Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Blindness 2008
Bones 2001
Book of Eli 2010 A post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind.
Bothersome Man The Bothersome Man 2006 In a strange city where every person seems content beyond reason a new man arrives in town and stirs up trouble by asking too many questions.
Brave New World 1998 In a futuristic totalitarian society, people have no control of their lives and/or destiny.
Brazil 1985 A bureaucrat in a retro-future world tries to correct an administrative error and himself becomes an enemy of the state.
Breed The Breed 2001 In the distant future vampires have come out of the shadows and tried to live among people as a special and peaceful breed.
Bunraku 2010 South Korean. The story of a a young man who has spent his life searching for revenge only to find himself up against a bigger challenge.
Children of Men 2006 Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, based on P.D. James' novel. In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have become somehow infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.
Class of 1999 1990
Cloud Atlas 2012 An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.
Code 46 2003 A futuristic 'Brief Encounter', a love story in which the romance is doomed by genetic incompatibility.
Dark City 1998 A man struggles with memories of his past, including a wife he cannot remember, in a nightmarish world with no sun and run by beings with telekinetic powers who seek the souls of humans.
Dark Metropolis 2010 Mankind has lost a 300-year war against a genetically enhanced race that man created, abused and finally tortured. Now the descendants of that race - known as the 'Ghen' the planet Earth from advanced underground cities.
Daybreakers 2010 In the year 2019, a plague has transformed almost every human into vampires. Faced with a dwindling blood supply, the fractured dominant race plots their survival.
Dead End Drive-In 1986
Death Race 2008 Remake of the 1975 film Death Race 2000. Ex-con Jensen Ames is forced by the warden of a notorious prison to compete in our post-industrial world's most popular sport: a car race in which inmates must brutalize and kill one another on the road to victory.
Death Race 2000 1975 The film takes place in a dystopian American society in the year 2000, where the murderous Transcontinental Road Race has become a form of national entertainment.
Demolition Man 1993 A cop is brought out of suspended animation in prison to pursue an old ultra-violent enemy who is loose in a nonviolent future society.
District 9 2009 An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology.
District B13 2004 Set in the ghettos of Paris in 2010, an undercover cop and ex-thug try to infiltrate a gang in order to defuse a neutron bomb.
District B13: Ultimatum 2009 Sequel to the 2004 film, District B13.
Divergent 2014 Based on the adaption of Veronica Roth's novels of the same names, In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she's Divergent and won't fit in.
The Divergent Series: Insurgent 2015 After the series of events and death of her parents in Divergent, Tris Prior tries to figure out what the Abnegation were trying to protect and why the Erudite leaders will do anything to stop them.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Part 1 2016
The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Part 2 2017
Doomsday 2008 A futuristic action thriller where a team of people work to prevent a disaster threatening the future of the human race.
Dredd 2012 Adapted from the comic book of the same name.
Elysium 2013 In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.
End of Evangelion The End of Evangelion 1997
Escape from L.A. 1996 Sequel to the 1981 film, Escape from New York.
Escape from New York 1981 In 1997, when the US President crashes into Manhattan, now a giant max. security prison, a convicted bank robber is sent in for a rescue.
Equilibrium 2002 In a fascist future where all forms of feeling are illegal, a man in charge of enforcing the law rises to overthrow the system.
Fahrenheit 451 1966 Based on Ray Bradbury's novel of the same name.In an oppressive future, a fireman whose duty is to destroy all books begins to question his task.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions 2004
Fortress 1993 A futuristic prison movie. Protagonist and wife are nabbed at a future US emigration point with an illegal baby during population control.
Fortress 2: Re-Entry 2000 Sequel to the 1993 film, Fortress. Sevem years after the original Fortress movie, Brennick and his family are still on the run from the Men-tel corporation
Gamer 2009 In a future mind-controlling game, death row convicts are forced to battle in a 'doom'-type environment. Convict Kable, controlled by Simon, a skilled teenage gamer, must survive 30 sessions in order to be set free.
Gattaca 1997 A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.
The Giver 2014 A dark, quiet, but powerful futuristic political tale in which a 12 year-old boy must search the truth in the world free of war, crime, disease, poverty, unfairness, and injustice.
Handmaid's Tale The Handmaid's Tale 1990 In a dystopicly polluted rightwing religious tyranny, a young woman is put in sexual slavery on account of her now rare fertility.
Harrison Bergeron 1995 A cable television movie adapted from the short story of the same name by Kurt Vonnegut. In a distant future, egalitarianism has created a truly equal state. The cost? The sacrifice of everything great about humankind. The question: is peace worth the price?
Hunger Games The Hunger Games 2012 Directed by Gary Ross, Based on Suzanne Collins' novel of the same name. Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister's place in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 2013 Directed by Francis Lawrence, Based on Suzanne Collin's Catching Fire.
Idiocracy 2006 Private Joe Bauers, the definition of "average American", is selected by the Pentagon to be the guinea pig for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakes 500 years in the future. He discovers a society so incredibly dumbed-down that he's easily the most intelligent person alive.
In Time 2011 In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth.
The Inhabited Island 2009 Based on the 1969 book by Strugatskies
Island The Island 2005 A man goes on the run after he discovers that he is actually a "harvestable being", and is being kept as a source of replacement parts, along with others, in a Utopian facility.
Judge Dredd 1995 Based on the comic of the same namen a dystopian future, Dredd, the most famous judge (a cop with instant field judiciary powers) is convicted for a crime he did not commit while his murderous counterpart escapes.
Kin-dza-dza! 1986 A 1986 Soviet sci-fi dystopian black comedy cult film.
La jetée 1962
Land of the Blind 2006
Lockout 2012 A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president's daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates.
Logan's Run 1976 Depicts a dystopian future society in which population and the consumption of resources are managed by the simple notion of killing everyone who reaches the age of thirty.
Looper 2012 In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent into the past, where a hired gun awaits - someone like Joe - who one day learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by sending back Joe's future self for assassination.
The Manchurian Candidate 2004 Remake of the 1962 film of the same name.
Matrix The Matrix 1999 A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.
Matrix Reloaded The Matrix Reloaded 2003 The second installment of The Matrix trilogy.
Matrix Revolutions The Matrix Revolutions 2003 The third installment of The Matrix trilogy.
Maximum Shame 2010
Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 1999
Metropolis 1927 A German expressionist epic science-fiction film directed by Fritz Lang.
Minority Report 2002 Based on Philip K. Dick's short story, "The Minority Report".
Moon (film) 2009
Never Let Me Go 2010 Based on Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel of the same name.
Nineteen Eighty-Four 1984 Based on George Orwell's novel of the same name.
Oblivion 2013 Based on Joseph Kosinski's unpublished graphic novel of the same name
Priest 2011
Privilege 1967
Punishment Park 1971
The Purge 2013 In a futuristic America plagued by crime, the government sanctions a 12-hour period once a year in which all criminal activity is legal.
Repo Men 2010 Based on the novel The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia.
Revengers Tragedy 2003
RoboCop 1987 Centers on a police officer who is brutally murdered and subsequently revived as a superhuman cyborg law enforcer.
RoboCop 2014 Remake of the 1987 film of the same name
Running Man The Running Man 1987 Loosely adapted from Stephen King's novel of the same name.
Screamers 1995 Based on Philip K. Dick's short story "Second Variety".
Serenity 2005 A continuation of the canceled Fox television series Firefly by Joss Whedon.
Silent Running 1972
Sin City 2005 Based on Frank Miller's graphic novel series.
Sleeper 1973
Sleeping Dogs 1977
Soldier 1998
Southland Tales 2007
Soylent Green 1973 Based on Harry Harrison's novel Make Room! Make Room!.
Stalker 1978 By Andrei Tarkovsky.
Strange Days 1995
THX 1138 1971 Set in the 25th century, the story centers around a man and a woman who rebel against their rigidly controlled society. Also the first film by director George Lucas.
Trial The Trial 1962
Total Recall 1990 Loosely based on Philip K. Dick's short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale".
Total Recall 2012 Remake of the 1990 film of the same name.
Turkey Shoot 1982
Ultraviolet 2006 A beautiful hemophage infected with a virus that gives her superhuman powers has to protect a boy in a futuristic world.
V for Vendetta 2006 Based on Alan Moore's graphic novel.
Welt am Draht 1973
Z.P.G. 1972


