Five hundred years ago in 1516, Thomas More coined the term “utopia,” which is an imaginary island that is a favorable place to live. The term eventually became associated with desirable communities and governments, as well as modes of governing.
However, it seems that society today is more curious about the opposite of More’s utopia, and instead, is making books after books and films after films of the negative part of the world—dystopia.
And, boy, are there a dime a dozen of them these days. Here are the top dystopian films in the last century that you should watch.
Battle Royale, 2000
Kinji Fukasaku’s film may not be all that great when it comes to special effects, but this was the story that led many to believe that the highly popular The Hunger Games was more of a rip-off than an original story.
Forcing teens to participate in combat, the dismal economy of Japan in the near future caused an increase in violent crimes performed by the youth, and to circumvent it, the government issues an act that allows them to annually select a group of teens, isolate them on an island, and force them to kill each other to the death.
Unlike The Hunger Games, which has a lot of post-fight details necessary to develop characters, Battle Royale decided to forgo all that, which led to a more violent and exploitative story than THG will ever be.
AI Artificial Intelligence, 2001
Based on the short story by Brian Aldiss, the film is set in the not-too-distant future that showed how global warming has flooded coastlines and caused the death of many people. Sentient humanoids called mechas have been designed as an attempt to compensate the loss of the workforce.
However, the same company that created mechas also created david, a child-like humanoid that they programmed to display love for his “parents” and was tested on a family with an ailing son who has been in suspended animation until a cure for his disease can be found. The family eventually accepts the humanoid child, but when they perceived him hostile to their actual son, they were forced to abandon him.
This begs to ask the question, how long will it take for humanity to be replaced by robots in the future? Tech is already eating most of our time, will people be replaceable with machines too?
V for Vendetta, 2006
This is the film that turned Guy Fawkes masks into a symbol of rebellion. Adapted from the graphic novel of Alan Moore and David Lloyd, the film showed a fascist version of the United Kingdom, referencing many events from 1984. The government has become a tyranny where the Norsefire Party’s political opponents were sent to concentration camps, along with the Muslims and homosexuals.
The story revolves around V, a mysterious masked rebel who rescues Evey Hammond from rape after she was caught walking the streets of the city after curfew. This came just in time for him to demonstrate tactics of insurrection, and they watch the explosion of the Criminal Court building to the music of the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky—eventually leading Evey to dedicate herself to V’s cause.
Children of Men, 2006
Alfonso Cuaron’s film is known for its intense action scenes, but the film was a poignant tale about the state of the world today—with visions of mankind’s future where conceiving will become impossible.
This state of affairs led societies to collapse, with the United Kingdom as the only one with a functioning government, and the threat of refugees flooding the country led to a government that responds to brutal police repression.
Loosely adapted from the novel by PD James, the movie features Christian undertones alongside not-so-subtle references about the world—with a government that uses fear to promote its own goals.
Overpopulation and pollution marked the future of mankind in Elysium, to such and extent that the rich and powerful decided to move on to an artificial orbit habitat that is utopian in its setting—at least at first glance.
The citizens in Elysium are all aware of their affluence, and the dystopia of the world below. Yet they are selfish and ruthless in making sure that they survive in luxury, keeping for themselves state-of-the-art medical care, despite the fact that the world below theirs is in desperate need of a way to survive.
After suffering a terrible injury that included a fatal amount of radiation, Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) is set to hijack Elysium to save himself and, in the process, managed to spearhead a revolution.