David Lynch is considered by many to be the Godfather
No matter how bad we all think things may be presently, they aren’t nearly as troubling as the worlds depicted in the dystopias of the following films. Dystopia, the description of a future world that is most certainly not all sunshine and rainbows.
Totalitarianism, the loss of human individuality, mass extinction or catastrophe, general deterioration, the idea of man falling behind beast or robot on the food chain; all of these ideas are ideas that selectively permeate through some of the best dystopian films, films that represent the very antithesis of utopian society to be exact. Here are nine essentials to make 2015 seem not so bad…
9) Logan’s Run – Complete with garish set pieces and hokey costumes fitting of the seventies styles, this 1976 thriller starred Michael York in the title role. In this world, utopia is actually the illusion given, as anything and everything a person could want in their lives is readily available. It is a hedonistic existence, until you turn 30. And then you are killed. Logan is in charge of killing the 30-year-olds. That is, of course, until he reaches 30 himself and decides this world may not be as great as he once thought.
8) Escape From New York – John Carpenter’s 1980 sci-fi flick developed a cult following first, but then found its way into the realm of celebrated film culture. Starring Kurt Russell as the indelible Snake Plissken, a rogue hero sent into the prison island of Manhattan to rescue the President, Carpenter’s interpretation of Manhattan as a decayed ghost town seemed like the path the morally depraved city was heading in the late seventies. With plenty of tongue in cheek humor and that grizzly, eye-patched performance from Russell, EFNY earned its spot in history.
7) THX 1138 – George Lucas’ first film, a Brave New World-esque take on the neutering of humanity, is a study in mood and metaphor. The best thing about this film, aside from Robert Duvall as THX, is its openness to interpretation. In this society, humans are controlled by a totalitarian government and given medication to suppress emotion and self-awareness. It is only when THX, with a push from LUH his female roommate, stops taking these medications, does this world begin to not make sense to his character. With a very calm, static feel and several tense situations, THX 1138 was an excellent glimpse into the creativity of George Lucas, and perhaps his most cerebral film ever. That’s right, Star Wars fans… I said it.
6) Mad Max/The Road Warrior – Even though the entire span of dialogue in this Mel Gibson action flick, if strung together, would only amount to fifteen minutes of actual speaking, actions here speak louder than words. As Max, a vengeful nomad cruising across the wasteland of Australia in search of oil, the film played on the fears of the oil shortages of the seventies, and spawned one excellent sequel and one hokey sequel. Rumbling down the road in a black muscle car with a sawed-off shotgun, Gibson created an iconic character of dystopian films much like Russell’s Plissken character.
5) 28 Days Later – This is the first and only addition to this list that involves a single catastrophic event. As a virus spreads across London that turns humans into hyperactive, maniacal zombies, Cillian Murphy wakes up in a hospital after a bicycle accident to discover the horrors of an empty city right along with the audience. Director Danny Boyle was somehow able to shut down major avenues of London to create this dystopian world, and one of the earliest scenes in the film where Murphy is trying to piece together everything is one of the most chilling, impacting individual scenes of all time.
4) Blade Runner – One of the most important sci-fi flicks of all time, Ridley Scott’s futuristic noir picture is another film heavy on metaphorical storytelling and a twist ending that, no matter how obvious, still keeps the audience locked in. With Harrison Ford as Frank Dekkard, a blade runner in charge of hunting down and exterminating rogue cyborgs called Replicants, and Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty, one of those aforementioned Replicants, there is an undeniable pop gravitas to this film. Director Ridley Scott creates an entire world around these characters, a dark, rainy dystopia of futuristic Los Angeles that still holds up today. In spite of those silly pay phones.
3) Children of Men – While Blade Runner may be more relevant thus far, in the pop culture pantheon, Alfonso Cuaron’s bleak science-fiction picture is more impacting, more important, and more realistic. Imagine a near future where females could no longer reproduce, and imagine the mental impact that would take on a society overloaded with a fragile humanity. Clive Owen plays Theo, a disheveled, reluctant hero who must lead a newfound pregnant girl to the mystical human project, where she might be able to reproduce and carry on humanity. Being able to tap into the frail psyche of the human race is a genius move by Cuaron and his writers, and the result is an immediate and unforgettable thriller.
2) Metropolis – What is so important about Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece is the fact that, simply put, it is from 1927. This silent film involves a society broken up by class and once that class boundary is broken, things begin to turn upside down in this rigid dystopian society for the better. Considered to be the genesis for science fiction films, and a story and mood that countless sci-fi films borrow from in their own stories, Metropolis seems almost prophetic given the fact that it is 82 years old and still more impacting than the vast majority of sci-fi flicks to come along since.