Alien controlled dystopias (both governmental and societal)[edit]

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.

Corporate based dystopias (nongovernmental)[edit]

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.

Cyberpunk/techno[edit]

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."[2]

Post-apocalyptic[edit]

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.

Title Year Comments
9 2009
12 Monkeys 1995 based on Chris Marker's 1962 short film La jetee
20 Years After 2008
2019, After the Fall of New York 1983
28 Days Later 2002
28 Weeks Later 2007
A Boy and His Dog 1974
Bed-Sitting Room The Bed-Sitting Room 1969
Beneath the Planet of the Apes 1970
Blindness 2008
Blood of Heroes The Blood of Heroes 1989
Book of Eli The Book of Eli 2010
Carriers 2009
Casshern 2004
Cherry 2000 1987
Children of Men 2006
City of Ember 2008
Cyborg 1989
Damnation Alley 1977
Downstream 2010
Def-Con 4 1985
Delicatessen 1991
The Final Programme 1974
Five 1951
Genesis II 1973
Hell Comes to Frogtown 1988
Hunger Games The Hunger Games 2012
I Am Legend 2007
La jetee 1962
The Last Chase 1981
Le Dernier Combat 1983
Logan's Run 1976
Last Man on Earth The Last Man on Earth 1964
No Blade of Grass (film) 1970
Noah The Noah 1975
Mad Max 1979
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior 1981
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome 1985
The Matrix 1999
The Matrix Reloaded 2003
The Matrix Revolutions 2003
Oblivion 2013
Omega Man The Omega Man 1971
On The Beach 1959
On the Beach 2000
Origin: Spirits of the Past 2006 Anime
Panic in Year Zero! 1962
Parasite 1982
Phase 7 2011
Planet Earth 1974
Planet of the Apes 1968
Planet Terror 2007
Postman The Postman 1997
Quiet Earth The Quiet Earth 1985
Quintet 1979
Robot Holocaust 1986
Road The Road 2009
Rock & Rule 1983
Six-String Samurai 1998
Slipstream 1989
Snowpiercer 2013
Stand The Stand 1994
Tank Girl 1995
Terminator Salvation 2009
Testament 1983
Things To Come 1936
Threads 1984
Time of the Wolf 2003
Titan A.E. 2000
Ultimate Warrior The Ultimate Warrior 1975
Ultraviolet 2006
Ultra Warrior 1990
Virus 1980
WALL-E 2008
Warrior of the Lost World 1983
Waterworld 1995
World, Flesh and Devil The World, the Flesh and the Devil 1959
Zardoz 1974
Zombie Strippers 2008
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox 2013 Adaptation of the 2011 comic book crossover "Flashpoint" by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert.


Miscellaneous[edit]

Disputed dystopias[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cacotopia (κακό, caco = bad) was the term used by Jeremy Bentham in his 19th century works ([1], [2])
  2. ^ Notes Toward a Postcyberpunk Manifesto - Person, Lawrence first published in Nova Express issue 16, 1998, later posted to Slashdot