The world gets crazier and crazier with each passing day, and sometimes a bit of perspective can help us recall that it could be worse. These dystopian films have an epic feel that will suck you in. Depending on your mood, these movies are previews of our future or reminders that things aren’t as bad as they seem.
1. Idiocracy (2006)
The most epic part about Idiocracy is how the movie has steadily morphed from a comedy film to a pseudo-documentary since its release in 2006. Mike Judge’s peak at the future gets so much right about the insanity unfolding in the two decades to come that the director is starting to look like the George Orwell of comedic cinema.
2. The Road (2009)
When directors decide to take on Cormac McCarthy’s source material, they have large shoes to fill. The Road is one of the better films inspired by McCarthy, though few films present a bleaker projection of our possible future.
Viggo Mortensen plays an unnamed man who walks a dangerous road in search of a more hospitable environment. We don’t know what’s gone wrong, but danger (including roving cannibals) abounds, and the outlook isn’t great. The Road truly embraces the “dystopia” in “dystopian movies you have to watch.”
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
While each of the Mad Max films has an epic scale to them, the newest iteration is easily the most epic of the epic. George Miller utilized his $150 million budget to create a loud, dusty world in which water is the rarest commodity and utopia exists on the other side of an epic game of cat and mouse.
Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and Nicholas Hoult deliver memorable performances, but Miller’s engaging, bizarre apocalyptic world steals the action-packed show.
4. 12 Monkeys (1995)
Terry Gilliam is a titan of the sci-fi genre, and many Gilliam fans rank 12 Monkeys as his best film, along with other classics like Brazil. 12 Monkeys is set in a future where a plague has claimed much of the human population, and those who remain must live underground to avoid toxic air.
Bruce Willis plays a prisoner who can earn his freedom by traveling back in time to help thwart the plague, but things don’t go according to plan. Brad Pitt makes an unforgettable cameo.
5. Children of Men (2006)
Alfonso Cuaron’s epic earned every decimal of its 7.9 IMDb rating. The dystopian thrill ride touches on all the necessary bases: mass sterility, roving mobs of vigilantes, refugee camps, and a society utterly bereft of hope.
Like every great dystopian film, a shimmer of light emerges in a society adrift, potentially changing everything for everyone. If you haven’t seen Children of Men or read P.D. James’ source novel, bump them to the top of your list.
6. 28 Days Later (2002)
Anything but the typical zombie movie, 28 Days Later, brings the viewer into a world where a viral outbreak has transformed the infected into rage-fueled monsters that make the Hulk look like Mahatma Gandhi.
Acclaimed director Danny Boyle convincingly creates an apocalyptic United Kingdom, while accomplished actors, including Cillian Murphy, make this a well above-average horror-thriller.
7. Gattaca (1997)
Ethan Hawke and Jude Law star in this sleek futuristic film where your genetic makeup determines one’s status in society. The question then becomes: What would you do to ascend the genetic hierarchy and unlock a fuller life?
Watch Gattaca to find out.
8. Dredd (2012)
The rare reboot that garners far more critical praise than the original, those who saw Dredd credited director Pete Travis with creating a believable dystopian action flick. America’s East Coast is one mega city, and “judges” are the only force stopping Mega City One from becoming utterly lawless.
A stylish dystopian thriller with a more complex plot than you might expect, Dredd is well worth the (relatively short) hour and 30-minute run time.
9. Brazil (1985)
Another dystopian classic from Terry Gilliam, Brazil, presents a unique take on the dangers of bureaucracy gone mad. Rather than the cold, controlling institutions we see in books and movies like 1984, Brazil presents a quirkier rendition of the future that is no less frightening than its dystopian counterparts.
10. Soylent Green (1973)
Soylent Green is a movie everyone should watch at least once if only to understand the references. Once you find out what Soylent Industries is putting in the mystery food it calls Soylent Green, you’ll never forget.
It’s a dystopian murder mystery that contains a prescient warning about trusting others to make your food where you can’t see them.
11. V for Vendetta
This 2006 cult classic is set in a near-future dystopian world where a fascist regime has entangled Britain, ruled by the fascist Norsfire political party. V is an anarchist and masked freedom fighter who tries to start a revolution using terrorism. Evey Hammond, portrayed by Natalie Portman, is the daughter of activist parents caught up in V’s mission. The controversial film is stunning and thought-provoking regarding politics and terrorism.
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This article was initially published and syndicated by The Cents of Money.