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Ten Deep 4.03.14: Top 10 Dystopian Film Futures
Posted by Mike Gorman on 04.03.2014

"Top Ten Dystopian Futures on Film"

Last week we visited #20-#11 of the top dystopian futures on film and this week we complete the countdown with the top ten. We've already visited the worlds of films like Children of Men and The Running Man, peering into the stories of what our distant and no so distant futures might hold. This week we look at ten films where hope is a four letter word.

10. Hunger Games

A major theme of many of the dystopian futures presented on film is control; specifically control of the people who are not in power. In the Hunger Games this manifests itself in the titular event itself. It is not just the conditions of the Districts that let us know the future is not so bright but the forced sacrifice of children under the auspices of entertainment and duty. The "Hunger Games" themselves are brutal and shocking when we see that it is children who must battle for their lives and for the safety of their district.

9. Minority Report

While the execution in the film might not have turned out perfectly as planned, it is the idea of privacy invasion to the extreme that manifests itself in the future of Minority Report. Crime is nearly nonexistent as it is now halted before it even begins. Minority Report wonders what would the world be like if we were not just held responsible for what we have done, but for what we might do. The system that polices the potential crimes is seen as perfect by most, until, as always flaws become apparent.

8. Soylent Green

Overpopulation and overuse of resources has led to a dire future indeed in Soylent Green. People would be starving if not for the food stuff in the film's title. But all is not as it seems and it takes Charlton Heston's character to uncover the truth. Of all the films on this list, this one features one of the most recognizable "reveal" scenes of all time. We do eventually find out what Soylent Green really is. You see, it's… well, you know.

7. Wall-E

Everything is shiny and bright in the future mankind faces in Disney Pixar's Wall-E. In fact every need of every person is taken care of by the automated systems of the space ship humanity boarded when the Earth became uninhabitable due to waste and pollution. The dystopia of Wall-E is certainly a case of be careful what you wish for because the more people allowed their needs to be automated the less they became like people. If this film is to be believed we all end up helpless and fat, like oversized babies; might not be too far off. It takes a driven robot with a nostalgic bent to show the people of the future that as perfect as their lives seem, there is something important missing.

6. Dark City

Things are not exactly what they seem in the dismal future of 1998's Dark City. Rufus Sewell's John Murdoch is our point of view character in this sci-fi noir film that I think is often overlooked. I do not want to give away the entire plot for those that might have missed this overlooked gem but I will say that there is more to The Strangers that John encounters when he realizes that everyone in the city falls asleep at midnight, except for himself. Manipulation and control are challenged in this exploration of humanity's essence.

5. Logan's Run

In the future of Logan's Run harmony and peace are maintained in society by one simple fact, when you turn 30 you must face your "LastDay" and take part in the "Carrousel" (See below!) where you are vaporized, but give hope you may one day return. Like most perfect future societies, there is a darker truth that is exposed when Logan's "LastDay" is accelerated and he, well, runs. As Logan attempts to escape his fate we learn that life can exist outside of the perfect domed city, it is just not as one would expect (think post-apocalypse!). As we have learned many times in this Top Twenty countdown, perfection cannot last and this is again the case in Logan's Run.

4. Idiocracy

While most of the films we have gone through together in this exploration of the not-so-perfect futures contain elements that might feel possible, Idiocracy is the not-so-distant future and ultimate de-evolution of society that is already staring us in the face. Idiocracy takes the dumbing down of culture to its inevitable end, and it actually makes the movie uncomfortable to watch at times, while often hilarious. In one moment you are laughing at how bad things have become, and then you realize that you already know people who would fit into this future. Of all the movies here, Idiocracy is truly one we should heed as a warning!

3. Blade Runner

While the story central to Blade Runner is about the creation of organic replicants who do the work mankind refuses to and how they are policed, it is the setting and the expert craftsmanship that went into it that bring this film to the top of the list. In Blade Runner, calling the future bleak and dark is an understatement yet you can't help look at it and think it is entirely real and possible. Blade Runner does what the best dystopian films do; it draws you into an environment that is rich and developed, and completely unsettling.

2. 1984

1984 is a look at a sparse future, full of grays and shadows, where fear, drugs and mind manipulation are used to keep the populace subdued and sedate. In this future emotions and independent thoughts are labeled "thoughtcrimes" and are punishable as such. The film is based on George Orwell's powerful novel of the same name and attempts to carry the mood of the book over to the big screen. In my opinion they were incredibly successful. The film does not rely on amazing special effects or technology to make its points; instead it is the stark nature of the future that is perhaps the most disturbing of its features. In most films of the future we are flooded with electric rainbows and new inventions, whereas here the characters are stripped down, literally at points, and laid bare in the perfect new world.

And finally…

1. The Matrix

I know that for most folks, anything beyond the first film in The Matrix Trilogy stinks of disappointment so I will focus here on the future presented in the first film. What earns the world of The Matrix the top spot on this countdown is how layered and multifaceted its dystopia truly is. When we first get into the world of Neo, it is already a dark, dingy place that seems to breed despair. Things are not perfect; in fact they just seem to be existing. Then we learn that this is not reality at all and the true future is a much more terrifying place where the machines have taken over and people are bred like batteries. There is something so incredibly overwhelming about this truth when it is revealed, that it takes your breath away in the audience. How can Neo and his new friends hope to overcome the challenges they face? It is that hope itself that even appears to make it possible, but not probable. I have to wonder if most people would really try to escape the Matrix or might choose to try to find a way back in for themselves. They do say ignorance is bliss.

I guess I set myself up there with that last comment, is this list an example of blissful ignorance or did I actually corral some of your selections? Let me know in the comments, below!

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