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Ten Deep 3.27.14: Top 20 Dystopian Film Futures (#20 - 11)
Posted by Mike Gorman on 03.27.2014

"Top Twenty Dystopian Futures on Film, #20-#11"

If a Utopia is a perfect society, a Dystopia is the exact opposite. This week's list looks at the first part of a twenty film countdown exploring the best (worst?!) dystopian futures we have been presented in cinema. Over the next two weeks I will bring you the 20 futures that gave humanity their bleakest fates.

This countdown was inspired by two specific things. First, I saw Divergent in the theater over the weekend, and second this week saw the release of the new trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past. Both films paint pictures of futures where hope is in short supply and society has taken a turn for the definite worst.

In the "Top Twenty Dystopian Futures on Film" I hope to present a wide range of views of how things can go terribly wrong in the far and near futures. We begin with a film that takes road rage to the extreme…

20. Death Race 2000

In Death Race 2000, society has become so bloodthirsty that the only way to appease the populace was the creation of the Transcontinental Road Race. The TRR features star drivers competing as they race across the country. They score points by hitting animals and people, which different types of things worth different points. As I said, in this future simple road rage is no laughing matter!

19. Escape from New York

In 1981's Escape from New York, crime has overridden the United States at the same time we have entered the long feared World War III. New York City has gone from a thriving metropolis to a walled in prison where everyone faces a life sentence. There is literally a 50ft wall built around the island of Manhattan to keep the prisoners in and as with most "perfect solution" films, there is a flaw that leads to the film's premise. The film purports that chaos is taking over and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to control.

18. Surrogates

Some people say that our increasing dependence on computers and turning to them for entertainment, and more, is starting to turn us into a detached society. This concept is taken to the ultimate in Surrogates where human beings interact through robotic surrogates. The risk of pain in all interactions is removed. This film actually seems to present a logical evolution of the dichotomy between our real life and online personas. And it is kind of chilling when you think about it.

17. Waterworld

Oh man, I can already feel the heat I am going to take for actually including Waterworld in a best of list, but please give me at least a minute to explain. The film itself is a waste of the fantastic potential its set up provides. In Waterworld the ice has melted and the land is gone. But the world is not one big happy swimming pool as pirates rule the seas and creatures lurk beneath the deep. There is allegedly a patch of dry land waiting to be found. Imagine a future where you're never quite dry and all the water you have access to is salty. Not exactly a party.

16. Children of Men

In Children of Men, two decades of infertility has humanity on the brink of extinction and already collapsing in upon itself. Society has broken down and the UK is the last bastion of control in a global climate of chaos. The world presented in Children of Men is one of fear and mistrust as no one's future is certain and there is no way to leave a legacy anymore. To say this is a bleak future, just a dozen or so years from now, is an understatement.

15. The Running Man

As it did in Death Race 2000, the dystopian future of The Running Man hinges upon some pretty dysfunctional games soothing a stilted populace. In The Running Man the global economy has collapsed and America has become a police state with the only allowed cultural outlets being games shows that depict convicts in vicious conflict. One of the most popular is the Running Man, where contestants hope to survive while facing a variety of challenges during their race. It doesn't matter if you're actually guilty or innocent as long as it makes for good TV. Sounds like most of the programming on VH1 and Bravo these days!

14. Mad Max

The Earth's resources are dwindling and crazed gangs are becoming the norm as society breaks down in the Australian made Mad Max. Here matters are literally settled on the road as a serious of brutalistic attacks lead the law abiding Max to choose his weapon, what the trailer calls, "600 horses of fuel injected vengeance." The film lays the stage for the installments to follow that explore the world as it exists in this time.

13. Terminator

While we may actually see more of the actual dystopia in later installments in the Terminator series, it is the first movie produced in 1984 that really presents us with the feeling of inescapable doom this future holds. The film may be set in the present but throughout the T-800's pursuit of Sarah Connor we learn all about the grim future we will face; one where the machines have taken over and humanity's last resistance is dwindling.

12. Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes is also unique because the future presented is not all that dystopic, at least not for the apes themselves. The film earns a place on this list because of what happens to humanity itself in the future. Things are not so perfect when the roles are reversed and man finds themselves the caged beasts. Here the dystopia is not about the collapse of mankind itself, but instead about what rose to take its place.

And our halfway point…

11. Metropolis

In Fritz Lang's 1927 German science fiction masterpiece we see a future when the divisions of class have become so exaggerated that the wealthy ruling class lives in massive towers far above the lower class that suffers below. This lower class literally expends all of their effort to ensure the machines that bring comfort to wealthy function. The film's design and style present stark distinctions between the worlds of the different classes and brings gravity to the emotions felt when someone choose to challenge the status quo for love.

There you have part one of this two part countdown. Next week we will get into the top ten and see which film stands apart as the worst vision of our future. I leave you with the newly released trailer for X-Men: Days of Future of Past which takes us a bit deeper into the time travel based epic adventure of our favorite mutants.

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